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Thought you could not take children on safari? Inside an incredible child-orientated South African camp

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Children love animals. They find out about them from picture books long before they will walk and talk, and invariably there’s some recent lovable creature on TV obligingly ready to fireplace up the imagination.

My eldest, Rafael, 13, has an unusual ability to catch crickets; Zevi, 11, my other son, is enthralled by the late wildlife expert, Steve Irwin, and my daughter Zea, eight, desires to swim with dolphins. But at what age is it sensible to take little ones on safari? The reply may rely upon when you have got enough money — as safaris usually are not low cost.

Arriving at Thanda game reserve in South Africa, my lot’s faces were immediately glued to the windows as we chanced upon a family of warthogs waddling past. ‘Pumbaa,’ the kids shouted in unison, referencing The Lion King.

Samantha Simmonds and her family went on an ‘incredible safari adventure’ at Thanda game reserve in South Africa. Above are elephants on the reserve 

Off for our first drive within the 4×4, Zevi asked: ‘Where are the guns? What will we do if we’re attacked by a lion?’ Our guide Vincent explained there was no need for weapons because the Jeep could outrun any animal.

Ten minutes in, our tracker, Mbekhi, spotted two lions. We were told to be quiet, stay seated and never make any sudden movements, then pulled up inside two metres from the magnificent beasts.

Zea grabbed my arm in panic. ‘It’s okay,’ I said, as my very own stomach did somersaults. All of us checked out each other in anxious wonderment. I’d never before experienced an adrenaline rush just like the one I had when up close to those fearsome creatures.

Above are the villas at Thanda Safari Lodge, each with its own indoor and outdoor shower, private plunge pool and day bed

Above are the villas at Thanda Safari Lodge, each with its own indoor and outdoor shower, private plunge pool and day bed

From Thanda Safari Lodge, guests can look down on the lush green canopy where the animals roam freely

From Thanda Safari Lodge, guests can look down on the luxurious green cover where the animals roam freely 

A lounge area in the family-oriented Thanda Safari Lodge. 'Conservation work is intrinsic to Thanda, and seeing the rhino patrol in action gave the children a first-hand look at the importance of protecting these imposing animals,' says Samantha

A lounge area within the family-oriented Thanda Safari Lodge. ‘Conservation work is intrinsic to Thanda, and seeing the rhino patrol in motion gave the kids a first-hand have a look at the importance of protecting these imposing animals,’ says Samantha

The Bush Villa bedroom at Thanda Safari Lodge

The Bush Villa bedroom at Thanda Safari Lodge

Zevi whispered: ‘Are you sure concerning the guns?’ However the lions didn’t even acknowledge our presence. 

They carried on grooming and preening themselves while we took lion selfies. 

And by the top of our first drive we had spotted not only lions but zebra, giraffes, impala, nyala, kudu and, incredibly, a black rhino.

This was even before we were shown to our villas, each with its own indoor and outdoor shower, private plunge pool and day bed overlooking the luxurious green cover where the animals roamed freely around us. 

Impala nibbled on the acacia trees as we splashed within the plunge pool.

Next morning at 5am, I heard a shriek. ‘Mummy, is that a scorpion?’ screeched Zea. I froze and gazed towards where she was pointing. 

‘Ah, yes it’s.’ one another, because the scorpion scuttled under the bed, we each tried to not scream after which braved it and finished getting dressed. 

Over the following three days we saw elephants, black and white rhinos, cheetahs and buffalo so incredibly close up we could hear them breathe. 

During their time at Thanda game reserve, Samantha and her family 'saw elephants, black and white rhinos, cheetahs and buffalo so incredibly close up we could hear them breathe'

During their time at Thanda game reserve, Samantha and her family ‘saw elephants, black and white rhinos, cheetahs and buffalo so incredibly close up we could hear them breathe’ 

Really wild show: Samantha and Zea’s lion selfie at Thanda game reserve

Really wild show: Samantha and Zea’s lion selfie at Thanda game reserve

But among the smaller animals and insects were just as awesome. We watched a frog create a white foam nest and a large wasp paralyse a wolf spider and drag it away, legs removed, to be eaten alive.

Conservation work is intrinsic to Thanda, and seeing the rhino patrol in motion gave the kids a first-hand have a look at the importance of protecting these imposing animals, and lots of photos and knowledge to return to highschool with.

I actually have never seen my children so enthusiastic. They bounded off the bed at 5am and sat calmly within the Jeep throughout every three-hour drive (one in every of them within the pouring rain), engaged and animated.

As our incredible safari adventure got here to an end, all three of them begged for us to return back again. ‘Yes, we will,’ I said, ‘but next time you’re paying.’

In Cape Town, Samantha and her family stayed at the Radisson Blu Waterfront (above) in a 'fabulous' family room on the water, from which they could see dolphins playing in the surf

In Cape Town, Samantha and her family stayed on the Radisson Blu Waterfront (above) in a ‘fabulous’ family room on the water, from which they may see dolphins playing within the surf

A highlight of the family's trip to Cape Town was rock jumping and swimming with the penguins of Simon’s Town (pictured)

A highlight of the family’s trip to Cape Town was rock jumping and swimming with the penguins of Simon’s Town (pictured)

At the spectacular Cape Point nature reserve (pictured), Samantha and her family witnessed a military of baboons raiding tourists’ cars 

While Samantha's sons were keen to try shark cage diving, she put her foot down. Instead, they opted for a boat ride to the seal colony at Hout Bay (pictured)

While Samantha’s sons were keen to try shark cage diving, she put her foot down. As a substitute, they opted for a ship ride to the seal colony at Hout Bay (pictured)

Above is a herd of seals at the Hout Bay seal colony

Above is a herd of seals on the Hout Bay seal colony

Our holiday didn’t end there, as we headed to Cape Town, staying on the Radisson Blu Waterfront in a superb family room on the water. Watching dolphins play within the surf from our balcony, Zea yelled: ‘Mummy, that is the very best trip ever.’

While the boys were keen to try shark cage diving, I put my foot down. We opted for a ship ride to the Hout Bay seal colony, after which rock jumping and swimming with the penguins of Simon’s Town. Finally, it was on to the spectacular Cape Point nature reserve. We got up near a whale carcass and wild ostrich, and laughed as a military of baboons raided tourists’ cars.

Sharing this trip as a family was beyond anything we had imagined. The kids were the proper ages and we got here back with memories to share for ever.

TRAVEL FACTS 

A 3-night safari at Thanda Safari (thandasafari.co.za) for a family of 5 (children aged three to 16) from £4,250, full board, staying in two of Thanda Safari Lodge’s suites with twice-daily guided game drives. Doubles on the Radisson Blu Waterfront (radisson.com) from £137. Cape Point Tour (toursbylocals.com) from £280 for 3.

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