When I took my young children on an African family safari people thought I was mad! Is it safe for them? What about malaria? Aren’t you worried? In short, I wasn’t.
Having travelled to Africa many times, I was confident that it would be a magical trip that they would remember forever. And I was right.
COVID has placed an enforced separation on everyone. But with that came a realisation that we maybe took things a little bit for granted when we ‘had it all’. We put trips on bucket lists. Said we’d do it when the time was right. What this virus has done has shown us that life is fragile and too short. And actually, when it comes down to it, memories are far more important to us than material things.
If you’ve never been on an African wildlife safari before it is hard to explain the emotional pull that this land will have on you. There’s something here that enchants time and time again. Maybe it's the wide open landscapes, vast skies with endless stars, close encounters with nature, stories around the campfire - all this reconnects you with an ancient way of living that soothes the soul.
Plus, it doesn’t matter whether you are eight or eighty - if you come face to face with a bull elephant or hear a lion roar in the distance the thrill will be exactly the same.
There are some amazing camps in Africa that cater specifically for multi-generational groups. Sometimes it can be tiring and a bit boring for children when you are driving around for hours looking for wildlife. But these camps provide specialist guides and tailored activities for tots to teens which make a family safari even more magical.
As for my two, they were six and eight years when we went to Botswana. They were totally mesmerized. Interestingly they appreciated different things. My six year old son adored the wildlife. He understood perfectly that this was no zoo and was enthralled by everything we encountered from a sleeping pride of lions to the smallest colourful bird. I’ll never forget the look on his delighted face as he sat perfectly still on the Magadashi Salt Pans whilst wild meerkats scampered around him!
My daughter loved the cultural aspect of Africa. From meeting the San people to exploring new foods in the supermarkets, to chatting to some local ladies to find out how they balanced things on their heads - she found everything fascinating! She had her future predicted by a medicine man and even ate a mopane worm at a Boma in Victoria Falls and still proudly displays the certificate above her bed!
Although the trip was a couple of years ago now, they still recall things on a weekly basis. A smell of woodsmoke will take them back to the African village we visited. A wildlife program on TV will remind them of the elephants crashing out of the undergrowth. A bedtime soft toy is now the leopard prowling right next to our safari truck. Both their school reports referenced the trip - saying not only was it life changing for them but it brought inspiration to the whole class.
Did I regret it - not for a single second! It was without doubt the best family vacation we have ever been on. We connected like we had never done before. Had meaningful conversations
and recognised our place in the world, I would go so far to say it has made my children more rounded human beings. They now recognise the material worth of the things we have - they know how lucky they are to have running water and to be able to go to school. We grew closer because of our shared experiences. We put our phones down, switched off and made incredible memories that will last a lifetime. And that is utterly priceless.
View our selection of top family safari destinations here to inspire your next trip