Sub-Saharan Africa offers wilderness experiences that are completely different to anything off the continent and the family safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Tessa Reed chats to the local industry about how to sell this destination to families, starting with the bucket-list safari experience and building from there.

Sean Kritzinger, Executive Chairman of Giltedge Africa, says safaris are always the focus for the operator when packaging sub-Saharan Africa to overseas tourists. The selling points are Africa's wild animals, unique accommodation (like villas with private pools, treehouses with ‘epic’ views or safari lodges). For families, Lauren Ritchie of Rare Earth Retreats, also suggests walking safaris for a unique experience.

Nik Lloyd-Roberts, spokesperson for Federal Air, says South Africa’s safari offering is incredibly family-friendly, thanks to a number of lodges being child-friendly and offering special activities for kids and interactive safaris to teach kids about nature. Many of the lodges also have child minders. “The safari experience is unique to Africa and gives families memories that will last for the rest of their lives,” he says.

Ashtons Tours Safaris & Shuttles Owner, Andrew Iles, also points out that many lodges offer family-friendly accommodations catering for different budgets. He adds that the Kruger National Park is particularly geared towards families looking to self-drive.

Many of South Africa’s top lodges are serviced by Federal Air and Nik says the airline is seeing the size of travelling family groups increasing, while multigenerational visitor numbers are also increasing.

So much more than safari

Kritzinger says that when packaging for families, all the sub-Saharan countries offer a range of amazing experiences, including surfing, mountain biking, private picnics on the beach or mountains, coffee or wine tasting, private dinners cooked by a local chef, to name just a few. “Sub-Saharan Africa offers something that can’t be bought off the shelf,” he says.

For bonding experiences, Ritchie suggests anything that takes travellers out of their normal comfort zone, includes the whole family and requires team work, such as white-water rafting. Activities that include the whole family, as well as learning a new skill get the best responses, she says. Along these lines, she suggests interactive cooking courses.

Cape Town, which is frequently packaged with a safari experience, also offers a myriad of fun activities for kids. “Taking in the awe-inspiring view from the top of Table Mountain is a must-do for any visitor to Cape Town,” says Mahlatini co-founder, Chris Goldring. “Our kids really enjoyed the freedom to explore along the trails at the summit but claim the cable car trip to get there is their highlight!”

The V&A district had so much to keep the kids entertained from the Big Wheel, the buskers, the rhino art installation and of course the brilliant Two Oceans Aquarium,” Goldring adds.

So many selling points

In addition to offering a once-in-a-lifetime safari experience, pitching the destination to overseas tourists is made easy thanks to a competitive, unique and high quality offering.

Family travel to sub-Saharan Africa is easy and affordable for most inbound visitors, due to currency fluctuations, says Peter Dros, Fancourt Sales and Marketing Director. “The accommodation, as well as group activities easily cater for families of all sizes and age ranges. Add to that the amazing climate in this country and parents are guaranteed that their children will not be bored or suffer from cabin fever – there is so much to do outdoors!”

“We emphasise that tourists can always expect high-quality customer service, excellent private guides and of course, fantastic experiences,” Kritzinger adds.

Clarity on birth certificates ‘imminent’

The confusion around unabridged birth certificates will soon be rectified, South African Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom, announced at the end of February.

Speaking at an industry summit on February 28, he said a new advisory would be sent out “soon” by South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs.

Hanekom allowed that amendments to the UBC regulations late last year were badly communicated by the Department of Home Affairs, and airlines have been confused, as the advisory issued by the DHA contradicted the revised regulation.