There are many types of safari outfits; from silver spoon type establishments which cater to your every personal need to rustic experiential offerings allowing you to walk, cycle and kayak your way through Africa’s delightful savannah…
All have their place in Africa, and in my heart, but most important is that nowadays many are willing to cater to the intimate 'family safari' experience too. Safari was once an adult only activity, synonymous with the indulgence of fine ‘bush’ cuisine and icy gin and tonics being sipped down in sync with a melting sun. Many safari outfits didn’t know how to deal with the young and energetic new generation, but luckily family pressure for experiential travel has opened this social activity up to even the youngest of adventure fanatics.
My family was fortunate enough to start our children’s bush learning from before they could even walk, and being on a safari vehicle or swimming in hidden Okavango Delta lagoons became second nature for them. Today they still talk of particular incidents which happened during our family safari outings from the past. My son of 8 recalls in detail of dung beetles he was fortunate enough to play within the warm Kalahari sand, and how he was honoured with his Bushman name by his favourite Koi San tribal member. My daughter of 5 years still talks of the naughty baboon who stole her doll, and the nail-painting treatment she enjoyed with elephants strolling past and slurping from the spa's lap pool. These memories are treasures they will cling on for ages to come, and that will forever drive their need to get back out to the bush as often as possible. A requirement I am hoping they will still embrace well in the future when I am eventually no more…
Ultimately it is our children who are the future guardians of our precious World, and it’s wild inhabitants. It is them who will make the ultimate difference to water saving practices, waste management initiatives and ensure our pristine wilderness stays safe from growing populations and the booming global tussle for space and natural resource’s. I believe it is through outdoors education and an appreciation for what the outdoors has to offer that people will strive to have a more sustainable existence. One which will not only have less impact but perhaps even benefit the Natural World in the future years to come.
Talking from experience, I certainly know that my children consider what’s right and wrong for the environment in all of their actions. They have done many bush cleanups, and have been lucky enough to have seen animals living in close proximity to humans and the impact we can have on their behaviour - this I can only attribute to their bush learnings and time spent in the wonderful outdoors.
So when is the right time to introduce your children to the vast wilderness which Africa has to offer? This is a question I am so often asked, but I strongly feel I am not yet qualified to answer. My uncertainty is that even some parents battle with the digital detox which an African getaway can sometimes force upon you, so how do you even begin to qualify their children?
Each child is different making this a hypothetical question, but I personally think all children are naturally ready to learn and absorb just about anything that is thrown their way. It is the parents that need to set the expectation and prepare their child for the journey, as well as keep it exciting and enjoyable for the entire stay. Choosing the right safari outfit can also make or break the family travel, and that’s why one should never leave it up to chance to make this delicate decision.
Children have the natural ability to interact with others, especially their guide of a foreign culture. They have an inherent inquisitiveness to seek and unfold the tales of the wild and to develop their own thoughts and inspirations around what the great outdoors has to offer. It’s our job to place them in a position of learning and nurturing, allowing them to define and develop their inner-selves. An African safari is a spiritual experience enjoyed by all who take the time, and it has a resounding effect on our youth with positive and definitive life-changing outcomes.
What you help a child to love
can be more important than what you help them to learn. ~African proverb
If you’re considering a family safari and web searches have come up with a plethora of camps and their marketing blurbs; yet you still don’t know how to sift through the slogans and promises to what you feel is the right decision, then lean on a professional to give you the guidance you need. Bespoke tour operators don’t necessarily cost more, but the value they add by understanding your desired destination could prove invaluable when you’re on the ground in a foreign continent trying to connect the dots which don’t quite connect the way they do back home..!