Adventure Travel Blog

  1. Getting the Right Balance on your Family Safari Holiday

    Anna_x-country_skiing Anna on 17th September 2014 | 0 comments

    The key to the perfect Family safari in Africa is balancing the needs of everyone in the family. Some children can sit for hours in a game drive vehicle day after day, watching game and getting excited about every single animal. Other children will start to get bored and restless after a couple of game drives. We have one of each type, so know how hard it can be. Rather than making the holiday of your life time into an ordeal, here are a few recommendations to help you plan your holiday.

    Private Game Drives

    By paying extra, you can often have a ranger and game drive vehicle just for your family. This has the benefit that you can go at your own pace and that you don’t feel self-conscious exposing your children to other clients. It also means that the guide’s focus is on pacing the safari for your family, rather than needing to please all of the people in the vehicle.

    Choosing the Right Lodge

    Some lodges opt for communal dining, others have a more formal approach with rigid dinner times.  Some lodges have lounge areas close to the dining room, or even children’s lounges where your children can go and relax whilst you are lingering over a glass of wine and chatting to your fellow guests. If you prefer privacy, then you might prefer to choose somewhere where you can arrange private dining just for your family.

    Some lodges have swimming pools, which can be a real bonus for the more active children. For the most part, however, these are not heated, so be aware that if you are travelling to South Africa in their winter, then the pools will be very cold.

    When choosing your lodge, it is also worth considering how your child (ren) behaves. If they are naturally quite loud and active then you might want to choose a larger lodge with a good array of children’s activities. If you have older children who are very happy to relax with a book in-between game drives, then you can happily opt for a lodge that is smaller and quieter.

    Sleeping arrangements are also crucial and, again, completely dependent on the age of your children. With teenagers, you probably want separate rooms / tents and privacy. Families with younger children will almost certainly all want to share.

    Between us, we have visited a large range of lodges across Africa and are very happy to take the time to find the perfect place for you to stay.

    Balancing your Activities

    The schedule of your stay at a lodge is fairly regimented with early starts and late nights. You tend to have two game drives a day and each one will be around 3 hours long. After a few days of sitting quietly, many children (and adults) will be wanting to be more active, so we recommend combining your safari with something a little different. We have tried and tested all of the below with our 7 year old who was born with lots of energy to burn off, so can confidently say that each one ticks the box for an active adventure which both children and their parents can enjoy.

    Horse Riding

    If you like horse riding, then you could spend a few days at a horse riding safari centre in the Waterberg area north of Johannesburg. With over 90 horses, there is a horse to match you and you will be taken out for rides according to your ability. Non-riders can have lessons, or if you prefer to stay on the ground, then there are walking options and game drives instead.DSC05860

    Byde Canyon

    If you are a family who likes nature and walking and are going to South Africa, then we suggest our Blyde Canyon experience where you spend a few days with a guide exploring the world’s 3rd largest canyon.  Your local guide takes you well off the beaten track to hidden view points, undiscovered caves and swimming holes. The more active and adventurous you are, the more you will get out of it. An absolute highlight.DSC05607

    Laikipia Wilderness Camp

    If you want something completely different and wild, then we suggest that you go and stay at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya where you can combine adventure walks, swim, raft and fish in the river and scramble and climb on nearby outcrops. The owners have three of their own children on camp and will suggest a programme designed to suit you.Fynn Joseph rocks small

    Cape Town

    If you like a mix of culture and activities, then you should consider combining your family safari with a visit to Cape Town. Our signature Cape Town experience includes a cycle tour of the V&A Waterfront, guided Table Mountain hike and township experience.DSC03037

     

    Beach Time

    If you want to properly kick back and relax after your safari, then the beach is going to be your best option. Depending on the time of year of  your visit and where you go on safari, we have some fabulous options in South Africa, Zanzibar, Mauritus, Malawi and Kenya.DSC05042

  2. Malaria Free Family Safaris in Africa

    Anna_x-country_skiing Anna on 9th September 2014 | 0 comments

    We are often approached by families wanting to go on safari in Africa who don’t want to expose their children to the risks of malaria. This rules out much of Africa’s mainstream family safari destinations, with the exception of South Africa, where there are plenty of malaria-free safari options offering excellent game viewing experiences. Of course, nowhere is entirely risk-free and no matter where you travel to, you should always take precautions against being bitten and seek medical advice before you travel.  This NHS website offers some useful guidance and also maps of the affected areas:

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    Anti-malarials are readily available for children and we have given these to our own kids with minimal side effects. However, if you prefer to avoid these measures, here are some of our favourite tried and tested malaria-free game reserves in South Africa:

    1)    Madikwe Game Reserve

    Located in the North West of South Africa close to the border with Botswana, Madikwe is an excellent malaria-free safari destination for families. Covering over 75,000 hectares, Madikwe is home to over 66 animal species, including the Big 5, and is home to the elusive wild dog, rarely spotted in Southern Africa.  Whilst it is still nowhere near as well-known as Kruger, Madikwe has become known as a child-friendly game reserve and several of the lodges specialise in accommodation families and actively welcome younger guests. No day visitors or self-drivers are allowed into the reserve, so the reserve does not get too congested. Madikwe is an easy 4-5 hour drive from Johannesburg, or a short flight from Johannesburg. Many people combine Madikwe with a Garden Route holiday, or with Waterberg (see below)  Our favourite accommodation options in Madikwe are Jaci’s Lodge and Impodimo, both of which offer luxurious accommodation in stunning surroundings.

    DSC06060At Madikwe, we were lucky enough to spot a pack of African Wild dogs, a rare sight.

    2)    Eastern Cape

    Lying to the East of the Garden Route are a number of malaria-free game reserves, including Addo National Park, as well as several private options. At 180,000 hectare, Addo is certainly the area’s largest game park and is a draw card on account of its large elephant population. However, self-drivers are also allowed in the park, so it can become congested. Private concessions, such as Riverbend Lodge (14,000 ha) and Amakhala (7,000 ha) offer upmarket safari options with exclusive lodges and private game drives. The landscape here is fynbos and lower lying grasslands which is different to the denser bush to be found up in other safari destinations in South Africa. However, if you are travelling with younger children this can be an advantage as game is easier to spot. Most people combine the Eastern Cape game lodges with a Garden Route holiday.

    Riverbend LodgeStopping for early morning refreshments at Riverbend

    3)    Waterberg

    Two and a half hours to the north of Johannesburg lie the Waterberg mountains, a stunning biosphere home to a plethora of flora and fauna.  There are several large-scale land owners in the area who farm, but there is also the stunning Ant’s Hill who specialise in horse riding safaris. Because of their focus on riding, they don’t have predators, so not quite the Big 5, but they do have giraffe, rhino, buffalo and over 40 species of game. If you are not an avid horse rider, it doesn’t matter, as there are horses to suit all abilities. For resolute non-riders, game drives and bush walks are also on offer. Accommodation is in boutique bush cottages with outstanding views. Some people visit Waterberg in isolation, others choose to combine it with Madikwe so they can have a mixture of activities and more traditional safaris. Waterberg is an easy drive from Johannesburg and about 4 – 5 hours from Madikwe.

    DSC05860Spotting a rhino on horseback was a real highlight of our trip

    4)  TThanda Private Game Reserve, Kwa Zulu Natal

    Located in the East of the country in Kwa Zulu Natal, Thanda is a private game reserve close to Hluluhwe. A smaller reserve with 14,000 hectares, Thanda has no day visitors and is only available to the resident guests, so you can go a full day and barely see another game drive vehicle. They have the Big 5 as well as many other species of flora and fauna, which your guide will be keen to show you.  The terrain is hilly, with mountains forming an pretty backdrop to the views. The accommodation on offer for families is at the luxurious end, small lodges with private heated plunge pools and a spacious sun deck; an ideal destination for those looking to combine relaxation with a safari. Thanda is located about 2 hours from Richard’s Bay and 3 1/2 hours from Durban.

    Thanda poolEach villa has a private heated plunge pool with gorgeous views.

     

  3. Which Kruger Game Reserve Should I stay in?

    Anna_x-country_skiing Anna on 8th July 2014 | 0 comments

    Kruger National Park is South Africa's largest national park and one of Africa's largest game reserves. The size of Wales, it is home to 147 large mammal species, which makes it the most diverse reserve in Africa. The majority of accommodation within Kruger is managed by the park and guests are free to self-drive, although off-road driving is not permitted. Rest camps are basic affairs, which book out a long while in advance.

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    Surrounding Kruger park, are several private game reserves with luxurious lodges and private, guided safaris. Guests are not permitted to drive within these reserves, but the safari vehicles are normally permitted to drive off road, allowing guides to track animals more efficiently, giving guests some very up close and personal game viewing experiences. Accommodation in these reserves is not cheap, but can offer a fabulous blend of pampering and game viewing. As a standard, there are two game drives each day; one at dawn and one at dusk. On the dusk game drive, you will stop along the way for a sundowner and nibbles, in the mornings, hot chocolate and coffee replace the G & T's. In between game drives, you are free to relax at the lodge. In some lodges, activities are arranged for children whilst their parents can relax, snooze or go for a massage.

    Please read on for our guide and take on the best Private Game Reserves in Greater Kruger:

    SABI SANDS

    Size: 65,000 hectares

    Kruger Boundary: Unfenced to Kruger

    Access: Many people opt for private flights direct into Sabi Sands. Self-drive can be hairy as the roads are not good, particularly for the northern lodges (including Chitwa). 

    Our Verdict: The best known and original private game reserve in the Kruger area and the place to go if you want exclusive accommodation (which comes at a price). Whilst the reserve is unfenced, not all lodges give each other traversing rights, so vehicles can't always go outside of their patch. That said, it is known to be the premier safari destination with perhaps the best game viewing potential, especially good for leopards.

    TIMBAVATI

    Size: 53,000 hectares

    Kruger Boundary: Unfenced to Kruger

    Access: 1 hour drive from Hoedspruit along good roads (some unsealed)

    Our Verdict: A slightly less well-known reserve, but as a consequence the lodges are not as expensive. As anywhere, game viewing is always down to chance, but with the diversity of vegetation (a good mix of lowveld grasses and bushes) chances of spotting the big 5 are good. Some excellent options for families.

    THORNYBUSH

    Size: 14,000 hectares

    Kruger Boundary: Adjacent to Kruger, Fenced

    Access: 1 hour drive from Hoedspruit airport along good roads (some unsealed)

    Our Verdict: A smaller reserve with slick (if a little commercial) lodges with great family friendly accommodation. The reserve is small, so not quite the wild feel of Timbavati, but it does heighten the likelihood of spotting wildlife. Good option for younger / lively families who won't feel too self-conscious if the children splash around in the pool. 

    MAKALALI

    Size: 24,500 hectares

    Kruger Boundary: Not attached to Kruger

    Access: 1 hour drive from Hoedspruit airport along good roads (some unsealed)

    Our Verdict: This is not a mainstream reserve, mainly made up of private camps. Game viewing is good. There are only 2 commercial lodges operating here, so it is much less commercial - this can mean that there is less intense radio contact, which in turn can mean less guaranteed sightings. 

  4. The Best Safari Lodges in Kruger for Families

    Anna_x-country_skiing Anna on 8th July 2014 | 0 comments

    You've decided to take your family on safari in the Kruger area, but the question is where to stay. There are hundreds of lodges to choose from, some of which don't accept children at all. Then there is the question of whether they offer child friendly sleeping arrangements and activities and whether you should stay in a tent or a suite. To ease your planning, we have put together a list of our favourite family friendly lodges in the Kruger area, which we have tried and tested with one of our own children. It is very important to take the time to consider your budget, age of your children and familly dynamic carefully when choosing your Kruger safari lodge, please don't hesitate to get in touch to discuss your needs further.

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    Accommodation

    Some safari lodges are tent based, others are in suites. Suites tend to be more spacious, whilst tents can give a more traditional safari feel, taking you closer to nature. It is usually possible to fit 1 or 2 small children in a tent with you, but older children will require their own tent. As tents are usually spaced apart, you will need to assess how you feel about this as a family. If you opt for a suite, you can all sleep in one room together, or you can opt for inter-connecting rooms. This is a more expensive option, but it does give you more privacy.

    Activities

    As a rule, under 6's are not permitted on game drives and under 16's are not allowed on bush walks outside of the camp. Game drives are usually at dawn and dusk and in between these hours, guests normally relax, swim and snooze in the sun. Some lodges put on activities for children during these times, to give parents some down time. These activities are not compulsary. Usually they consist of activities such as lodge based bush walks, treasure hunts and baking.

    Our Top Picks

     

    Tanda Tula

     DSC05441Accommodation: 12 tents

    Family Sleeping arrangements: 1 larger tent for families to share, everyone would be all in the same room together.

    Age Limit: No children under 8

    Who is it for? More adventurous families looking for a wilder experience. Bush breakfasts are a real highlight after a game drive, but the layout and atmosphere is better suited to families with older children. This is not somewhere where you could want let your children make a lot of noise splashing in a pool. 

    Our 7 year old's verdict: The lodge manager very kindly allowed our 7 year old, Milly, to stay at the camp for a night. She thought that the chicken schnitzel that the chef prepared especially for her was the best food of the trip. The bush breakfast was also a bonus.

    Simbavati River Lodge

    DSC05457Accommodation: 8 tents & 3 family chalets

    Family Sleeping Arrangements: The family chalets offer fantastic accommodation with a large master bedroom and adjoining twin bedroom. Not entirely private, as the door is a curtain, it does give evreryone more space and privacy.

    Age Limit: All ages welcome. Over 6's permitted on game drives.

    Who is it for? Families of all ages. This is not a super luxurious option, but the accommodation, jungle gym, kids playroom and pool make it particularly good for the under 12's.

    Our 7 year old's verdict: Milly absolutely loved the jungle gym and was so pleased to be able to climb and play after several days of game drives. She found the communal dining less interesting, but was very happy to finish her dinner and read her book on the lounge sofas nearby. We both loved having a bit more space in the bedroom!

    Thornybush Waterside 

    DSC05245Accommodation: 20 rooms

    Family Sleeping Arrangements: Additional beds in a room are possible. Some rooms are inter-connecting, however families would have to pay for two rooms.

    Age Limit: All ages welcome. Over 6's permitted on game drives.

    Who is it for? This is a larger lodge, but very welcoming to children with game drive goody bags and snacks provided, as well as a kids programme. As there are more people staying here and children are made welcome, you won't feel self-conscious if your children are making a splash in the pool. A great choice for under 12's.

    Our 7 year old's verdict: Milly loved her kid's backpack and was extremely pleased to be given sweets to eat during the game drives (this was the only place that did this for us.)  

    Chitwa Chitwa 

    DSC05206Accommodation: 6 luxurious suites, 2 family suites.

    Family Sleeping Arrangements: Families with under 12's can all share one of the spacious suites, with 2 extra beds provided in the lounge area. Families with older children can go for the family suite, with inter-connecting suites.

    Age Limit: All ages welcome. Over 6's permitted on game drives.

    Who is it for? Luxurious accommodation in Sabi Sands for those wanting an exclusive safari experience.  A very special place, but expensive. Families are likely to be sharing their game vehicles and communal areas with honeymooners, so raucous or lively children should probably avoid it here.

    Our 7 year old's verdict: Milly loved sitting on our deck and watching the hippos in the water. She loved the pool (although it was a bit cold) and really enjoyed the cake at afternoon tea.

    Private Makalali Camp (Our Favourite)

      DSC05647Accommodation: There are 9 tents, but as the only guests staying, it is up to you how you configure the accommodation.

    Family Sleeping Arrangements: Tents can sleep up to 2 adults and 2 children on a sleeper bed. 

    Age Limit: All ages welcome. Children of any age permitted on game drives.

    Who is it for? The experience at this camp is quite unlike any other commercial lodge that you will visit in the Kruger area and allows a truly laid-back experience. Service may not be as polished as at a 5* lodge and furnishings not as luxurious, but standards are high, nonetheless.  As parents, not having to worry about your children and being able to dictate meal times and the timings of the day, this is a real bonus.

    Our 7 year old's verdict: This was Milly's favourite place because she was free to play and mess around without worrying about distrubing guests. She loved playing pool in the main lodge area and watching the hippos from the deck. She also loved being able to sit wherever she wanted on the game drive.

  5. How to make safaris fun. By Alex (age 8)

    Missing ben on 3rd July 2014 | 0 comments

    Alex Kenya Journal

    Children are usually unanimously wowed by their initial experience on safari. However once the initial amazement is replaced by the new norm of seeing elephants and lions in the wild, we have found that interest levels can start to wane. It is very difficult to predict, we have one daughter who simply can’t get enough game drives in her life, if she had her way she’d have a morning and afternoon game drive every day of her life, whilst her sister tends to lose interest after a couple of drives.

    The below was written by Alex, aged 8, who definitely falls into the latter camp. In one particularly brutal research trip, we stayed at 6 different camps in the Mara in 6 days with game drives in each. The hot chocolate and cookies worked wonders getting her up out of bed for early morning game drives, but something else was needed to keep her interested during the drives. Here are Alex's tips on keeping things interesting. I've transcribed Alex's original article (see left), I’m sure she won’t mind that I corrected some spellings...

     

    5 Tips on how to make safaris fun, by Alex (aged 8)

    Sometimes safaris get a bit boring, so here are 5 tips on how to make them fun!

    1. Tallying – make a tally of all the animals you see. For ages 6+

    2. Sketching – draw a sketch of each animal you see. Ages 3+

    3. Ask questions about each different animal that you see. Ages 3+

    4. Photos – take photos of all the animals. Age 8+

    5. Spot and identify – play a game where you get points for each animal that you spot and identify. You make up the rules as you go along.! Ages 4+

    Alex on Safari
    Alex taking a tally on safari in Mara North Conservancy

    Alex Kenya Journal Alex Kenya Journal

    Alex Kenya Journal Alex Kenya Journal
    Alex's Tally and Bar Chart