School holidays are about four times a year and every time you want to entertain your kids and occasionally treat them with something really special. Well, today I present the ultimate holiday treat for the whole family! Family trips are often focused on a destination suitable for children, but there can be little difficulty for parents. East Africa is NOT such a destination – it offers plenty for everyone from your elementary school son to his grandmother.
East Africa has so many activities for all ages. Many people only think about the typical safari, watching animals from safari vehicles. When parents think of vacationing for their young children, spending days in the car does not sound appealing. But there is so much more! At Lake Naivasha you can ride a bike in Hells Gate National Park. In Maasai Mara and Serengeti you can go in a hot air balloon. Many lodges have pools to break the big game drive day. In most places in the region, you can head to the beautiful vantage point for the sun owner. Walking safaris are available in Central Kenya, Lake Naivasha and Lake Eyasi in Tanzania. Or maybe a boat ride to Lake Baringo, Lake Victoria, Lake Kivu (in Rwanda) or the Nile River in Uganda. At the Nile Source in Jinja, Uganda, teens can go white water rafting downstream while elders relax on a hillside for a lunch cruise!
I mentioned earlier that parents tend to worry about their young kids spending full days in the car. What if they are bored? What if they need a toilet? Oh, that could be a disaster. Wrong! There are ways to make game drives fun and entertaining by playing either hunting or trail hunting or getting them to fill out a field guide if they are a little older. This will keep them engaged and interested in finding the next animal. You could get rewards for the most insightful find of the day. And anyway, the animals you see are lions and elephants and giraffes! One family took their two children, ages 3 and 5, on a safari and they prepared their guide that they might have to shorten things if the kids got rotten. But that never happened. The kids were thrilled to see the animals and they lasted all day!
Meeting local people and learning how to live is a fantastic experience for all generations. But there are a lot of problems in East Africa and life is really different from what we are used to in the West. We have witnessed a profound impact on teenagers, especially when communicating to children of their own age living in slums or Maasai villages. Visiting community-based organizations and viewing their projects can inspire young people to start thinking about how they can make a difference in this world. We had family groups that visit schools and donate books. Other families have visited traditional villages and it is so much fun to see the children playing despite the language barrier.
So, if you're starting to think it might be okay to find the things you need to do, but now start thinking about logistics. Where will you stay? How will you travel? Again you were covered by East Africa. Many accommodations have family rooms. We also understand that traveling with family can be expensive, so if you are traveling on a budget, consider camping. It's really exciting camping in national parks listening to the sounds of the bush around you at night! In terms of transportation, there are a number of vehicle sizes, depending on how many you have. A typical safari van or Land Cruiser seats 6-7 passengers, but if you want to bring your extended family on a multi-generational trip, you can rent an overhead truck.
The biggest concern of families considering coming to East Africa is safety and security. When you book through a reputable tour operator, you will be fully followed by reputable local guides. By booking a complete safari package and paying in advance for everything, you don't have to carry that much cash on you. And remember that national parks have never been the target of terrorists or criminals – big cities are much more lucrative for them. On safari you will spend most of your time in national parks, and minimal time in cities, so you reduce the risk of meeting these bad guys.
So what are you waiting for? It's time to build amazing memories together. You can use it to celebrate a special occasion – for example, we in Kenya have reunited with a family group to celebrate Grandpa's 70th birthday. Nonetheless, a family vacation in East Africa is an event off the to-do list that no one will ever forget.