Written and photographed by: Denise Ackerman
Botswana offers huge areas of untouched, pristine wilderness and game reserves without fences where the animals roam free over wide open spaces. A safari is a great way to experience nature at its best, observe animals in their natural habitat, and broaden one’s horizons. As a professional photographer who loves Africa and its wildlife, it was just a question of time until I wanted my children to see the beauty of this extraordinary place.
In my opinion, a great way to experience Botswana with kids is by private mobile camping safari and most travel agencies offer safe and exciting family safaris. Let’s be honest, not every Africa traveller likes the company of kids and kids are not always well behaved. Many visitors have spent a lot of money and waited for months to go on the trip of a lifetime. The last thing they want is a child misbehaving during their game drive.
A private mobile camping safari keeps it private for the family members and can be tailored around the family’s particular requirements. We just returned from an amazing family safari, which provided a wonderful adventure for our sons aged 12 and nine. They loved their week in the bush, and so did we.
I would like to share a few important points from my own experience of planning and going on a family safari with kids.
Safety on safari
During our recent family safari through Northern Botswana, whether it was in camp, on game drives, at coffee and “bathroom” breaks or at animal sightings, safety was always given highest priority. In the entire week of our private mobile camping safari, when we were out there in the African wilderness, there was not one moment when I did not feel safe. Our guide gave us clear instructions from the beginning about the do’s and don’ts and he always ensured that we felt comfortable in every situation.
Choosing a field guide
Having an experienced professional guide who is good with children is essential. Our guide, Leabo, proved excellent in awakening the kids’ interest, and answering their questions. He was always happy to share his knowledge of the bush, the different species, animal behaviour, and life in general in Botswana. At the end of the trip we did an impromptu quiz with the kids, and realised how much we had all learned in this short period of time.
Besides finding us fantastic animal sightings, our guide looked after our needs in the best possible way. This included small details like handing out ponchos and blankets on chilly mornings, making sure we kept hydrated during exciting game drives, positioning the vehicle well for photographing wildlife, and providing delicious coffee breaks and picnics at beautiful locations. All the way along he was also making sure the kids were safe and happy.
We provided the kids with binoculars and showed them how to use them, along with tips on how to identify animals. We kept a record of all animal and bird sightings, continually adding new species to the list thanks to Botswana’s incredible biodiversity. It was a fun way for the boys to learn more about wildlife and nature. Importantly, it was a great opportunity to educate the kids about the importance of wildlife and nature conservation, and the need to preserve the natural bounty of our planet.
Photography with kids
Photography is the favourite activity for many travellers in Botswana. The photography equipment of other adventurers we encountered during our trip ranged from the newest of cameras and longest of lenses close in value to a small car, to point-and-shoot cameras. To arouse the interest of our kids, I gave each boy one of my old cameras, some pointers on how to use them, and an introduction to wildlife photography. Practising photography kept them busy them during game drives and kept them interested in finding new species. After the trip, they chose some of their favourite photos to be printed on canvas to decorate their rooms at home.
Electronics in the bush
Initially, we aimed to ban the use of electronics. However, we subsequently took a view that we could turn the use of devices to our advantage. We allowed the boys to use their devices to take photos and videos to keep a personal record of their adventures, but banned all other use, especially games.
Upon our return home, they selected their favourite photos to create their own photo books. They both also loved filming a video diary, in which they provided their own, often hilarious and revealing, commentary about our journey. At the end of the trip they edited the video clips into a film.
Our safari in Botswana was personally fulfilling in many ways. Besides wonderful wildlife sightings, I found the time spent in this pristine natural environment away from civilisation rejuvenating for the mind, body and spirit. At the same time it was very inspiring and I arrived home full of energy and ideas for new projects. Most importantly, however, I watched my kids learn and grow while having the time of their lives. This was a wonderful experience for our family to share, creating memories to last a lifetime.
I can highly recommend Lelobu Safaris in Maun. They did a fantastic job planning and organising our private mobile camping safari. We just returned back home and I am ready to leave for Botswana again as soon as possible, and the kids keep asking when we will return for our next African adventure. Once in love with Africa, always in love with Africa.
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