Classic | Botswana

Will Jones on his favourite family destinations

A few years ago, I wrote a blog about the virtues of the family safari, where I pointed readers to some of my favourite destinations. Revisiting it, I was both amazed and delighted to note that the majority have stood the test of time, which is why I reshare the likes of Tswalu, Peponi, and Sirikoi virtually verbatim. Inevitably, however, some things do move on. Places close or change ownership or redefine themselves. New properties come onto the market. Hence, the need to update that old list with a couple of accommodations that do everything that I believe makes for the most adventurous of family safaris, that are capable of catering both to the family as a whole and to the individual needs and wants of parents, teens, the very young, and boys and girls. Let’s dive in.

First up, Tswalu Kalahari, in South Africa. It’s always been a favourite, the mix of quality, wilderness, and lack of mosquitoes making it a perfect first-time destination for any family. Privately owned, it includes two fine properties: The Motse and Tarkuni. The former is a beautifully designed lodge, the latter a large private house. Each, by itself, offers something special – The Motse is just the ticket for those keen to meet and share time with others, Tarkuni is exactly the sort of retreat some families crave. But what, I think, makes Tswalu stand out is the fact of its wonderfully imaginative range of activities, from its junior ranger programme to its Meerkat research to the staggering quality of the guiding – that and the desert, which is full of surprise.

Second, Kalepo Camp in northern Kenya’s Samburuland. I can’t tell you how fond I am of Kalepo – the brainchild of Robert and Storm Mason, it epitomises the family safari, which is very much a result of the Masons’s love for and close relationship with the land and the local Samburu community. Booked on an exclusive basis, Kalepo’s big selling points are its privacy, its ‘restrained luxury’, and its emphasis on the slow life, be that style of safari, its kitchen garden-led cuisine, or its beautiful spaces that allow for time well spent. Whether on a guided walk or a visit to the nearby Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, Kalepo makes for the perfect space to bond and reminds you of what matters most: family.

Third, I always point the most adventurous-minded of families in the direction of Beagle Expeditions’s inimitable Kweene Trails in Botswana. Operating in the Okavango Delta, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Makgadikgadi Pans, Kweene Trails is a private mobile tented experience run by the brilliant Marleen and Simon Byron and their daughter Dalia – a family who know the Delta intimately. The keystone in the Kweene Trails experience is the quality of the guiding and hosting, which is exceptional: Simon Byron is recognised throughout the industry as being one of the continent’s very best wildlife guides. Kweene is known for running a top-notch service, with a comforting family feel to it in amongst the excitement of the adventure.

Fourth and very different, Peponi Hotel, on Lamu, Kenya. Everything I have always said about Peponi stands true today. Brainchild of Lars and Carol Korschen, whose take on the business of providing family-friendly stays is founded on the principle that communities, both local and wider, are what makes it so special. Integrated, both private and public, Peponi’s selling points – the slow pace of life in a historic trading community, some of East Africa’s best beaches, and an open-hearted approach to all that matters in life – make it the perfect family destination. It’s fun, caring, and very beautiful.

Last, another personal favourite in Kenya is Sirikoi, located in northern Kenya’s Laikipia region. What makes Sirikoi so special for families is its philosophy and practice. When I initially wrote this, Willie Roberts – founder of Sirkoi, legendary conservationist, and personal hero – was still alive. He died of cancer in 2018, a tragedy compounded by the death a year later of his son Richard, also cancer. Their legacy lives on in Sirikoi and in the very best of everything Kenya offers by way of community-led conservation. The local community is fully involved, the Maasai are both stakeholders and hosts, and the chance to track rhino on foot – in the company of some of the best guides I have had the honour to meet, and whose understanding of the needs of children is a lesson to us all – makes for the most compelling of experiences. Very upcountry Kenya, and very much about the family, Sirikoi is wonderful.

So, there you have it. Some of the best family destinations – though by no means a definitive list. Do get in touch if you’d like to plan your next family adventure with us.

Images courtesy of Tswalu, Kalepo Camp and Sirikoi House

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