A round up of kid-friendly safaris

18 Jul A round up of kid-friendly safaris

On 8 July, Michelle Colman published this article in Tourismupdate and I just had to share it with you.

A safari can be a bit monotonous for junior members of the family, but an increasing number of lodges and reserves are offering age-appropriate programmes for youngsters. By Michelle Colman

Animal-shaped beds

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Lukimbi Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park welcomes children from two years upwards. “We have developed a programme for the children that runs daily for about one and a half hours while parents are doing their bush walk,” says Sally Kernick, Marketing Director. “It includes going out with the guides, tracking and then making plaster casts of spoor which then go home with the children. They also get to make simple bracelets out of berries which they collect in the bush. They do artwork and learn about different animals and birds from the guides. We also have a children’s playroom and play area which are fully equipped. But most popular of all with the younger children are our animal beds [with animal shapes incorporated into the design].” A children’s menu is also available for meal times.

Dung beetle balls and birds’ nests

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Ipodimo Game Lodge in the North West Province has tailored a programme for the under-12s, running for two to three hours daily. The programme includes activities such as ‘show and tell’ where kids are encouraged to present items they find around the lodge such as dung beetle balls and birds’ nests. Making plaster of Paris moulds of animal tracks, and animal masks using leaves and feathers are other pastimes. Each day follows a theme – Mondays, for example, are lion days, and children learn about their hunting and territorial behaviours. When a ranger is available, older children can learn about animal tracks, birds and the ecosystem on short educational walks. Junior ranger certificates are presented. Ipodimo is represented in South Africa by An African Anthology.

Three-day course for young legends

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In the Entabeni Safari Conservancy in the Waterberg, Legend Lodges is well geared for kids, offering the educational Little Legends programme. Here the company operates the Legend Golf & Safari Resort. There are both short programmes of an hour or so, and longer conservation programmes of one or three days. They are reasonably priced from R50 (€3) to R450 (€28).

Nature treasure hunts, insect hide-and-seek and animal quizzes are some of the shorter fun activities. The more in-depth packages require five to 12 participants. Here kids are introduced to reptiles, predators, tracking, first aid basics and conservation. There are fun breaks for a dip in the pool, ball games and picnic. The three-day course ends with a certificate ceremony.

End the day with a Shangaan tale

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The kiddies’ programme at Tintswalo Safari Lodge and Manor House follows daily themes such as Shangaan culture, tracking, star gazing and insects and birds. For each theme a talk is given, a game drive conducted (snacks and drinks provided), followed by an activity such as painting or mould, collage and mosaic making. The day ends with some authentic Shangaan story-telling. The programme has been compiled by a professional edu-care au pair. Kids work with an activity workbook designed for children of school-going age, but activities for toddlers are organised too.

Madikwe ‘cubz’

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Tau Game Lodge in Madikwe offers a programme for young ones aged three to five years who cannot go on adult game drives. As members of the Tau Cubz Club, they are treated to hour-long mini game drives, treasure hunts, time spent in the playhouse and jungle gym area and arts and crafts. Kiddies get their own Cubz Club backpacks with wildlife activity booklet, which includes an animal sticker checklist, a deputy ranger sticker badge and certificate, as well as a special Tau T-shirt. Babysitting facilities are available on request at a nominal free.

Birds, fynbos and night skies

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Inspired by their own family, Wendy and Mark Rutherford, owners of Gondwana Game Reserve on the Garden Route, have developed a range of children’s activities and youth-focused initiatives.  Their Junior Ranger programme has experienced rangers taking young ones out on game drives, giving them an appreciation of birds, fynbos and the night skies.  They make items like their own fishing rods and spoor moulds. They complete a safari booklet as they go along, and at the end of it all, leave with a certificate and level 1 Junior Ranger patch. Other family-type activities include picnics, guided hikes, biking and fishing. The game reserve is located only 25 minutes from Mossel Bay.

Marine wonders from the beach

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While not a bush safari, a stay at Machangulo Beach Lodge on the Santa Maria Peninsula in Mozambique offers exploration of marine life. Two reefs at the Inhaca Island Marine Reserve are accessible from its beach. “Kids – and grandparents too – can very easily sit in the shallows and experience some amazing underwater wonders,” says Chris Nolte, Co-owner. Kids can also snorkel and fish from the beach. The lodge offers a menu and activity pack for kids, and babysitting services.

KZN wildlife options

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According to KZN Tourism, the following lodges and game sanctuaries in the province offer kiddies’ wildlife programmes: Thanda Private Game Reserve, Bayete Zulu Game Lodge, Emdoneni Lodge, Hluhluwe River Lodge and Phinda Private Game Reserve.