Time to connect, perhaps reconnect, across the generations. And no more compelling way to do it than on a walking trail in a big game area, sleeping out in an open bush camp.
Not just any area, but the vast and rugged Makuleke wilderness, the most remote and unspoiled part of the Greater Kruger National Park.
Nature's spectacle is there to be enjoyed in its own right, but the opportunity for parents and children to bond while on walking safari in a striking setting makes things very special.
In July 2013 the first Fathers-and-Sons trail took place. That has been followed in subsequent years by Fathers-and-Sons, Fathers-and-Daughters and Parents-and-Children trails. Here is what one father had to say:
"It was a special experience for me to spend quality father/son time in the most beautiful environment with the element of adventure associated with walking in a big five area. This together with camping, sitting around a fire, hiking for five or six hours a day and learning more about the bush from very experienced and well trained guides made the experience. I have walked in the bush on many occasions and confirm that the level of safety was the best I have seen and taught the boys the level of discipline needed in a bush environment." Read Diary of a Trail Encounter.
The trail runs over five or six nights (six or seven days), and occurs under the auspices of ReturnAfrica or EcoTraining. In RETURNAfrica's case, it operates out of a base camp comprising spacious two-three person tents, comfortable beds, chemical toilet en suite, and separate shower facilities (en suite flush toilets and showers in the case of EcoTraining).
Each day participants walk in a big game area of unique and arresting proportions, from riverine flood plains through to magnificent gorges. A walking trail party is made up a maximum of eight participants accompanied by two armed Trail Guides.
Up to twelve participants can be accommodated at one time at RETURNAfrica's base camp and up to sixteen at EcoTraining's, allowing for great fire-side stories and note-swopping between all participants each evening.
Trailists typically leave camp at dawn each morning and return around brunch-time. A second walk is conducted each afternoon. Other than day packs and optional items such as binoculars and cameras, no equipment or other gear is carried. Four-wheel drive vehicles are on hand, giving the option of driving to departure points and look-out spots elsewhere in the Park.
Some may choose to cap the occasion with a night or two at the splendid river-fronted Pafuri Camp.
The trails are not an endurance or fitness test; rather, a wilderness experience. Enthusiasm, a love of the wilds, a reasonable level of walking fitness (including the ability to negotiate hilly and rocky terrain), a willingness to set time aside for some really special parent-and-child interaction and, finally, self-discipline for all participants – given the big game environment and its potentially challenging moments – are what are needed.
The Kruger National Park sets twelve years as the minimum age for its trail participants. Our experience is that children from this age can handle and appreciate – with gusto – the adventure.
And another thing: the food is excellent!
Participants to date have come from The Ridge, Westerford, St Johns, Pridwin, SACS, Rondebosch Boys, Ridgeway Independent, Hout Bay International and St Stithians Girls' Prep, with a focus on boys and girls in Grade 7.
It turns out that this is a great age to introduce youngsters to the African wilderness experience, and a last opportunity for parents to click with their boys and girls as children before the advent of the very different teenage years.
For the record, the girls have acquitted themselves on trail as impressively as the boys. Have a look at the article in Fairlady, "Where the wild things are".
We are happy to run the full range of trails: Fathers/Mothers – Sons/Daughters, the whole family, family and friends and indeed 'three-generations' trails as well, so let us know what you would like to put together and we will make it happen.
Would you like to put together a parents-and-children group from you school or muster your family to spend four or five days walking in the Makuleke wilderness out off EcoTraining or RETURNAfrica's base camps? Any inter-generational combination, including fathers-and-sons, mothers-and-daughters, fathers-and-daughters, mothers-and-sons and families (minimum age 12) can be put together. Grandparents not excluded. A trail is made up of a maximum of eight participants. Contact us and we will arrange a great trail for you. Enquiries@discovery-trails.org.
Get in touch with our InterGen Trails facebook group and plan your next trip...
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