We have just returned home from a fabulous safari through Kenya with two beautiful families. It was a tremendous adventure, we created so many remarkable memories together and we feel deeply privileged to have planned and guided this trip. Having gotten over the initial shock to the system of re-entry to the city and caught up on things at my desk, I have a moment now to review and am struck with how much I love guiding these multigenerational trips through the African wilderness. It is my favourite thing to do. Taking your family on a safari adventure gives a unique opportunity to spend each day of your escape, experiencing something new and profound together. It draws you all to the margins of your comfort zones, asks for your patience and requires your teamwork, support and care for one another. There is something spiritual here, a return to an ancestral land and daily timetable in which you share stories at a campfire after dark. You watch the sunrise and set side by side with those closest to you and spend the daylight hours exploring the great plains, riverine forests and acacia woodlands with eyes, ears and noses honed in search of wild animals. Nourishment for the soul. Guiding these adventures is the most rewarding and uplifting part of my year. They truly can be the very best of trips but in order to make them excellent, they require a little more thought and care in the planning. The below is a assemblage of reflections I feel we should consider as we begin designing your family expedition In The Wild.
Let’s talk about everyone that is joining in the adventure and make it a trip for all – Who is coming? Who is the youngest? Who is the oldest? Is everyone active and mobile, are there any medical issues we ought to know about? What are you all into (sports, school, life, music, culture)? And what about you? You are planning the adventure, we want to know the images you have dreamed up of you and your family on this trip of a lifetime, we want to make them happen and add some new ones of our own.
Let’s include a breadth of activities – Time in the vehicle, photographing the landscape and the wildlife is a vital part of the safari, but it’s only a part. For an immersive, authentic expedition we want you to move through the savannah on foot, on horseback, in a hot air ballon, in a canoe, wild camping out, mountain trekking or any number of other amazing experiences. Especially with younger people (but for all of us really), having a solid amount of active time out of the vehicle is vital to maintain energy and motivation throughout the adventure.
Cultural learning – I’ve said it so many times but the first thing that people mention to us when they return from safari, the first memory they fondly recall, is invariably the individual or individuals that made it so wonderful. We love the wildlife and the landscapes but it’s the fellows that we meet that make it special. We have a unique opportunity to learn and laugh with fascinating tribal cultures in their homelands, build in quality time for this, it should not be rushed.
Prepare yourselves for the digital detox – Though many lodges and camps have a limited wifi connection via satellite, we want to encourage you all to disconnect yourselves from the devices we all carry as much as is possible (we do understand certain commitments may mean this is no longer possible for all, tell us the situation and we will make it work). This takes some preparation, we should get the idea of it into everyones heads well in advance and work out when and where connection is appropriate and what we plan to do in the times when it is not. This will really help, trust us.
Simplify the logistics – Short stays in lots of camps with long drives or hopping flights in small aircraft can be exhausting and frustrating for everyone, you cannot see everything, there is no need to attempt it. Rather pick fewer National Parks with more activities and longer stays in each, or choose places in relatively close proximity to one another. Where possible lets make the journey part of the adventure but not the majority of it! With groups it will often be possible to private charter the flights without too much financial burden, this will make certain they are direct (without hops) and at an optimal time of day to transfer from one camp to another.
Give yourself time to catch up – if you are crossing several time zones on route to Africa then consider a stop in Europe with a night or two to catch up. Or alternatively take two nights in your landing destination at the start of your adventure (Nairobi, Arusha, Cape Town, Johannesburg etc), we can build in some interesting things to see with a nice relaxed schedule as you grow accustomed to the change. We don’t want you rushing into the bush while battling jet lag.
Book Nic and/or Jana to guide you on your adventure – I’ve mentioned that we love doing this, of course we want to introduce you to the places we adore and share our passion, knowledge and expertise with you all. It helps a vast amount to have a guide and leader accompany throughout the adventure, able to explain the logistics and activities of each day, keep you all safe, healthy and happy and make sure excellent care is taken of you at each step of the way. It’s a fantastic way to upgrade the educational experience for all, focusing on peoples specific individual interests (animal behaviour, tribal culture, wildlife photography, adventure, walking safari, The Great Apes etc etc) and theming the trip around them.
Try a mix of accommodations – we want you to experience the nighttime sounds of the African bush under canvass. Hearing the lions roar and the elephants feeding outside your tent (tents can be very, very comfortable in Africa, Glamping was invented here) will be one of the magic moments of your trip. With a family it is also fantastic to have one or two stops with a swimming pool and a bit of space to let off some steam. There are some tremendous private houses in some of the most remarkable wildlife destinations we visit, these offer complete exclusivity and a home away from home on the adventure, they are perfect (check out a selection here).
What is the right age for children on safari – This is an FAQ of note and not a simple one to answer. In essence in depends entirely on the children, and to an extent the parents, in question. We have hosted several fascinating six year olds, at communal dining tables in remote lodges, who kept us charmed and entertained for nights on end. We have also hosted one or two twenty something year olds who were considerably less fun. As a guideline I’d say eight years old and above is perfect, it’s most important to give young people enough time to rest and enough ways to explore, they will be fantastic safari companions if you do this.
Finish with something completely different – If time allows then an excellent way to solidify the plethora of memories created in the bush is to culminate the trip with a contrasting location and experience. With relatively simple logistics we can reach stunning islands in the Indian Ocean, African lakes of extraordinary beauty all perfect for water sports, fun and serious relaxation. Cape Town is a fascinating, vibrant city that is easily reached from all over Southern Africa and combined with some of the finest wildlife destinations on the continent. Older kids and parents will love the adventures on the garden route, the wine lands, party-city fun and the marine life experiences here.