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Family first timers - kids 9,11 - adventurous!

Kids Adventure Tent

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#1 mooey

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 10:33 PM

Good morning from Australia!

We have decided to go on an African safari next July and I'm a little overwhelmed already with all the info out there. Hoping you wonderful people can help point us in the right direction...

July 2017 trip for about 2 weeks in the country. Open to ideas about length of actual safari.

All animals will be new to us so open to all options. Obviously some of the big 5 is a must

We'd like an adventurous type safari - I think tented rather than permanent lodges- as off the beaten track as possible. A highly touristy area would be a turn off for us.

Although we have kids (age 9 and 11) I don't want that to restrict our options with respect to the point above. The kids are tough (can easily handle day long hikes for example) and are very polite/well behaved. I note many safaris don't accept kids under certain ages. Why is this?
Open to all countries

Budget is fairly open (gulp, as I say that!) but we'd rather spend on the experience rather than luxuries (we all lived in a campervan for a year so we aren't precious)

As it's our first time in Africa, would be good to combine with any non-safari highlights

Hopefully that describes us and our preferences for a few ideas. Would be very grateful for any suggestions.

Thanks very much

Dave

Edited by mooey, 17 September 2016 - 10:37 PM.


#2 pault

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Posted 18 September 2016 - 08:24 AM

Re. why people don't take kids under a certain age it is partially because the environment is not wholly safe (animals like hyenas, leopards and baboons may occasionally attack a small-sized human, although I hasten to add that it is extremely rare for tourists to be affected), because others' kids are noisy (even if yours aren't when it is not appropriate) and, frankly, because safari attracts a number of people who would cancel a booking in a heartbeat if they knew they were going to have to share a vehicle on game drives with kids. It's only a few camps that would not allow a 9-year old though - and even most of them are actually just discouraging it (making the "at your own risk and completely your own responsibility"bit extra clear and would allow it if they knew the parents fully understood what environment they were taking their kids into.  

 

But anyway, that shouldn't be a concern as you still have a lot of options. You say the kids aren't a concern but actually they can be (maybe even should be) There are a lot of places that are really set up for families, with guides and other staff who are expert in showing kids a good time. You can go anywhere you want and I don't recommend any particular country. However I will tell you a bit about options in Kenya to get the ball rolling, because I happen to know that country best of all. Without budget considerations (Edit: oh, I did consider that after all - I grew uo in Scotland, my mother is from Yorkshire, what can I say?) here are some ideas, some of which you could easily do in other countries too.

 

1. Hire a private guide and set up camp wherever you want. You'll go to remote spots that are chosen for exactly what you want and that really work for families based on the guide's experience (and they will have all guided multiple families). You can mix setting up your own camp - well, you wouldn't actually life a finger and the camp would magically appear while you were traveling or out on a game drive - with spells in tented camps in the best wildlife areas. You can choose from dome tents or larger, walk-in tents and from a skeleton staff to a full complement, with the price rising as you get more extravagant. Basic dome-tented option may be cheaper than most tented camps, but generally this kind of trip will be a bit more expensive, especially if you were planning to share a tent with the kids at the tented camps and thus qualify for lower kids rates. If they were my kids, I liked camping and I had the funds available, this is what I would do. 

 

2. Mix tented camps in the Masai Mara and two of Amboseli, Samburu, Ol Pejeta and Meru (although there are more options, I don't want to overload you) with a stay on one or two ranches in Laikipia where they practically specialize in safaris for kids. A lot if these places are run by people with their own kids and deliberately employ staff and dream up activities that are very child or family friendly. Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Ol Malo, Sabuk, some of the places at Lewa, Borana and others are well worth a look. Whatever you or the kids dream you might do, one of these places will probably have it on offer!

 

3. Look for very family friendly places in the major wildlife areas. There are special kids' programs at Serian Mara, Saruni Samburu and many others. 

 

4. For a lower cost, stay at larger tented camps like Elephant Bedroom, Larsons or Intrepids in Samburu, Galdessa or Severin in Tsavo, Sweetwaters in Ol Pejeta, Base Camp Explorer in the Mara. Or do something like Gamewatchers Adventure Camps, or stay in salf-catering accommodation and travel with your own guide (and cook if needed, although many self-catering houses can provide a chef for you or do full board). Ol Pejeta in particular has fantastic options for this, but there are options in Meru, Laikipia and other places. Use money saved to do something very special.

 

5. There is also the traditional lodge safaris with local guide option, but it doesn't sound like that is what you are looking for. 

 

Hope that's enough to get you started. If any f the above is of particular interest feel free to ask for more details - but wait and see what else is suggested or what you find out yourself. Do make sure you spend every free moment reading the trip reports here. Much knowledge and inspiration to be had from there.


Edited by pault, 18 September 2016 - 08:30 AM.

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#3 AndyH1000

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Posted 18 September 2016 - 08:26 AM

Hi Dave and welcome! Also good to see another Australian here.

 

We have 2 kids - aged 9 and 10 and have taken them to Africa twice - for varying periods, the first about 3 weeks and the second around 10 days. As long as you mix it up a bit with different locations so it's not same same, I think kids are good to go for a short or longer trip. Our kids had their own cameras and also drawing stuff (to draw what they see and write a journal about it) which helps them stay involved and not get bored.

 

In July, you probably know that the weather is generally dry in both southern and East Africa so good for game viewing. It might be a bit cool in Southern Africa though. You might try the africa travel resource website to help you navigate through: country-> regions->parks->camps and lodges / operators. I have not booked through them but have found their website useful for research.

 

I love the Okavango but given the high cost we have not taken the kids there. Of course there are lots of other good options in Southern Africa inc Vic Falls, Chobe, Hwange, Mana Pools, South Luangwa and no doubt some good places in South Africa. We tend to choose based in part on the landscapes and beyond the Okavango, like the big open landscapes of East Africa. If it were me, looking to go in July I would focus on East Africa and more specifically Tanzania; Serengeti (Central plus the migration should be moving/in the north) plus Ngorongoro (worth a night if you haven't been) plus maybe Tarangire (inc the Silale swamp). To mix it up, Amboseli in Kenya could be a good addition - lots of Elephants plus Kilimanjaro behind. The Masai Mara, Meru and Samburu could be other considerations. The benefit of Serengeti / Ngorongoro / Tarangire with the kids is that you get variety but with a logistically contained area - so basically you can go overland with the one operator through those areas, with less need for organising 'connections'. The more connections, the more opportunity for problems of the type... TIA (this is Africa).

 

Kids and safety - in open game viewing vehicles the guide will rightly want you all and especially the kids to stay quiet; I have seen lions alerted by the voice of younger kids, despite adults already talking. This is not anything to be concerned about, but rather be aware. We prefer camps over lodges as you are much more connected into the experience in a camp. For example walking to the mess tent for breakfast with giraffe very close by - you don't get the same feel in most lodges. Be vigilant though - stay with the kids at all times when moving around or when chilling at camp, even on the 'verandah'. On our last trip we did have a lion slip into camp in the afternoon and we were outside; fortunately our guide reacted quickly and there wasn't a problem. But be aware and keep close to the kids while outside. That's exciting stuff and all part of the reason for going. 

 

Hopefully others will chime in with their own / different perspectives and you can sift through it and see what works for you.



#4 mooey

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 01:30 AM

Thanks so much Paul & Andy - really appreciate your detailed, thoughtful responses.

 

Good advice re the kids too.

 

Definitely leaning towards East Africa especially if this means we have a chance at seeing the migration.  Seem to be a lot of operators who combine that Tanzania area, as you suggested Andy, which makes a lot of sense.  Perhaps a 6 or 7 day tour there, perhaps a visit to one of those kid-friendly camps in Kenya afterwards and we can then tack something a little bit different/off-the-beaten-track before of afterwards.

 

Any advice on choosing operators?  Safaribookings.com seems to have a heap listed but they mostly all get 5 star reviews so hard to differentiate.

 

Thanks again



#5 dlo

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 02:09 AM

Hi Dave and welcome aboard.

 

Great advice from above and I love East Africa but I'm curious what non safari activities you would enjoy. There are good hikes throughout the continent and lots of great beaches. I had a great time in Namibia going sandboarding and quadbiking among other things and Vic Falls has loads of things to do.

 

My trip report isn't the best one on here but it might give you a few ideas.http://safaritalk.ne...rong-this-time/

 

There really are no bad choices though!



#6 COSMIC RHINO

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 07:49 AM

  • kids go the Lewa Safari camp from time to time,  the managers are raising their pre school child there
  • they have a family tent which sleeps 4 persons
  • they often allocate private vehicles without an extra charge , you don't have to request  it, it just happens
  • organized national park/ game reserve hikes are not done for people under 16 years of age

Wild Africa is in my blood. All life is sacred and interconnected. for the animals are fellow nations caught in the splendor and trevail of the earth.


#7 ExtraordinaryAlex

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:25 AM

If you're looking for East Africa my vote would strongly be for Kenya over Tanzania in terms  of child friendly experiences. The camps are just so much more geared up to families and many of the people who own or host the camps have grown up in the bush themselves so have a very good idea of what works with kids. Although the migration can be incredibly dramatic, it's also not for every child- seeing a baby wildebeest ripped apart/drowned by a croc is fairly harrowing as an adult so depending on the child it could be a bit overwhelming. Kenya also is a bit more geared up for a broader range of activities with the kids in camp, which I think keeps things varied- sitting still in game drive vehicles for a long time day after day can sometimes be a bit samey, whereas the better camps have great things like making plastercasts of animal footprints, tracking, learning to make fire with sticks, or even something as simple as helping the chef in the kitchen or washing the car with the guides (you'd be amazed at the number of small boys who love doing that!). Other countries I think can work really well with kids are Zambia and Botswana- both of which would definitely tick your off the beaten track box. Footsteps camp is a particular favourite of mine for kids in the delta, and the private houses in Zambia are (at a fairly high cost) absolutely incredible for families. In Kenya I really like the suggestion above of Laikipia, I think the Mara safari houses are also a huge hit for us with families, and if you want something off the beaten track and cost isn't too much of an issue, some of the walks with camels can be tailored to kids and are just incredible.



#8 AndyH1000

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 10:00 AM

Dave,

 

This list should help you out... https://www.tripadvi...sha_Region.html

 

From that list you can then check a few names that come up vs Safaritalk trip reports for more details. A fantastic guide and solid vehicle are the key to a good trip. 

 

Re kids and camps; in my experience most places are very cool with kids. In fact more and more places have family tents and now it feels like most camps have tents that can accommodate the whole family together. This was not the case 3 years or so back. With the kids we have stayed at 10 or more different places. For us, the in camp experience is less of an issue as we are out most of the time, so less concerned about additional activities; with one exception... taking the kids to a Masaai village is a great thing to do - just try to go to one that is less 'popular'.

 

Keep posting as you sort through and narrow down the options.

 

Hope that helps.


Edited by AndyH1000, 19 September 2016 - 10:13 AM.


#9 plambers

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:00 PM

Hi. We are taking our children who will be 13 and 15 on a Kenyan safari for the first time. We reached out to about 7 outfitters and 4 gave me exactly what I did not want (a lot of driving as travel time (Tanzania), big impersonal lodges, short stays etc.). The 3 that I liked all said Sosian Lodge as our first stop. It is intimate (14 guests max I believe) but also offers more variation for children rather than just game drives.

 

Sosian has a horseback and camel safaris, walking safaris, fly camp for free, a river with rafting and jumping etc.

 

We are also staying at Kicheche camps, which are tented camps and they have family tents. If there are 4 of you, you are guaranteed your own jeep, which is a big plus. we were also told they are wonderful with kids. I want the cultural experience that Kenya offers and the Kicheche Mara visit is authentic.

 

We are on safari for 12 days.

 

Feel free to ask more questions. I spent so much time reading reports and talking to folks-it is a different trip if you have kids with you.


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#10 Atravelynn

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 04:24 AM

Great advice.

 

"especially if this means we have a chance at seeing the migration"  You have 2 weeks in July, I'd push it as late as you can in July for either Kenya or Tanzania.

"Obviously some of the big 5 is a must" Then do consider Lewa Downs in Kenya because it is one of the best places in Africa to see rhino--both black and white.  Rhino can be one of the more difficult of the Big 5.  Sosian, mentioned above, is in the same general area as Lewa Downs, with similar activities.

 At Lewa Downs I've enjoyed camel rides, walks, sitting in a blind, cultural visits, and you could go horseback riding, which I did not. 

 

Having a private vehicle makes perfect sense in either Kenya or Tanzania and would be standard for a party of 4. It easily solves the problem of mixing kids with other unrelated adult safari-ers.

 

If choosing Kenya, a few days up front in Nairobi would allow you to do some cool stuff for kids (adults too) such as

 

The Giraffe Center where you can feed giraffes or stay at Giraffe Manor (an expensive option for NBO) and those same giraffe stick their heads into your rooms when you feed them.

There is the snake park that is next to the National Museum.

The Carnivore restaurant is festive and a spectacle.  It is by its nature a very touristy place but with lots of showmanship by the waiters and a chance to try game meat.  Probably not a good choice if you are all vegetarians, but if you just have some vegetarians in the group there are options.  I know from personal experience.

Kazuri Bead factory--not your typical factory stop on a tour.

Sheldrick Elephant Orphange--at noon you can see them get their bath.  If you adopt an ele calf in advance, you can also go at 5 pm for a visit with just "adopters."

 

Plus a day up front upon arrival helps lost luggage catch up with you, if needed, and helps overcome jet lag issues.

 

Advice on operators...

 

There are lots and lots of good ones.

For my first safari, and quite a few additional I have used The Africa Adventure Co in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.  They have special family safaris all over Africa.  I have a huge list of ways they were helpful over the years when things did not go quite right due in no way to their fault.  They always came through and righted the situation.  I have that list if you'd like it.

 

Adventure Travel Desk (ATD) in Massachusetts also came through for me on my one trip with them when things spun out of control and a cancellation was needed.

 

I've been using The Wild Source in Colorado and Arusha, Tanz lately.  Bill, the owner, has 4 (I believe) kids that he takes on safari.  My next East Africa trip is with The Wild Source.

 

For Kenya, I would seriously consider a Nairobi-based company, Lion Trails Safaris because of a guide I really like (Ben Gitari -sp?) who now works there.  I have never used Lion Trails Safari.  Others on this board like Ben too.  He is especially good at birding.*

 

Ben's nephew Ben (same name) has an NBO-based company Ben's Ecological Safaris and there was a tremendous report recently about a trip with Ben's Ecol. Saf.  This is a birding* company but does any kind of safari.

 

Sorry I have no Australian agents.

 

*Just because a guide is an expert in birding does not mean you will just look at birds.  A birding expert has especially keen eyes (though all the qualified guides of reputable companies are good spotter) and is especially adept in the bush because birding is harder than finding mammals.  It's kind of like an extra certification.

 

Many of the above posters have their own fav guides/companies and some are safari providers themselves.  Fortunately there are many, many great options.

 

You have a wonderful family trip awaiting you.


Edited by Atravelynn, 20 September 2016 - 04:28 AM.

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#11 mooey

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 04:10 AM

Thank you all so much!

 

Incredibly grateful for all your suggestions, thoughts & ideas.  It's helped a lot and we are narrowing things down daily.... and there's so much we need to try and eliminate from the plans!

 

I think (actually contrary to some of the suggestions above) we are leaning towards a private tour for around 6-7 days Northern Tanzania rather than Kenya - seems to be a bunch of classic 'first-timer' attractions in relative proximity to each other (like Andy suggested - Ngorongoro, Tarangire, Serengeti) with a few non-safari items to vary it (eg Lake Natron, Lake Eyasi & the Hadzabe) for the kids in particular.  Also, I'm hoping against hope we may be able to see a river crossing at that time of year (early July) which would be obviously very special.

 

I've heard Kenya tends to be more expensive than Tanzania - is that right?  the other thing that's swaying me away from Kenya a bit is we quite like to keep on the move.  I don't mean in vehicles for long drives all the time.. on the contrary if possible!  But staying at a total of 6 different places over 10 days, say, would suit us well and I think if you go to Kenya you'd likely stay put for longer and possible fly between destinations.  Have I got that right?

 

Anyway just to say thank you all so much :)



#12 ExtraordinaryAlex

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 09:28 AM

Kenya vs. Tanazania costwise, I think this depends a lot on the sort of place you're staying in- once you get to the mid to the top end of the market I think Kenya is cheaper for equivalent quality of lodge, guiding, food etc, as they have had a few tough years and consequently rates are fantastic. However there's a bit more good mid-range stuff in Tanzania.

Though this does come with the compromise of guiding you towards busy ares like the crater and almost anywhere you have a good chance of seeing a river crossing, but that's the pay off for seeing one unless you get very lucky. However you should be able to get some patches of being more remote too in parts of Tarangire and certain parts of the Serengeti

In terms of travelling around you would in general fly between parks in Kenya, but as the ones in Northern Tanzania are closer together you would be more likely to drive so this works for you on that front. I do think that Kenyan camps, especially the ones mentioned in Laikipia above have a lot more to do in the way of non-vehicle based game viewing activities, but this is all said in the context that wherever you pick you will almost certainly have a wonderful trip. I am yet to meet anyone who has had a boring safari!


Edited by ExtraordinaryAlex, 21 September 2016 - 09:35 AM.


#13 pault

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 05:12 PM

Yes, just to amplify what @ExtraordinaryAlex said, those are both "not really true but I can see why someone might say that" facts about Tanzania vs Kenya, It's just different really. And the "northern circuit" might not be the place to deliver what you want in terms of being off the beaten track - especially if you are doing parks in 1-2 nights, I suppose it depends which stops you intend, but Ngorongoro, Seronora,  the Northern sector of Tarangire and Lake Manyara near the road are not the stops to make - although fantastic places - which is why lots of people go there. Serengeti is huge though. Easy to get away from people there if you avoid the surest-fire predator hot spots a bit. 

 

One thing I'd say is that the thrill of safari in East Africa for a lot of us is exploring a fairly large area, finding something and staying for quite a while, or at least as long as we want, rather than going to a particular place and having to move on because it's time for the next particular place.. The journeys between camps are generally the lowlights (not always of course). But you learn that and I guess it's not easy to communicate it. I would say though that South Africa and Namibia are countries really set for that kind of 1-2 night stop safari. It's the way the locals do things there as they tend to self-drive (but you can do it with a guide too) and tourists follow suit and it's really perfect for that. I'd say Kenya and Tanzania can be done like that but they aren't at their best that way - unless you really get off the beaten track and then they can be (which is what I was suggesting first time - and Tanzania has even more options for that kind of trip I think but then you'd be tented camp, camping, camping, tented camp, tented camp sort of thing, or hit the places that are a bit off season - still great. 

 

I'm nit sure I put that as well as I could. It's a bit late. Anyway, as said you'll have a great time anyway  it's normal to change your mind daily when doing this, and for sure you know what you want better than me.


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