Beth, owner of The Impala Collection, gives some ideas for a natural African safari theme party that are easy to do even when you’re far from Africa.
Hi Impala Family! My son recently turned two, and we hosted an African safari theme party for our friends and family. We wanted to do something special because it was his Dedication as well as his birthday. We haven’t had a big ‘do’ for a few years, so this was a good opportunity to celebrate with both adults and children alike. We were tight on budget, so we did a lot of DIY decor. Recreating an authentic African safari atmosphere in a slightly dark and shabby community hall in England has its’ challenges, but you can still get good results without too much effort.
A fun safari theme party food table. Source: Pinterest
When I was researching online for inspiration, many of the safari ideas were garish or unrepresentative of the real natural African bush. I decided to avoid cartoon characters in the decor as a rule, and use photographs or silhouettes of animals instead. Also, there were no tigers at my party, because there are no tigers in Africa! I hope these ideas will encourage you to have a natural African safari theme for your own birthday party, Christening, anniversary party, or even a school event.
Make sure you also check out my African Safari Party Pinterest Board which has more ideas, templates, DIY tips and more.
Why an African safari theme?
Real safaris are not about cartoons or zoos. Source: Great Zimbabwe Guide
I chose a safari theme because I’m keenly aware that in a few years’ time, most of the parties I host will be immersed in Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol. I wanted to take advantage of the fact that my son loves animals and is currently too young to articulate any TV-based preferences! As I grew up in Zimbabwe, I felt that a safari theme was something I knew well, and it was personal to both me and my husband. As you can tell from The Impala Collection’s products, I do love incorporating African animals into my home and everyday life. I think that having a theme makes party planning much easier, because it gives you direction and focus. It also makes guests feel like you’ve gone the extra mile to make the event a special one, so they will hopefully enjoy the party all the more.
Choose a colour scheme
A natural African colour theme. Source: Pinterest/DesignSeeds
Even if you have a theme, it’s a good idea to also have a colour scheme when choosing decorations. Colour palettes make everything look much more stylish and intentional. Hang streamers, fabric or garlands in your chosen colours around the space: Scallop them along the ceiling, walls, tables and outside area if you have one. Matching napkins, paper plates and cups will also bring the colour scheme together. Here are some examples of colour schemes but there are many more options.
Greens and orange
I chose this colour scheme for my decor. Source: Pinterest
Natural flora is a key component of wild Africa, so I knew I wanted to include it in my safari theme party decor. I chose shades of green and burnt orange to brighten up the space and to give the impression of being surrounded by jungle vines and foliage.
If you want to make it really classy monotone is always a winner, and is easy to do.
A classy black and white party theme. Source: Pinterest
Create a focal point with a wall hanging or backdrop
An attention-grabbing focal point. Source: Pinterest
If you just have one decoration at your party it should be this one. A focal point instantly grabs attention and detracts from (perhaps) a shabby hall or dreary weather. A good location for the focal point is the food table, because, well, that’s where I like to hang out at a party.
Jungle wall hanging
A wall hanging (right) made out of old blinds and poster paint
I didn’t want to buy a wall hanging because the pre-made Safari ones were too cartoon-y for me, plus I was on a budget. I found some used white window blinds in a skip (you could look on Freecycle , Gumtree or eBay) and painted some jungle leaves on them using handmade cardboard stencils, sponges and poster paint. You can see the step-by-step How to Make a Jungle Safari Wall Hanging on Pinterest here.
A giant number, made out of cardboard and tissue paper
I made the giant number using an old cardboard box, a box cutter, tissue paper and a glue gun. Even though I’m not very precise with my crafting, I was amazed at how easy it was and I love how it turned out. It looked great at the party and I kept it afterwards – it’s now hanging in our son’s room at home. I used two shades of green to give the impression of jungle leaves. See the step-by-step DIY How to make a giant leaf number or letter here.
Other DIY wall hanging ideas
A real foliage wall hanging. Source: Pinterest
You could also find an image of foliage or animals online and get it printed in large format (such as A0 size) at your local printing company. Another idea is to find some fabric with a tropical print on it and hang it on the wall. You could even find some wallpaper or wrapping paper, and stick lengths of it vertically, to two pieces of wood to create a wall hanging. Another idea is to buy a raffia mat and hang that from the wall along with some tropical leaves.
Add some wild animals to the party
I used these wild animal cupcake toppers (bought from Amazon)
Like I said, I avoided all cartoon animals because they just didn’t contribute to the natural African atmosphere that I was aiming for (and wasn’t suitable for a mixed adult & kids party). However, what’s an African safari theme party without the wildlife? You can incorporate wild animals into a room in a variety of ways, which I’ve listed below. We also had some checklists on the kids’ table so that they could draw a tick next to the animals’ names when they spotted them.
I made these wall hangings/garlands from magazines, string and cardboard.
Ways to add wild animals to a party without using cartoons:
- Animal wall hangings and garlands (I made mine from wildlife magazines, string and card)
- Animal silhouettes on the tables (printed at home and stuck on card)
- Animal silhouette cupcake toppers (I bought mine on Amazon)
- Toy animals in the kids’ corner (see below)
Get the kids involved
We had both kids and adults at our party, so we set up a table with safari-themed entertainment for the children (this was the one time that my “no cartoon” rule was broken).
Some of our kids safari activities: Animal mask crafts, colouring-in, a toy animal corner and a wild animal spotting checklist
Here are some examples of kids’ safari party activities (more ideas on the Pinterest board):
- Colouring animal masks (I printed out the masks and cut them out at home in advance)
- Colouring safari scenes
- Toy animals (see below) and ‘safari’ vehicles
We also put some home-printed signs around the room and on the food tables to go with the safari theme. I painted an old photo frame with green poster paint to fit into the colour scheme. These little details are easy to do ahead of time, and they make a big difference to bring a theme together.
Re-create the sounds of Africa
Africa is full of noises. Source: Great Zimbabwe Guide
Being in the African bush involves all the senses, including sounds: Cicadas, birds, monkeys and other animals are constantly creating a background on safari. To me, sound is a key aspect of the real Africa. To really immerse your guests in the safari atmosphere, you can play African bird and animal sounds through some speakers. Download some animal sounds to a phone or MP3 player and attach the player to some portable speakers . You could also use a portable CD player.
Place the speakers in an entrance hall or bathroom rather than in the main party area. You don’t want to drown out people’s conversations with the sound of a lion’s roar! When guests are in these ‘temporary’ spaces, they will have fun trying to identify the animal calls. If finding animal sounds are too difficult, you could just aim for more generic “African-themed” sounds and songs. Here are some ideas: Youtube video of real African animal sounds, Beautiful Creatures MP3, Lion King: The Musical CD, Out of Africa Soundtrack, Animals of Africa Sounds.
Set the safari scene using a projector
By projecting an African scene on to a wall, you can immediately give a realistic sense of place to your party, even during the day. A projector screen can really add an atmosphere of the African wilderness to an indoor space. The video shouldn’t be an actual movie or anything with a story line, as this would distract both the children and adults. We set up a Youtube playlist of documentary-style “safaricam” videos of animals at African waterholes. The aim was to create an impression of a deck overlooking an African savannah. The videos don’t need sound, so you don’t have to worry about that. Here are links to Youtube videos that I think are great for setting a safari atmosphere: ——.
How to set up the projector and video: Don’t worry about making this perfect – it doesn’t need to be. We projected the video on to mottled wall that was cream in colour (no sheet required), furthest away from the food and kids’ area. Our hall had a stage at the far corner, and this is where we projected the screen, making that space out-of-bounds for the kids. We kept all the hall lights on and curtains open because we didn’t want a dark party room. It didn’t matter that the video wasn’t crystal clear, because we could still see what it was trying to convey. Try it out at home to see the results.
Equipment: We had a home projector and portable computer that we used. You can buy portable projectors from as little as £30 and you can even get smartphone projectors for as little as £16. Top tip: Check the internet connectivity and power supply at your venue ahead of time, in accordance with your needs.
Venue and food
Plastic animals can be upcycled in a number of ways to decorate an African safari party. Source: Pinterest
We hired a local hall that could accommodate our friends and family. The hall included an outside space, but we knew that due to the unpredictable English weather we would have to plan for the party to be an indoor one. We ended up having sunny weather on the day – a lovely bonus that meant that people could mingle inside as well as outside. For the food, we did a buffet of cold roast meats, breads, salads, cake and biscuits (cookies). I didn’t have the energy to incorporate the Safari theme into the food, but there are some amazing Safari food ideas on the Pinterest board.
More African Safari ideas (see the Pinterest board)
Your safari party doesn’t have to be child-oriented – you can make it as classy as you want. Source: Pinterest
- Print a large-scale giraffe (or other animal) black silhouette, stick it to cardboard and lean it against a wall.
- Make bunting/garlands out of seed pods and cardboard leaves.
- Incorporate African toiletry products in the bathrooms, such as rooibos handwash.
- Make binoculars and telescopes using toilet paper rolls. The children can use these to spot the animals around the room.
- Make an animal viewing hide using fabric or tents.
- Create animal tracks by printing out footprints, cutting them out and sticking them to the floor.
- Make a safari vehicle using a cardboard box.
- Make safari hats.
- Use fairy lights around the room to make them look like fireflies.
- Make a paper plane game using a cardboard box with a hole in it. You could make the runway look like an African light aircraft bush runway.
Keywords related to this post: Camping, Out of Africa, Safari, Jungle, Africa, Savannah, Serengeti, Zoo, Leaf, Wildlife, Wild, Decor, Party planning, Kids parties, Birthday parties, Christening parties, Education, DIY, Tribal, Tropical, Bush, Theme, Interiors, Tips, Ideas, Advice, Crafts, Budget, Homeware, Serveware, Fair Trade, UK, Mums, Planning, Interiors, New Products.
The Impala Collection is an artisan homeware brand. We are based in Oxford, and sell exclusive one-of-a-kind craft from Zimbabwe. Our products include statement serving bowls, quirky tableware and singular decor pieces such as handmade African antelope horn castings. All of the products are made in small, Fair Trade workshops in Zimbabwe. By buying our products, you are helping artisans in Zimbabwe to support their families in a country where there are extremely difficult economic and political conditions. Shop at The Impala Collection for unique wedding gifts, personal Christmas presents, quirky birthday present, or just a treat for yourself.
Don’t miss a thing! Follow The Impala Collection on Facebook | Impala_Co on Twitter | @ImpalaCollection on Instagram | Pinterest