Top Things to consider when going on a Game Drive with children.
I was brought up on Game Reserves in Limpopo, South Africa. We literally had lions and Elephants in our back yard. From an early age my siblings and I were brought up to respect nature. It was explained to us that we are in the animals territory, their home and we must respect their space. My family has been involved in Conservation and anti-poaching for over 50 years.
Every time I go back home, I am still in awe of the “wildness”. I may live in Cape Town, but I will always be a bushbaby at heart.
Due to Covid-19 we have not been able to travel to go see my family in Limpopo and have our early “Bush-Break”. Needing a break from the city, my family took a trip up the West Coast to a Game Reserve that was offering Game Drives.
We chose a Game Drive because we viewed it as a “safe” activity for our family.
I have put together a few lists of things to consider when deciding to take your children on a Game Drive.
What to ask the Game Reserve or Game Drive Operators:
1. Are children allowed on the Game Drive and from what age?
2. Does my child need to have their own seat? (we booked a seat for Emily , even though we knew she would sit on my lap. This way we would have an extra seat to practice social distancing)
3. How many people will be on the game drive with us and how many seats are on the vehicle? Also, double check if social distancing will take place on the vehicle?
4. Ask what safety and hygiene protocols are in place while on the game drive?
Has the vehicle been disinfected before we get on?
Must guests on the game drive sanitise their hands before getting on the vehicle?
Will social distancing take place?
Will Guests be required to wear masks while on the vehicle?
5. How long is the game drive? (children can only sit still for so long?)
6. What animals are on the Game Reserve?
7. Is the Game Reserve in a Malaria area?
8. What time of day are the game drives? (Animals are more active in the morning and late afternoon. During the hottest parts of the day animals generally take cover from the heat of the African sun)
9. Is the Ranger (driver) FGASA registered. FGASA (Field Guide Association of South Africa) . The Ranger or Driver should be qualified Field Guide. This means they know how to react if a animal charges your vehicle, that they respect the natural floral species and know how to react in emergencies.
Learn more about FGASA here: https://www.fgasa.co.za/
What to consider before taking your child on a Game Drive?
As a parent its our duty and responsibility to ensure that our children are kept safe. We must also keep in mind that other paying guests are on the game drive and would like to enjoy this experience.
1. Be conscious of your child’s ability to sit still for an extended period. Game Drive times typically vary from 1 ½ hours up to 3 Hours. (we chose the 1 ½ hour option)
2. Teach your child the basics and etiquette for being on a Game Drive:
· No shouting and screaming. (This may startle animals and become dangerous around predators and animals such as Elephants and Rhinos)
· No jumping up and down.
· No grabbing onto branches of trees while the vehicle is moving (there could be thorns on the trees)
· No picking flowers and grass.
· Do not try touch any animals!
· Be mindful of those on the Game Drive with you. They maybe trying to take a photograph.
3. Helpful hint: Phone ahead to the Game Reserve and find out what animals they have on the reserve.
· Get a book and teach your child the names of the animals, birds, and insects they may see.
· Turn it into a game of eye spy.
· For older children create a list that they must tick off the animals they see and identify them correctly.
What to pack when going on a Game Drive:
The duration of a Game drive is usually between 1 1/2hours to 3 hours. You will want to be prepared for all eventualities.
· Hats - we live in Africa, which means sun so pack a hat for each family member
· Sunscreen - I reiterate we live in Africa. You can still get burned by the Sun’s rays even when its overcast.
· Water – don’t pack juice or fizzy drinks. The vehicle vibrates a lot and the rocky roads will lead to a huge mess. Water is the best option.
· Windbreaker or Jacket – It gets cold on a moving vehicle. As soon as the sunsets the bushveld gets cold quickly!
· A Snack – Pack a non-messy easy to eat snack for small kids.
· Camera – To take photographs.
· Binoculars – to see animals in the instance or Birds in trees.
· Hand sanitiser.
· Extra Mask for each family member.
. Natural Inspect repellent
· Remember to wear sensible clothes and shoes on the game drive. A basic T-shirt, shorts/pants and Sneakers are perfect. You may get out of the vehicle for a rest stop. It gets hot and dusty on the game drive so silk shirts are not a good idea.
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent Government Legislation which has led to the the shutdown of the tourism , hospitality, restaurant and their suppliers businesses has been catastrophic for the South African Economy. Support local business but practice caution and be safe.
This article is not to encourage people to go out and be reckless. Covid-19 will be with us for a long time still to come. If you want to go out , be safe, practice caution, social distance, ensure that practice good personal hygiene.
*special note: I do not support circuses with animals or go to a zoo. I believe that wild animals should be exactly that, wild. Due to human interference and encroachment on Wild Animals natural habitats, ahs led to the need for Game Reserves to put up fences to keep the animals safe ( from humans). I don’t support human interference but acknowledge that sometimes it has to happen to rehabilitate an injured or orphaned animal. Wild animals are not pets.