Would I recommend taking two young children on safari? Reader Matt Ackers, dad to animal-obsessed seven-year-old twin boys, has emailed to ask my considered opinion. My answer? You bet I would – but only with the right company. A surprising number of safari operators don't cater well for youngsters (and some lodges won't take children under 12). So, first you need to find an organisation that really knows how to prioritise little ones.
Top of my list would be Bushbaby Travel (01252 792984; bushbabytravel.com), a family-focused company that works in partnership with safari specialists in Africa.
Its team can plan trips from start to finish – they've got all the insider knowledge about the best child-friendly safari lodges as well as offering personalised advice and tailor-made schedules. Bushbaby recently organised a trip for me and my own little monkeys to Kwandwe game reserve in South Africa with &Beyond (00 49 21 311 533 991; andbeyond.com). It was an experience I'd heartily recommend.
What I discovered on our trip was that there's so much more to a family safari than ogling elephants. The best child-friendly operators will go all out to offer TLC in buckets, throwing in everything from lessons in bush-craft skills to opportunities to meet ancient tribes, as well as game drives.
One of Bushbaby's most exciting new offerings for next year is a just-built family lodge called Gondwana at the Sanbona wildlife reserve, not too far from Cape Town (01483 425465; mantiscollection.com). Here children as young as four are welcomed on game drives, where they'll get to see rare and endangered species. And when they're not tracking down the big five, your little bushmen can partake in the Kids on Safari programme, led by qualified rangers, where they can try their hands at some lovely activities, including rock art and stargazing.
Other child-friendly excitement for 2010 includes the luxurious new Olarro Lodge in the Loita Hills of Kenya (00 254 20 8023022; olarrokenya.com), which is launching a Juniors Adventures Club. Children aged six and over can spend time with a local Maasai guide, who will introduce them to tribal life. They'll learn all about survival in the wilderness – from how to recognise a toothbrush tree to what's involved in building a bush shelter.
African Travel Gateway (00 27 15 793 1191; africantravel.com) is running a similar Young Explorers programme for children from the age of seven at Edo's Camp in the Kalahari. Here, you and your kids will get to spend lots of quality time with the San bushmen, learning about their history and lifestyle.
The only real drawback to an African safari is that, if your kids are anything like mine, they won't stop asking to do it all over again. As my younger son asked me when we returned from ours: "Why can't all holidays be safaris?" Be warned.