Ever wanted to go on a safari? Want your kids to see lions, giraffes and zebras in the wild? It is easy when you have expert help.
By Alison Godfrey
TWK travel manager Michelle Desmarchelier is an expert in family safari holidays. Here’s her tips for making the most out of your trip to Africa.
Where to go
Where you go in African depends on your family. Michelle says the first question should be – what do you want to get out of your holiday?
“If it’s purely wildlife game viewing and culture then I’d look at a Kenyan Safari for them, spending time in the Masai Mara which would offer a great cultural immersion as there are plenty of opportunities to spend time with the Masai Tribe and learn about their way of living,” Michelle says.
But if you want a mix of wildlife, sightseeing and relaxation, Michelle says you may be better off in South Africa.
“This would give them some great game viewing opportunities in Kruger, some beach time in South Africa and a relaxed stay in Cape Town,” Michelle says.
All of this could be done as a self-drive itinerary. “If they have longer then they could finish with Victoria Falls from either Zimbabwe or Zambia and trip across into Botswana to visit Chobe National Park.”
Michelle’s top tips
- To make the most of your trip, Michelle says you should try to get the kids involved in planning.
“This could be a great opportunity to do some research about the countries they’re visiting, learn about the cultures and wildlife,” she says. “It will keep them interested in the itinerary and they will also have some great stories to come back with for show and tell.”
- Give the kids their own camera and binoculars and set them up with all they’ll need to keep themselves entertained.
“There’s nothing worse than watching a leopard in a tree up close only to have someone NEED those binoculars back,” Michelle says. The kids can also pack a day pack with their own stuff: “this teaches them to be independent travellers”.
- A travel diary is a must. They can use the diary to keep track of all the animals they’ve seen and the countries they’ve visited.
“This is a great momento to refer back to when home, and can be used to put together an awesome photo book,” Michelle says.
- Mix the itinerary up to keep everyone happy. Game drives can be long and sometimes boring for kids if there’s not much animal action.
Michelle recommends a day of game viewing, a day around the lodge and then another day back on the road. “Unless there are great animal sightings then get as many game drives in as possible,” she says.
- Factor in some down days – Africa can be a bit overwhelming and if you’re on the go the whole time could really detract from the whole family experience. The amount of down time does depend on the age of the kids – the younger they are, the more downtime they need. Add in time around the pool, time to talk to each other about what you saw and time to plan what you want to see the next day into your itinerary.
Book with an Africa specialist
Michelle has spend more than 20 years designing and selling African safaris. She has visited the continent 15 times. That experience counts when you are booking holidays in Africa, especially since some places are more child-friendly than others.
“I listen to my clients and will design the perfect itinerary for each individual client rather than selling a package holiday from a brochure as Africa in particular is different for every client,” Michelle says.
“I truly believe that family holidays should include life ‘beyond the resort’ and that kids get the most out of their holidays when they’re learning through travel and engage and have an understanding of the people, geography and culture of the country they’re visiting.”
“As a mum myself, I know that happy travelling kids also makes my life easier as I’m less stressed about keeping them entertained and engaged when I know they’ve been a part of the planning process, which equals a hassle-free holiday for myself.”
If you’re interested in an African safari you can contact Michelle via her Travel With Kidz page.