Zambia Family Safari
By the Sullivan Family, Cornwall
We went to Zambia in April of this year with Ellie (just turned 11) and Tom (aged 8). If you’re hesitating about taking children to Africa, don’t – it was our best holiday ever, and we all start smiling whenever we think or talk about it!
We started our trip with a week at Robin’s House, a beautiful building set on the banks of the Luangwa River and perfect for a family. We were a bit concerned how we would cope with our own guide, valet and host as we are quite ‘private’ people, but they were all wonderful, treating us with great warmth and consideration, and spoiling us too!
Obi, our guide, made every journey fascinating, and any misgivings we had about visiting in the Green Season were quickly dispelled. We were lucky enough to see lion and – the highlight – a leopard as well as so many other animals, and Obi’s skill and enthusiasm has converted everyone in the family into Twitchers – so I’m no longer alone! The green season also meant that we saw Zambia at its most beautiful.
The food was delicious and served with great care and humour by Davey, and we were able to tailor our trips on the river and game drives – maybe getting up slightly later - according to the children’s energy levels which was a great help – although we never missed an opportunity for a trip into the bush or upstream, as there was always something new to see or learn about. We also enjoyed our visit to Kawaza Village, where the children visited the school and learned more about Zambian life – and how it is not just one big safari for Zambians, and how they can make a difference. The only time we were unhappy was when we had to leave.
Kasaka River Lodge was also a lovely experience. We chose to get up later and fish (or in my case, read) on the river in the morning, and go for game drives in the afternoon, with a siesta in the middle. We stayed at Hippo Pod – a great place for the children as well, with our own deck overlooking the mighty Zambezi. The ‘bush kids’ programme was a real hit with Ellie & Tom, encouraging them to look out constantly for new animals and birds to get points (for lovely prizes, presented with a flourish on our last morning!) while they enjoyed their ‘bush walk’ with one of the guides. Mike and Linda and the team again looked after us so well, with delicious food and lovely touches for the children. For example, we had a lovely ‘braai’ (barbecue) under the stars one night, and while the grown ups enjoyed a tipple or three, Linda took the children off to roast marshmallows.
If your children are interested in nature, Zambia is a wonderful destination. The country is beautiful, the guides some of the best in Africa, and in Robin’s House and Hippo Pod we discovered two very special places to enjoy the experience of a lifetime.
Top Tips for Parents:
Malaria: We were given the excellent advice of trying a course of prophylactics on the children for a couple of days a few weeks before our trip, in case of any adverse reactions (none). Each evening on our sundowner trip, before dusk, we would cover up and then apply repellent to the bits showing, but then do a general spray back and front (big ‘breathe ins’ needed) over clothing top make ourselves mozzie-repelling zones. Ellie had no bites at all, and we only had a couple.
Travel light. Stick to the guideline of three tops, three bottoms (max) for day, and perhaps two longer things for evening (mozzies). The laundry services in the camp are incredibly efficient with clothes returned the evening they are put out for washing. Plenty of sun screen is important, and the level of medical kit you feel comfortable with – although in reality the camps we stayed in had everything we needed.
Invest in binoculars with a wide lens for each child. It makes it easier to spot things and adds to the fun. Digital cameras were also well used, although it’s worth ensuring children edit regularly and appreciate that the crocodile on the other side of the Zambezi may be rather small when printed out!
(Aged 11 and 8)
Zambia, burnished bronze and scarlet sunsets, lush green grass and the river, winding its way steeply
through the country like a glistening blue ribbon.
We touched down at Mfuwe airport ,climbed into Poppy the Landcruiser and we were off! - down windy tracks while Zambians walked past and waved at us.
We settled down at Robin’s House – big, comfortable and with stunning views of the river - and saw a dead hippo float down, along with 30 crocs minutes after we arrived! Our first evening game drive with Obi and Kapima was so exciting. Earlier in the day a pride of lions had been sighted. We couldn’t see them so we went to somewhere about 500m away and had a sundowner watching elephants – that was when we got the Africa bug! We returned about an hour later and there was the true king of the jungle [though they don’t actually live in the jungle, but who cares!] We got about 1.5m away from a fully grown male lion and he yawned – all the better to eat us with!
The next few days passed, brilliant as ever (thanks to our fabulous guides Obi , Bertram & Kapima we are now all twitchers – much to Mummy’s delight) but we still hadn’t seen what we wanted to most…a leopard! Obi took us on an extra late drive to try and find some Lions that had been spotted earlier and after lots of good reversing , a very powerful light and fabulous spotting we saw her - a Leopard! She was a young female, her spotted pelt rippling with muscles as she crouched under the glare of the spotlight. She slunk over to a small stream, quickly lapped up some water and nervously made her way up to a mound. We tried to get a closer look, but she had already melted into the darkness…Once we realised the leopard had eluded us we went a bit further into the bush and saw a hyena with half a leg. Obi told us it was born like it.
After tearful farewells and lots of hugs at Robin’s House we went to Kasaka River Lodge on the Lower Zambezi, where we stayed in the Hippo Pod. We loved doing their bush kids programme and managed to break the record! We also loved tiger fishing (the fish, not the cat!) and managed to land the biggest one ever (16pounds) in camp – which really wound the grown ups up!! Like at Robin’s House, we were spoiled rotten, with lunch in the Zambezi and roasting marshmallows over a camp fire with Frank the hippo munching contentedly a few metres away.
Zambia was a once in a lifetime holiday (but we’d prefer it to be twice!).
We will never forget it...