School holidays roll around four times a year and each time you want to keep your kids entertained and once in a while treat them to something really special. Well here today, I'm presenting the ultimate school holiday treat for the whole family! Often, family travel focuses on a destination suitable for children but can be a bit of a drag for the parents. East Africa is NOT such a destination - it offers plenty for everyone from your primary-school-aged son to his grandmother.
East Africa has so many activities for all ages. Many people just think of a typical safari, looking at animals from a safari vehicle. When parents are considering a holiday for their young children, spending days in a car does not sound attractive. But there's so much more! At Lake Naivasha you can go cycling in Hells Gate National Park. In the Maasai Mara and Serengeti you can go in a hot air balloon. Many lodges have swimming pools to break up a big day of game drives. You can head up to a beautiful viewpoint for a sundowner in most places you might be in the region. Walking safaris are available in Central Kenya, Lake Naivasha and Lake Eyasi in Tanzania. Or perhaps a boat ride at Lake Baringo, Lake Victoria, Lake Kivu (in Rwanda), or on the Nile River in Uganda. At the source of the Nile in Jinja, Uganda, the teenagers can go white-water rafting downstream while the elders relax on a lunch cruise upriver!
I mentioned earlier that parents tend to worry about their young kids spending full days in a car. What if they get bored? What if they need a toilet? Oh it could just be a disaster. Wrong! There are ways to make game drives fun and entertaining with games or a scavenger hunt or get them to fill out a field guide if they are a bit older. That will keep them engaged and interested in finding the next animal. You could have prizes for the most obscure find for the day. And anyway, the animals you are seeing are lions and elephants and giraffes! One family took their two children aged 3 and 5 on a safari and they had prepared their guide that they may have to cut things short if the kids became ratty. But it never happened. The children were thrilled with seeing the animals and lasted the whole day!
Meeting local people and learning how they live is a fantastic experience for all generations. But in East Africa there is a lot of issues and life is really different to what we are used to in the West. We have witnessed profound impact on teenagers especially when they have interacted with kids their own age living in the slums or in a Maasai village. Visiting community-based organisations and seeing their projects can inspire young people to start thinking how they can make a difference in this world. We have had family groups visit schools and donate books. Other families have visited traditional villages and it's so fun to see the children playing together despite a language barrier.
So if you are starting to think that it might be OK for finding things to do, but now you start thinking about the logistics. Where will you stay? How will you travel? Again, East Africa has you covered. Many accommodation places have family rooms. We also understand that travelling with a family can be expensive, so if you are travelling on a budget then consider a camping trip. It is really exciting camping in the national parks listening to the sounds of the bush around you at night! As for transport, there are a range of vehicle sizes, depending on how many you are. A typical safari van or Land Cruiser seats 6-7 passengers but if you are looking to bring the extended family for a multi-generational trip, you might hire an overland truck.
The biggest concern for families considering coming to East Africa is safety and security. When you book through a reputable tour operator, you will be fully escorted the whole time by knowledgeable local guides. By booking a full safari package and paying up front for everything, you do not have to carry so much cash on you. And remember the national parks have never really been a target for terrorists or criminals - big cities are much more lucrative for them. On a safari you will be spending most of your time in national parks and minimal time in cities so your risk of encountering these bad guys is reduced.
So what are you waiting for? It's time to build amazing memories together. You might use it to celebrate a special occasion - for example we had a family group reunite in Kenya to celebrate the grandfather's 70th birthday. Regardless, a family holiday to East Africa is a bucket list event no one will ever forget.
Tracey is the owner of Overland Travel Adventures (OTA), a philanthropic tour company based in Nairobi, Kenya. She has travelled to over 50 countries and led tours in most of those. OTA focuses on engaging with the African continent rather than just viewing it through the window. OTA is connected with several community-based organisations throughout Kenya and incorporates visits to these projects into their itineraries. Visit the website http://www.ota-responsibletravel.com for more information, or Like on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/OverlandTravelAdventures