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Designing family-friendly safari camps

Bush Buddy examining bugs at Toka Leya near Victoria Falls


Designing safari lodges that are suited to families with small children requires attention to detail. Dave Marsh speaks to Wilderness Safaris’ Roberto Viviani about the operator’s family-friendly camps.

A successful family safari starts with the nature of the mix of camps you choose to visit, says Roberto Viviani, Business Unit Manager for UK and Europe at of Wilderness Safaris.

With smaller children it is advisable to include a camp in South Africa where there are shorter distances and smaller parks that are not as wild as those in other countries. Rocktail Bay in KwaZulu Natal, for instance, allows them to enjoy the wild and the beach and specifically caters for children.

Teenagers enjoy a camp like Toka Leya on the Zambian side of the Zambezi near the Victoria Falls. From river rafting to bungy jumping, this really caters for the active youngster.

So what does a family-designed camp look like?

Seba Camp in the Okavango Delta has been specifically designed with families in mind.


Family design


Design of a family room at Seba, Botswana.

The décor of the camp as a whole is bright and fun, the interiors created to give extra space for games and energising events – from building sand volcanoes to a football game with the staff.

There is a direct connection between the parents’ bedroom and that of the children and one of the rooms can accommodate four children.

Each family suite has its own private plunge pool.

Entertaining activities led by guides encourage children to learn about and fall in love with wildlife and nature, such as elemental photography or catch-and-release fishing for older children, while younger guests can paint with natural bush powder-paints or make a scrapbook.

After dinner, the children can sit by the fire and listen to traditional Botswanan stories or they can learn how to dance like the locals.

Private vehicles must be booked for all bookings with children up to and including 12 years of age.


Elephant wander through the new Little Ruckomechi Camp


Families with children aged under six have the option of exclusive-use camps like the new Little Ruckomechi at Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. There are just three tents and a living area and pool overlooking the Zambezi. The manager and a private guide then organise everything around the family’s tempo. This must come close to the ultimate experience any family can have. The camp is new with the latest airy tents offering unbroken views. Mana Pools is considered by many to be the best Africa has to offer.

The operator also makes its family safari offering more affordable and flexible. At all camps that have family rooms, children receive a 65% discount during off-peak season and a 35% discount during peak season. This reduced rate is applicable for children up to, and including, age 16, if sharing with an adult in a family room, triple or twin.

Child rates are applicable when booked into family accommodation. There are three Wilderness camps that accept children of all ages and several others accept children of six and up.

Designing family-friendly safari camps

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Amanda Sampaio

A bit about me: I am Rhodesian born, grew up in Zululand, South Africa. Post matriculation, I studied a 3 year Travel & Tourism National Diploma; I then spent 7.5 years (during the mid-90’s) working in various operational roles for SAA at the old Durban Airport; My husband, son & I then moved to the UK and lived in south-west London (Worcester Park) for 10.5 years – I worked for 3.5 years in Local Government (at Epsom & Ewell Borough Council) and then for 7 years for QANTAS as part of the Cabin Crew Ground Management Team based at Heathrow and later with Qantas Corporate Sales based in their London Hammersmith office. My family and I have been back in South Africa for almost 3 years now (having missed too much of our family, SA sunshine and braai’s) and during our time back, we are also delighted to have welcomed our 17 month old baby girl into our family! Travel is definitely my passion and is in my ‘blood’ as I am firmly back in the travel seat with my current role within Sales and Marketing at iGo Travel and look after this for our newly launched brand ‘iGO Africa’.