A testimonial from Steve Backshall
'Having the trip organised for us by Africa Exclusive took so much of the hassle out of the planning. Their knowledge is incredible, and they understood what we wanted. I knew we were going to the best places available, and that all the logistics of moving between properties whilst we were away was seamless.
They made it beyond easy - there were also special touches along the way, a real feeling that everything had been done for us, personally, and that we, and our needs were being thought of every second of every day.
It was never overwhelming and we felt like we were very much getting the Kenyan experience: we weren’t overloaded with luxury that we would've felt uncomfortable with, but we never wanted for anything. I can't thank everyone enough for all they've done to me and my new little wildlife warrior!'
Tell us about your first safari experience…
I was lucky because my parents both worked for British Airways, which meant that we travelled a lot as kids. I went on my first safari to Zimbabwe when I was about Logan’s age and it certainly set me on the path towards working with wildlife. It affected me so deeply: seeing the wild untamed landscape, the big skies, the blood red sunsets, and of course the animals.
How was it experiencing the bush again, but with your son at your side?
As with everything in parenthood, you see things afresh because you're looking at them through your children's eyes. Elements of watching wildlife that have come to be normal to me, were super special again. Whether that was watching a dung beetle trundling along with its football of poo, finding tracks in the dirt and trying to figure out what they meant, trying to identify the differing calls of the wild, the experience was 1 billion times sweeter because I was seeing it through his eyes.
And how did your son react to his first bush experience?
The response couldn’t have been better, but then we did have an incredible first safari! Within an hour of starting our first drive from Elewana Lodo Springs in the Loisaba Conservancy we found a hyena den with inquisitive young cubs, had an elephant walk past our vehicle, and then sat at the base of a tree, watching a leopard crunch on an impala. It had made the kill just seconds before we arrived and had dragged its catch up into the branches. Logan was transfixed. So was I!
Perhaps the most surprising thing for me was how he adapted to the bush, and to spotting wildlife. On our first game drive he could barely see big animals, even when they were right in front of us, and I was pointing directly at them! Within 24 hours, he learned how to properly use binoculars, and by the end of the trip he was spotting animals out of the horizon before I was. I hadn't realised that seeing was such a skill.
A standout moment of the trip?
One of the most impactful aspects of our visit was our guide, Brown (Samburu, Lemaiyan Lengalai) in Loisaba. When I first turned up and saw him wearing his local tribal gear, my heart sank a little, thinking that this was something done for the tourists.
But the longer we spent together the more it became clear that he genuinely treasured his heritage and wanted to share it with us. His knowledge and passion were incredible and he taught us so much. He brought the bush to life and he and Logan were inseparable by day – it was a beautiful friendship. He was so kind to my boy and taught him so much – he made the trip completely unforgettable.
All of our game drives in Loisaba had special moments but watching tiny lion cubs playing tug-of-war with their mums tail, and then, later on, the pride feasting at dusk on a newly down zebra.
At Elephant Pepper we had a close encounter with a cheetah as it wandered past our vehicle. On another occasion we had breakfast under a giant acacia by a river filled with a giant pod of bellowing hippo. As we sipped our coffees, an African fish eagle swept over our head and swooped down to try to snatch a fish from the river. Well I sipped on coffee, Logan had a hot chocolate – I’m not sure I’d want to see a five year old after a cafetière of espresso!
It’s very difficult to choose a wildlife highlight during our stay at House in the Wild – we were so lucky with all our sightings. One of the most memorable moments of the trip for me was an evening spent out on the savannah. The light that evening was otherworldly, and we could see a storm rampaging across the plains – it was stunning. During a bush walk we found a pile of old giraffe bones, and Logie and I picked through them, piecing the bits together like a huge jigsaw puzzle.
Highlights for your son?
Logan's highlights were more often the simple things. He loved the games and challenges we played, both out on game drives and back at camp. We’d offer points for a particular bird species or sighting, or play games involving animal facts. In terms of the wildlife, he was wowed by the elephants we saw from Elephant Pepper in the Mara North Conservancy, and getting up close to rhino at House in the Wild is something neither of us will ever forget.
Most memorable day?
On Logan’s birthday, we went out for an early morning game drive from Elewana Elephant Pepper Camp and stopped for breakfast by a river full of hippos. I kind of expected a thermos of coffee and a muffin, but we were treated to a banquet with everything you can imagine! It was exquisite. And on the night of his fifth birthday, we stayed at Elewana Loisaba Star Beds.
As night fell, our bed was wheeled out onto an elevated platform, with no barrier between us and the bush. Shooting stars sparkled above us as we were serenaded to sleep by the sounds of the burping hippos, roaring lions, and chattering spotted hyenas. It was the most magical night of my life.
Top tips for other families looking to safari with little ones in tow?
My top tip for anyone thinking of taking younger kids on safari, is that you know your kids better than anyone else. Whilst your child may be keen on wildlife, how are they at sitting still? How are they obeying instructions when the outcome is important? Game drives can mean long hours, sitting in a vehicle, potentially not seeing anything, and then, when you do, having to be quiet and still (not just as a matter of respect to the wildlife and other guests, but also from a safety perspective).
Some properties have minimum ages for children on safari for this reason, and if you’re taking young children I would definitely pay for a private vehicle (at House in the Wild a private vehicle comes as standard) which allows you to make decisions that work best for your family.
What are your thoughts on educating the next generation to protect and conserve our wild places?
I don't think it's ever too early to start the dialogue about conservation, but the trip really brought home some of the big issues facing our wildlife. Trying to explain to Logan that the armed men surrounding the majestic rhino feeding peacefully in front of us were vital to its protection was a difficult conversation. The incredulity in his eyes when I talked about poachers said it all.
Tell us about the conservancies you experienced...
I was really impressed with the way the conservancies are not just run in tandem with communities, but run by the communities and for the communities. All of our guides were local and knew the land and the wildlife intimately, and I think this is so important. They have a real pride in their areas, and are keen to showcase their land, whilst at the same time being fierce protectors of it. It's the perfect blueprint of land management.
Not just for the benefit of outsiders, but for those who own the land too – tourism should deliver value to local communities and conservation, whilst at the same time educating visitors so they leave with a greater understanding and a deeper connection. It’s important that the tourism dollar should benefit local communities.
House In the Wild
Places Steve & Logan Stayed
Loisaba Star Beds
The Loisaba Conservancy is a wildlife-filled private reserve in Kenya’s undulating Laikipia region, with views all the way to Mount Kenya and the Matthews Mountain Range. The Star Beds are part of an exciting joint venture project that Loisaba has undertaken in partnership with the Laikipiak people from the Koija community, who will be your hosts during this unforgettable night time experience.Read more on Loisaba Star Beds
Lodo Springs Camp
Loisaba Lodo Springs is the newest and most luxurious camp in the renowned Loisaba Conservancy. This camp is made for adventure and promises an exciting and varied safari experience in a gloriously game-rich area of Kenya.Read more on Lodo Springs Camp
Elephant Pepper Camp
Elephant Pepper Camp is a step back in time but with modern comforts: an original bush camp, eco-friendly, and committed to finding a way of life that does not harm the wilderness. The homely atmosphere of this camp is part of its charm. You can relax with nature, no generators, no vehicles passing, no permanent structures jarring the skyline - just the sights and sounds of the bush completely surrounding you.Read more on Elephant Pepper Camp
House In The Wild
House in the Wild is an intimate, family-owned luxury lodge that offers a truly private, high-quality safari experience and a genuine home away from home, simply perfect for families or smaller groups. You’ll be in the heart of the iconic Kenyan wilderness with your own dedicated guide and private vehicle, meaning you can enjoy your safari at your own pace. Children are warmly welcomed here and free to roam, enjoy and explore the natural environment.Read more on House in the Wild