The family summer holiday is a treasured institution which has been an integral part of family life for many decades, but this tradition normally ended once the children grew up went to university or found themselves a job and in effect left home. In recent years, however, there has been the development of a new type of family member - the ‘adult-child’. These are children who although they are adults, still live at home and are pretty dependent upon their parents. Being one of these adult-children myself, I felt that I should be included in the family holiday because I haven’t left yet! This is where the problems began to arise, because a pool and a buffet would no longer suffice. I wanted an adventure, excitement and fun but I also had to find something for our parents to do. That’s why our Africa holiday was just perfect!
In my family, we have myself at the age of twenty, my sister who is seventeen and then my parents (whose ages I will not reveal in case they read this!). My sister and myself have always enjoyed going on family holidays but when we had to spend the third year in a row on a European holiday where we spent most of our time looking at monasteries, we decided that it was time and opportunity to broaden our horizons and visit somewhere new and exciting. Africa, in particular Zambia and Botswana, was my mum’s suggestion. When she announced to my sister and myself that we were only allowed 20 kilograms of luggage including hand luggage our jaws dropped and suddenly, we were faced with a dilemma of having to put six of our seven pairs of shoes back! Despite the fact that we didn’t have three outfit choices per evening, seven pairs of shoes or hair straightners, this was probably the best holiday we have ever been on.
Looking back now, I can’t believe that we didn’t go sooner! Africa was the perfect location for us and the hotel that we stayed at had everything to suit the two different age groups. My sister and I could go and bungee jump 111 metres over the Victoria Falls whilst our parents sat on the Royal Livingston Hotel’s sundeck and watched the sunset over the Zambezi River.
Our trip began in Zambia, though our time here was quite limited. We managed to visit Victoria Falls and Livingstone Island and both of these experiences were amazing. Though we had seen photographs of Victoria Falls, nothing can prepare you for the sheer magnitude of it in real life, and when our guide on the Livingstone Island Tour suggested that he would hold our ankles and hang us over the edge, I could see my mum’s face drain of all colour. My sister and I did it anyway and only then did I truly understand why the this waterfall is classed as one of The Wonders of the World – with water rushing everywhere and the bottom of the waterfall further than the eye can see.
Botswana was our next stop and this is really what we had come for – the amazing opportunity to watch wild animals in their natural habitat, something which is so rare nowadays. Botswana has fantastic conservation programmes and they have kept the animals truly wild, by limiting the number of tourists allowed into the country. None of the guides carried guns as they believe that you are in the animals ‘backyard’. I thought that this was all very nice until day three when our truck was being circled by a lion! A spectacular sight.
Now you would be forgiven for thinking that getting the chance to see animals like this would mean ‘roughing it’ a little, but as I am sure you have gathered from mine and my sister’s shoe collections we are not the type of family who would be caught camping. But to our great relief in Botswana, this was not an issue – the two ‘camps’ we stayed at, The Savute Elephant Camp and the Eagle Island Camp were more luxurious than the majority of hotels we have stayed at, set on a platform above the ground, these wooden structures had canvas’ pulled over them, so you felt like you were at one with nature but with flushing toilets, full working showers (both indoor and outdoor), twin sinks and a comfortable beds – this was hardly a tent! We had the best of both world’s and all the fun of hearing elephant and hippos walk past, around and sometimes into our ‘tent’ – but with the comfort of knowing (particularly in the case of the elephant) that the tent would withstand these late night wanderings.
Botswana’s wild animals and the beautifully untouched landscape not only took our breath away, but also somehow solved an age old problem, that we, as I am sure many other families experience, the dreaded ‘seven–day itch’. This is the point in the holiday when you have tried everything at the buffet, read every book you have brought with you and laid in the sun to the point where you’re skin is starting to resemble the colour of Marmite, so you end up fighting between yourselves and you have at least one evening where no one is speaking to each other. The beauty and magic of Africa managed to remove this key holiday feature, probably because we were all too busy comparing photos, tracking lions and trying to avoid elephants on the way to our room.
Not only did we not argue, but our African adventure brought us all closer together. I would describe us as a very close family, but with my sister at boarding school, my parents spending two weeks out of the month away on business and me at university nearly three hours away from home, it is rare that we all spend time under the same roof. Spending time as a family is obviously the main point of a family holiday, but in fact, on most of the holidays that we’ve been too, we are never too far from listening to our iPods, watching TV or connecting to the closest Wi-Fi to check our Facebook! However, in Africa, we were staying in lodges which were completely isolated from the outside world. Ee didn’t have any of the usual distractions, but instead, we spoke to each other, laughed together and sat round the camp fire listening to stories from the camp guides and the other guests.
Africa is an amazing continent with dramatic scenery, diverse wildlife and a rich culture, but more than anything Africa seems to have a kind of magic to it. Not only did we become closer as a family, but we began to appreciate the small things in life, things that we so often overlook when we’re rushing around trying to do a million things at once. Africa brought a sense of calm over us and let us completely relax, unwind and just take a break. Unluckily for my parents, I think that they thought that soon they may be allowed to stop taking me on holiday but after that trip they are going to have a hard job getting rid of me! I’d recommend adding a Botswana safari and Zambia holiday to any family holiday hit-list!