A family affair: Traveling with the kids in Africa
Ryan Summerlin February 26, 2012
One of the fastest-growing travel trends in the past few years is multi-generational travel. It is a trend that is expected to grow, as today’s baby boomers who have the means would rather share family experiences than leave behind an inheritance.
There are many destinations that lend themselves to this type of travel, but one that most people do not automatically think of is Africa. If Africa in on your bucket list and you want to travel with your family, South Africa is the perfect answer. It is a year-round destination, and while “going on safari” is what people usually think about when going to Africa, South Africa is a very large and extraordinarily varied land with almost unlimited opportunities for adventures of all sorts. Whether you are young or old, there is an option for all ranges of fitness and interests. The daring thrill-seekers opt for hair-raising stunts such as bungee jumping, riding the rapids, diving with great white sharks and leaping from the skies with parachutes strapped to their backs. Who doesn’t have a teenage boy (or girls for that matter) who would be begging to do some of these activities – particularly in this area?
However, traveling to Africa with family is not limited to teens. I would not really suggest taking children younger than 8, though there about 20 lodges that do accept children of all ages and often have children’s programs and babysitters in place. Typically, families traveling together will get the most for their money, though, if the children are at an age where they can appreciate their surroundings and be able to participate in all of the activities.
It is very important to find properties that have specific programs geared toward families. One of the best developments in South Africa recently is that there are now more family-style lodgings available. Family-style tents and rooms designed to sleep four or more, or private lodges are good options. Also, when staying at most Singita camps, families of four or more are given a complimentary private vehicle.
Tswalu Northern Cape, deep within the Green Kalahari, is South Africa’s largest game reserve with animals ranging from meerkats to rare black rhinos. It is also in a malaria-free zone (a very important consideration for parents of younger children) and has a wonderful Junior Ranger program that includes bush walks with lessons.
Spier Hotel in the Western Cape is a splendid all-round experience for parents and children alike. Besides excellent food and wine tasting for the parents, there is a supervised kids club where kids can swim, ride, hike or mountain bike. Best of all, however, are the animals – it has a wonderful Eagle Encounter showing birds of prey and the Cheetah Outreach program not only allows you to get up close and personal, but also raises the awareness of the plight of the cheetahs.
Kenya is also a wonderful family destination. The Masai here prize children.
At Ol Malo House at the foot of the Laikipia Plateau, guests of Rocky and Colin Francombe can share a slice of Kenya’s ranch life. In addition to safari activities, there are opportunities to go camel riding, mountain biking, visit a nursery schools or camp out under the stars.
At Lemarti’s, also in Kenya, which was built by a Samburu guide and his wife, families can participate in tribal ceremonies, market day, beading, honey gathering and more.
Another great location is Campi Ya Kenzi. This camp was built in partnership with the Masai and is owned by an Italian family. Their young daughter who has grown up at the lodge speaks fluent Masai and she interacts with the children of the guests, which is great fun for them.
Regardless of the country you choose, it is important to try not to do too much and visit too many areas. Africa gives back tenfold, as nature is a wonderful classroom. For most children, a trip here can be a life-changing experience.
June through October is the best game viewing as during the drier winter months animals come down to the water holes. And for North American visitors, this coincides with our long summer break, so it is a great time to take the kids.
Rosie Holliday is an ex-pat Aussie and longtime local travel agent who owns Holliday Adventures, a Virtuoso-affiliated travel agency. While she can and does book the world, her specialties are Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Europe. Reach her at 970-748-9818, email@example.com or www.hollidayadventures.com.