The untamed wilderness and magnificent wildlife of Africa is a truly life changing experience no matter one’s age. A safari makes for an unforgettable family holiday, with exhilarating activities for the entire family to enjoy, memories made together that will last a lifetime, and opportunities to learn and grow together. As the new year begins and you start to plan vacations to take in 2014, you may find that a safari is the ultimate family adventure.
Historically, a safari was considered to be a trip of a lifetime or a holiday reserved for older people – the baby boomer generation – and child-free travellers. Modern safari-goers now include dual-income younger parents who want to spend their hard-earned vacations with their children, rather than choosing luxury resorts with kids clubs attached. A family safari is a great shared adventure with the potential to strengthen family bonds and create lifelong memories. For some families, it’s also a chance to unplug from the digital world and be immersed in nature for a while. Whether learning how to track and identifying animals or how to spot the Southern Cross in the night sky, going on safari is a unique experience far removed from the demands and distractions of urban life. In the bush, routine and rules are dictated by the realities of sharing space with wild animals and the necessary precautions attached to this. Children’s eyes are opened to a completely different world filled with experiences they could never have at home.
A shared morning game drive may include a stop to learn more about tracking followed later by a relaxed bush breakfast to allow everyone to stretch their legs. Afterwards, the energetic can walk back to camp with the guide while the tracker drives the rest of the party back to the lodge. Game drives and mealtimes offer plenty of scope for togetherness, but there’s also time to be independent and retreat into the luxury and solitude of your suite.
Singita’s approach to family safaris is to steer clear of set, cookie-cutter programs. Instead, fluid itineraries are planned around each family for the duration of their stay, taking into consideration the age of the children and any special interests or requests. “Our guests are well travelled and their children are accustomed to privilege and opportunity wherever they go,” says Mark Broodryk, Singita Sabi Sand’s head guide. “We try shift the focus away from physical ‘stuff’ and highlight the intangible aspects of being here, such as learning a new skill or notching up an exciting experience that will earn them bragging rights with their friends. It’s not about what you have when you are in the bush, but what you know to ensure your survival.”
Children are welcomed with an age-appropriate survival kit that includes a water bottle and sunscreen – essential items that come with a mother’s stamp of approval rather than an expensive price tag. They are also given 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 many other activities. These badges are linked to the popular Singita Mini Rangers’ Course (South Africa and Zimbabwe) or Watoto Pori Singita Training Course (Tanzania), which can be extended or edited to suit the length of a family’s stay. These courses cover tracking animals; frogging; 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, for example getting their hands dirty by helping to plant trees at community schools. Learning basic survival skills, like how to make a fire, find a water source or identify edible plants with medicinal uses, holds universal appeal regardless of age.
Every aspect of a Singita family safari is individualised, from the most suitable accommodation to meal times and what’s on the menu. It’s a philosophy based on welcoming families, rather than tolerating them. All the lodges have swimming pools, while most also offer tennis, archery and fishing. At Singita Grumeti, capable riders can experience the thrill of a horseback safari. Families who show an interest in community initiatives and education often enjoy visiting local communities, especially the schools. This is another opportunity for parents to expose their children to the realities of life beyond their own privileged existence, while planting seeds of awareness and understanding about other cultures.
Eating well is central to a memorable safari, especially when taking children into consideration. Thoughtfully put-together snack boxes accompany children on every game drive, providing both diversion and sustenance. In the evening, while parents enjoy an elegant multi-course menu paired to wines from Singita’s extensive cellar, children may request their own mini tasting menu where the emphasis is on fun plating and their favourite flavours. Families also enjoy Singita’s ‘family feast’ style of dining where communal platters of food – roast chicken and a variety of fresh salads, for example – are brought to the table at the same time so that hungry children can eat quickly while the rest of the family settles into a relaxed, sociable meal. The chefs at each lodge are well versed at adapting menus to suit children or meeting special requests for homemade burgers or rolling out dough to bake their own pizzas.
There are numerous benefits to taking children on safari, not least the unique learning opportunities. In turn, Singita values the opportunity to engage with young people and teach these future decision makers and custodians of the planet about the significance and interconnection of conservation, communities and the low-impact, high-yield model of ecotourism that has proved to be successful in Africa.
To find out more about family safaris at Singita, please complete our enquiry form and one of our reservations consultants will make contact to assist you with availability and help you to plan your trip.