Written by Tracey Bell
East Africa is such an exciting destination for families, with plenty of activities and experiences to give you and your children lasting memories. There’s no denying that it is a more challenging destination than most, but if your children are aged from around nine years (so they can engage with and remember the experience) it can be an incredibly rewarding holiday for everyone.
Most people think of safaris when they think of Africa, and indeed East Africa has arguably the best safari destinations in the world: Serengeti, Maasai Mara, and Ngorongoro Crater to name a few. The Great Wildebeest Migration around August is world-famous. But East Africa has much more to offer and incorporating culture, exercise and simply being together as a family will round out your safari experience.
One rising trend in the global tourism market is voluntourism, and indeed there is plenty of scope to embrace this style of travel as a family. Schools and orphanages provide a perfect opportunity for parents to engage with teachers, learn how education is delivered and perhaps teach some English, while children can play with the students, join in their classes, and generally gain an understanding of the differences that exist in our global village. There is also opportunity to visit villages, such as the Maasai who still largely live a traditional life, or do home stays to fully engage with a family across the continents. Conservation projects are another type that can involve the whole family.
Endless game drives can result in restless kids as they are stuck in a car all day – no matter how many cool animals they are seeing. But there are options for getting around the parks. Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya is a popular park for cycling. Nearby is Green Crater Lake where walking safaris in the crisp early morning provides wonderful opportunities to get up close and personal with giraffes, zebras and antelopes. On foot or bike allows you to get closer to the animals as you are almost a part of nature, rather than rumbling around in a 4x4. Another great family option is one- and two- day hikes on Mt Kilimanjaro.
Beach, savannah, forest, lakes, and desert – East Africa has it all. And there are plenty of tour operators ready to host you. East Africa is a delicate environment however, in all aspects – political, economic, and natural. So please ask plenty of questions of your chosen operator about their commitment to responsible tourism, supporting local enterprise, security precautions, and protection of the natural environment. Simple things like ensuring their drivers stay on the roads in the parks helps maintain the fragile eco-system, for example.
So if you want to give your family the adventure of a lifetime, consider an East African safari for your next holiday. The interaction with different cultures provides opportunity for valuable learning on both sides of the engagement – many East Africans will never afford to travel so bringing the world to them gives them a wider education experience as well. The experiences will profoundly impact your whole family and give your children an education of the world they cannot get at home.