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Watching Wildlife with Kids
 
 
 
Family Travel Tips
 
 
Watching Wildlife with Kids

African Snail

 

Photo by andBeyond

Viewing wildlife in its natural habitat is a great way to nurture a child's love for nature and create a knowledge of wild animals that goes beyond videos, books and trips to the zoo. While taking children to attractions such as Kilimanjaro Safari - a 20-minute 'ride' at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida complete with real gazelles, white rhino, crocodiles and hippos - is a start, their image is likely to be incomplete. Yet you need not travel halfway round the world to watch animals roam, observing wildlife in nearby park can be just as rewarding. What's more, a wildlife watching experience need not break the bank.
Getting Started
 
The first step in adventure travel planning is to outline your trip priorities. Once you've established a budget, define the length of the trip and as well as the wildlife you would like to see. Research the wildlife to determine the right destination and peak viewing season. If you plan to partake in a wildlife tour, you will want to consider the age of the kids, their interest in a particular animal species - observing bears is different than watching birds - as well as their ability to sit still and follow rules set by a guide. Review the options with your partner and the kids and be sure that they know what to expect. It may take hours to spot your first animal!
The Right Trip
 
Independent viewing or structured wildlife tour? Nature hike, wildlife cruise or canoe trip? Gorilla trek in Uganda, penguins in Patagonia, kangaroos in Australia, bison in North America? While most wildlife viewing trips and tours are suitable for families traveling with children aged 8 and up, not all activities are appropriate for young children and many outfitters and guides have a set minimum age. Select an activity that is appropriate for the entire family. Find out if a child sitting service or children's program is offered for kids that choose to stay behind. A young child may not want to watch wildlife for days on end! Inquire about interactive and hands-on activities for kids offered by the outfitter or park ranger. Learning to a make a bush brush, identifying animal tracks and creating nature rubbings are fun breaks for antsy children.
  • Things to Keep in Mind
Plotting your Route
 
While spotting wildlife is never guaranteed, planning your trip to coincide with the peak wildlife viewing season will increase your chances of finding animals. Migratory and breeding seasons offer exceptional viewing opportunities; in general, the rainy season does not. Late sleepers beware; the best time of the day to spot wildlife is at dawn and dusk. If you are participating on wildlife tour you may discover a new part of the day.
  • Best Time to View Wildlife
Selecting an Outfitter
 
Selecting the right outfitter or wildlife guide is key to a successful wildlife viewing experience. Top guides will do more than find animals. Their knowledge of local history and lore are likely to keep even the children entertained. Before choosing a guide, decide the type of wildlife adventure as well as the animals you seek. Hire a reputable operator specialized in family tours. Verify the guide's identification and ensure they possess the requisite permits. Find out what is included in the cost, the minimum age set by the outfitter or guide and their commitment to conservation. Don't limit your inquiry to the company's website, pose questions on active travel forums.
Packing Tips
 
While wildlife viewing doesn't require expensive equipment there a few pieces of gear that will enhance the experience for the kids. Equip each child with a camera and binoculars as well as a regional checklist and notebook to record all animal sightings. If your heading to a city park to view smaller city life pack a magnifying glass. Pack neutral colored clothing that will blend into your environment, hats, sunglasses, and sun block for the entire family but leave scented personal care products - cologne, perfume, lotion and hair spray - home. Plan to dress in layers, early mornings and late evenings may be significantly cooler than the mid-day high. Don't forget to include a field guide and plenty of film. On wildlife tours, carry more film than you expect to use.
Health & Safety
 
For a young child, touching an animal is a temptation that may prove hard to resist. In addition to explaining the difference between animals in the wild and animals at a petting zoo, supervise their activity closely. All bites and other animal inflicted wounds should receive prompt attention and cleansing to reduce the risk of infection.
Travel Trivia
The Apatosaurus is also known as the:
Books for Kids about Animals
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