Long before we looked to go to Africa for safari, I had my eyes on a little known place in Northern California called Safari West. The Sonoma Serengeti as some call it, is unlike any wildlife preserve you will have visited before. Experiencing Africa-esque glamping style tent cabins and wild animals dotting the rolling hills of wine country is pretty extraordinary, especially so close to home.
But I know you are wondering, how can there be wild African animals just outside of San Francisco? Does it feel authentic? Is it really worth it or is it just a glamorized zoo? My thoughts exactly. Read on to find out more and hear all about our experience.
In February, we headed off to one of the few continents I had yet to visit, Africa. I am an ardent animal lover who has passed that love on to my 5 yr old son, thus a safari excursion was the perfect birthday present for me and the entire family. If you read our planning a trip to South Africa post, you will know that it was not easy to find a hotel that would allow our young son to fully participate in the safari experience. Luckily, our diligent research paid off and we found MalaMala Game Reserve in Sabi Sands, on the outskirts of Kruger National Park.
Sabi Sands is known as one of the finest Big 5 areas in all of Africa. There are no fenced borders between the reserves and Kruger National Park, so the animals move freely, making their way to the two year round rivers in the area. Due to the near constant water supply, it is almost guaranteed that you will see the Big 5 during a visit, and often even during a single day.
Our trip was all that we had imagined and even more. Exactly what I had wanted for my monumental birthday. Being in the bushveld as a visitor to the animal kingdom was awe-inspiring. It’s taken me months to digest it and try to put it into words. It put in perspective how insignificant we are in the scheme of life on earth but also how detrimental our short existence has been to those who were here before us.
After flying on 3 flights and for more than 30 hours, we finally landed at the small MalaMala airstrip. I loved flying low over the bush spotting animals far down below. But that excitement was nothing compared to seeing our first animals up close and personal. Get ready to fall in love with one of the most majestic places on earth. I really hope it wasn’t a once in a lifetime experience because I am dying to return!
This year is my 40th/10th (leap day baby) birthday. I decided I wanted something epic. For years the plan had been to go to Tibet to chill with the monks, but with the addition of a child on the scene, I realized that the chill in February might be a bit too much. Instead, our sights turned to Africa, one of only 2 continents I have yet to step foot on. And so the planning began!
I’m not one to shy away from destinations because they are ‘difficult’ or ‘dangerous’, but we definitely have felt the odds stacked against us more than once in planning this trip with a child. Here is some of what you need to know when planning a trip to South Africa with a child.