We’d always wanted to take a trip to Africa, but thought we would wait until our youngest son (who was seven at the time) was a little older. We contacted two luxury tour operators. Both of them said “no” because we had a short planning window and there’s limited availability on safaris for children. I was talking with our Quintess Member Relations Manager and asked for recommendations and she said: “Where do you want to go?”
We planned a trip to Botswana and South Africa. The logistics were just amazing. Safaris can be a very difficult thing to do on your own, and it was just great to have the whole thing laid out for us. I wouldn’t take another trip like this without Quintess… they have experience with us and know our family and what we like. That was invaluable.
When you first look at an itinerary for a safari expedition it’s just names and dates—you have no idea what you’re getting into. My husband and I privately asked ourselves why we were moving around so much and thought we’d have been happy to just stay at one camp. But the trip played out so well. We stayed at two camps in Botswana—&Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge and &Beyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp, then flew to Cape Town for a few days of relaxation at the Mount Nelson Hotel before finishing our safari at &Beyond Phinda Mountain Lodge. All three camps were different and you didn’t see the same thing over and over again. Before the safari, I’d have thought ‘if you’ve seen one elephant, you’ve seen them all.’ But each experience was completely different. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Traveling with three kids can be a challenge, but each camp went above and beyond. Our two sons are named Jack and Jason—literally everyone mixes up their names (including our family!) but not once on this safari did anyone call them by the other boy’s name! The guides were all wonderful and patient. We came home feeling like they had received this amazing education on how the animal kingdom works… sometimes animals have to die to keep the others alive. There were no tears and now they completely understand. Our middle son turned nine during the trip, but was sick that day. The staff kept waiting until he felt well enough and then all came out singing and dancing. He still talks about that, and learned so much about the birthday customs there.
Each camp was beautiful and the accommodations were very comfortable. It wasn’t as if we were “roughing it” at all! The food was delicious and the staff was very kid-friendly. They happily re-arranged schedules, even sitting with the (exhausted) children one night so my husband and I could enjoy a late supper in the wild. Animal sightings were simply unbelievable. In Nxabega we were in poled canoes, and elephants crossed the river right in front of us. You could actually see the water level lower and rise and got a feeling for just how enormous these creatures are — the sheer mass of them. They weren’t aggressive but we did have a hippo chase us—the guides knew what they were doing and knew exactly how to keep us safe. One day a lion walked within a foot of our vehicle. I was scared to death, but the kids were so calm! Our guide spoke very softly, just telling us to stay still and quiet. My ten-year-old daughter had her video camera on but the footage is not good because the lion was just that close. What an amazing experience!
Finally, the staff and everyone we encountered acted as if they would not want to be anywhere else or be doing anything else. They were all informative, helpful and so friendly. The whole experience was magical from start to finish. If you’re able to do it, you’ll have the trip of a lifetime.