For many parents, the singular joy of being on safari is easily eclipsed by the privilege of being able to share that experience with their children. For us, family safaris are a particular and passionate specialty – and by that I mean we work hard to create insightful, immersive, imaginative and engaging journeys that shift the minds and consciousness of young travelers, for we can think of no better way to inspire an understanding of the importance for wildlife and wild places, than by being in nature.
So, late last year when we had the pleasure of taking two very special families on safari, we knew exactly where we wanted to take them – Tswalu’s Motse Lodge. Set within 114 hectares of reserve in the southern Kalahari, Tswalu is the largest private game reserve in South Africa and a place we choose time and again for first-time family safari experiences. Why? Because just over fifty years ago, the entire area was nothing more than denuded farmland ravaged by cattle. And yet today, thanks to the vision of the Oppenheimer family who have spent decades restoring this land, the reserve is considered one of the last great wilderness areas in South Africa. But perhaps more importantly, it’s a workable vision of hope for the conservationists of tomorrow, who without such an example, might give up before they’ve even begun.
I recall our descent into Tswalu when we began flying low enough over the diverse tapestry of red soil, wild grasslands, acacia forests and the rugged Korannaberg mountains that rolled out endlessly beneath us – and how the excited chatter of the preceding hour suddenly dissolved into awestruck silence as the three children on board soaked up the majestic splendor of the vast open spaces beneath us. It was a defining moment for all of us – as the enormity of surveying nature at its most elemental and powerful proved impossible (even for busy, young minds) to ignore.
Blessed with a generous landscape of mountains, dunes, grassland and acacia trees – the opportunity to get up close and personal with Tswalu’s diverse array of wildlife, makes it a place of profound and prolific sightings. Should you choose to travel with us during the southern hemisphere’s winter months, you’ll be rewarded with the opportunity of tracking that most elusive and rare of creatures, the pangolin. To watch the world’s most trafficked animal – whose awkward gait and humble disposition tugs hard at your heart strings – forage for his evening meal is one of the most poignant experiences you will ever share with your children. And one that will have you praying long after you’ve returned home, that they won’t be the last generation to witness such a sight. You’ll also have the opportunity to wake up early and venture out to watch a meerkat family awaken and begin their day foraging for food – another moment that was such a treasure to watch as these kids were engrossed with nature and not their iPads.
If you’re in search of showing your children the ‘connectedness’ that exists between all living things, you need only watch lion cubs frolicking in the shade of an acacia tree under the watchful eye of their languid mother, or the brutal yet unwieldly sparring of adolescent male giraffes, to illustrate common traits to every species. And of course, there’s no substitute for the meditation that comes with a tangerine hued African sunset – that most golden moment in the bush when the feverish bedtime chatter from bird and beast alike is a reminder of our universal need for order.
If you’d like us to tailor-make a safari experience to suit your family’s needs, either at Tswalu or in another part of Africa, we have a vast range of family experiences up our sleeves, that we’d love to share with you. Mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org