Back in May when we took Sol (then almost 6 months old) on his first African safari, I wrote a blog that I thought had gone out but turns out either mummy-brain or Africa-itis kicked in and it never sent. Lots of people questioned us before we took our wee little man to South Africa and Namibia earlier this year – I mean seriously, what were we thinking taking a little one to Africa?? Truth was, I had never thought much about it until then. I mean, there are millions of babies in Africa and most of them are doing fine! But then it got me thinking… malaria, mugging, HIV, lions….!! One of Andy’s work colleagues made a joke that if Solo was the entre then he’d be the main course…. and then my usually unruffled husband began asking me questions (with a tremor in his voice) about whether there would be electric fences around the safari camps we were going to… It’s easy to let your imagination run away with you when faced with a great unknown. But the tickets were booked, thank goodness. We kept our cool and off we went. Here’s what I wrote then:
“Anyone who’s thinking of going to South Africa inevitably will be looking at experiencing its most famous national park, Kruger. In all my travels in this part of the world I had never been there. In the past it seemed a ‘tamer’ option than I fancied, but with a 6 month old in tow it seemed a sensible option for us this time. Let’s face it, an Africa fix is a fix no matter what form it takes! So Andy and I decided to check Kruger out on this trip. Wow, what a place. We were in the northern part of Kruger at Wilderness Safaris’ Pafuri Camp. It was a long 7 hour drive from Joburg (hell with a 6 month old – we sang the Solo song a lot!) but well worth it. The camp is really special, partly because it has all the luxury you expect from a Wilderness Safaris camp anywhere, but also because it’s in an exclusive part of the park and you are literally surrounded by wildlife.
On our first night as we sat out the front of our safari tent, a lion humphed his way all the way through camp. Elephants bathed right in front of our room in the murky brown, croc-infested Levuvhu River. And I could hear all sorts of critters munching around us, probably nyala, which are in really high numbers in the riverine forest (something you don’t find anywhere else), as well as baboons barking at some unknown threat. Utter magic. Those are the moments when you remember just how special Africa is, just sitting listening to the bush noises at night. Sadly little Sol was passed out cold and missed it all… although as new parents Andy and I were grateful for a rare moment to simply enjoy all of nature’s sounds and stare up at the starry night sky.
So I’m sure by now I’m making you jealous…. but I must go on, because the next day I was literally surrounded by elephants. A huge bull walked past the open landy just a few metres away, a giant over the top of us, literally taking my breath away. I must be out of practice because even for me that was a bit close, but our illustrious guide Godfrey, who was born and raised there, knew the limits of the bull and of course we were perfectly fine. There were at least 40 in the herd and little babies bumbled around their mum’s feet, one giving us a hilarious false charge. The northern part of Kruger has plenty of elephants and they are completely happy to let you watch them from a few metres away. Kruger is part of the Greater Limpopo transfrontier conservation area and elephants are free to roam up in to Mozambique and Zimbabwe, thereby reducing the need for any potential culling in the Kruger if elephant numbers get too high to manage in the confines of the park.
One thing about traveling with a little one is that it does make life a bit more challenging than usual. One of us has to babysit while the other goes on a drive, for example. But we are managing and I have to say everywhere we’ve been young Sol has been the king of the camp. He is simply handed from one person to the next. The camp staff just adore him and he them. It’s beautiful to watch. That is the thing about Africa I had forgotten when worrying about how our little man would handle his first safari – African people LOVE kids. The women in the camp all missed their own babies who they had to let their mothers raise at the local town after the first 3 months, so Sol was passed around like one of their own. One lady strapped him onto her back the African way with a towel – the first time he’d done this – and he didn’t even squirm. It was like he was made to be carried the African way! Mind you when I tried it it was a complete disaster – I decided I’d stick to the hip (which, by the way, looks much less comfortable and doesn’t give you hands free the way the African baby carrying way does).”
So the moral of the story is – don’t NOT go to Africa just because you’ve got a kid. Okay so Sol won’t remember a thing about his first African adventure but the photos will tell a story and it gave Andy and I a massive confidence boost to know that it IS possible to do things you think you can’t when you’ve got a munchkin. Safety first, yes. But life goes on. And every so often you have to remind yourself of that.
Having said that, keep in mind that some safari camps won’t let you take a baby to them. Generally there’s a lower limit of five years old in the camps, but I reckon, if given the chance to take your kids on a safari you should definitely do it. There are even wonderful family tailored safaris these days where your kids will learn all about bush tracking and animal behaviour. If you’d like to know more about taking your family to Africa drop me a line!