All across the world, people have experienced fundamental changes in their lives due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We have been plunged into a new ‘normal’ that, for most of us, is very different from what we were used to. These shifts in our lifestyles have made us realize how much we may have taken things for granted, including the freedom to travel into wild places freely and safely.
Chances are that by now you and the family have already adapted and settled into your new daily routines. The many platforms from which to travel virtually allow us to imagine we are somewhere other than our living rooms, at least for a while. But the entertainment of armchair safaris can only last so long and no number of wildlife documentaries can prepare you for the exhilarating experience of being in the African bush.
So, once this pandemic abates – because, yes, this too shall pass in time – and the lifting of travel bans makes regional and international holidays with your family safe again, there is good reason to head to the wilderness to revel in the wide open spaces and a refreshed perspective. In fact, we have found at least five reasons to take a family safari in Africa once COVID-19 is over.
Connect deeply with nature
Considering what we know about the consequences of trading and selling wildlife for human consumption – highlighted once again by a coronavirus outbreak – the emphasis on truly valuing and respecting nature is important now more than ever. Cultivating a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural environment and the myriad wildlife that rely on it has always been one of the effortless outcomes of a safari, for both adults and children.
An immersive experience in nature can reignite imagination and creativity, giving you a fresh pair of eyes with which to take in a new place. Discovering the unexpected wonders of the bush helps to cultivate an inquisitive mind for adults as well as children, who are often already naturally interested and curious. Going on safari offers you and the family a special chance to really reawaken your senses by connecting with nature, yourselves and each other.
Make a positive difference
One of the sectors across the world most hard hit by the pandemic is travel and tourism. Tragically, millions of people have lost their jobs almost overnight and there has been a huge decrease in funding for wildlife conservation and community empowerment work. This is because a large part of the resources come from guest visits to the national parks and game reserves as well as the safari camps and lodges.
The vAcuum of funds resulting from local and international travel bans – all completely understandable and necessary – means fewer rangers on the ground to patrol parks and reserves, leaving Africa’s endangered species highly vulnerable to poaching and theft for the illegal wildlife trade. Communities are left without the support that helps them manage both economically and socially, which if relating to healthcare, is a major concern during this time. So choosing to take your family on a safari after COVID-19, means contributing to these projects that are critical to the survival of the continent’s animal and human communities.
See the bigger picture
Whether it is learning about a different culture to yours and beginning to see the world through the eyes of others, or observing wild animals in their natural habitat where they should be, these are experiences that remind you that there is more to life than your everyday routine. They wake you up by offering a perspective that is possibly different and broader to that which you are used to.
Without being able to escape even into our own area’s countryside currently, we have realized how much we miss and need nature in our lives. The stories of animals taking their own journeys into the now quiet towns and cities reminds us who our other ‘neighbours’ are. Being in the remote wilderness on an African safari is an excellent way to expose your kids to the inter-connectedness of nature, wildlife and humans, whilst also enjoying some downtime together as a family.
During a time when we have been socially distanced from each other, we have still connected with our loved ones in other ways. As the world navigates this difficult experience collectively, we have all firmly become citizens of the global community. The acts of joyful creativity and deep compassion that have been shared in various ways across the world have shown us how powerful shared experiences can be in building resilience and support for each other.
If you have never visited an African country or been on a safari in the wilderness, doing so might be asking you and your family to step out of your comfort zone. Taking the leap and doing so, however, is so worth it as it will help build your and perhaps more importantly your children’s courage, resilience and ability to adapt to challenging circumstances. Something that they and you are already familiar with having gone through this current life-altering experience.
Celebrate life fully
Going on a safari as a family is a transformative experience. Spending time in a famed destination like the Maasai Mara in Kenya teaches you about celebrating life and living it to the full. After months of various limitations that have affected many aspects of our lives, the days spent tracking big cats on game drives, floating over wildebeest-covered plains in a hot air balloon, and being led through the bush on foot by red-robed Maasai warriors, will be nothing short of epic.
The wilderness becomes a huge outdoor classroom with the bush guides being some of the most inspiring and insightful teachers you and your children will ever have. Whether out on an adventure in the safari vehicle or learning on foot about the language of the bush from those that know it best, the entire family will be kept enthralled and engaged throughout a safari. It is also a time where the family can find beauty, tranquility and joy in nature together.
Bust myths of Africa
Unfortunately, when it comes to Africa, misconceptions and generalizations have long been perpetuated to the public through media and popular culture. These stereotypical representations are not only unfair but lack factual evidence. It is worth visiting a country or region of this continent to really understand just how incredibly multi-faceted it is.
Geographically, the landscapes within countries and across regions are so diverse and are reflective of the habitats and inhabitants of the ecosystems that fill them. There are dozens of independent nations, each one with a completely different history, culture, cuisine and identity. The cultural nuances, international influences and immense environmental diversity is best experienced up-close.
If journeying into the Africa bush piques your family’s interest, particularly during this time of being cooped up indoors for the most part of each day, then consider a safari for your post-COVID-19 holiday together.
Calvin Cottar is Director and Owner at Cottar’s 1920s Safaris. Cottar’s 1920s Safaris is an award-winning luxury 1920s safari camp and private bush villa located in the famous ‘seventh’ natural wonder of the world, the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and owned and managed by the oldest established and continuing safari family in Africa.