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We're Going Where? Taking Your Teens To Africa

Today's teenagers are rarely seen without earphones resolutely docked in their ears, fingers deftly generating more text messages per minute than Reuters issues global news updates. Their constant connectivity with friends in cyberspace often disconnects them from the people around them, their parents and even their siblings.

So how on earth do you coax these detached human beings out of hiding and into a family holiday? We say, take them on safari in Africa!

Comparing Mickey Mouse to Etosha National Park

When I was 15 and my brother 11, my parents uttered the magic words: 'We're going to Disneyworld!' It was a kids' fantasy come true: a month-long holiday in the United States, experiencing some of the biggest roller coasters in the world, living in a 101 Dalmatians themed hotel and eating junk food I had only ever seen on TV.

A year later we set off on holiday in the family car, heading north of the South African border for Etosha National Park in Namibia - a land of endless horizons, crisp mornings and some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. However, for a couple of teenagers in the backseat, it sounded like an incredibly monotonous three weeks away from our friends.

As it turned out Namibia was one of my most memorable holidays ever. The African landscape unfolded in such thrilling ways: pink-streaked sunsets, prides of stalking lion, elephants as far as the eye could see... Like our shared recollections of Disney World, Etosha added brand new adventures and tales to our store of family memories.

Teens in Africa - Etosha, Namibia
Two snaphappy girls take a selfie at a waterhole in Etosha National Park in northern Namibia
Teens in Africa - family safari
Remote destinations like northern Botswana combine well with a city or adventure experience if you're thinking about bringing your teenagers to Africa.

Making an African Holiday Teen-Friendly

Travelling with teenagers can be challenging but it also offers an incredible way to bond and reconnect as a family. 

Teens need to be entertained as much as they need time alone to connect with friends back home or meet and hang out with other young people. This may sound like a tough challenge, especially in Africa, but it's actually easier than you think - you may even discover a type of action and adventure that no other holiday can deliver.

Staying in one spot, like a deserted beach, or embarking on an ambitious two-week hike through the foothills of nowhere is not going to endear you to your teenagers. Rather pick a multi-faceted destination with plenty to do, especially if it has resorts that offer teens' clubs and tailored activities.

Cultural interactions with local people - like the Himba in Namibia and the Maasai in Kenya - is one of the best ways for teens to engage on vacation. It enables them to see a whole other side to the human experience, and will likely open their eyes to another way of life. Another teen-friendly travel recommendation is to include a few city stops: Cape Town is a no-brainer with its multitude of activities, sights and experiences, but big-city Joburg also packs a punch, as does Nairobi - the gateway to East Africa.

Family-friendly destinations often also feature golf courses and pampering spas... After all, an African family holiday is not just about the kids: don't forget to take some time out for yourselves, too!

We recommend: Walk to the V&A Waterfront from the ever-so-stylish One&Only Cape Town, discover the shopping mecca of Melrose Arch when staying at Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, or enjoy a laid-back beach holiday at The Plettenberg in Plettenberg Bay.

For something quite adventurous, why not track rhino at Phinda and then go diving at Rocktail Beach Camp in Sodwana Bay?

Teens in Africa - Himba in Namibia
Teens and adults alike will find a cultural interaction with the local people (like Namibia's northern Himba tribe) educational and inspirational.
Teens in Africa - Many family lodges offer cooking classes or kitchen interaction for teens
Many family lodges offer cooking classes or interactive kitchens for teens.

Action! Adventure! Adrenalin! Ah, Activities...

Mauritius is one of the best Indian Ocean island destinations for families. Expect clean, safe-to-swim beaches and an abundance of watersports like kayaking, snorkelling and water skiing. It's a popular destination too with plenty of opportunities for your teens to socialize with kids their own age.

For adrenalin-fueled activities, there are few better family-friendly destinations than Victoria Falls. Set on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe (and close to the safari hotspots in nearby Botswana), Vic Falls is ideally located for an adventure-filled family safari. Everything from whitewater rafting to bungee jumping and elephant-back safaris are on offer, enough options to impress the most difficult-to-please 16-year old. Your kids will board the plane home with the coolest holiday tales by far.

We recommend: From ice-cream stands on the beach to glass-bottom boat trips, we recommend LUX* Le MorneLUX* Belle Mare or LUX* Grand Gaube in Mauritius - all brimming with a variety of activities and watersports.

If your teens are a little older and you as a family are keen for some serious adventure in spectacular remote settings then consider the 5-day Selinda Canoe Trail which meanders along the Selinda Spillway in northern Botswana, or a gorilla trekking adventure in Uganda or Rwanda which is sure to be a trip of a lifetime. 

For a comprehensive East African safari that combines active adventure, cultural experiences and thrilling safari experiences, then the Experiential Mount Kenya, Samburu & Masai Mara trip or our Family Samburu & Masai Mara safari top the list.

Teens in Africa - Activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family are ideal for teens
Activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family are ideal for teens.
Teens in Africa - Ice Cream in Mauritius
An ice cream stand at LUX* Grand Gaube resort in Mauritius.

The Call of the Wild...Teenager?

Planning a safari requires knowing your teen's interests and habits. For most teenagers, witnessing the action of a lion hunt or observing a herd of elephant up close will be incredible experiences - but dragging them onto early morning game drives with bird lovers who want to stop and photograph every feathery sighting is likely to be pure torture.

Allow teenagers the freedom to choose their own activities and pace of exploring. Instead of a pre-dawn wake up call, let them lie in if they want until the irresistible draw of a full-spread mid-morning breakfast! Follow brunch with an afternoon game drive or nature walk; tracking game on foot, knowing that danger may lurk around any given corner, gives your teen a thrilling chance to engage with the wild world around them.

Shop 'Til You Drop

An African safari or beach holiday certainly has enough appeal for most teenagers, but for some there is nothing like a big gleaming shopping mall and a pocket full of the local currency. The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town is a perfect spot to visit!

In more remote destinations, include a visit to an African market and give them the chance to test their bargaining skills. Nairobi, Zanzibar Stone Town and Livingstone are just a few places with thriving and eclectic markets filled with fantastic buys and interesting insights into local food and culture. Dried mopane worm snack anyone?

Teens in Africa - V&A Waterfront
The shopping paradise that is the V&A Waterfront is one of Cape Town's brightest gems - it will certainly put a sparkle in your teenager's eye!
Teens in Africa - unique activities - like camel safaris in Kenya - offer unforgettable experiences
Unique activities - like camel safaris in Kenya - offer unforgettable experiences.

'Hey Everyone, I'm in Africa!'

Contrary to the impressions news channels may have given you, Africa actually does have Internet access although it's harder to get in East Africa. Teenagers need time to connect with their friends back home if they want to; sending out excited messages about how cool the watersports are in Mauritius or how huge the lion pride was in Kruger is definitely worth promoting.

Make sure they can connect regularly and you all will be able to relax and embrace the great outdoors that is Africa - the beaches, parks, forests, deserts and islands. So keep the television and Internet usage to a minimum and encourage your children to get out and explore.

Start Planning Now


Written by Kimberley O'Sullivan. Connect with her on Google+

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