Do you know where the term ‘Safari’ comes from? Well amazingly it comes from the Arabic word ‘safara’ which means ‘a journey’. The word found its way all the way over to East Africa where it was adapted to the Swahili verb ‘kusafiri ‘which means ‘to travel’ as a verb and ‘travelling’ as a noun. The word was first used as a foreign word in the English language in 1858 by Sir Richard Francis Burton a British explorer. He then introduced the word safari to the English language. So if you decide to go on a safari, there’s one thing to teach your kids before you go!
Many years ago safaris were actually expeditions into the wild to hunt and kill game. But luckily things have changed as now a safari is all about getting up close and personal with wildlife, as well as plenty other adventures to add to it.
So no more hunting animals, you now get to experience them in all their beauty, and by going to game parks, you’re actually helping protect species, as that’s where some of the money goes. There are so many safari companies that either actively contribute towards conservation projects or help generate tourism revenue which is used to manage wildlife projects and game reserves.
One of the great things about a safari is that you can really make a positive impact on local economies and impoverished communities. Not only do these community members get recruited and trained in the game parks but you’ll always see people selling goods, doing cultural dances or even guided trips.
The idea of interacting with the local communities is great for your kids, and they can learn these things along their travels.
What African Safaris are generally about?
It’s not just about game viewing and wildlife tracking, safaris are about
- experiencing the local cultures of Africa
- exploring scenic places and natural wonders
- visiting historical highlights and sightseeing
- participating in adventure and outdoor activities
So how else can your kids benefit?
Kids are growing up in a digital era and studies indicate they spend an excessive amount of time glued to their digital gadgets. While you’re on safari they are removed from these cords and can truly experience life in nature, unplugged, in peace and quietness. It’s a fact that after an experience like this, you’ll feel better, more in touch with yourself and often a safari seems to touch the very souls of people who do it. An awesome experience for your kids.
Realities of nature
Watching films or DVD’s about the earth can be educational and moving, but experiencing nature when its right in front of you is a whole different experience. In the bush, there are rules and routines, based on the fact that you’re in wild animals’ territory and that you’re sharing their space, not the other way around. There are of course precautions that need to be taken too. Children’s eyes are opened to a completely different world filled with experiences they could never have at home.
Children learn by abide by these boundaries; it’s not so cool jumping out the car going to look at the nice friendly lions, or pitching a tent in the middle of the bush or taking a little stroll down to the river where that hippo is lurking. They can learn that there is danger in the world, in a non-threatening way, and that they have to responsible to make sure they keep safe. It’s a good life-lesson, which can be applied in other areas of their life.
Life beyond the privileges of home
Experiencing different cultures is enriching for the whole family, and you can learn so much by visiting local communities, especially schools. It’s an opportunity to expose kids to the realities of life beyond their own privileged existence, while planting seeds of awareness and understanding about other cultures.
Learning to share
Depending on the type of safari undertaken, children may have to learn how to muck-in with others, to make sure they do what’s best for the group. In the bush, one person can jeopardise the safety of others. If a blanket rule of silence is given whilst walking through the bush, it is there for a reason and needs to be obeyed.
Bonding in families
A safari can give your family the time and space to share the magic of the bush and the wonder of nature, to learn together and work as a team. In all honesty, memories of a lifetime can occur in the wild.
What else can be learnt?
Most tours into the bush have rules about age groups, but a lot of them will accommodate game drives to suit kids. Many safari tours like Singita accommodate kids, so if you feel like taking a game drive without the kids you can. The kids can get involved in all sorts of cool activities.
As Singita says, “We try shift the focus away from physical ‘stuff’ and highlight the intangible aspects of being here, such as learning a new skill or notching up an exciting experience that will earn them (the children) bragging rights with their friends. It’s not about what you have when you are in the bush, but what you know to ensure your survival.”
Children can learn skills in tracking, fishing, birding, astronomy, like how to spot the Southern Cross in the night sky, botany, survival in the bush and many other activities. They can earn badges linked to the popular Singita Mini Rangers’ Course (South Africa and Zimbabwe) or Watoto Pori Singita Training Course (Tanzania), which can be extended to suit the length of your stay. These courses cover tracking animals; frogging; butterfly capture and release; astronomy; bush survival techniques; game-spotting competitions; nature quizzes and a guide’s test.
Teens are challenged in different ways, for example getting their hands dirty by helping to plant trees at community schools. Learning basic survival skills, like how to make a fire, find a water source or identify edible plants with medicinal uses. Whatever age your kids are there’s something for them that will appeal to them.
Kids learn about wildlife and ecology, weather patterns and how interdependent we all are on this planet for our survival. They can learn a lot about the indigenous people of the area and about their culture and the intelligence that exists in their survival methods even if they are vastly different to those used in urban living.
How your safari is put together will dictate how it impacts on your kids like how much opportunity is given for participation, decision making, testing strengths and skills in a child. You might find that you’ve got a non-academic child but they’ll spring into life as they realise they’re a whizz at identifying bird calls or excelling at tracking. They may be influenced for life.
Preparing leaders and decision makers
Generally safari operators which cater for children are really keen to engage with young people and teach these future decision makers and custodians of the planet about the importance of conservation, communities and ecotourism. This has been a huge success in Africa. So many animals are becoming extinct. The planet is not in a good shape as a result of human impact. If children see how it works – if they see just how precious the legacy of nature is – if they breathe the still air in the quietness of a bush life and realise how fragile it all is – they just might tread more carefully on the planet and do their bit to protect the Earth.