‘The mind-bending landscapes, like Entabeni, when you’re driving on what you think is just flat land, and then you suddenly you drive down a mountain face and you turn around and there’s 7 or 8 mountains, and the plains.. it’s unbelievable, with animals everywhere!‘
This was cousin Jamie, telling me what he found unexpected on his Cobb family safari in South Africa in August.
Hardly being able to stop him, I just about managed to ask him what was the best thing about his his South Africa trip? ‘Sharing a once-in-a-lifetime with my family. Everyone got on for the whole two weeks because we were inspired.. it was inspirational! It was remarkable‘.
We headed off, all 11 of us extended family, for 2 weeks on a malaria free safari in South Africa this August. A four year old, a 6 year old, an 8 year old, some 40 year olds and two 70 year olds.
The itinerary was some big game action in Madikwe at Jaci’s Safari Lodge; over to the Waterberg for some tennis, table tennis and cycling at Jembisa; some horse riding, night star safaris and bush camping at Horizon ; then on to Leobo Observatory for a crazy party along with some pampering at the end of the trip.
When we returned from our family safari in South Africa, I asked these three questions of a grandparent, a parent, a child and a couple of extra grown-up cousins:
- what was the best thing about the trip
- what was unexpected
- what is your warning to fellow family travellers
Grandmother MJ on a self-paced family safari
The Best Thing: ‘The food! It was varied, plentiful and delicious, whether presented on white tablecloths in an ever-moving spot in Jembisa’s garden, or on knees around a fire at Leobo. It was also fabulous how comfortable we were made considering we were there in winter and it was cold; blankets always appeared if we needed them, and even hot water bottles!’
Something Unexpected: ‘I was capable of doing everything I wished to do, even at over 70. At every place they managed to cater for 3 generations so completely and equally, not just ‘by the way”
A Warning: ‘I have nothing to warn grandparents such as myself, that’s the amazing thing. You can pace yourself so it’s easy to adjust and the program can be arranged to suit you as well as the rest of the family’.
Jon – a Californian father takes his kids to South Africa
The Best Thing: ‘The kids enjoying themselves, particularly the horse-riding, and being free and not having to be managed all the time’
Something Unexpected: ‘The level of opulence was unexpected, for example the size of the bedrooms at Leobo and walking out of the room and someone’s there unobtrusively to see if you want a coffee or a drink.’
A Warning: ‘Coming from California, I would warn fellow Americans to really consider the jetlag so as not to impact your trip. If you can’t afford the time to stop in Europe a few days on the way over, just be prepared to take it easy for a few days at the beginning of the trip and don’t expect too much of yourselves. And talk to your doctor about Melatonin.’
4 Year Old Barney loves family time in Africa!
The Best Thing: ‘Seeing the lodge with lots of green grass with all the horses to ride’ [Horizon]
Something Unexpected: ‘The holiday went on for so long, that was a bit surprising.’
A Warning: ‘The lodges are good because there are some dogs in some of the lodges which you can play with and animals to see when you go outside’ [Jembisa & Horizon].
Cousin Lucy enjoying her family in the bush
The Best Thing: ‘Being all together in the most beautiful landscape. It is so easy to go through your days not taking the time to plan these special life-affirming events. And when you get out to somewhere like South Africa, you ask yourself why you waited so long.’
Something Unexpected: ‘Seeing mating lions right in front of us on day one!!’
A Warning: ‘Take more jumpers, particularly if you plan to ride because you can’t wear dusty horsey clothes after you’ve showered in the evening, and evenings can be very cold in August, I have discovered.’
For me the most meaningful response is that of my son, Barney (biased? Me?), when he comments that the holiday was so long. A two week holiday with no one texting or glued to their iphones, no laptops opened, and no chores to distract, is an immense amount of quality time compared to the day to day experience of most children. And consider that time seems stretched when it has been filled with adventure and activity. Time is the single most commodity that most of us pine after, and so Barney’s comment is priceless for me as a permanently time-chasing and guilty parent.
And as for Jamie’s warning for fellow family travellers on a safari like his?
‘Watch out for grannies enjoying the free-flowing wine.’
PS Now is the time to get availability for next summer’s safari: I’m free in the mornings this August so let’s have a chat! +44 203 645 6882