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Amy Parker

Beverly Hills, California Travel Agent

Taking my Children on a Family Safari in Africa

When my children were seven and nine, my husband and I decided to take them on an African Safari. It was a wonderful bonding experience for us as a family and changed all our lives. Seeing Africa through our kids’ eyes was phenomenal. They were totally absorbed in their surroundings, the wildlife, being in the bush, meeting the Maasai, and even exploring Nairobi, a city that is very different from what we’d ever seen.

People think you go to Africa for the animals. We did. And it was amazing to see wild animals so close you could almost feel their breath, but the people you connect are even more eye-opening. You realize the vast similarities and how other, very different cultures are just as rich as yours. 

We went to Kenya and Tanzania. I wasn’t in the travel industry yet, and we’d planned to go on a group trip to keep the price down, but our travel agent suggested that since we were four people, we should consider a private guide who would be with us for the entire trip. It was the right decision.

Our guide, Preston, was an amazing storyteller and he wove storytelling into the experience. The kids never stopped asking questions and our guide always had engaging answers. For example, my son would ask, “If there were 20 hyenas and one lion who would win? What if there were 200 hyenas?...” and then the guide would explain how strong the male lion is and that the instinct of the hyenas, no matter how great their numbers, would be not go up against a healthy male lion. 

He took us into a Maasai village. The first thing we noticed was young children and babies in what looked like a pigpen, with dirt on the ground. That’s their playpen. The babies were all together, with flies all around and snot dripping from their noses. Coming from our sanitized world, it was shocking. But then we noticed their gorgeous smiles. They looked so happy and we talked about how there are so many different definitions of happiness.

Another day, we had come back to our lodge from the bush and saw some rural kids playing in the river. Our guide took our kids down to play with them and we watched all watched. It was awesome to see our kids in their white shirts and khakis playing with these Maasai kids in their colorful traditional dress. They were throwing spears our kids joined them in traditional Maasai games. Our kids saw no differences, just fun games and kids to play with and there was something very wonderful about seeing that natural connection of children. 

Fast forward about a decade. Our family had been to Costa Rica, Europe, and many other places. When the oldest was graduating high school, we wanted to play a big trip for a few weeks.  Without blinking, both boys said they wanted to go back and see Preston—our guide. My husband and I wanted to go somewhere new, but guess what. We went and if anything, it was even better. 

My young questioning son, at that time 15 years old, still asked hundreds of questions, and Preston again had fascinating answers. We went to different areas and the experiences were a bit different.  Preston invited us to stay at his house with his family and introduced us to people and places in his village. We again visited a traditional Maasai village. But the best was reinforcing those early childhood experiences. 

For my sons, that first trip was when they saw a world that was different from what they knew and it taught them so much. When you have related happily with people who look, pray, eat and think differently from you, the world is a much less scary place. At 27 and 26 years old, my sons are still big travelers, and that trip was the starting point.