Top 10 Tips: Yala National Park with kids
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
Our eldest daughter's first safari was in 2009 when she was just three months old. At one point we silently sat in the jeep watching a mother sloth bear and two cubs. When the bears started to walk away back into the jungle, Lucia let out a little squawk and the mama stopped in her tracks, turned her head back around toward us and stared silently in our direction for a few seconds before continuing back toward the bush. It was a magical mama moment for sure! Since that safari a decade ago, we've gone on dozens of safaris in Sri Lanka and beyond with kids all ages. Here are my tips of things to bring to keep the kids happy and safe on a Sri Lankan safari:
1. Car seats for the baby and toddler set-- obviously good for safety reasons for the little ones but also both my girls fell asleep after a while (the roads are quite bumpy) and gave the adults a bit of quiet time.
2. Sunscreen and hats-- depending on the time of day and the direction your jeep is heading, you will be directly exposed to the sun for small parts of the trip, be prepared.
3. A sarong or beach towel-- Yala can be dusty, sarongs can be held to your face or to loosely cover a sleeping child in a car seat, we've also tied them inside the jeep for impromptu sun shades or wrapped them around our shoulders (the sarongs, not the kids!) if we left at 5 am and the air was chilly.
4. A small bag of toys/sketchbook and pencils-- this is nature so there will be lulls in the action on the trip. Bring a few items that might keep the kids occupied, kind of like you'd do on an airplane. Full disclosure, we do bring an emergency iPad and headphones just in case. Most of the time it stays hidden away but it has saved us from a loud and cranky toddler more than once.
5. Snacks, snacks and more snacks-- pre-cut fruit, crackers, yogurts etc. We never seem to have enough snacks with us on the trip. Make sure to also bring a bag for garbage.
6. Baby wipes-- great for wiping dust of little faces and also cleaning up your hands before tucking into your arsenal of snacks!
7. Plenty of drinking water-- bottles are easier to manage than the big 4 liter plastic jugs, don't forget that recycling is quite limited in Sri Lanka so pack reusable bottles. At our villa, Wild Lotus, we lend guests metal bottles for the safari and provide unlimited purified drinking water so everyone can keep hydrated while reducing plastic consumption.
8. Bird and animal guide books--even tiny children love to find photos of the wildlife they see on the book's pages.
9. Communicate with your driver-- you are the boss of your safari. Dying to see a leopard and don't mind sitting in a queue of jeeps to do so? Tell him. Prefer a chilled out experience checking out birds and small mammals without getting near other jeeps? Let him know. There is lots of chatter about traffic jams in Yala but what most people don't know is that Yala is enormous and there is no need to hang around other jeeps at all unless you want to. Having an experienced tracker and a driver who knows all the back roads is critical for getting the game drive that you want.
10. Have fun! Yala is unlike any other place in the world, go in with an open mind and heart and try to see the natural world with awe and wonder-- just like the kids do.
Want to know more? Check our Wild Lotus safari packages here.