Here, children 4 years and under are treated to their own “Jungle Drive.” In addition, all children 12 years and younger are served an early evening meal. They are not allowed into the evening meal, the “boma”—a traditional South African buffet feast. Parents traveling with youngsters may book licensed nannies to baby-sit.
What makes the country attractive for tour operators, Nesbitt continues, is that South Africa also offers a “wider price band so safaris can be tailored to fit most budgets. Additional time can be arranged on the South African or Indian Ocean islands.” But he says that the most appealing attraction is the lack of malarial mosquitoes in some of the South African game parks.
Another popular family-oriented safari camp is Sabi Sabi in Mpumalanga, just outside South Africa’s legendary Kruger National Park. Sabi Sabi has a long track record of dealing with U.S. travel agents.
Jacques Smit, marketing director for Sabi Sabi, says, “An African safari is a learning experience at any age, but for children [a safari] can open an entirely new world.”
The Sabi Sabi private game reserve boasts a great biodiversity of habitat and wildlife and, according to Smit, families never fail to “be mesmerized by the hundreds of species of animals, birds and plants.”
He adds that children aged 3 to 6 “may accompany their parents on safari if there is exclusive use of the safari vehicle.” However, there are additional restrictions at sightings in case of possible “disturbances to animals or other guests.”
Although many tour operators include safaris in their packages, few customize with such care to detail as Austin-Lehman Adventures, a firm with more than 35 years of experience in planning such adventures.
Its South Africa Family plan is an active and stimulating package that begins in Cape Town and ends 11 days later in Johannesburg. The tour seems specifically designed to prove the country’s motto that South Africa is “a world in one country.”
Austin-Lehman takes small groups through a thrilling African experience that includes marine life tours from a small boat in the waters off Cape Town, then moves on to whale watching in the Grootbos Nature Reserve, observing the penguins in Cape Point, biking through Stellenbosch wine country, cultural tours of Robben Island and a 3-day safari in Kruger National Park.
Price for the trip is about $7,998 pp dbl. The rates for children vary from $6,398 to $7,198.
According to Dan Austin, Austin-Lehman’s director, the rewards for taking such a trip with children are immense. “Africa is an amazing destination, nowhere else on the planet can you see the vast swings in geography, the incredible wildlife and above all else, meet some amazing people, many whose day-to-day lives have been unchanged for centuries.
“Sharing this with family and young people make it all that much better. Watch the eyes of a youngster as he sees his first herd of elephants (not just one or two in a zoo, but 30-40 at a waterhole). Teaching them how to study ‘tracks’ and what might be just off the trail. Help them appreciate their day-to-day comforts as they witness first-hand life in a village without water or electricity. In fact, it may be a week or so before they even realize they have not seen a TV since touching down.”
That sentiment is echoed by the tour planners of AndBeyond, one of South Africa’s leaders in luxury travel and safaris, which also has extensive relations with U.S. travel agents and tour operators. AndBeyond has an enviable record when it comes to leading families into the bush. The company began 18 years ago and presently operates 50 safari destinations throughout the continent, including the Namibian desert, the Serengeti, the Okavango swamps and the Indian Ocean.
Its children camps in southern and east Africa have been lauded for their programs devised for young guests who are given a “special planet manager” backpack upon arrival. The pack contains surprises, quizzes, eco-guides and tips for animal sightings.
This is all in keeping with AndBeyond’s commitment to sustainable travel and education.
AndBeyond has eight child-friendly safari camps in South Africa as well as others in Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
tanzania For families who want to catch a different African experience, Firelight Expeditions, a firm specializing in small group safaris in Tanzania, offers Lupita Island, a 130-acre private retreat overlooking a group of lush islands on the Tanzania side of Lake Tanganyika.