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  1. #1
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    Default Botswana with kids

    Hi all

    New to this forum, and want to check on Bots for kids.

    We have 2 kids, 11 and 13, and are heading into Bots for a month or so. Would love to go via Kgalagadi, however have a concern over unfenced camps. Also, we'll be on our own, and 'm not the sharpest when it comes to sorting out a broken down vehicle!

    So would love some suggestions on on 1. if this is safe from kids point of view 2. if its ok to do on our own (i.e single vehicle) and 3. recommendations for places to go.

    Thanks so much!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewMi View Post
    Hi all

    New to this forum, and want to check on Bots for kids.

    We have 2 kids, 11 and 13, and are heading into Bots for a month or so. Would love to go via Kgalagadi, however have a concern over unfenced camps. Also, we'll be on our own, and 'm not the sharpest when it comes to sorting out a broken down vehicle!

    So would love some suggestions on on 1. if this is safe from kids point of view 2. if its ok to do on our own (i.e single vehicle) and 3. recommendations for places to go.

    Thanks so much!
    Not an expert but here is my opinion.

    Any wild camping or camping in unfenced areas is dangerous, so be vigilant. Don't leave food out. Eat and bath early before sunset. Stay close to vehicle and watch shadows. Basically think of yourself as a preditor and what would you do to grab a human meal or food left out. Hide citrus as elephants love it.

    Get your vehicle serviced and checked before trip. Carry a proper tyre repair kit, spare fan belts, water and fuel. Keep a few peoples phone numbers handy incase of emergency. Send message that you leaving point A and should arrive at point B in X amount of hrs, notify when you arrive. Depending on reception maybe hire a Sat phone. Check with insurance if they cover you for cross border recoveries and medical emergencies. Also check with your medical aid.

    Old 4x4 common knowledge, if it will take half a tank of fuel to get to point B, then fill up and carry 20ltrs extra. Low range uses a lot of fuel.

    Hopefully more members can correct me if wrong and or add in their suggestions.
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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Welcome to the forum.

    Your first concern would be to find space and make a booking for the Kgalagadi.

    You also don't mention what vehicle you drive and how experienced you are in sand driving, recovery, are you towing, etc.

    Without that info, nobody can give you really helpful advise.

    Yours kids are old enough to understand the possible risk of unfenced camps.
    Last edited by lekhubu943; 2021/04/17 at 05:27 PM.
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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Our first Bots trip was when the kids were 13 and 5. Friends who came along had kids of similar ages.

    We stayed in un-fenced camps in several reserves. Had several of the big 5 in the camps with us.

    You do need to keep your wits about you, and to have control over the kids, but I believe the risk is worth the reward.

    Travelling in a group with friends does make it a lot easier though. More eyes.
    Beat-up rat rod of a '96 Nissan Patrol that bears the evidence of many wonderful adventures (and a few stupid indiscretions).

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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    In the eighties and nineties we travelled extensively with little kids. Our longest trip was over two months, through nam, bots, zim, the kids where 7 and 5.

    5 days at mana pools was interesting, with the elephants and buffalo walking through the camp during the day and the hippos at night and the inquisitive hyenas also at night.

    At mana I walked to the toilets with my two kids holding hands, we made it a game to keep dead quiet sometimes - and a make pleasant noises other times to warn animals when where approaching. With the kids singing their favourite songs we stopped at the entrance to throw a pebble into the open door of the ablution - stop, wait and listen, I said ok, at that moment out ran a massive honey badger. Priceless moment as it came running out and stopped to sniff us a meter or two from us, at the entrance and then trotted off happily.

    Yes it could have been a nasty one, but with the right attitude and discipline, we never had an incident.

    The other time was also in mana pools when a herd of elephants walked past the lager, the kids and I where standing quietly watching from the tent, (seconds before I was on the chair talking to my dad.) the elephant walked past a meter or so past the silent kids, watching from the mosquito mesh window screen, a sniff from his truck just to let us know he knows we where there.
    we saw the elephants coming, I moved into the tent with the kids and I gave the kids the signal to be totally quiet, still and best behaviour.

    Keep your wits, keep wide awake, watch and know what's happening around you before they surprise each other-

    as said -
    "You do need to keep your wits about you, and to have control over the kids, but I believe the risk is worth the reward."


    Remember our kids where smaller. For each dangerous unfenced camp, we made a "lager". We used a dome tent, several (see through 40%) shade cloth "wind breakers" with broom sticks, the trailer and vehicle or two. this made a "safe" area - safer than outside the lager. The kids where only allowed out the lager with an adult.

    Running and playing was banned at certain camp sites. So we had strict rules and at each camp site, they where told the rules before and when we got there.


    Before each camp we would allow the kids to run wild at a safe location, local hotel or shop outside the camp and very strict discipline, in the dangerous camps.

    I do remember one "oh ####" "special moment" my kids call it, I had with my two kids at umfolozi. Where we parked in the picnic area by the rivers lookout picnic designated spot (no fence, just gum poles on the the ground, as markers). We parked in the picnic area, and walked o look down into the river, staying in the designated "safe" area. My son (six), pointed out the footprints in the mud, we followed the foot prints to the edge of the empty picnic spot, we decided lion {the photos confirmed lion}. They where so fresh, that we took a few photos of the prints. We watching the fresh footprints in the mud filling up with water, when it dawned upon me they were so fresh, that we must have been a few meters or two behind the walking cat, as the water was still running into the muddy prints, which were slowly filling up as we watched. A quick danger hand signal and we walked backwards slowly to the 4x4 and did not tell the mom except, we will have the beer and snacks at the next stop.

    Don't wait until the kids get too old. Otherwise you and your kids are losing out. Don't let people tell you it's too dangerous to take kids to wild dangerous camping spots, there are far more dangerous predators at the local mall...… than in the bush.

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  8. #6
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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    I have taken people with a 9 year old child from the UK. The child had no awareness of any possible dangers and spent almost all day on an ipad. We tried to get his attention when a hyena came into the camp and there was just no response. Not sure if this is unusual but we had to take a lot of extra precautions. Personally I will not take kids again.

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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Quote Originally Posted by Hylton View Post
    I have taken people with a 9 year old child from the UK. The child had no awareness of any possible dangers and spent almost all day on an ipad. We tried to get his attention when a hyena came into the camp and there was just no response. Not sure if this is unusual but we had to take a lot of extra precautions. Personally I will not take kids again.
    Well, growing up in the UK and being allowed to spend your life on an iPad ain't gonna help with awareness or appreciation of nature.

    I'd like to think most forum member's kids would be better?
    Andrew

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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Hi all

    Thank you so much for your comments, I really appreciate it. In terms of vehicle I drive, its a landrover defender 2008 puma. I am not experienced at all! But hopefully will be by the end of the trip!

    Also, as you say it seems accommodation is a challenge, not just in Kalagadi, but in Bots too, so if anyone has ideas on that it would be great!

    Thank you and happy adventures!
    Andrew

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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Quote Originally Posted by Hylton View Post
    I have taken people with a 9 year old child from the UK. The child had no awareness of any possible dangers and spent almost all day on an ipad. We tried to get his attention when a hyena came into the camp and there was just no response. Not sure if this is unusual but we had to take a lot of extra precautions. Personally I will not take kids again.

    Parenting failure. Id of driven over the iPad.

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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewMi View Post
    Hi all

    Thank you so much for your comments, I really appreciate it. In terms of vehicle I drive, its a landrover defender 2008 puma. I am not experienced at all! But hopefully will be by the end of the trip!

    Also, as you say it seems accommodation is a challenge, not just in Kalagadi, but in Bots too, so if anyone has ideas on that it would be great!

    Thank you and happy adventures!
    Andrew

    Seeing as you live in the Cape, I would suggest finding a few dunes to play on before you go. I wouldn't go out in the middle of the bush without first knowing how my vehicles 4x4 system works. At the dunes you can play around with friends, practice a few things like getting your vehicle unstuck etc. Are you going to be towing a trailer or are you packing everything into and on top of the Defender? If you're taking a trailer with you then see if you can take it to the dunes. If you're just packing the Defender to the hilt then consider loading the roof rack up for your dune escapade as well. With a fully loaded roof rack your COG will be affected.

    BTW I'm not saying go up and down the dunes pulling a trailer
    but the roads around there should have thick sand that you can practice in.
    Regards,

    William

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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewMi View Post
    Hi all

    Thank you so much for your comments, I really appreciate it. In terms of vehicle I drive, its a landrover defender 2008 puma. I am not experienced at all! But hopefully will be by the end of the trip!

    Also, as you say it seems accommodation is a challenge, not just in Kalagadi, but in Bots too, so if anyone has ideas on that it would be great!

    Thank you and happy adventures!
    Andrew

    If you have not, look at the trip reports in the Bots section. There are lots of write ups there on the different places.

    for booking we always use an agency - there are several - weve always used Botswana Footprints and are happy with them. For the fee, which is really small, its a no-brainer to me. They can book both private and government run sites and will put everything together for you.

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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew5336 View Post
    Well, growing up in the UK and being allowed to spend your life on an iPad ain't gonna help with awareness or appreciation of nature.

    I'd like to think most forum member's kids would be better?
    I hope so to.

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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Plenty good advise on here.

    My parents started taking us to wild spots such as Botswana/Zim when we were very young. On my first Matusadona trip I was 7 and my brother was 5 (sister joined her first trip when she was 4).

    My parents always had strict rules about how to behave in the wild. We knew that approaching darkness everyone lowered their voices and vigilance became the nr 1 priority (we've had plenty of incredible encounters in camp such as lions fighting, lions attacking a hyena, leopards chasing sleeping baboons, elephants/buffalos in camp to name a few).

    No running about in wild camps, no loud noises and screaming ever, always be accompanied by an adult when leaving the camp to the ablutions for example, or just wanting to go to the hide, always get an adult to shine and scan for dangerous game if we needed a pee pee at night (normally done right next to the tent and in view of the adult). There are plenty others but you will get the feel for it and generally an initial abundance of caution cannot go amiss.

    At first, we were always showered and in bed as darkness fell. We could then lie in the car or rooftop (depending on where we were sleeping) and watch the fire and scan for wildlife from there. We would only come down for some dinner and to brush teeth (as we got older and more bush wise this changed).

    Learning to tune into the bush, listen for sounds, check prints in the camp, making sure you don't pitch your tent in a hippo path, don't lock the vehicle (its an escape path), these are the important things. Often people new to the bush light up their camp like chokka boat. I find this leaves a blind area beyond the edge of the light. I prefer to let the natural night vision take over and rather have one small light over the kitchen and then I just use headlamps around the fire (this also keeps insects to a minimum). We also have a larger handheld torch nearby to scan should we hear any crackling in the bushes for example. You will be blown away by how much more you see and hear when the noise in camp is kept to a medium volume (have the same fun, but just keep it down).

    Story time: A few years back I took some older friends to the Kgalagadi for the first time (their first wild camping). I warned them not to stray away from camp despite how serene it may seem (I saw the fresh Lion prints in camp). I was lost setting up my tent and before I knew it they had strayed away up a blind dune. I did not want to shout, so after some furious arm waving I explained that what they were doing, given their inexperience, was extremely dangerous and unsafe to them, but also us because should something happen it puts everyone at elevated risk. About 30 min later we discovered that there were indeed two of the Khalahari's famed male lions lying under a bush about 50m to the left of where they had walked and only 120m odd from our camp. Had it not been midday, and if the lionesses were there, that may have turned out differently. I had warned earlier that the continued presence of a rather alert and impatient jackal, indicated that something larger may be close. After that they were quite shook, and when those big boys started roaring as darkness fell they truly grasped what it meant to be out there (they were also in ground tents ). It was wonderful to watch them progress and tune into the bush over the ensuing days. They learned to pick up on the sounds, tracks and just general bush etiquette.

    Enjoy your trip, and enjoying watching your kids grow in the African bush. The Kgalagadi is a magnificent place.

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  20. #14
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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewMi View Post
    ...Also, as you say it seems accommodation is a challenge, not just in Kalagadi, but in Bots too, so if anyone has ideas on that it would be great!
    Challenge as in you cannot get hold of establishments or you don't know where to stay or the places you try are fully booked?
    Christa
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    Default Re: Botswana with kids


    "Often people new to the bush light up their camp like chokka boat. I find this leaves a blind area beyond the edge of the light. I prefer to let the natural night vision take over and rather have one small light over the kitchen and then I just use headlamps around the fire (this also keeps insects to a minimum). We also have a larger handheld torch nearby to scan should we hear any crackling in the bushes for example. You will be blown away by how much more you see and hear when the noise in camp is kept to a medium volume (have the same fun, but just keep it down)."

    So, so true. after cooking/braaing at night the bright gas lights were always turned off. (that's when you realize how loud they are). And the 3 small paraffin (with insect repellent) lights were lit, dim yellow light, but bright enough to see in the camp and beyond, maintaining the night vision. One always was left lit during the night, giving just enough light to see in the dark Africa nights.
    Last edited by K-9; 2021/04/20 at 09:50 AM.
    Current off-road vehicles: *** Great family accommodation. See Facebook, Google maps and airbnb. Mkulu Kei at Wild Wind Ranch
    * 1975/8 SHREK LAND-CRUISER FJ40 DIESEL P/U, BFG 31x10.5 muds. 1.6 ton tirfor winchs
    * 1994 LAND-CRUISER J70 DIESEL P/U, my truck recovery vehicle. 15000 warn winch. And 3.5ton tirfor winch. Back full of appropriate sized recovery gear. BFG31x10.5 muds
    * 2014 LAND-CRUISER LX V8 76 DIESEL STATION WAGON, BFG's 285 all terrain.

    * 2011 HILUX 4X4 P/U, BFG 31x10.5 all terrain
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    * 2006 FORD ranger 2.5 diesel. 4x4, (what was I thinking, also not a Toyota!) I have a spare 5000 warn winch I might fit.
    * 2011 ISUZU bakkie 4x4
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    * FIONA - Rhino Yamaha 660 4x4. Warn winch. Mud tyres
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    * GSA 1200 BMW ADVENTURE LC 2018, the closest motorbike to a land cruiser. And a Honda 200
    * A Massey Fergusson 375 tractor. And a John Deere E140 2020 tractor




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  23. #16
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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    A Botswana trip can be as easy or as hard as you like. There are plenty places that will introduce kids to nature without to much risk. YES at all times you have to be vigilant, but you have to be vigilant with kids at shopping malls too.

    Khama Rhino sanctuary, Planet Baobab and similar places come to mind. In places like Kasane there are safe campsites and so many structured experiences like river cruises and game drives and even cage diving with crocodiles that there is no need to really expose kids to any risk until such time as you feel both you and the kids are experienced enough to handle it.

    Interaction with nature is an education in itself, most kids like education, if you can fit this into your planning and make it a part of your trip then the kids won't get bored and look for mischief. Survival skills are fun to teach. How to make re hydration fluid from salt , sugar and water. How to make a fire. Routines for getting to safety if needed, like fire drills at work.

    All of these things can add to your trip and experience.
    Stranger

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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    I second the statement that there are many experienced hands giving excellent advice here on children in unguarded, potentially dangerous wildlife environments.

    Andrew, at 11 and 13 years your kids are at the cynical stage where not everything Dad says need be taken seriously. To give them an example of how dangerous lions are, take them to the nearest zoo and see if you can demonstrate to them how instantly sleepy zoo lions switch to hunting mode when a kid screams or speaks in shrill tones, or in particular runs past the front of the lion enclosure. This should immediately impress them.

    It also needs to be impressed on the kids that danger in the bush arrives in seconds; the animals have you in their sights ages before you are aware of their presence. They also often arrive in absolute silence, even elephants. Alertness and relative silence in camp are both important as well as a clear line of sight around the campsite, so no nasty surprises sneak up on you and cause panic.

    I also agree that bright lights in camp at night only serve to blind you.

    With a decent amount of discipline and a sense of adventure, there is no reason children old enough to understand reason (and their parents), should not revel in a wild camping holiday.
    Stanley Weakley.
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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Well, Andrew you have a few points working against you.
    You need to work the list and see how best you overcome the challenges.

    Here the order of priority in my view:

    -1 lack of experience when travelling in the bush (driving off tar or good gravel roads, recovery, etc)

    -2 lack of knowledge how to bush repair a vehicle (bush repair to limp to nearest service station in case of break down)

    -3 lack of experience in behaviour in unfenced parks and around wildlife

    -4 young kids in teen age who "know better than parents" when warned of dangers

    -5 drive a land rover which is one of the most broken down vehicles found off the tracks (you might not even reach Botswana so to speak )

    -6 you don't mention your background in navigational skills with maps and GPS, so this remains an unknown.

    In this, any amount of preparation can reduce the risk of mis-adventure but it does not provide bush craft and skills.

    I would recommend to book a guide for your first trip into the wild, someone of whom you can learn the basics and behaviour. The kids are also more likely to respect the inputs from an experienced ranger than from dad or mom when they know you are new to the game.

    Yes it would cost some extra, but you would be guaranteed a positive experience and have back-up in case of need. He/she could also assist in bookings if based in Botswana.
    Check out with Pat-n-Wolf member here on this forum:
    https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...978-PAT-n-WOLF



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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Quote Originally Posted by Kalahari Safari View Post
    Well, Andrew you have a few points working against you.

    -5 drive a land rover which is one of the most broken down vehicles found off the tracks (you might not even reach Botswana so to speak )
    ...


    And remember; Landrover making mechanics out of customers since 1949 - the infamous advert prank
    Yussie, is there anyway to make enemies faster than this? LOL
    Regards,

    William

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    Quote Originally Posted by Murray Walker
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    Default Re: Botswana with kids

    Quote Originally Posted by willben View Post
    Yussie, is there anyway to make enemies faster than this? LOL
    Sure there is - state facts


    This is not the LR forum, but General and Botswana

    If in doubt, ask Henris, he is the recovery guy or REAM they come and fetch the Tuff Stuff client's LR's out of the Kgalagadi
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