A luxury safari often has dreamy sunsets, romantic boma dinners, peaceful game drives and blissful sunrises attached to it. That’s until kids become part of the picture and you need to exchange romantic getaways for well-planned family holidays. We’ve recently gone on our first luxury safari with our kids and this was our experience.
Travel has been part of Wikus and my relationship from the get-go and the bushveld and its magical, soul-healing abilities has always been a no-brainer for quick weekend breakaways as it is a manageable distance from where we live. This manageable distance has probably become a little less manageable with kids, but we’re still willing to drive a couple of ours when we know that the destination is worth it. TAU Game Lodge is one of those destinations worth driving to for even just a 3-day breakaway (with or without kids).
Why we like to go on safari with kids
We arrived just in time for lunch. We had the viewing deck – with a table already set up for our family of four – all to ourselves and ducks and geese were spattering down below in the waterhole that surrounds the deck. In the distance, zebras were lazily waving their tails back and forth and a lone blue wildebeest stood steadfast, daydreaming in midday sun. Catha and Elian were both happy to be out and about and were ooh-ing and aah-ing about the dam and the animals it lured into view.
Nature is one thing that makes all things better for our kids. If either of them feel irritated, we just take them outside and all is well with the world. Being in nature with our kids was so special and I once again realised the importance of family time and sharing special moments with the people you love.
Within a matter of two days, Catha (and probably Elian too) has learnt so much about nature, wild animals and communicating with strangers (something best taught by travelling). She now understands the difference between wild and tame animals, she knows the sounds of different animals, she knows the smell of the bush and she understands the magic that comes with it.
The kids (even Elian at his young age of one year) got to experience the humour of nature. With Madikwe Game Reserve‘s rich elephant population, we got to see ellies from up close. One entertained us by pulling funny faces with his trunk and later we came across a herd of at least fifty ellies that happily bathed in one of the reserve’s dams. Catha couldn’t stop laughing at the elephants dipping and diving, submerging themselves under water and then reappearing, splashing their trunks. This was one of many moments of pure joy and laughter shared with our kids – sweet, sweet memories.
We learned that having kids doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy life and it certainly doesn’t mean that just because it’s nap time, you need to be home. Catha slept on game drives as if she was sleeping in her bed. Elian took most of his daily naps on the game vehicle and completely forgot about his molars giving him a hard time. Okay, perhaps they did not get to go into that deep sleep they need for optimal growth and development, but hey, it was just a weekend and it was so worth it.
The kids got to see things and hear things they wouldn’t normally see or hear. We saw foam nests built by frogs, little tortoises crossing the road and even wild dogs on the hunt. We had two male lions stroll right beside the game vehicle, two young cheetahs posing for some photos and we even got to spot a brown hyena from afar. Catha was in awe and could not wait for what we might see next.
It is family time that is different from family time at home. At TAU Game Lodge, there is not much signal and the WiFi is (currently) only available at the lounge area, which we appreciated as it allowed us to spend time with the kids instead of spending time online. We are quite strict with this at home too, but at TAU there was also no laundry, no need to cook dinner, no work and no chores to think about – things that often rob our kids from having quality time with us as parents. We got to really be in the moment with them for a little more than two days and it was pure bliss. We truly feel recharged emotionally. Physically? Not so much, but emotionally, definitely.
Why go on safari without kids?
Safari without kids obviously comes with its perks as it allows you to relax physically and emotionally and to really switch off completely. Especially if where you go on safari is somewhere where there is no signal and you get to do some digital detox. It also allows for you as a couple to regroup and reconnect on a level that is not always possible when there are kids around. It gives you time to discuss things that have been hanging in the air because there just hasn’t been time to discuss it. It gives you the opportunity to remember why you got together in the first place, but also to appreciate where you come from as a couple and what you’ve achieved thus far.
Safari without kids is probably as important, if not more important than going on safari with kids. Your relationship as a couple and as parents is incredibly important and needs to be healthy in order to create and maintain a healthy environment for your kids to grow up in. So, do it and don’t feel guilty. Spend time away from your kids, because it helps you maintain and cherish the family unit.
Packing for Safari
One thing is certain: Packing for one is much easier than packing for yourself and two kids! I forgot so many things, including my swimsuit (for a much-needed plunge one of the two swimming pools) and my toothbrush! I remembered the kids’ swimsuits and their toothbrushes, though and I luckily discovered a travel toothbrush in one of my vanity’s compartments. There were other things that I also felt might have been nice to have on safari, like Catha’s sunglasses (as the wind was quite rough on her eyes during the game drives) and some binoculars for the odd Hyena in the distance.
A quick TAU breakdown
Location: TAU Game Lodge is located in the popular Madikwe Game Reserve in North West, right on the Botswana border.
Distance: +- 4,5 hours’ drive (Google Maps says 378km or 4 hours and 50 minutes, but TAU Game Lodge gives clear directions with a different road to take from Zeerust and it didn’t take us more than 4 and a half hours, including a quick stop for lunch in Swartruggens).
For kids: TAU Game Lodge has a Cubs Club that caters for kids. Children between 0 and 2 stay at TAU for free and there are babysitting services available at an additional cost. Children aged 3 – 5 automatically become part of the Cubs Club, which includes a short game drive after breakfast, specially for kids. The club works best over school holidays and activities are planned around the amount of kids at the lodge.