Kids & the Okavango: Young Explorer Camp
Family safaris to Africa are becoming more and more popular because they are becoming easier and easier to do. But it’s not that the African wilderness is any less remote or untamed; family safaris are so much easier these days because many operators specialise in them. Now you can explore the wildest places from the comfort of a camp that has been designed for families: all the comforts of home plus a kids menu. And one of the best places to experience this is in one of the wildest places still left: Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
This sprawling wetland is the world’s largest inland delta and is home to countless animals and birds. A highly diverse landscape of grassy plains, forested islands and clear-running water, the Okavango Delta is a destination to explore not just by vehicle but also by boat and on foot. That gives your family the advantage of seeing big wildlife from the safety of a 4X4 or motor boat, plus the smaller side of nature such as animal tracks, birds and insects during guided walks and canoe trails.
To enjoy all those activities however, you need to be in a private concession where walking and night-drives are allowed (compared to the Okavango’s state-run Moremi Game Reserve where they are not). You should also be in an area with more or less permanent water for boat and canoe activities – much of the delta dries up in the summer months – and, of course, an area with a reputation for wildlife. Find out how the Okavango Delta works here.
Shinde (‘shin-dee’) ticks all those boxes. A private concession run by seasoned operators Ker and Downey, Shinde lies in the delta’s wildlife-rich northern region where there is plenty of year-round water. Such conditions mean Shinde is especially good for the kind of animals your children are going to want to see – big cats, elephants, hippo and giraffe – as well as animals that you may on the lookout for: African wild dog, Pel’s fishing-owl and the aquatic antelope, the sitatunga.
It’s a fly-in destination and you’ll be boarding a small plane – usually a six-seater – for the flight in. The panoramic views over the delta set the scene nicely and before you know it, you are landing on a packed-earth airstrip where you’ll be met by a guide and vehicle. There’s wildlife to see during the drive to Young Explorer Camp and then the excitement of your home away from home: a classic tented safari tent that sleeps five. The sewn-in floor and netted windows mean the tent is bug-proof and the adjoining bathroom saves you from walking around in the dark at night. The bathroom comes with a sink, flush toilet and a ‘bush shower’ – a simple yet effective hot-water bucket shower.
Comprising three tents, it’s a small but very comfortable and fully-staffed camp so you can kick back and relax. Each family has a personal chef so there’s no problem with who wants to eat what and when, and in case you had to pack light to make the luggage weight allowance, you’ll be pleased to hear the camp has a free, daily laundry service.
You also have your own safari guide and canoe guides so now you can put together a programme of activities is based on family ages, interests and local conditions. There are a lot of activities for children in Botswana. You could start with a game drive of course, but the emphasis here is on a total safari experience. Activities are designed to be educational as well as fun and inspiring, and who knows, maybe useful one day? Your family will learn to track animals and how to drive a 4X4 in the bush as well as survival skills, star identification, and – perhaps most importantly, how to make pizza with no electricity.
Best booked during Botswana’s long dry season between June and October, the itinerary is a three-night/four day programme; well-balanced to deliver a solid and submersive safari experience without dragging on; in fact, you should have plenty of time left over in your holiday window to combine Young Explorer Camp with another aspect of Botswana – such as the famous, elephant-packed Chobe River – or a visit to Victoria Falls, home to an even wider range of family activities from elephant-back safaris to white-water rafting. You could even reward the family with a beach holiday at one of Africa’s Indian Ocean destinations. Now there’s a grand finale!