Exploring Botswana’s Okavango Delta with children
Instilling a love for the natural world in one’s children is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give them. Having been privileged enough to grow up on a game reserve, constantly surrounded by many wild creatures, I can confidently say that the time spent out in the bush with my family provided some of the most fun and impactful moments of my childhood. I often find myself recounting these stories to anyone remotely interested. Now, a number of years later, I still feel a sense of childlike wonder every time I find myself back in the seat of a safari vehicle, bumping along a track, waiting to find out what Mother Nature has in store for me that day.
This was the case on my recent trip to Botswana, a country that I had been looking forward to visiting for as long as I can remember. Made up of a vast number of diverse ecosystems – from the semi-arid Kalahari Desert and the magnificent salt flats of the Makgadikgadi Pans to the seasonal floodplains of the Okavango Delta and the sweeping grasslands that extend all the way to the banks of the Zambezi River – it is no surprise that Botswana is one of the most acclaimed safari destinations on the planet. Due to such a range in habitat, there is an incredible variety of game and birdlife, as well as all manner of land- and water-based activities from which to choose, making this the perfect pick for those interested in a fun-filled and active adventure.
I was lucky enough to visit several lodges in the Okavango Delta, and I was truly impressed by each and every one. Exceptionally well located and delivering an experience that was special and unique, these tented camps went back to basics, while still offering all the necessary touches one might need to feel comfortable and secure – particularly if embarking on your first safari with children.
With a strong emphasis on accommodating families, the Okavango Delta is a place where there is time to unplug and reconnect with one another, with each day offering an opportunity to go out and explore the surrounding wilderness and have those experiences that would no doubt provide the basis for many a tale to be told in years to come. It is a wonderful choice for a family holiday, and we can arrange myriad unique experiences here that will be sure to enthral the youngest bush adventurer and impress even the most seasoned safari veteran.
Four of our favourite family-friendly places to stay in the Okavango Delta
1 Okuti Camp
Welcoming children from seven upwards, Okuti is located in the Moremi Game Reserve, along a beautiful stretch of riverfront that flows into the Xakanaxa Lagoon. The camp features two family mosasas, which draw inspiration from the ancient tribal tradition of building houses from reeds. The staff here are incredibly warm and welcoming, and willing to go the extra mile to make sure your youngsters are constantly kept entertained.
An added benefit of Okuti is that safari vehicles are limited to four guests at a time, so if you are travelling as a family, you will have your own naturalist guide throughout your stay. Aside from traditional game drives, you will also have the chance to set out on a water-based expedition, exploring the waterways by boat, all the while keeping a lookout for wildlife and birds on the riverbanks. I ended my visit on a boat trip with a surprise picnic on a secluded island, while a herd of red lechwe grazed peacefully nearby, which was a real highlight. This is just one way in which we can make this experience even more special for parents and children alike.
2 Seba Camp
A classic safari camp that welcomes all ages, Seba has two family tents that each feature their own plunge pool and can accommodate groups of up to six. You are able to go on both day and night drives, as well as go out on the water or even try your hand at some catch-and-release fishing, which we particularly recommend for teenagers. Other brilliant activities we suggest for children also include bush cooking and photography lessons. Seba is located on the Abu Concession, which is an area within the Delta that is renowned for its exceptional game-viewing and particularly high concentration of elephants, often a favourite with children.
3 Footsteps Camp
This bush hideaway is wonderfully rustic, with only three canvas tents overlooking a picturesque lagoon, complete with bucket showers and delicious meals cooked over an open fire. Footsteps can only be taken on an exclusive basis, making it the best place for families who are looking for privacy and wish to spend some time living like the pioneering explorers who first ventured into the African bushveld. However, the winning addition to any stay here is the chance to participate in the Young Explorers programme, which has been specially designed to keep children (and sometimes adults!) fully engaged and active while on safari.
Your guide here will ensure everyone enjoys some good old-fashioned fun. You will go out on guided walks – stopping to peer at tracks, examine the many varieties of dung and pick up feathers for your bow and arrow making. On your return to camp, you might practise some target-shooting with an air rifle, before dividing up into teams for a friendly match of football, with each of the camp staff eagerly joining in.
4 Camp Moremi
Set back among giant ebony trees deep in the Moremi Game Reserve, Camp Moremi is made up of 12 thatched safari tents built on raised wooden walkways. Following a recent refurbishment, it is looking lovely and fresh, and now features a stunning and extremely spacious new family suite. This has two separate bedrooms each with their own bathrooms, making it the perfect option for families with teenagers. It also boasts a huge lawn area, where the team often set up games before tea; there’s also a gorgeous swimming pool, ideal for cooling off during the heat of the day or when the children are feeling more active during siesta time.