As parents, there are certain situations in our children’s lives that we plan for and anticipate, and, with the help of a dog-eared, tea-stained copy of Parenting 101, have somehow managed
to navigate and survive. You know, the first roll over (cushions strategically placed at the ready), first trip to the mall (look at you go, collapsing the stroller and holding baby while keeping the eggs from breaking!).
But what about the experiences and situations they don’t cover through steps 1 to 10 in Parenting for Dummies? Like – taking your toddler on safari……a real safari, none of this behind the glass stuff.
At a glance, it’s hot, there’re insects, the lion beside the game drive vehicle is very real, and yes that nappy needs changing – BUT take it from the fellow parents and bush lovers we’ve chatted to, this IS going to be one of the most incredible gifts you could ever give your children – the gift of the African bush!
To make your trip a little less daunting and to help eliminate the dreaded ‘element of surprise’, we’ve compiled a list of advice from bush loving parents who are a little more in the know about what it takes to introduce your babe to the wildness of the bush.
Rule one, (you’ve probably learnt this a few months back), as with life, this getaway is no longer about you. As at home, downtime in the bush no longer means quietly watching the game, not without keeping one eye on your baby, who may or may not be letting their arms and legs dangle out the side of the game drive vehicle, (oh by the way – don’t let that happen, and you should also consider a self-drive safari – for the sake of other travelers who might not be keen on sharing a vehicle with a busy-body baby). And those gin and tonics you and your partner used to sip while watching the first stars pierce the night sky – they’ve have been replaced with bottles of milk and a rock-a-by-baby tag team. But while your focus may have shifted slightly, you can’t help but still be engulfed in the smells, the sounds and the one-of-a-kind atmosphere that comes with being on a bush break, not to mention the peaceful reprieve you’ll enjoy once baby or toddler gets their fair share of fresh air and falls fast asleep to the repetitious chirps of nearby crickets.
Consider your nappy bag carefully, in fact once ready, it’ll probably resemble something closer to Mary Poppins’ bottomless carpet bag than a nappy bag. According to the experienced, you’ll have about 5 different mozzie sprays (they make Peaceful Sleep for children now!), an array of chamomile creams, 2 different types of sunblock, enough nappies and wet wipes to see you through a nuclear lockdown, a good few liters of water, at least a 1m2 of protective netting, 2 spare long-sleeved tops and long pants and of course the good old go-to toys for when concentration starts to dwindle. For this kind of getaway, it’ll serve you well to follow the ‘better safe than sorry’ proverb, largely because prevention is better than cure and because you’re in a remote area that’ll see you driving a good few kms before finding the nearest convenience store and paying a hefty price for Huggies when you do.
If you plan on being regular visitors to the bush while your child is still small, you may want to consider investing in a specially designed fold up chair that allows baby to be safely strapped in and elevated while driving, meaning you’ll have peace of mind that they’re safe and secure and they’ll have an awesome view to admire and gurgle at. If you choose to go on a drive facilitated by the lodge, give them a call ahead of time and request a ranger who is patient, sometimes toddlers want to stop and stare, at every, single, Impala…. for a while, with a deluge of questions for the ranger, mostly starting with “why?”. You can also enquire if the lodge offer a children’s safari, this supervised activity is aimed at entertaining children old enough to go adventuring without their parents –parents who may choose to indulge in some ‘down time’ at the bush lapa.
You may be staying at a luxury safari lodge or a family friendly resort, but regardless of whether baba has a bed assigned to them or not, it’s always a clever idea to take along your camp cot. After all you never know when sleepiness may strike. Well if you follow a routine you might, but in the bush, routine is as predictable as a predator sighting. A hefty dose of sun or long day drive may leave your baby looking for a soft place to rest and relax, not to mention you can keep them near you rather than worrying about baby-monitors and check- up treks to the bedroom. Another brilliant tip we received was to pack a small blow up plunge pool. Temperatures can hit an uncomfortable high up-country and having one of these portable and easy-to-usepaddle pools handy means instant relief for your niggly noodle. It can also double up as a safe play-pen if you decide to picnic out on the lawn or spend some time by the ‘big-peoples’ pool – at least you know the ground will be covered and baby will be safe from crawling critters.
With baby on board, your pristine copy of Sasol’s Birds of Southern Africa has inevitably been replaced by a copy of What can you spot?, and ultimately your approach to game-spotting and bird identifying has taken a
whole new turn. Your drives will be more about sounding out syllables than silence and observation, but will be worth every second when you see the amazement in the eyes of your baby, as they see elephant, rhino, zebra or even impala for the first t
We encourage you to embrace this adventure with your little one. Exposing them to the wild is an incredible
privilege we get to enjoy in South Africa. Teach them to cherish their time in these unique surrounds – making the most of every magical moment and every awesome animal encounter. The more you choose to expose your children to this incredible sphere the more they will grow to love and respect it.
What more could we ask for from the future guardians of our African bush.
For your child-friendly safari, please contact us.