Jungle bookings

By Adriaane Pielou, Daily Mail

Last updated at 09:49 13 October 2003


Safaris are a hit with families

Taking your children off to see Africa's wildlife is one of the best holiday treats you can give them.

It's not just that the whole experience - spending time in vast open spaces, watching wild animals feet away from the safety of your jeep, sitting around a camp fire at night, maybe even sleeping under canvas - is so thrilling, relaxing, and absorbingly different from everyday life.

It also reminds our exam-stressed, advertised-at, peer-pressured progeny that there is an older, purer and eternal world out there, where test results, the right trainers and mobiles, and the rule of cool are, for a while, irrelevant.

'That was so nice, just looking at the animals and learning about them and not having to worry about what I was wearing,' sighed my 11-year-old this summer at the end of her first safari.

But there is a negative side. For a start, it's expensive: about £1,200 a week minimum, per person - and three times that at the most insanely luxurious camps - with only £200 or so knocked off for under 12s.

Most African game parks are in malarial areas, too, which means taking the tablets.

So far, though, the newest of those pills, Malarone, successor to the paranoia and hallucination-inducing Larium, doesn't seem to involve any similarly nasty side-effects.

It comes in child-appropriate doses, too, which is key to the new mini-boom in family safaris. Many lodges and camps still ban children under eight - sensibly enough, if they have wild animals wandering through.

And so much time on a safari is spent on game drives - sitting silent and still in the jeep, watching - that the average small child would go mad, scaring off the animals and reducing fellow safari-goers to snarling fury.

But as more and more families do this sort of holiday, hotels and lodges are gradually gearing themselves to children.

They lay on child-friendly meals as well as guides and activities that let small children avoid the animal-viewing part altogether, freeing their parents to go off on the morning and afternoon game drives in peace.

If you're not sure how your children would react, a day out at Longleat safari park in Wiltshire could be a relatively inexpensive way to gauge things.

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