Tuesday, August 7, 2018

When is the RIGHT time...?

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..!

Follow more of my family safari stories on this blog, or follow my facebook and Instagram feeds for general safari and wildlife info and updates.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Most Iconic Family Safari Destination

What better way to test a newly-built family room than throwing a bush-crazy and safari-addicted family at it? And guess what, I knew exactly where to find one! Our bags were still packed from our family trip to Kalahari Plains Camp, so an early departure on Boxing Day did not phase us, bar a slightly dusty head from our late Christmas celebrations the day before.

It’s been ten months in the making, and Wilderness Safaris was about ready to reopen the doors of their much-anticipated flagship Okavango Delta safari camp, Mombo: a camp oozing positive luxury and driven by purpose and sustainability in every aspect.

At the increasing demand of family adventure bookings, it was decided to include a spacious family tent here. Luckily my family was just the right demographic to put Mombo through its paces while taking in the magical sights and sounds of the renowned Place of Plenty’s concession. (Families wishing to take along young children – six or below – can do so on an exclusive basis at Little Mombo.)

The family tent consists of a standard-size bedroom plus an additional twin room with its own en-suite bathroom. Both tents have full access onto the spacious front deck with its plunge pool overlooking the animal-studded Mombo floodplain. One of my favourite features is the common area and the shelving made of recycled wood. This area was perfect for our broad array of camera equipment, swimming gear, spare shoes and jackets, all of which seem to be part of the standard family travel trove. Secondly, the single entrance to the entire suite is a huge benefit when herding your excited offspring into safety, yet carefully positioned sliding doors still give the privacy some groups might require.

After a lengthy dip and 200 tugs at my shirt it was time to head out to see what ‘Mombo Magic’ lay in store for us. The expectations were already running high having seen elephant, buffalo and numerous plains game from our room. Furthermore, after having just spent three days in the Central Kalahari where there seemed to be big cats around every corner, we were totally “lioned” out and so our agenda was focused on something slightly different; something I knew Mombo could offer if we were lucky and worked hard at it!

Turns out we didn’t need to work too hard as less than five minutes from camp we had found our target – much to Jade’s delight as she had even brought along her favourite fluffy bush toy as a good omen to find her requested animal from earlier in the day. Scared of sounding like a spoilt bush family, I must point out that every family drive is challenged with an animal nomination by each member, this being their ticket to partake of the delicious snacks and beverages provided by the camp’s ever-helpful chefs.

Our two-hour afternoon drive was a visual journey we will never forget: precious hours with Mombo’s spotted “superstar” Pula, as she paraded her beauty and elegance for us, as if in a private performance on Broadway! We watched this show until the sun started dripping gold and she began making her way across the African plains; no doubt either after a willing companion or an unwilling prey. With giraffe looking down disdainfully from every angle her hunts were futile, but attempt after attempt we watched until the sun had finally dipped and we knew our next chapter, a delicious private dinner in our tent, awaited us!

Day two was a slow start as little Jade opted to have her nails done at the Mombo spa whilst KB hit the lap pool in the camp’s main area with vigour and determination to show dad his swimming endurance. This was short-lived as a big muscular bull elephant made his approach to quench his larger-than-life African thirst, with great big weapons of ivory resting rather awkwardly on the newly installed rim flow pool!

That afternoon whilst following a pride of hungry lions Pula once again graced us with her presence as she delivered her morning’s catch to her waiting youngster. There was much anxiety as she reached the vulnerable little youngster’s den area, as you never know what you’re going to find, especially when there are roaming lions only a few hundred yards away. But much to our delight the cheerful little cub popped out of hiding – with a kill of its own. Pouncing proudly, it presented the baby African wild cat to its mother, in a triumphant display of success during its solitude (leopard mothers often leave their cubs alone for extended periods, which makes them very vulnerable; however this is an important time for them to learn to refine their solitary hunting techniques on prey such as squirrels and birds).

Once again Mombo lived up to and worked her magic for the De Villiers family, which will be the last for an extended period of time. Our imminent relocation to Australia means the next time we visit as a family it won’t be as Wilderness employees, but rather avid supporters and fans of the unforgettable journeys our beautiful people and landscapes create.

Follow more of my family safari stories on this blog, or follow my facebook and Instagram feeds for general safari and wildlife info and updates.

When is the RIGHT time...?

There are many types of safari outfits; from silver spoon type establishments which cater to your every personal need to rustic experientia...