We understand that a handcrafted safari is an investment for the whole family. For nearly a decade, EJ's mother-daughter founders, and their team have been sending families to Africa, discovering a few tricks of the trade along the way that can make or break that special vacation with your brood.
Here, our co-founder Elizabeth Gordon offers a quick-hitting summary of all her top tips for pulling off that trip-of-a-lifetime with the kids. After all, adventures are always best when they're shared, especially when the company is your kin.
1. Think Camps, Not Countries
When it comes to traveling to Africa with your family, it’s less about the right country, and more about the right camp. A rustic bush camp for soaking in nature’s quiet ambience won’t suit a rambunctious youngster needling mom and dad for “what’s next” every 15 minutes. Age-appropriate camps with desirable amenities are a must. Swimming pools are always favorites where kids can burn off extra energy between activities. Plus, it’s a great way to cool off midday.
We also know which lodges offer the best services to help with childcare, including babysitting. Some even have a playroom with games and activities, such as scavenger hunts and cooking classes, to occupy kids in between game-viewing drives. Kwandwe Ecca, in South Africa, for instance, puts together treasure hunts across the reserve, which incorporate learning some basic compass navigation. Singita Grumeti in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park offers a mini rangers program that teaches kids what it takes to guide in one of the world's greatest wildlife playgrounds.
2. Mix and Match Your Activities
Our programs are all about flexibility. Who wants a rigidly scheduled safari where you have no say, especially when preferences will vary as widely as your ages? Typically, when you go on safari, you go on game-drives in the early morning and evening. However, we aim to work with properties that keep the schedule wide open. Again and again, we find that keeping kids engaged and moving in and out of the car makes a world of difference.
At private conservancies, you can customize just about every activity to fit the times that work best for you and your clan. We have families who opt to be out all day because they are having so much fun. We also can divide the group and have some folks stay back, while others go out.
At Kenya's Lewa Conservancy, for example ,you have your choice of game drives, walking safaris, mountain biking tours, or horseback rides with Borana’s superb operation, Riding Wild. Even ATV Quad Bikes can be arranged to explore fun remote areas and visit local communities.
If you want to take it up a notch, literally, we can arrange for a private helicopter to take your group on a scenic flight around Northern Kenya to see magnificent sites, such as Lake Turkana. For some culture and socializing, consider kicking it with the nearby school kids, who love playing soccer. Our clients have raved about what an impact it has made on their kids to meet local children. It’s a moving experience for everyone, and the possibilities are endless.
3. Keep Things Private
As in, privately guided. We want to make sure you have exceptional guides (some countries are offering amazing rates for private guides) because they are essentially traveling teachers for your kids. The guides in our carefully curated roster can teach your children, depending on their age, an array of skills, including how to safely throw spears, make bows and arrows, drive a car, go fishing, collect ancient stone tools, stalk a zebra, climb a hill or a tree. Game viewing often comes a distant second to the rest of these hands-on experiences in a child's eyes.