A Zambia And Malawi Family Safari For Teenagers
We hadn’t been to Africa since a wonderful holiday to Kenya nearly five years ago. So when an idle conversation with family friends turned into a firm plan to visit again I was charged with finding an itinerary that would suit all of us.
Including new activities for those who’d visited before as well as a proper, classic safari holiday for the first timers. After a bit of head scratching Zambia and Malawi family safari got the nod. Zambia for the wealth of safari activities on offer, and Lake Malawi for its reputation as a wonderful spot for post safari relaxation.
We started our holiday in Livingstone, an area well known for adrenaline fuelled pursuits. We seemed to have been there only five minutes before our lot were hurling themselves off a bridge, headlong into the Zambezi Gorge, attached only to spindly pieces of elastic. They loved it, can’t say I particularly enjoyed watching but it was an exhilarating start.
Pictures of the Victoria Falls do nothing to prepare you for the real thing. They are quite magnificent and the spray, even when the water levels are low, is something to be believed. We got drenched. A sunset river cruise and island picnic lunch organized by Tongabezi, the luxury lodge we stayed at for the two nights, was just a taster of what was to come.
Chongwe River House
Next stop was the Lower Zambezi National Park. An area I’ve wanted to see for a long time having heard others in the office wax lyrical about its abundant wildlife and beautiful setting.
I’d plumped for Chongwe River House here. A stunning property which looks like something Fred Flintstone might have built. I’ve been fortunate to see a fair few wonderful luxury African camps but this place took my breath away.
On arrival you look right through the house, to the pool and garden and straight down to the Chongwe River beyond. For once that teenage expression of ‘awesome’ is accurate. What Zambia offers over and above some other safari countries is a vast range of activities. Yes, there are great game drives, but you can also night drive and walk, and in the Lower Zambezi can spend time exploring on the river too.
We canoed a lovely channel off the Zambezi River. The two oldest had their own canoe and scared themselves witless when they thought they’d spotted a hippo close to their craft. Since we were in water only a foot or so deep, their imagination had got the better of them but it kept them alert (and obedient) the whole trip.
Watching families of elephant ambling across the river in front of us was magical. Despite being out of season we managed to catch a few tiger fish, even the small ones look pretty ferocious. A 30kg vundu (a type of catfish) was hooked amid much excitement but managed to make its escape before it could be brought to the boat.
After surprise bush suppers, an amazing lunch on a sand spit in the middle of the Zambezi – watching the chef clear the tiny island of a group of basking hippo was certainly a novelty – I was a bit concerned that we’d peaked only half way through the holiday.
Luckily, Mchenja in the South Luangwa National Park didn’t disappoint. Much more a traditional safari camp than the house we’d just left, the luxury tents sit in an ebony grove on a graceful bend in the mighty South Luangwa River. Apart from endless visiting elephants, we had the five tent camp to ourselves which was a real treat. Game viewing here is superb and the night drives and walking safaris a real highlight.
Walking, considered by my two boys to be a totally pointless activity, takes on a different perspective when you’re looking – on foot – for the lions you heard the night before. That’s certainly a walk they’ll remember for a while. We parents came across a huge herd of buffalo one morning and spent a mesmerizing tea break watching hundreds of water birds fighting over fish in a lagoon. Our brilliant guides found us leopard and lion, hippo and elephants galore. And all manner of nocturnal species of which my favourite were the many porcupine which seemed to have an uncanny resemblance to punk rockers as they scuttled about the bush.
Kaya Mawa – Malawi family safari
After six nights on safari we left Zambia for Lake Malawi and Kaya Mawa where the pretty cottages either cling to the rocky shore or sit on the sandy beach.
The days drifted by in a haze of diving the clear fresh waters, kayaking in the bay, quad biking around the island or chilling in the beach bar and restaurant. Evenings were spent dining on the beach with the lake shore lit by lanterns – just blissful. So – a disaster? Absolutely, categorically not. We all loved every minute.
The teenagers managed fine for the whole holiday without their beloved electrical devices. One of mine even read most of a book, which is definitely a first, and there was more than enough exciting stuff to keep them busy. As for their parents – well, I think we all agreed it was a holiday that is going to be very hard to beat.
If you want more detail on our holiday, such as how long we stayed in each camp or costs etc, please just ask in the comments below. I’ll be sure to answer and may update the article to include the extra information.
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