FAMILY TRAVEL

 “The biggest lesson from Africa was that life’s joys come mostly from relationships and friendships, not from material things. I saw time and again how much fun Africans had with their families and friends and on the sports fields; they laughed all the time.”Andrew Shue (American actor)

What more could you ask for in a destination like Southern Africa, than to enjoy some family time with your children. 

  • It brings us back to a life we knew growing up
  • 100% natural settings with trees, stars and endless savannas
  •  Install’s an appreciation of the Africa’s natural beauty
  • Educational  
  • Takes away the rush of our daily lives
  • It teach children to respect our wildlife
  • Memories lasting a lifetime , and stories for generations to come
  • Hardly any time to get bored

Southern Africa has many places that accommodate families however there are some hotels and lodges that cater perfectly for families.  Below are just 3 choices that come to mind

Images courtesy of Imvelo Safaris, preferred partners of Personal Collection by Thompsons Africa , experts in Southern Africa

African Bush Camps

The Best Part About Memories is Making Them –  Travel can be a wonderful time for a family to bond and a safari is a great way to connect through disconnecting from the normal routine. Everything is new and exciting; seeing an elephant for the first time, making pizza out in nature, or learning the call of an eagle. Watch  African Bush Camps Family Adventure Safari video to see why their family-friendly camps are the best on offer.

You can see how families become a part of their family, hosts entertain children with games and activities while guides ignite a sense of wonder and curiosity in the kids they teach. Their guides are experts in explaining, in fun and interactive ways, how everything in the ecosystem is interconnected, making it an enriching educational experience. 

“Travelling in the company of those we love is home in motion.”

Leigh Hunt

Samara

“We did not inherit the land from our forefathers. We have simply borrowed it from our children.” – NATIVE AMERICAN PROVERB

Samara offers an adventure for all ages. Family-owned and family-run, they are passionate about educating the next generation of conservationists and opening their eyes to the wonders of the wild. Inspiring educational activities combined with a breathtaking malaria-free setting make Samara the epitome of a child friendly safari.

Kids Programme & Babysitting

The Samara Kids Programme, part of our child friendly safari activities, caters to children up to 12 years old.

Experienced staff will engage your children in a variety of age-appropriate, fun and educational activities whilst you relax and unwind.

Activities include:

  • ‘Outdoor classroom’ bush excursions in the lodge grounds
  • Track identification
  • Rock painting like the Khoi-San
  • African crafts
  • T-shirt making
  • Orienteering & navigating
  • Storytelling
  • Colouring-in
  • Board games

When parents are away from the lodge, babies and toddlers younger than 2 years old must be placed under the care of the experienced childminders available. This babysitting is available during game drives and over dinner. A dedicated children’s menu is available at both lodges, and special requests can be accommodated.

Activities for teenagers

Unlikely to take kindly to being grouped in with the ‘kids’, we have a host of activities ideally suited to teens and young adults.

These activities cater to those already into the Big Outdoors as well as those who simply want to get that perfect ‘Insta-worthy’ picture to show friends back home.

These include:

  • Air rifle target practice
  • Bush walks (minimum age 16 years)
  • Sleep-outs (weather dependent)
  • Conservation activities
  • Overnight trail (minimum age 16 years; subject to ranger availability)

The activities described above can also include parents, allowing you to reconnect as a family on an exciting wilderness adventures.

Sabi Sabi

ELEFUN CENTRE AT SABI SABI BUSH LODGE

Families with children are always welcomed at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, and children are afforded a bush and nature experience, from the youngest to the eldest members of the family. The EleFun Centre is a fully-fledged children’s facility within the lodge environs, which fosters awareness and an appreciation of nature.The EleFun Centre offer hands-on, interactive activities designed for children between the ages of 4 and 12 years. Age-appropriate bushveld themed activities are guided, and supervised, by qualified staff, and include bushcraft subjects such as bush survival, bugs & birds, tracks & signs of wildlife – all environmentally sensitive subjects that every child will find fascinating.  

There is time for creative hobbies, while the afternoon sessions are fun-filled with games. Selected rangers lead bush walks and talks, and the childcare professionals provide specially planned midday child-friendly game drives, based on the topics covered in the rangers course, at the time of your visit.

The beautifully designed centre also includes a wonderful, secure outdoor play area. While set itineraries will take place every morning and afternoon, children are welcome to enjoy the facility between formal sessions.  Parents and/or guardians can relax and enjoy the incredible safaris, have a pamper session in the Amani Spa or just kick back and enjoy some private time, knowing that their children are reveling in their own special bushveld experience.

JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAMME

10:00 – INTRODUCTION TO JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAMME (AGES 4- 12)

Childcare professionals will introduce the variety of activities that are required in order to qualify as a Junior Ranger. These will of course be based according to their ages.

11:00 – 12:00 – ADVENTURES WITH NATURE 

This is the time for interactive bush activity. Weather permitting, a Ranger – or the EleFun co-ordinator – will lead the children in and around the lodge grounds on a walk, and for the older children there are additional midday educational drives out into the bush. The young Junior Ranger group will learn interesting facts about the Sabi Sabi bushveld and the animals, e.g. bugs & birds, bush survival or tracks & signs of nature.

12:00 – 13:00 – HOBBIES AND CRAFTS

In cases of inclement weather, children will enjoy an arts and crafts session, where boys and girls can enjoy hands-on projects, all relating to nature and the natural world – this could get messy but they definitely won’t be bored.

13:00 – 14:00 – CLOSED FOR LUNCH WITH PARENTS OR GUARDIANS

14:00 – 15:30 – GAME TIME

We encourage all the children to join us for our indoor and outdoor afternoon games which are really fun as well as educational. There is a spacious outdoor area with an obstacle course, a maze, open field to play soccer or enjoy some water sports and jungle gyms. There are also general knowledge quizzes based on African animals and they learn different animal sounds too. 


Images courtesy of Imvelo Safaris

MALAWI

Known as the “warm heart of Africa”, Malawi is an incredibly friendly landlocked country in southeastern Africa.

Completely unspoiled by mass tourism, this is the Africa you imagine, where it feels like a step back in time into another world.

From the moment we landed at the small airport in Blantyre, weaving our way through the city traffic into the countryside, my eyes couldn’t keep up with the sights and sounds around us.

Elegant colonial buildings give way to small hillside villages and ramshackle shops. We stopped along the road to purchase our Sim cards, it seems anything is for sale along the roadside including mice on a stick, a local delicacy!

Our land rover chugs along over a scenic mountain pass before descending down via the Lower Shire River valley to the Majete Wildlife Reserve.  This is the only Big Five game park in Malawi and one of the outstanding success stories of African conservation.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the park was almost depleted of game due to extensive poaching.   A joint effort by the Malawi government and Africa Parks, including the reintroduction of endangered species, has turned this park into a model of sustainable development and biodiversity.   Mkulumadzi Lodge inside Majete National Park is our base for the next couple of nights.

My large luxury tent faces the Shire River and moments after my arrival, a visitor makes her presence known.  An elephant is tearing away at a small tree and curiously peeking into my tent.

Hippos are grunting in the river further away, I am in my happy place!   Twice daily game drives show off the diverse terrain that makes up Majete.

We regularly see a herd of elephants teaching the young babies what these funny looking vehicles with people are all about.  This particular herd is very friendly and curious and they come up very close to our vehicle.

A morning stop along the river provides a chance to soak up the lovely scenery over steaming cup of coffee.  Hippos lazing on the mudflats, waterbuck and nyalas drinking on the water’s edge and colourful bee eaters fly through the air.

Dinners are served al fresco on the huge deck overlooking the river.  Tonight we have a special dinner guest, “Buzz” the bushbaby, who likes to come down and visit the lodge staff occasionally (and maybe have a little peanut butter and strawberry jam treat).

Our next stop is the beautiful old colonial Huntingdon House, on the Satemwa Tea Estate.   The estate is undoubtedly among the country’s most respected and established tea producers.

This is one of the most scenic regions of Malawi, with its rolling hills of immaculately cultivated emerald green plantations and magnificent views everywhere you look.  Relax in the colonial atmosphere of the lodge and its beautiful gardens, have a picnic on one of the hilltops and most importantly go for a tea tasting tour!

We continue south past the Zomba Plateau, sadly our itinerary does not allow time to try some of the great hikes in this area.

We pass scenes of women in colourful dresses carrying goods on their heads from the market, grasshut villages and children playing at the water pump frantically waving at us.

Our next destination is Liwonde National park.  We arrive at Mvuu Lodge after a relaxing cruise seeing hippos, crocodiles and plentiful birdlife.

Mvuu means “hippo” in the Chichewa language and it is no wonder as the river is filled with them.   Our lodge is built on the banks of a lagoon that is teeming with waterbuck, impala, naughty vervet monkeys and egrets riding on the backs of warthogs.

Liwonde is a birdwatcher’s paradise offering Brown-Breasted Barbets, Bohm’s Bee-eater, the African Skimmer and Livingstone Flycatcher to name just a few. Nature walks, game drives, night drives and special game drives into the Rhino Sanctuary are available in Liwonde as well as river cruises to get close to hippo pods, elephants, crocodiles and the abundant birdlife.

It was here that I saw my first Sable antelope after many safaris all over Africa.  Last but definitely not least, is probably the country’s most famous attraction, Lake Malawi.

Scottish Explorer David Livingstone called it “The Lake of the Stars” because the lanterns he saw from the fishermen’s boats resembled the stars at night and it is still the same to this day.

Lake Malawi, one of the deepest lakes in the World, with its clear waters and mountain backgrounds offers a wonderful change from the safari circuit.   There are several stunning lodges along the lake such as Pumalani Beach Lodge, where the rooms feel more like a private house with incredible views over the lake.

Kaya Maya is an exclusive luxury resort set on Likoma Island and has been voted in the top 10 “most romantic places in the World” by Conde Naste magazine.

If you want to completely unplug from society, then eco friendly and pristine Mumbo Island is the place of you.   The lake offers various boat trips, dhow cruises, fishing and snorkeling expeditions, sail boat charters as well as visits to local villages.

After exploring this wonderfully varied country, there is no better place to pour yourself a gin and tonic while watching the sunset from the shores of Lake Malawi.  While Malawi may not offer the same game experience as some other Africans countries, it packs a punch in natural beauty, wonderful people, amazing birdlife and an authentic off the beaten path travel experience.

Due to its location, it is easily combined with South Luangwa in Zambia for those who really want to see the big predators, and voila, you have the perfect next vacation to Africa! 

Written and photography by Akke Bos