Classic | Kenya

The magic of kids on safari

Travel Design Partner Mij Evans shares the simple and wonderful wonders of taking her and partner Squack Evans‘s children on safari, a supercharged event that even includes a game of elephant poo football. 

It is dusk and the kids are sitting down for early dinner. They are dusty and hot and tired but still chattering excitedly. As they get stuck into their food, we hear hyena whooping and the kids fall momentarily silent to listen.“I wonder if the hyena are going to eat the rest of the dead buffalo which the lions killed,” says one of them. The excited chatter bubbles up again, but by the time they are served dessert, several are yawning widely and obviously ready for sleep.

Waking the kids up early the next morning is easy. As they’re sipping their hot chocolate, they listen wide-eyed to the tale of the previous night – after they had gone to bed, an injured hyena stumbled into camp. It had been beaten up to within an inch of its life and was desperate to get away from the lion, who had come back to check on his kill only to find the hyena stealing his food. Eventually, the hyena loped off, leaving behind an awful smell.

Now the kids are keen to head out on our early morning game drive, provided we stop by the buffalo carcass again to see if there’s anyone else at the buffet. And indeed, we are rewarded with another sighting of the two lion brothers lounging near their kill, too full to feed or move for the time being. The rest of the morning game drive is very quiet, and it’s clear that the kids need a break, so we head back to camp early and go for a short stroll along the river.


There’s a very shallow, clear puddle where a spring seeps up out of the ground. The kids wallow, splashing and watching the hippo in the river, a short but safe distance away. Once the sun begins to burn, we drag them out of their shallow puddle and back to camp. We still have an hour until lunch, so one of the camp guides takes the kids on an insect hunt around camp and I sit down in the shade to read my book for a while.

The peace doesn’t last very long as they come running back, holding up their latest treasure and waving it in my face: “It’s elephant poo! But look, it’s completely dry and just like a ball of grass and seeds! We can play football with it!” The poo football doesn’t last long before breaking apart into what looks like bits of straw, but while it does, they enthusiastically kick it around the patch of lawn in front of the al fresco dining area.

After lunch, my youngest dozes off and is grumpy and surly when we wake him up, as we’re about to set off for a late afternoon drive. We are incredibly lucky to find a pair of cheetah hunting and we watch them chase and kill a gazelle. It is exhilarating but also a little upsetting for the kids, so we have a long chat about the cycle of life and how everything fits together and the pyramid of plants and herbivores and carnivores. We don’t notice the black clouds rolling in and suddenly the rain is upon us. Our guide scrambles to pull down the protective canvas sheets to enclose the open sides of our game drive vehicle. The track we are driving along temporarily turns into a miniature stream, but the squall passes quickly and before long the evening sun breaks through the clouds again in dramatic fashion.

We stop near a huge boulder – also known as a kopje, as our guide tells the kids – but before they run up the steep slope to our sundowner spot, he stops them and takes them to a gnarled, twisted tree. “See the smooth surface on the bark? Put your hand there and touch it. See how it is smooth like polished glass? Why do you think that is?” He leaves them guessing for a bit before teasing a long, wiry black hair from a crack in the bark. “See this? It is an elephant hair. The elephants like to come to this tree and use it as a rubbing post to scratch their itchy, rough skin, which is like sandpaper and makes the tree smooth and polished.”

Our departure is after breakfast the next morning. The kids are excited about flying on the small safari aeroplane, but one of them does feel slightly queasy towards the end of the flight. The city is overwhelming, noisy, and chaotic after our days spent in the bush. The kids are very quiet in the taxi until one of them pipes up: “We’ll go back soon, won’t we? After all, we didn’t see a caracal and they have really cool fluffy ears!” Yes, we will go back. We will go back soon.

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