I am a firm believer in the extraordinary rewards that going on safari with one’s family brings. Some of you may remember receiving a circular going into some detail as to why. If not, then I know that many of you will have already read what we have to say regarding the hands-on life lessons travel to wild Africa offers children.
Given this, and the fact that, next month, I hope to say something about the optimum age brackets with regards to travel in wild Africa, I don’t want to repeat myself – or indeed bore you. However, I would like to share with you five excellent family destinations, all fantastic in that they cater, in my opinion, for the family as a whole, for the needs of children, of all ages, girls and boys – in equal measure.
Here goes. First up, Tswalu Kalahari, in South Africa, a privately owned malaria-free concession that includes two fine properties: The Motse and Tarkuni. The former is a beautifully designed lodge, the latter a large private house. Each, by itself, offers something special - The Motse just the ticket for those keen to meet and share time with others, Tarkuni exactly the sort of retreat some families crave. But what, I think, makes Tswalu stand out is the fact of its wonderfully imaginative range of activities, from its junior ranger programme to its Meerkat research to the staggering quality of the guiding – that and the desert, which is full of surprise.
Second and very different, Peponi Hotel, on Lamu, in Kenya. I can’t tell you how fond I am of Peponi, brainchild of Lars and Carol Korschen, whose take on the business of providing family friendly stays is founded on the principle that communities, both local and wider, are what counts. Integrated, both private and public, Peponi’s selling points - the slow pace of life in a historic trading community, some of East Africa’s best beaches, an open hearted approach to all that matters in life – make it the perfect family destination. It’s fun, and caring, and very beautiful.
Next, Abu Camp, in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Of the five, Abu is possibly the most unique in that it maintains a herd of elephant. Composed of either orphans or previously captive elephants, the admirable and extremely difficult to realise ambition at Abu is to prepare their elephants for a life in the wild. Bound up in this philosophy is the aim to educate, and what better way to do so than invite people to meet, be with and ride elephants. In terms of what a stay centered about these extraordinary animals gives to a family is impossible to put into words.
Fourth on the list is Zambia’s Tongabezi Lodge. Slap bang on the Zambezi, with private access to Livingstone Island, which sits at the head of Victoria Falls, the nature of accommodation and activities on offer at Tongabezi offers the family a wild and varied riverside experience, one that has the wonderful effect of decoupling it from normal life. Children and parents, therefore, are allowed, at their own pace, to experience everything that makes places like the Zambezi so worth visiting: difference, new meaning; nature and culture; learning, fun and awe. In short, soft adventure at its very best.
Last, another personal favourite: Sirikoi, in the Laikipia, Northern Kenya. As with Peponi, what makes Sirikoi so special for families is the philosophy and practice of its owners. Sue and Willie Roberts are old hands when it comes to making people comfortable in the wild: the local community is fully involved, the Maasai both stakeholders and hosts, and the chance to track rhino on foot - in the company of some the best guides I have had the honour to meet, and whose understanding of the needs of children is a lesson to us all – makes for the most compelling of experiences. Very upcountry Kenya, and very much about the family, Sirikoi is wonderful.
So, there you have it. Five of the best – though by no means a definitive list. And if you’re still with me, thank you. My keyboard appears to have got the better of my desire for brevity. Apologies.