Are you a parent or grandparent who dreads another week at Disneyland? Does the mere thought of trawling around Universal Studios, or of subjecting yourself to a family resort in the Mediterranean, make you feel slightly green around the gills? Well, here is a solution for you! Just because you’re travelling with children in tow does not mean that you have to give up your wanderlust, or put aside your sense of adventure. We have no fewer than seven reasons to take your children to Africa for your next family vacation, and saving your sanity is only one of them!
1. See animals in the wild
It’s all very well watching animals on TV, but nothing beats seeing them in their natural environments. On a luxury family safari you might meet meerkat in the Kalahari, wildebeest in the Serengeti, or elephant in the Okavango Delta. Getting up at first light, you can track wild animals on foot, stopping to breakfast by the waterhole. Professional naturalists will teach and inspire you, and whatever your age you’re guaranteed to catch your breath when you first hear a lion roar or see a cheetah take down its prey. This is The Lion King — live action version.
2. Spend time together
How much quality time do you get to spend with your family? For most of our guests, caught between work, the school run, and all the other obligations of everyday life, the answer is just not enough. Out in the bush, far from WiFi and with no mobile phone signal, you can switch off from the rat race entirely. Try something new together, share an experience, and talk about how you feel.
3. Appreciate what you have
In the UK we live in a bubble, sheltered from most of the troubles of the world. It’s easy for our kids to grow up unaware of how challenging life can be, and how lucky they really are. In Africa you can gently, sensitively introduce them to communities with rather different experiences of life. You might visit a tribal family in their village, or spend a few hours in a local school. It is possible to work with proven development projects which have a positive impact on communities, so it’s a win-win for all concerned.
4. Create lasting memories
You won’t remember anything about the hours spent at your desk, other than that you’d rather have spent that time elsewhere. Your children will remember nothing about it at all. But think instead the impact half a day at Stanley’s Camp playing with orphaned elephant will have. What if your kids had the chance to become a junior warrior with the Maasai? Or if you spent a night camping beneath the stars? Those memories become ingrained on the mind, priceless and unforgettable no matter how many years have passed.
5. Teach respect for the natural world
When you are out in the middle of the Namib Desert, or standing beside a dry riverbed in the plains, you feel very small. On safari you’ll see the impact of changing weather on the landscape, how human encroachment threatens other habitats and the creatures living there. Even on a week-long safari, you’ll learn about the interdependence of each life form in an ecosystem, and how what we, as individuals and as communities do, has far reaching consequences.
6. Increase your ‘cool’ factor
If your babies have grown into teens, you might wonder what has happened to them! Perhaps the close bond you once shared no longer seems so close. Build rapport with your teenagers by sharing an African experience which is undeniably cool. It might be quad biking across the Kuene, tracking gorilla in the Rwandan rainforest, or swimming in the Devil’s Pool. You win serious parent brownie points for giving your kids such opportunities, and they have unrivalled material to share with their friends on Instagram and Snapchat.
7. Save your sanity!
Travelling with children doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dream destinations. In fact, it’s even more exciting if you share them. A good Africa travel specialist will know exactly which areas and properties are family-friendly, and take the stress out of your holiday planning. Leave the tiresome preparations to them, and once you’ve arrived be sure to take time out for yourself: arrange a spa treatment to relax, or a romantic dinner for two at one of our luxurious safari lodges whilst someone else watches the children.
Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive.
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