Travelling with teenagers can be a nightmare, but it can also be a great joy: as your children get older, you have fewer and fewer chances to spend quality time together as everyone wants to be off doing their own thing. And then, one day, they’ve flown the nest. Their teenage years are precious times for your family, times when you can shape the adults they become, and the interests they share with you in later years.
The challenging part of any family vacation with teenagers is convincing them that they want to spend a week (or longer) away from their friends, computers, and things they find familiar. You then have to overcome the perception that everything parents want to do is boring, and make sure that your holiday itinerary includes something to appeal to every member of the group, whatever their age and interests.
Most teenagers, thankfully, are curious about the outside world, and if you can take them away somewhere remote, wild, and exotic - Africa being a prime example - it gives them some street cred with their friends. More importantly, however, by being in a place which is unfamiliar, it gives you the opportunity to share new experiences together, to create shared memories, and to reflect on the things which you value. By kindling in your teenagers a lust for adventure, and a curiosity about the world around them, you’ll equip them for a lifetime of exploration which lasts well beyond a gap year or university vacation.
Over our years of making tailor-made safari itineraries for families, we’ve learned about the kind of experiences which get teenagers excited: it’s why your feedback to us is so important. We know about the draw of our spectacular Namibian Desert safaris for adrenalin junkies, where you can quad bike across the Kunene, race across the sands in a Land Rover, and take a microlight flight along the Skeleton Coast.
Water sports are perennially popular, so we recommend swimming and snorkelling in Lake Tanganyika, boat safaris along the Great Rufiki River, and paddling a Canadian canoe down the Zambezi, whilst zebras watch you from the banks. In the watery world which is Botswana’s Okavango Delta, think about exploring the lagoons, teeming with wildlife, and also the Boro River. From Baines’ Camp, you can venture out in a mokoro canoe, silently approaching the animals and birds, and there are motor boats available too, should you wish to cover a greater distance.
Many families feel they want their adventure to be an educational experience, as well as one which is great fun, and so if you go to “meet the relatives” in Rwanda, you’ll get the best of both worlds. The relatives in question are mountain gorillas, and though hairier than even Grandpa, their intelligence, habits, and mannerisms are decidedly human. There are an estimated 350 mountain gorillas in the Parc National des Volcans and you can choose between treks of varying lengths, each one to a different volcano, where you’ll see the gorilla families playing. Other chances to learn about the natural world and important conservation efforts include the Serengeti Rhino Rehabilitation Programme, the Chipembele Wildlife Centre, and the marine reserves and archipelagos off the coast of Madagascar.
When it comes to accommodation, you want somewhere where you can all relax, be safe, and where the kids are made to feel equally welcome. The Sand Rivers Lodge in the Selous, Tanzania, and the Sausage Tree Camp near Victoria Falls, are renowned for being family-friendly. If there are enough of you in the family (6-8 is sufficient), you might well be able to have a whole safari camp or private island villa to yourselves, and as plenty of them come with pools, games rooms, and the option to tailor itinerary for each person in the group, you can sit back, enjoy the views and the wine, knowing that everyone’s being entertained.