Is Africa the right place for a family holiday? Listening to the adventures of Michele, David, Emma (11) and Coco (10), you’d have to say the answer is yes. The Toronto-based family recently returned from a two-week African journey. Michele called me almost as soon as they arrived home, filled with excitement and stories. She agreed to share some of the family’s tales and a few of their over 2,000 photos – so sit back and picture your family on safari on earth’s wildest continent!
To start, can you give us a brief overview of your trip?
We packed a lot into a very short time. We flew into Capetown – what an amazing city. David made a big tick on his bucket list when we spent a full day cage diving with Great White Sharks.
David and I are shameless foodies – so we had to spend a couple of nights in the Franschhoek Valley touring the wineries and enjoying the fine wines and wonderful food.
Then we flew to the Okavango Delta. We stayed in two quite different camps on the Delta and it felt like we saw every animal under the sun.
And we finished up on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.
What’s the one story from this trip that you expect to be telling at dinner parties in the future?
We tracked a leopard and her two-month-old cub at Tubu Tree Camp in the Okavango. The cub was learning to hunt, so it was stalking its mum. It would creep quietly and low to the ground, then pounce on mum’s head and nibble at her ears.
The cub was like any child: playful and silly. And the mum was like any mum: watching her surroundings, gentle and loving, but doling out the discipline when needed. We watched those two for hours. It was moving and fascinating.
What a lovely story – and very appropriate seeing as you had your own cubs with you. What about Emma and Coco, what were their favourite experiences?
Emma loved the elephants. She says that they have kind faces and they always look like they are smiling.
On our first day in the Okavango Camp, at Little Vumbura Camp, we came across a herd with a baby about 4 months old. The baby hadn’t figured out how to use its trunk yet, but was imitating the older elephants by snagging leaves off branches or twirling its trunk around the long grasses. It wasn’t having much success, which Emma found funny.
Coco thinks the warthogs are hilarious. She loved the way they moved. When they are grazing they kneel down low and hobble around – it looks a bit ridiculous.
OK – so tell me about the shark cage. Was it as scary as it sounds?
It had been on David’s bucket list forever so we weren’t going to South Africa and passing it by. It was a very controlled environment so it was 100% safe. The sharks are baited with a fake seal pup, chum and fish heads and it worked! Soon enough sharks up to 4 meters were circling the boat, leaping out of the water, mouths open in full attack. We were at eye level and quite close in the cage and could go underwater to see the sharks swim by.
Personally I preferred the view from the boat….but David was thrilled by the experience!
Other than those sharks, what was your most exciting animal siting on this trip?
I think the most exciting was our first male lion. He emerged from the bush and I will never forget his majesty, his quiet confidence, his strut. I also won’t forget the lion’s tussle with his brother that followed as the two fought over their morning kill: a baby water buffalo that was still alive. Less majesty: but a riveting display of the circle of life.
With all those wild animals did you feel safe travelling in Africa with two young children?
We always felt safe and cared for. Our girls were the perfect ages. They were engaged and curious, asked lots of questions and were thrilled to be with us all day. It was a wonderful family experience with heaps of real quality time together.
The guides made a big difference too. At our daily sundowner at Tubu Tree, our guide Broken would always have brainteasers prepared for the girls using sticks and bits of string. He would teach us all how to survive in the wild: how to make soap from leaves, how to protect the soles of our shoes with devil claw, what was edible. The girls loved him…and so did we.
What about the planning? Did the itinerary work for you?
The entire trip was brilliant. When I first looked at planning this holiday I was overwhelmed – the options were dizzying. A client recommended Safari and Co and after our very first call Michael narrowed the options for us. He was dialed into what we needed as a family and provided a really authentic safari experience.
We’ve had a taste of this amazing continent and we are already planning our trip back. Once is never enough in Africa.0