At ROAR AFRICA, we see family safaris as a particular and passionate specialty – and so we work hard to create insightful, immersive, imaginative and engaging journeys that shift the consciousness of those young travelers entrusted to us. We take our responsibility to introduce them to some of the greatest natural wonders and the spectacular people of this continent seriously, whilst educating them on the fragility of these ecosystems and why they need to be preserved. While naysayers may claim that pre-teen children are too young to form any lasting memories, over the years we’ve had children of all ages on safari with us and observing their journey from over-stimulation upon arrival to a state of curious contentment in just one day – is our gold standard.
A recent guest on a family safari laughed at her initial concern that her 7-year and 11-year-old sons would become listless on game drives. ‘I was amazed at how alert and receptive they were to all aspects of the bush and how soundly they slept when we got back to camp each night, allowing my husband and I that rare opportunity to dine á deux.’ She also cites the wildlife check-lists as a wonderful way to engage children on safari. ‘It certainly brought a competitive edge to our game drives.’ But the triumph of this particular family’s safari is one that we love to recount. ‘The children woke just after midnight on our last night to a strange sound that they had never heard before, and failing to figure it out for themselves traipsed through to ask us. I will never forget the look on their faces as we all sat huddled on our bed and it slowly dawned upon them that what they were hearing was a very large male lion calling to the females in his pride, just five metres from us. There can be no greater motivation for the enormous privilege of travel than that.’
Of course, choosing a malaria-free reserve is critical and particularly advisable if your children are very young and you’re not keen on administering prophylactics. Luckily, there are plenty of options to choose from and with family suites and villas available in some of Africa’s most iconic lodges and conservation areas (along with private guides and game vehicles), there’s a level of flexibility that allows families unprecedented access, privacy and freedom. Our top choices are as follows:
Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa, set in 10 000 hectares of pristine wilderness, where you can choose from one of three palatial family suites. Tarkuni Homestead if you’re travelling in a bigger or multi-generational group. While the family suites come with two bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms plus a private pool, the Tarkuni Homestead is exceptional, offering five luxurious suites, (each with a magnificent en-suite bathroom), two lounges with open fireplaces, a private outdoor pool and firepit deck, and a dedicated team that includes a host and private chef. The villa also comes with a private vehicle, personal field guide and tracker. On arrival every child is given a backpack filled with guides, tools and checklists to get them going and the opportunity to join Tswalu’s Junior Ranger program, where they can learn archery (they begin by making their own bow and arrow), spoor identification and casting, as well as tracking on foot.
Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, South Africa
Offering a comprehensive children’s programe, Sabi Sabi prides itself on a ‘home away from home in the bush’ philosophy, where children of all ages are welcome so that families can connect with nature but reconnect with each other too. Bush Lodge offers an unforgettable wilderness experience for all members of the family, with access to the world-renowned Elefun Centre, a safe, fun-filled area for children between the ages of 4 to 12 years of age. Designed to keep young minds interested and engaged, bush survival skills, identifying animals and tracking are taught by qualified tutors who take great pride in encouraging young guests to become future conservationists. A recent guest was enthralled by the fact that they had their own private water hole which meant that they as a family had private viewing of wildlife. ‘And because for city kids like ours, this is both exhilarating and overwhelming, I so appreciated the indoor teepee tent in our son’s room, which allowed him to retreat and absorb all he had seen while playing a game of the Jenga or reading one of the many books that were provided. This is an attention to detail we have not experienced previously’.
Kwandwe Ecca Lodge in the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is a wilderness playground for a family getaway. From the young years to the young at heart, they have experiences which allow for the whole family to connect with one another and the wild spaces all around them. At Kwandwe, children receive a welcome gift on arrival which includes an Eco-nect Guide comprising animal checklists, themed games and activities, and a pledge to ‘live green’ (‘Junior’ for under 6’s and ‘Senior’ for ages 6 and up), crayons/ pencils, and an age appropriate gift from our gift shop. Families can participate in fun and adventurous activities on the reserve, including kite building, scavenger hunts across the reserve with thought-provoking clues to seek hidden items which will help you in your next task… or treasure hunts during a game drive which teach basic navigation using a sun-compass and how to use major landscape features in order to find the treasure!. Giving back: families have the opportunity to plant Spekboom, a type of thicket vegetation that is native to the Eastern Cape and prolific on the reserve, and one of the top five carbon-storing vegetations on the planet. In this way they are encouraged to offset their carbon footprints. Families can also participate in Kwandwe’s voluntourism activities through the reserve’s Ubunye Foundation, which works with communities living in and surrounding the reserve.
Singita Private is another great option, this villa-offering of six exclusive-use properties across Africa is where you get to stay with your loved ones in a private home-from-home setting. We love that Singita’s approach to the family safari experience is to focus on fluid itineraries that take into consideration the age of the children and any special interests or requests. Children are welcomed with a small satchel with Velcro tabs to which they are encouraged to attach badges earned for skills in tracking, fishing, birding, astronomy, botany, survival in the bush and much more. These badges are linked to the popular Singita Mini Rangers’ Course (South Africa and Zimbabwe) or Watoto Pori Singita Training Course in Tanzania that can be extended or edited to suit the length of a family’s stay. These courses cover tracking animals, butterfly capture and release, astronomy, bush survival techniques, flower-pressing, game-spotting competitions, nature quizzes and a guide’s test. Teens are challenged in different ways by helping to plant trees at community schools, learning basic survival skills, like how to make a fire, find a water source, identify edible plants with medicinal uses or they can choose to participate in a cookery course at the Singita Community Cookery School based at Lebombo. The possibilities are endless.
Segera Retreat, Laikipia Plateau Kenya
We love that Segera Retreat in Kenya offers the opportunity for families to spend quality time together in one of the most immersive and inspiring places on the planet, whilst articulating perfectly that it is never too late to rewrite the past. For just a decade ago, Segera was a wasteland, overgrazed and denuded of its flora and fauna, not to mention the livelihood of its community. That is until businessman, philanthropist and visionary Jochen Zeitz bought it and set about restoring the land, reinstating the wildlife and creating a sustainable ecosystem that benefits the land and the local community. Today this recognized Global Ecosphere Retreat, set within 50 000 acres on the Laikipia Plateau is the perfect base for families thanks to a welcoming team of staff and hosts in luxurious family-friendly accommodation at the foot of Mount Kenya. Located in a non-malarial area and with a year-round moderate climate, the original farmhouse dating back to the 1940s, has been brought back to life with an exquisite refurbishment and facilities that include a pool, multiple dining areas and lounges, a movie/play room and a fully equipped private kitchen. Segera’s chefs will cater to the needs of children and infants while experienced babysitters are available at any time, ensuring that parents get to share precious safari moments as a family in addition to finding some alone time. From action-packed game drives to outdoor movie screenings there is something for every age and interest. But there can be no greater accolade than that of a ROAR AFRICA guest who was recently on safari there with her teenage daughter. ‘We had the privilege of visiting the Eco Waterbank School with my daughter who is as passionate about design as she is conservation. So for her to bear witness first hand to how design can improve lives was a lifechanging moment for both of us,’ she recalls. Constructed by the Zeitz Foundation and Pitch Africa in 2012, the school’s innovative design (named The Greenest School on Earth by the US Green Building Council) with a unique sloping roof can harvest some 350 000 litres of rainwater a year for its 700 students. ‘The incredible design that can capture water that would otherwise be lost to run-off and evaporation thereby reducing the burden of infectious diseases on local communities and improving the daily lives of women and children who traditionally would collect water is genius. Not only did my daughter return home with a renewed sense of purpose and passion for her studies but the remarkable rewilding of the area’s wildlife and flora renewed our faith in conservation and has inspired us to harness our individual power to do good too.’
Angama Mara, Kenya
Suspended as it is on the rim of the Great Rift Valley Escarpment, it is said that Angama Mara is where heaven and earth collide. And we couldn’t agree more. For this exquisitely designed and luxuriously furnished lodge commands endless vistas across the Maasai Mara, the site of the annual wildebeest migration. Here, on the Oloololo Escarpment minutes from the Mara Triangle (a prime section for viewing the migration as it is here that the herds enter and exit the Mara) and flanked by that kopje where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford picnicked in Out of Africa, you can choose any number of ways to experience the migration. And with safari excursions tailored to each guest (taking into consideration previous game experiences, personal passions and time preferences to boot), your days are tailor-made to suit you particularly as the weather is so mild there are no ‘best times’ to venture out. ‘The flexibility that is so readily on offer at Angama Mara was the ultimate luxury for our family as we were traveling not just with toddlers and teens but grandparents too,’ says a recent ROAR AFRICA guest. ‘The ease with which we were accommodated according to our interests, energy levels and appetite was beyond extraordinary.’
For more information on the best lodges to suit your family safari needs or your dream multi-generational holiday, mail us at email@example.com