There comes a time in our lives when the kids have flown the nest, our careers are on track and we start thinking about treating our parents to a much-deserved trip of a lifetime. Perhaps your mom has always wanted to see Victoria Falls in full flood or your dad has dreamt of spotting the Big 5 on the savannah. If you’re now in a position to make their dreams come true, here are the two factors to consider when planning your trip to Africa with mature travellers.
1. Consider Your Parents' Health
- Consider a safari in a non-malaria area, like Etosha in Namibia, the Kalahari, and Madikwe or the Eastern Cape in South Africa so that they don’t have to take malaria prophylactics on top of any other medication they’re on.
- You may wish to avoid places that require yellow-fever vaccinations for the same reasons.
- How physically active are your parents? A walking safari in the heat or gorilla trekking in thick rainforest may be too taxing for them but traditional game drives in comfortable 4x4s with roofs will be just the ticket.
- For complete piece of mind, you may wish to stay relatively near to major city with excellent medical and transport infrastructure. South Africa is the obvious choice: Cape Town is a good base from which to explore the incredibly scenic Garden Route while Johannesburg is close to both Madikwe and the world-famous Kruger National Park. And since the flying time between Johannesburg and Cape Town is only two hours, you can easily combine the best of both regions. Best of all, there are plenty of direct international flights to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, making flying straightforward for mature travellers.
- Remember that safaris can be taxing, even for the fittest people. Early game drives can mean getting up before dawn and spending a long morning out in the bush while late ones are followed by sundowners, dinner, stargazing and nightcaps around the campfire. Ask your safari expert to recommend camps where you determine the schedule and where you have your own dedicated 4x4 and tracker team so that you are not hitched to another group. At the Serian camps in Kenya, for example, you call all the shots, from what time you’d like meals to how long you’d like to spend on game drives. This is especially helpful during the Wildebeest Migration, when hundreds of thousands of wildebeest cross the Masai Mara.
2. Consider Your Parents' Interests
There are so many adventures to choose from in Africa, especially if you’re coming for the first time. To have the best possible vacation, consider mixing your mutual family interests with one or two things you’ve never thought of doing before and breaking up a long vacation into manageable chunks.
For safari first-timers, about two or three nights at each camp or lodge is ample. Break up a 10-day or 2-week holiday to South Africa, for example, by flying into Cape Town for a few days, then heading to the Winelands before moving onto the Garden Route (go whale watching from about July to September) and ending with a malaria-free safari in the Eastern Cape at Addo Elephant National Park.
If your parents are:
- Foodies – Head for Cape Town and Franschhoek where you not only have spectacular accommodation like the Cape Grace, Belmond Mount Nelson, Twelve Apostles and the Cellars-Hohenort but are also surrounded by Africa’s top restaurants.
- Wine lovers – The Winelands of South Africa encompass Constantia, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and even the Hermanus Wine Route. All are less than a 2-hour safe and easy drive from Cape Town, with excellent accommodation like, La Residence, Birkenhead House, The Marine Hotel and the Delaire Graff Estate.
- History and culture buffs – Once again, you can’t go wrong with South Africa, which has sites connected to 19 century battlefields and Nelson Mandela.
- ‘Trainspotters’ – Rovos Rail is arguably the most luxurious train journey in the world: all suites have private en suite bathrooms and the largest take up half a carriage each. It’s ideal for families who don’t want to deal with lots of driving or spending time in airports. The itineraries are also varied to suit different interests: trips include stops at game reserves, golf courses and places of historical interest. An epic Rovos journey can take you all the way from Cape Town to Victoria Falls via national parks like Hwange in Zimbabwe and Chobe in Botswana. The beauty of a train trip is how relaxing it is and how you don’t have to lift a finger – everything is immaculately arranged for you.
- Road-trippers – South Africa and Namibia both have excellent road infrastructure, although the distances are longer, the towns fewer and the dirt roads more frequent in Namibia. South Africa has more options (like the Panorama Route) but Namibia does have unusual attractions like Swakopmund (a town steeped in colonial German history), Damaraland, Sossusvlei and, of course, flagship reserve Etosha.
- City slickers – the obvious choice is Cape Town, which has racked up award after award from travel media. It’s a small city that is perfect for walking and is surrounding by attractions like Cape Point, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Table Mountain and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Instead of a hotel, you could opt for a private holiday villa (with a private chef) so that your parents can have plenty of privacy to enjoy some downtime without boisterous children at a communal pool or having to share the bar with gregarious youngsters – unless that’s what they enjoy, of course!
- Birders – some of the best birding in Africa happens during the green season, a time of regular but short-lived afternoon rain spells. If you want to avoid anti-malaria medication, which is more necessary this time of year because the combination of plentiful water and sunshine encourages mosquitoes to multiply, then consider Madikwe in South Africa, which has excellent proximity to both OR Tambo and Sun City, Africa’s top resort.
- Golfers – Sun City has two excellent courses, and Rovos Rail have a 9-day ‘golf safari’ where you will travel from course to course on this luxurious train. The bonus is that other activities like gallery visits or game drives are arranged for non-golfers or those who feel like sitting out a round.
What happens in an emergency?
Thankfully, medical emergencies on safari are very rare thanks to a number of factors: our Safari Experts consult very thoroughly with you during the booking process and encourage you to share your health concerns so that they can make the correct suggestions, and our use of only excellent accommodation, transfers and handlers who have superb safety records and who can manage crises effectively and efficiently. Go2Africa has been bringing mature travellers to Africa since 1998. Since 2005, we have taken almost 40 000 clients on safari, safely, happily and memorably – you can read independent client reviews here. And most of our clients come back for even more adventures.
Because we work hand-in-glove with you to set up your personal itinerary, we know where you are and what activities you are undertaking 24/7 – right from your flight over to Africa, to your accommodation, excursions, transfer and flight home. You are not left to your own devices in a strange place. We also have a round-the-clock hotline number manned by a senior member of staff who can help with any emergency, from lost luggage to not being able to find misplaced reading glasses.
We liaise with our suppliers and operators daily to ensure that everything is running smoothly according to the briefs we have sent them about your trip. Should a medical or another emergency occur, we will work with our suppliers, medical professionals and disaster management to resolve the matter as speedily as possible.
We also encourage all our clients to take out comprehensive travel insurance: you don’t want your dream holiday cancelled because of a hassle with your insurance policy.
It may seem like South Africa ticks all the boxes when it comes to choice of international flights, medical infrastructure, superb road networks and low-to-no malaria and yellow fever risks. This is true and one of the reasons why the country has seen a huge growth in its popularity with ‘swallows’ – mature and retired folk who follow the sun and pass the North American or European winters in sunnier climates – and older travellers over the past decade.
But the rest of Southern and East Africa is definitely not off limits if your parents are up for an adventure. I have seen a woman in her 70s take on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (she made it!), and ladies in their early 80s travel as part of an overland trip from Cape Town to Livingstone, sleeping in Meru tents all the way through Etosha, the Caprivi Strip and the Okavango Delta.
There’s so much to do. How do I choose?
Consider your parents’ interests, health and overall fitness first. If they’re seasoned international travellers who trotted the globe and are in great shape, then Africa is your oyster. We can tailor-make your trip to include everything from hot-air ballooning over the Serengeti and ‘kissing’ endangered Rothschild’s giraffes to diving off the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean and trekking camels in Samburu.