Having travelled extensively with my family, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, I am frequently asked as to what constitutes a safe age to travel.
Obviously, the answer will inevitably come down to personal choice, a choice based on your own beliefs vis-a-vis children and travel, and on your own children’s characters – some six year olds are going on ten, while others need watching like a hawk. Personally, I have travelled with children as young as four, though obviously not everywhere.
In many respects, however, the choice is made for you. Some lodges take children of any age. Some will accept six and above. Some make their cuts at eight, others at twelve. A few have a no children policy. And it gets more complicated once you start to look at what’s available to children of different ages – many lodges and camps accept children but will not allow a child under, say, twelve on a guided walk.
There are reasons for this, some excellent and others of the easier-to-do-than-challenge variety. Clearly, the sort of lodges and camps we promote – those that are, so to speak, ‘nature-led’ – are defined by the insurance industry as high risk, and carry therefore high premiums. For some, the task of guaranteeing the safety of children they hardly know is something of a step too far. For others, their original purpose or ethos is to provide a more business-like or honeymoon orientated ambiance. Still others will offer child-friendly options from a portfolio of similarly located lodges.
However, a poker hand: Whatever their stated child age rulings, I have found that a good many lodges are open to persuasion, the caveats on their policies providing them with legally reinforced loopholes that place varying degrees of greater onus on parental responsibility.
Which brings us back to personal choice: Armed with the facts, great professional advice and what you know about your own children, the decision as to whether your child is suited to travelling a particular wild Africa destination is, as it should be, yours to make. For me, age four was that point. For friends of mine, it has been six, even eight, while one or two believe between ten and twelve the optimum age for beginning to experience safari.
So, it’s up to you. And whatever your decision, rest assured: there are a multitude of itineraries to support it.