Category: Africa-general

overlanding Africa with kids

Africa packing list: the ultimate packing list for overlanding Africa

Wondering what to pack for travelling Africa overland? In 2018, we spent 101 days traversing the sub-Saharan continent in a Land Rover Defender, with our two young boys (aged 2 and 4). Although we were self-driving, we didn’t want the Land Rover to be stuffed full with anything and everything. This was our home for a few months and we wanted to ensure we weren’t playing Jenga every time we needed fresh undies or a tin of beans. Plus, a large fridge running off a second battery took up a considerable space in the boot. We aimed to pack light and were very strict on what we took with us.

For all your questions answered about our overland travels through sub-Saharan Africa in a Land Rover, check out our post…

 

Safari with kids

I’ve compiled this comprehensive Africa packing list for an any families planning to do a similar trip to us, or are perhaps curious as to what we took with us. Some of the gear listed below could possibly be purchased along the way. GAME supermarket, found in a few large towns across Southern Africa (Lusaka in Zambia, Blantyre in Malawi, Maputo in Mozambique for instance), stocks basic camping equipment. It’s definitely easier to have everything sorted before you hit the road, but knowing there are occasional shops en-route provides peace of mind in case anything needs replacing; your kit will get some serious use and must be robust for long term travel.

what to pack for overlanding Africa

Clothing

Expect to hand-wash your clothes as washing machines are few and far between. Don’t forget to pack washing detergent.

  • Underwear (pack more than you usually would to cut down amount of hand-washing)
  • T-shirts (4 each)
  • Shorts and quick-drying hiking trousers (parents one of each, kids had 4 shorts each and a pair of tracksuit bottoms)
  • Long light trousers and long-sleeved t-shirt to protect from mosquitoes in evening
  • Long skirts (couple for Mum)
  • Sarong
  • Jumper / hoody
  • Sun hat / sunglasses
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Pyjamas
  • Swim suits
  • Wet suits for kids
  • Quick drying towels
Make sure your kids have the right footwear. Check out this guide: The BEST children’s walking boots.

 

We’ve recently each been gifted these 3-in-1 jackets from Mountain Warehouse and they would have been perfect for Africa. It’s a 3-in-1 fleece and waterproof jacket, with detachable hood. The fleece on its own is perfect for those cool evenings, the waterproof jacket a necessity for those downpours in Tanzania, and combined, it is just what you need to keep warm on those freezing winter mornings in South Africa and Namibia (yes, it does actually get cold in winter!)

Click to purchase for Mum, Dad, and/or the kids

Almost all swimming pools we came across were unheated and on the chilly side. We recommend packing wet-suits for the kids to keep them warm and in the pool longer. Remember to purchase on the small side as they work better with a tight fit.

Click to purchase kids’ wetsuits.

Medical and toiletries

You can find a comprehensive medical kit list here for family travel to Africa. We strongly advise packing a malaria test kit and taking antimalarials (speak to a travel clinic for expert and up-to-date advice).

For long term travel, don’t bother with travel sized toiletries; they will run out quickly and you’ll struggle to find good replacements (it was really difficult to find hair conditioner in Tanzania). Pack full size.

  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Face-wash
  • Shampoo / body wash and conditioner (consider packing a shampoo bar to save on space)
  • Hairbrush (and hairbands/grips)
  • Moisturiser
  • Menstrual cups (ladies only!) – tampons and sanitry pads are difficult to get hold of and there is no way of hygienically disposing of them. Menstrual cups last for up to 15 years and are much better for the environment.
  • 50+ suncream
  • Mosquito repellent – We prefer the roll on rather than spray as seems to last longer. Go for max strength (the mossies in Mozambique are particularly unforgiving).

Camping gear

Most cooking gear will be provided by your hire company. Our Land Rover also came with two roof tents (shown in video below).

 

On collection of your vehicle and before you set off, check that your kit is of high quality and will withstand the test of time on the African roads. We recommend not driving too far on your first day and doing a recce to check everything works as it should.

travelling Africa with kids

Cooking gear

We had an LPG canister (the green cylinder attached to the rear of the Land Rover in above photo), that we would connect to a two-hob gas stove (similar to this). Braiis (BBQs) are also available at many campsites across Southern Africa. You will also need:

  • Mugs
  • Bowls and plates
  • Cutlery (including chopping knife)
  • Bottle opener
  • Sauce pan and frying pan
  • Washing up bowl (we had a collapsible one similar to this)
  • Washing up liquid, scrubber and tea towel (picked up from any supermarket)

It’s worth packing from home some packets of dried pasta, Colman’s receipe mixes (spaghetti bolognese, tuna pasta bake) and, of course, Marmite and tea bags (well I am British!) We also packed powdered milk as our youngest was still having milk before bed.

General camping gear

  • Solar lights – it gets dark so quickly in Africa each night and campsites are rarely lit. So you’re not always relying on batteries or charging, solar lights are an absolute must. Ideally pack a minimum of two.

  • Hammock – for that much needed downtime.
  • Cold weather sleeping bags, sheets and pillows (the latter you’ll probably want to purchase in Africa)
  • Camping chairs and small folding table (these will definitely be provided by your 4×4 hire company)
  • Picnic blanket – this one featured below is a good size, waterproof, sand proof, folds up really small, and you can peg it down.

travelling Africa with kids

Our hammock was one the best things we packed!

Land Rover kit

This should all be provided by your hire company. Check that you know how it all works and take photos to remind you in case of an emergency.

  • Tool kit
  • Extendable jack
  • Warning triangles, high viz jackets
  • Air compressor to change pressure of tyres according to road conditions

Navigation

Tracks 4 Africa was invaluable for our overland travels. The Southern Africa Atlas contains details maps that include information on where to stay, eat, shopping, fuel, money matters, emergencies and what to see and do when you visit a place. It even details the road conditions!

Click here to purchase your Tracks 4 Africa Southern Atlas

However, Tanzania is not covered in their paper map series and you may wish to purchase the Tanzania Freytag-Berndt separately.

We also relied on Lonely Planet guides for each country we drove through:

You may want also to hire through your hire company sat nav and a satellite phone.

Kids’ stuff

Apart from the odd dinosaur and car, we didn’t pack any toys for the boys. We were limited on space and I knew that no toy would hold its novelty for the entire 101 days.  The natural environment was their playground, although I always had a craft kit up my sleeve which came out almost every other day.

travelling Africa with kids

Painting stones in the Namibian desert

  • Kids’ craft kit containing coloured pens, white and coloured paper, paints (only pack blue, yellow, red and white, as you can mix any other colour), toddler scissors. Don’t bother with Play Doh, ours lasted two days after falling in dirt and getting mixed up in sand.
  • CBeebies Magazines
  • Amazon Fire tablets (loaded with books, games and TV shows)
  • Kids’ binoculars – essential for wildlife spotting on safari
  • V-Tech Kids Camera – we really should have packed one each for them.
  • Travel potty – even if they’re potty trained as public toilets on the African road are an absolute rarity. This portable urinal is super handy (or you could use a plastic bottle 😉 )
what to pack for travelling Africa

Photographing hippos on the River Zambezi

Parents’ stuff

  • Plug adaptors, extension lead and car phone charger
  • Power bank x2 – you may go days without electricity
  • Small laptop
  • DSLR camera with zoom lens for those wildlife captures (click here for the latest version of the one I use, although mine is 7 years old now!) You may also be interested to read about these best cameras for travelling with kids.
  • Spare SD card and camera battery (you WILL need them)
Namibia itinerary with kids

I most definitely used a zoom lens for this shot!

  • Small binoculars
  • Phone (with offline Google Maps downloaded) – don’t take an expensive one as it WILL get broken. Rather than a iPhone or Samsung, we use CUBOT.
  • Kindle with built-in light
  • And you may even consider packing a drone to capture those truly epic aerial shots.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, this is at no extra cost to you, but I get a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog.

packing list for Africa

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You may also like to read:
FAQ: Travelling Africa with kids
Medical kit list for families travelling Africa
Tips for a safari with kids under the age of 5

overlanding Africa with kids

Africa with kids FAQ: all you need to about our overlanding family adventures

In March 2018, our little family of four set off on an adventure of a lifetime around sub-Saharan Africa in a Land Rover Defender. Our boys were just 2 and 4 years old at the time and we had no 4×4 experience whatsoever. In this post I answer all your questions about how to self drive Africa overland with kids.

You can read here why we decided to venture to Africa with kids.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

Travelling Africa with kids

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Our 101 days overlanding Africa with kids took us from South Africa, up to Tanzania and round to Namibia. A total of 15000 kilometres and 5 border crossings. We dealt with corrupt officials, impassable roads, once-in-a-generation weather events, and of course the usual toddler tantrums along the way. But all that pales into insignificance when I think of the seemingly endless nights camping under the African stars, the incredible wildlife experiences, the warm welcome from villages we passed, and the tighter bond we formed as a family. Africa stole our hearts and we will be forever changed by the experience.

Read – Travelling Africa with kids: our top 10 highlights

Namibia itinerary with kids

I received so many questions about travelling Africa overland with kids, that I decided to put together this post to hopefully answer everything about how to self drive Africa overland with kids, and provide you with all our Africa overland tips.

SAFETY

Is it safe travelling Africa with kids?

This is the first question that people seem to ask about travelling Africa with kids. The entire continent gets such an awful rap from the media and many people believe that every country in Africa is struggling with war, crime, famine, drought, disease and has generally received a bad handout from the gods above. Whilst Africa does indeed have its problems, every country is very different from its neighbour and we never once felt unsafe or threatened in the countries we travelled throughout the entire 101 days. Apart from the odd difficult border guard or police official, we received an extremely warm welcome throughout Africa.

Did you have problems with police and border guards?

Generally they were fine. We had been warned that in Mozambique we would frequently stopped by police wanting bribes. This never happened once, apart from a lone occasion when a solider wanted food. However, in Tanzania the police were awful and we were pulled over on several occasions and told to pay a speeding fine. We had not been speeding, but they take photo of your car and superimpose a speeding number on top and display it to you in WhatsApp. I personally find it extremely difficult to tolerate officials in these circumstances and thankfully my husband has a lot more patience than I and managed to win them over. We never once paid a bribe.

Whenever we came across an official we had to just learn to be super smiley, say ‘yes sir / no sir’, and basically massage their ego. It’s a shame that positions of authority are abused in much of Africa, and it’s just a game you have to play along with (even in the more developed countries of South Africa and Namibia).

How did you get out of speeding fines?

The obvious answer is not to speed and we did make a special effort to stick to the speed limit but often this wasn’t enough. Our first line of defence would be to get the boys to smile and wave. This worked a few times. If the police official didn’t crack a smile, we would then ask to go with them and pay the supposed fine at the police station. We would explain that we had no cash and would like to make it official. The police would realise that this is more trouble than it’s worth, especially as we weren’t even speeding, and wave us on.

What about Malaria?

We all took antimalarials throughout our time in Africa. Although deemed controversial as many people report side effects, we opted for Larium for a number of reasons. Firstly, research showed us that for young children it has a higher resistance to malaria and Daddy Lynn and I had taken it many times before without complications. Plus, it’s only taken weekly, rather malarone which is taken daily. If there is a history of mental health problems, then it’s advised not to take Larium. However, we suggest discussing your options with a medical travel expert.

The boys never knew that they were taking Larium as we crushed the tablet into Nutella and put it on a biscuit for them to eat.

Africa with kids

Playing on the shores of Lake Malawi

Did you need lots of vaccinations?

Prior to this trip, we were living in India. We were therefore all up to date on vaccinations and did not require any additional ones for Africa. Please consult your medical practitioner for advice on vaccinations. However, standard ones are diphtheria, polio and tetanus (combined booster), typhoid, hepatitis A, cholera and rabies.

What if someone got injured?

As we knew there would be times we would be far from medical help we ensured that we had a good family medical kit. This included a first aid handbook and a malaria test kit.

You can read our family medical kit list for African travel here. 

Did your boys get ill?

Apart from a high temperature for one night from our youngest, our boys never fell ill during the 101 days. We let them play in sand and dirt, pick up sticks and generally live a grubby existence like most boys their age. Maybe we were lucky. Maybe they have a good immune system from living in India. Or maybe, they are no more likely to pick up a virus in Africa, than they would back home in the UK. Either way, we had our medical kit, and the day Ezra had a high temperature, we kept an eye on his temperature with a thermometer and did two malaria tests that turned out negative. He was fine the next day.

PLANNING

Did you do a lot of planning for the trip?

In all honesty, no. For many people a trip like this is years in the making. For us, it was thrown together in a matter of weeks. With Daddy Lynn’s contract finishing in India, voluntary redundancy money in the bank, tenants in our home in the UK, our boys not yet of school age, and an offer for a cheaper 4×4 rental in South Africa… we seized the moment and ran with it. Thankfully everything seemed to fall into place… just.

What route did you take?

We flew into Johannesburg (with Ethiopian Airlines) and collected the Land Rover Defender from Hoedspruit, near Kruger, South Africa; this was our start and end point. Our overland adventures then took us through Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia and back to South Africa.

You can read our Africa overland routes for each country, which provides a day by day account and our accommodation each night:

PART 1: South Africa and Mozambique
PART 2: Malawi
PART 3: Tanzania
PART 4: Zambia
PART 5: Namibia

How did you decide on this route? Did you have it all planned out?

We rarely planned more than a few days in advance on this trip. Although to start with, we knew we wanted to head to Mozambique after picking up the Land Rover. After packing up our lives in India and getting everything together for this trip, we really just wanted to start with some chilled out beach time. From there it was logical to head up to Malawi. We debated Tanzania until a day before the border crossing, as we were worried about blowing the budget with its extortionate National Park fees; and we were planning to head to Botswana after Victoria Falls, until we decided we needed to finish the trip with some easier driving days and so headed to Namibia.

If we liked a place, we would set up camp and stay a while, and if we weren’t too keen, we would just move on. I loved having this flexibility of time. It was so freeing. The longest we stayed anywhere was one week. It was Utengule Coffee Lodge, near the Zambian border. We had planned to stay just a night, but the stunning sunset views from our campsite on their helipad, the wonderfully warm welcome from staff, and the lovely swimming pool, encouraged us to stay longer and take a breather before another border crossing.

Utengule Coffee Lodge, Tanzania

You missed out Botswana! Isn’t it supposed to be amazing there?

Well we couldn’t do it all. We had originally planned to go into Botswana after Victoria Falls, but there had been some very heavy rains and many roads were reported to be shut or required good 4×4 driving skills. After 3 months of difficult roads, we had had enough, so we headed to the smooth tarmac of Namibia. It was heavenly! Until we hit corrugated roads…

How did you navigate around Africa?

Tracks 4 Africa was invaluable for our overland travels. The Southern Africa Atlas contains details maps that include information on where to stay, eat, shopping, fuel, money matters, emergencies and what to see and do when you visit a place. It even details the road conditions! At the front is a handy section providing advice on border crossings and road rules for each country (for instance, in Mozambique you must have two warning triangles and a fluorescent jacket).

Click here to purchase your Tracks 4 Africa Southern Atlas

However, Tanzania is not covered in their paper map series and you may wish to purchase the Tanzania Freytag-Berndt separately.

You could download the Tracks 4 Africa GPS maps. However, we actually found Google Maps to work sufficiently through Tanzania. Although if we bumped into other travellers who had come from the direction we were headed, we would always ask their advice.

For travel through Mozambique, we found the information through the DriveMoz Facebook Group to be very worthwhile. Although before posting any questions, do read the instructions; they’re rather strict.

What did you do about using needing the loo on the road?

Public toilets were few and far between, and even if we came across them, they weren’t very pleasant. We therefore embraced the bush wee! Easy for the boys, a little more difficult for Mummy. We would ensure we found a quiet spot, away from a village. If the boys needed a number two on the road, we had a travel potty.

Whilst on safari, when we cannot get out of the vehicle, the boys would use a plastic bottle.

Africa with kids

THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER

Where did you hire the 4×4?

We knew a couple who had moved from the UK with their young family to set up an eco-lodge near Kruger and we arranged a one-off private hire through them.

However, if you are looking to do the same, we suggest renting through either Britz or Bush Lore. A 4×4 is a must for travel in Africa, unless you’re sticking to main roads in South Africa and Namibia. The Britz and Bush Lore cars are generally Toyotas (which some people consider to be more reliable than a Land Rover) and are fully kitted out with excellent camping and cooking gear. The customer service is also fantastic; should anything break or there are any mechanical failures, they will help you get it fixed and often cover the costs.

I contacted Bush Lore to get a rough idea of 4×4 hire for 101 days. Prices in the low season start from approximately £5800 for a Toyota Hilux 2.4 GD-6 4×4 Camp 4 Pax. This includes insurance with a ZAR20000 excess. There are then cross border fees and cleaning fees on top. We did meet some overlanders who suggested that it was cheaper to hire in Namibia. So this may be another option.

Did you get 4×4 training?

No, we didn’t and this is something we regret. As it wasn’t our car or a standard hire car, there were many roads we decided not to go down as we knew we didn’t have the expertise. This was especially the case driving through Tanzania as they were experiencing the worst rains in over a decade and many roads were reduced to an impassable mush. Many people would say to us, ‘But you have a Land Rover’, thinking that because we have a Land Rover we could drive through absolutely anything. We always had to defend ourselves and explain that the roof tents made us top heavy, we have two young kids in the back, and we don’t have 4×4 expertise.

Mozambique with kids

Arthur checking the tyre pressure

Do you have mechanical know-how?

Not at all. I don’t even know how to change a tyre! Hubby can thankfully, and understands the basics of checking oil, water and radiator levels. For peace of mind we do recommend completing a basic mechanics course. Thankfully we didn’t run into any mechanical problems and we paid for a Land Rover service at a specialist garage in Zambia (Foleys Africa) to ensure that everything was okay half way through the trip.

Africa with kids

Getting the Landy serviced in Livingstone, Zambia.

You never broke down?

No, not once. We fully expected to at least puncture a tyre, but that never happened either. We drove so carefully and treated the Land Rover as our own, and I’m sure that helped.

Although we did get stuck in the sand in Mozambique in the first week. Thankfully 15 kids from the village rushed to our aid and we were out in no time. We hadn’t deflated the tyres! Rookie error.

What equipment did you have in case you broke down?

We had a tool kit, an extended jack and a winch built into the front of the Land Rover. We also had warning triangles and high viz vests. We didn’t have a satellite phone, which many recommend, although we did have GPS on our phone.

We do wish we had packed an air compressor to inflate/deflate tyres as needed. This really is an essential item as many petrol stations did not have air compressors.

How did the roof-tents work?

We had two roof tents on top of the Land Rover that opened out (see video below). For safety and peace of mind, one parent and one child would sleep in each tent (rather than the boys being in a tent on their own). Inside was a mattress and they were extremely comfortable. There’s something very special about falling asleep with the sounds of Africa around you.

CAMPING

Where did you camp?

We never wild camped with the boys for safety reasons and always stayed in official campsites.

How did you find where to camp?

The Lonely Planet guide books often had good recommendations. Rather than pack separate books, we would download the PDF versions to our phones for easy access and to save on space. If we couldn’t find anything through Lonely Planet, we would do a Google search, refer to our Tracks 4 Africa atlas, or for Mozambique we would consult the DriveMoz Facebook Group). There were occasions when a campsite didn’t exist anymore and we had to keep driving. We therefore always aimed to be at a campsite by 3pm at the latest so that if there were any problems, we had a couple of hours up our sleeve to find an alternative.

Namibia itinerary with kids

Campsite in Swakopmund, Namibia, with en-suite bathroom and kitchen facilities.

Africa with kids

Camping on a helipad in Tanzania

What were the camping facilities like?

Campsites ranged from extremely basic with no toilets or running water, to very swish pitches with en-suite bathrooms. In general, the standard of campsites in Namibia were extremely high, and in Malawi they were very basic. In Tanzania we even camped on a helipad, and in Zambia we camped by a river with crocodiles swimming past (we ensured we were up in our roof-tents early that night!)

Some campsites in Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia even had a swimming pool. However, there were NEVER heated and were very cold; I packed wet-suits for the boys.

Did you have to book campsites in advance?

Booking in advance is advisable for Namibia and Zambia. However, we didn’t book a single campsite in advance in our entire 101 days and never had a problem. Although we did snag the last spot at a couple of campsites in Namibia on arrival; we were pretty lucky.

Throughout much of Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania we were often the only ones camping and barely saw any other overlanders. Although we did bump into a couple of overlanding tour groups in big trucks. You can’t miss them. They tend to take over a campsite when they arrive.

EATING AND DRINKING

What did you do about meals?

We had a large fridge in the boot of the Land Rover, which ran off an extra battery, and had cooking equipment (two hobs and a LPG canister). So for the majority of the time, we self-catered. We managed to find supermarkets in most big towns and always ensured we did a big stock up of essentials (milk, baked beans, pasta, meats, cereals, juices), and we were able to pick up potatoes, eggs, bananas and bread from some villages, which became our staples.

We quickly learnt to stock up at every available opportunity, as we never knew how far it would be until the next possible place to purchase food. This rule went for fuel too. In Tanzania in particular, we found it difficult to find food to buy and had too many days living off baked beans and home made chips (which the boys loved!)

I also packed from the UK some powder sachets for spaghetti bolognese and pasta sauces.

However, on occasions when a campsite had a restaurant on site, we would treat ourselves to a meal (it was a holiday after all!)

What did you do if you ran out of LPG?

We could tell when we were running out of gas as our canister would become very light. We had a 5L canister which we refilled three times in the 101 days. It was a case of just asking around to find out where to fill up.

In Malawi, there were LPG stations where you paid a nominal amount for a refill. In Tanzania, there are strict regulations about gas and you have to exchange your canister. However, no one was able to exchange our 5L canister as it’s not standard to Tanzanian canisters. We therefore had to beg at a large gas filling station for them to fill our canister. A few extra Tanzanian shillings and a smile from the boys did the trick. Once back in South Africa, we were able to refill at a Build It (a hardware store chain).

What did you do about drinking water?

We bought large 5L bottles of water from supermarkets. It pains me to think how much plastic we threw away, but we needed safe drinking water. Perhaps I should have investigated filters or used more purifying tablets (which we did use sometimes), but when you’re travelling long term through African countries, safe drinking water is paramount.

Was beer cheap?

Oh yes! We would buy a crate of local beer from a bottle shop; this was essentially a wooden shack with lots of beer crates for sale. You pay separately for the crate and empty bottles and then for the beer on top. Once your bottles have finished, you return the crate and empty bottles to any bottle shop in the country, pay for the beer, and exchange for a new crate. A crate of local beer (24 bottles) would cost on average £20. What a fantastic recycling initiative! We really should adopt this in the UK.

travelling Africa with kids

Hiking Mount Mulanje, Malawi

MONEY

How much did you spend?

We set ourselves a budget of £50 per day, which covered all food, fuel, camping fees and park fees. We pretty much stuck to this. This did not include 4×4 hire, flights and visas. We always camped, unless we were offered a hosted stay in an exchange for a blog review (e.g. Game Haven Lodge, Malawi, and Victoria Falls Waterfront, Zambia).

Now this is a very limited budget for Africa travel and most people spend a lot more. However, having a tight daily budget is how we afford longer term travel and encourages us to embrace a slower pace of travel. It also meant that we had to make some tough decisions along the way.  For instance, we decided not to visit Tanzania’s Serengeti as it would totally blow the budget, and instead opted for a couple of cheaper safari parks. In fact, we found Tanzania the most expensive country and you can read here how challenging we found that to be.

How did you manage your finances whilst travelling?

We have a budgeting spreadsheet where we note down every single expenditure to keep on top of our spending.

We have a no-fee international credit card with Barclays to withdraw cash from ATMs. The only problem with this is that our card was cloned in (we think) South Africa and subsequently blocked for the entirety of our trip (we were unable to get a replacement sent out to us). So we stopped using card for any purchases and had to always ensure we had enough cash on us. This meant calling the bank EVERY time we wanted to withdraw cash from an ATM, so they would unblock the card for 10 minutes. Quite a palaver, although at least we knew our money was safe.

Were ATMs easy to come by?

Only in towns and cities, and even then there may be a huge queue, or they were out of order. We had to always ensure we had a good couple of hundred pounds safely stashed away in an emergency.

Did you use local currency or US dollars?

For many tourist sites, prices were quoted in US dollars, however we always paid in the local currency. We recommend carrying spare US dollars in case of an emergency, and remember that visas need to be paid for in cash using US dollars.

How much did fuel cost?

On average fuel was about 70p per litre. It was fractionally more expensive in Zambia, and fractionally cheaper in Tanzania.

Travelling Africa with kids

This road in Malawi was just too hard going, so we turned around.

How much were campsites?

Throughout much of Mozambique, Malawi, and Tazania, campsites were around USD8 per person (the boys were free). Once into Zambia, we had to pay on occasion for the boys, usually half price. In Namibia, prices for campsites were up to a total of USD25 per night; but they were of a MUCH higher standard and this far in to the trip, totally worth the extra money.

Once into National Parks, campsite prices shot up to USD30 per night and were very basic.

What was the most expensive country?

Tanzania. The National Park fees are extortionate.

What was the cheapest country?

Mozambique. Lovely campsites right on the beach and they were good supermarkets around with reasonable prices.

Which country was the best value for money?

Namibia. National Park fees were very cheap and well run, and campsites were of exceptional quality.

Safari with kids

Spotting wild animals on Namibia’s Caprivi Strip

BORDER CROSSINGS

What did you do about visas?

We arranged all our visas on arrival to each border. Generally this was USD50 cash, per person, including children. This was always a long drawn out process, with lots of form filling and faffing over Third Party Insurance, all requiring bucket load of patience (which I really do not have).

We advise arranging visas in advance if you can, although we didn’t have a rigid plan with dates and didn’t want to lock ourselves down. This certainly would have prevented us being detained for three hours at the Mozambique/Malawi border crossing!

Read a detailed account of our border crossing from South Africa into Mozambique.

What’s Third Party Insurance?

Third Party Insurance (TPI) is a compulsory insurance we had take out for each country, despite having fully comprehensive insurance already on the Land Rover. The TPI is supposedly to cover costs if you hit another car, although it’s not really worth the paper it’s written on. You will be met by TPI sellers as soon as you reach any border. Ignore them and head straight to immigration. TPI can be sorted once your passports have been stamped and visas administered.

How long did border crossings take?

The shortest border crossing was 1 hour (from Namibia to South Africa) and the longest was 4 hours (Malawi into Tanzania). We always aimed to get to a border crossing early in the morning to give ourselves enough time for getting across and then finding a campsite that night (there was rarely one near to the border). They can be confusing and confronting places; I never liked border crossing days. The best thing you can do is ensure you have enough time to sort any eventuality. No two border crossings were the same.

PHONE AND INTERNET

How did you get internet access?

We bought a new sim every time we entered a new country. NEVER purchase a sim at the border as the price will be grossly inflated. Instead, drive to the next town along and head to phone market stall; these will be obvious as they have signs of network brands plastered on and above their shack.

The sim is bought separately from credit. Once purchased, put the sim in the phone in front of the attendant and ask them to show you how to change your credit to internet access. It is very likely that it doesn’t work first off, and they have to do a clever thing to your phone to unlock it. I never worked out exactly what they did. But don’t ever walk away until you get the phone working.

Is internet access good?

Not at all, unless you’re in a town. For much of our travels we were off the grid. So download offline Google Maps when you can and do as much online research as possible for the days ahead when you do get internet access.

CLOTHING

What clothing did you take?

We packed very light and nothing fancy. We lived in t-shirts and shorts, or quick-drying hiking trousers. I also took a couple of long skirts. We each had one hoody for cool evenings and early mornings, and waterproof jackets. To cover up from mosquitoes in the evening, we changed into long sleeved t-shirts and long trousers.

We also packed swimwear, including wet-suits for the boys as swimming pools were never heated, and of course, pyjamas (which the boys often stayed in for early morning game drives).

What about footwear?

Us parents each packed one pair of flip-flops and light hiking trainers. The boys had sandals and light hiking boots. I would ensure they wore their hiking boots in the evening to protect their feet from snakes and scorpions (not that we ever came across any).

Make sure your kids have the right footwear. Check out this guide: The BEST children’s walking boots.

 

travelling Africa with kids

Finally a good washing day after 3 weeks of incessant rains in Tanzania.

What did you do about washing clothes?

We came across a grand total of two washing machines in the entire 101 days. So mostly we hand washed our clothes. This was an arduous task and I can’t say it was fun. It was also very difficult to dry our clothes for weeks in Tanzania due to the incessant rain. I advise packing lots of underwear to avoid too much hand-washing.

Our clothes got seriously wrecked in Africa, so don’t pack anything that you want to return home with.

PACKING

Beside clothing, what else did you pack in to the Land Rover?

I’ve put together our comprehensive packing list for Africa here:

Ultimate family packing list for overlanding Africa

Africa with kids

Hammock chilling in the mountains of Mozambique

OUR BOYS

What did the boys make of the trip?

The boys absolutely loved it and became such little bush babies making a campfire each night and becoming rather knowledgeable about the wild animals they saw, and their respective poo. They blossomed with us all being together as a family and became more inquisitive about the world around them.

Safari with kids

They were totally oblivious to any problems we encountered along the way and actually grounded us to normality on more than one occasion. I will never forget Ezra jumping off benches in a corridor whilst a Malawi border guard tried to bribe $100 from us.

What kind of things did you do with them?

Africa is wonderful natural playground for young kids. Whether it’s the game drives (safaris) in search of wild animals, making sandcastles and jumping in waves of deserted beaches, running down sand dunes, hiking up mountains, or playing with local kids along the way, there was so much for our boys to do. And apart from park entrance fees, most of these activities were free.

Africa with kids

Was it safe to take them on safari?

Most definitely. If you respect the space and behaviour of the animals you encounter on safari and keep inside your vehicle at all times, it is perfectly safe. Also, if staying overnight, check that the camp is fenced; there are some in Africa which are un-fenced and open to wildlife.

You can read our tips for taking young kids on safari here. 

How did they cope with the long driving days?

We always set off early and if they ever got niggly, we would just pull over and stretch the legs. They always had their Amazon Fire Tablets as back up, although I wish I’d downloaded some family audiobooks. Though in all honesty, the boys seemed to cope better with the long drives than us parents who were busy negotiating pot holes or police checks (the boys thought this was all great fun!)

Did you take lots of toys for them to play with?

Apart from the odd dinosaur and car, we didn’t pack any toys for the boys. We were limited on space and I knew that no toy would hold its novelty for the entire 101 days.  The natural environment was their playground, although I always had a craft kit up my sleeve which came out almost every other day. This contained coloured pens, white and coloured paper, paints, toddler scissors and PlayDoh (although this only lasted 2 days – don’t bother!) I also packed a few CBeebies Magazines and hid them at the bottom of the suitcase for emergencies.

Africa with kids

Crafting in the desert

And, as all our regular followers know, we travel everywhere with the Amazon Kids’ Fire Tablet. It’s loaded with lots of books, games, TV shows and films, for that much needed downtime. They have one each and we’ve taken them on Indian sleeper trains, trekking in the Himalayas, and, of course, across Africa.

Click here to purchase the Amazon Kid’s Fire Tablet.

How did you cope being altogether so much?

It was honestly wonderful! We were taking on Africa as a family and we formed such a tight bond. There were still the usual every day parenting struggles. Travel doesn’t fix them, it merely provides a different and ever-changing backdrop. However, what we did have on our side was time. When we’re all back at home in school/work routines, we never have enough time and tensions rise when we try and get the kids to do things quickly. In Africa, we didn’t have these responsibilities and we could take our time. Such a luxury that we learnt to appreciate.

FINAL QUESTIONS

What was your favourite place?

This is a tough one as each country offered something completely different. We loved the beaches of Mozambique, the warm welcomes from Malawi, the epic wildlife encounters of Tanzania, the rush of energy from Victoria Falls in Zambia, and the uniqueness of Namibia.

But if you gave me a plane ticket and told me I could fly to one country right now, it would be Malawi. This small country packs so much into a compact area; with mountains, beaches and wildlife encounters. Plus there were good supermarkets to stock up on food and such a friendly vibe. It felt like ‘the real Africa’, without mammoth drives between destinations.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Packed more underwear.

We also sometimes question if Tanzania was worth the effort; national Park fees were extortionate, police blocks frequent, and rains incessant. Perhaps we should have entered Zambia into South Luangwa National Park from Malawi and given ourselves time for Botswana. However, seeing the clouds clearing above snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro and witnessing the hundreds of elephants cross the plains of Tarangire with no one else around, these were such precious moments that totally made Tanzania worthwhile.

I also wish we’d had done a short 4×4 course before we left.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Where would you recommend first timers go, short on time?

Namibia. The infrastructure is excellent and travelling around is much easier. The National Parks are great value for money and the country offers such a dynamic contrast of activities (sand dunes, beaches, game drives and developed cities). Just be prepared for long driving days.

Would you return to Africa?

Once you’ve visited the heart of Africa, it is forever part of you. We now feel we have such a strong connection to the land and its people and will definitely return one day. However, it won’t be any time soon. This was an epic trip, which was exhausting and challenging at times. We are still processing it all and don’t want to try and replicate the adventure or fix our mistakes quite yet. We will be back one day.

Living life in a Land Rover with the luxury of time together as a family was extremely special and those nights huddled together around the campfire with the stars of Africa watching over us will be forever etched on my mind.

Namibia itinerary with kids


I hope I’ve answered all your questions about overlanding sub-Saharan Africa with young kids. If there is anything that I’ve missed, do let me know in the comments below so I can update this post. Thanks for reading! This was a long one 😉

 

Travelling Africa with kids

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Disclaimer: Information in this post is correct as of June 2018. This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I get a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog. 

You may also like to read:
Travelling Africa with kids: our top 10 highlights
Medical kit list for families travelling Africa
Tips for a safari with kids under the age of 5

Safari with kids

Tips for a safari with kids under the age of 5

We went on our first family safari when they were just 1 and 3 years old. It was to see the elephants at Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka, and I remember being ridiculously nervous. Would the boys get bored? Will they keep still in the jeep? Will we have to return early and it be a waste if of money? Is it really a good idea to safari with kids?

Udawalawe National Park with kids

As we returned from our first morning’s safari I couldn’t help but wear a beaming smile and feel a little teary. Our experience with a mother and her calf had been intimate and truly magical. The boys instinctively knew to be quiet and were totally engrossed. I also learnt that snacks are the most important thing to take on any safari for kids.

Udawalawe with kids - elephants

Since then, the boys have been on umpteen family safari holidays. Their next one was seeing the rhinos at Chitwan National Park in Nepal, then more recently on our 3.5 month Africa road trip through Sub-Saharan Africa where countless days were spent on safari and we even camped overnight in parks with our Land Rover with roof tents. Through these experiences, we have learnt a few tips along the way.

If you’re wandering which is the best safari for kids under the age of 5? Well it has to be Etosha National Park, Namibia!

Here are our top tips for doing a safari with kids under the age of 5.

1. Don’t wait until they’re older

Well this is our motto for all adventure travel with kids. But safaris in particular are something that parents think they need to leave until kids are older to appreciate and one of the most common questions I receive is ‘What is the best safari age for kids?’ The thing is, you never know how life pans out and there is always a reason not to do things. But what I can tell you is that my boys certainly appreciated the safaris and loved them; watching the excitement on their faces as a herd of elephants crossed the road in front of us, or when they realised how tall a giraffe really is as it ambles alongside the car. Truly magical experiences.

And yes, it is safe to safari with kids under the age of 5. I discuss this on the Lonely Planet Kids Blog, but the best way to make a safari safe for kids is to stay in fenced campsites, respect the space and behaviour of the animals you encounter on safari, and keep inside your vehicle at all times

And if you’re wondering if you can even safari with a baby, check out this post from My Travel Monkey.

Safari with kids

2. Self-drive

Many parks in Africa allow you to self-drive. This is ALWAYS our preferred option for a safari with kids as we are on our own schedule, can be flexible to how the boys are, and we don’t have to worry about disturbing other tourists if someone is hungry or needs the loo. However, if self-drive is not an option (such as in Sri Lanka or Nepal) then we opt for a private game drive (which can often be pricier, but kids under the age of 6 are often not allowed on group game drives). Or if the it’s a river safari, a private boat means your little ones may even get to drive amongst hippos!

zambia itinerary with kids

3. Snacks and more snacks

Whether you are hiking in the hills, on a long train journey or just popping to the playground, parents always have the snacks handy to prevent ‘hangry’ kids. Same goes for a safari with kids. Often you will be out for at least 3 hours, and my boys certainly can’t go that long without eating.

4. Pack the travel potty

As a general rule, you are not allowed to step out of the vehicle whilst on a game drive; probably good advice to follow when lions and leopards are around. But as parents, we know that when you’re little one needs to go… THEY NEED TO GO NOW! Make sure you have a travel potty on hand and for boys who just need a wee, this  portable urinal is very handy.

5. Get clued up on poo!

My boys are obsessed with poo. I’m guessing they’re not the only ones? There can be quite a wait between animal sightings on safari and you don’t want them to get bored sat in the car. We would find little things to point out to them like nests in a tree, or branches that had been broken by a big elephant. But what was always most successful is spotting a pile of poo on the track and pulling up alongside in our Land Rover for inspection. What shape is the poo? Is it big or small? Can you see grass or berries? Is it wet or dry? What animal do you think it’s from? There is a lot of conversation that can happen around poo.

Safari with kids

Investigating poo on a walking safari at Game Haven Lodge, Malawi

6. Binoculars, camera and an identification booklet

Providing our boys the tools to search for animals was a great way to maintain interest. The VTech KidiZoom Duo Camera (purchase here from amazon.co.uk) goes everywhere with us and the boys loved ticking off what animals they had spotted (from the park HQ in Etosha we picked up an indentification booklet).

Safari with kids

Although more often than not, my eldest would borrow my camera!

7. Be selective in your park choices

There are a number of criteria you need to consider when deciding on where to safari with kids:

  • Can you see the animals clearly? Some parks are thick with vegetation and wildlife spotting hindered.
  • Are the campsites fenced? If staying overnight in a park, you need to know that wildlife won’t be wandering around your camp with your curious toddler. This is the best way to make a safari safe for young kids.
  • Is there a pool at the campsite? An afternoon at the pool after a morning’s game drive is always a winner with my boys!
  • What are the park fees? Many people think that the best place to see wildlife is in the Serengeti in Tanzania. However, it is EXTREMELY pricey and we decided against it as we didn’t want that added pressure whilst on safari with kids. You may want to read why we found Tanzania hard work with kids. Namibia, South Africa and Malawi had MUCH cheaper park fees.

Easy spotting the abundant game amongst the vast open expanse of Etosha National Park

8. Set expectations

If you’ve ever taken your kids to a zoo, they may be under the impression that it’s easy to see wild animals. We found we needed to explain what ‘wild’ really meant to our boys and that they will need to do a lot of searching and looking to find animals. Zebras and elephants may be easy to spot, but lions (and most definitely leopards) take a lot more work. Coincidentally, we haven’t taken our boys to a zoo since returning to the UK.

9. Don’t do too much

We found that four hours on a game drive was more than enough for our boys. You can be tempted to keep going a little further in the hope of spotting something amazing, but we found that every time we did that we saw nothing and the boys got grouchy. Similarly, we learnt that 2 days on safari at a time was enough for the boys; we would spread this across three days (Day 1 – afternoon game drive, Day 2 – morning and late afternoon game drive, Day 3 – morning game drive). Park entry fees usually work on a 24 hour system, so if you enter at 12pm on Day 1 and pay for 2 days, you need to be out of the park by 12pm on Day 3).

Southern Africa overland itinerary with kids

10. Safari in your pyjamas!

Anyone who has been on safari will tell you that the best time for wildlife spotting is first thing in the morning as dawn is breaking over the horizon. However, all parents will tell you that to get their child dressed, washed, up and out with a full tummy quickly in the morning is a mammoth task. Now imagine doing this whilst packing up camp and getting out before sunrise? Impossible.

What we ended up doing is putting this kids straight into their car seats with a bowl of cereal still dressed in their pjs, whilst us parents packed up camp. A couple of hours into the game drive, we would find a picnic area to get dressed and washed. Easy.

Namibia itinerary with kids

 

Have you been on safari with kids under the age of 5? I would love to hear about your experiences, and do let me know if you have anymore kids safari tips!

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I get a small commission which helps with the running of this blog.

safari with kids

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You may also like to read:
Udawalawe NP with young kids: meeting elephants in the Sri Lankan wilderness
Namibia itinerary with kids
ETOSHA National Park, Namibia: THE BEST safari in Africa for your kids

This post is linked up with Wanderlust Kids #15

 

Africa Highlights

Africa travel with kids: our top 10 highlights

What a truly epic adventure the last few months have been! It seems only yesterday I was announcing that we were off to Africa. Whilst there have been some seriously tough moments – record-breaking torrential rains in Tanzania, obstructive border guards in Malawi, and countless times we’ve had to turn our Land Rover around due to impassable roads – travelling Africa with kids has honestly been the best experience of all of our lives!

READ – Africa with kids FAQ: all you need to about our overlanding family adventures.
Includes details on safety, route planning, 4×4 hire, border crossings, and much more.  

 

This was our route around Southern Africa. You can read our itineraries for each stage, which provides a day by day account and our accommodation each night:

PART 1: South Africa and Mozambique
PART 2: Malawi
PART 3: Tanzania
PART 4: Zambia
PART 5: Namibia

Namibia itinerary with kids

Below are our top 10 highlights of our adventures overlanding Africa with kids. However, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the absolute highlight of this trip has been the luxury of time. It’s the time to be on our own schedule, time not distracted by other commitments, time to just simply share day by day experiences together. Time has given us the flexibility to stay longer in a place we liked, or move on if we fancy; to change our route and our ideas for this trip on a whim. But as we come to the end of this trip, I still wish we had just a little bit more time.

Namibia itinerary with kids

But without further ado, decided by Mummy and Daddy Lynn over a few glasses of South Africa’s finest red whilst sat in a campsite in Swakopmund, Namibia, here are our top ten highlights of our African overland adventures with kids that have taken us through South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia and back to South Africa. We unfortunately didn’t make it to Botswana and Zimbabwe (we needed more time!), but will save them for another adventure.

1. Skeleton Coast (Namibia)

The most stunning drive we have ever experienced where we felt like we were at the ends of the earth. The road to the Atlantic coast is an other-wordly landscape draped with unusual sandstone formations, traversed by a gravel road that cuts through the valley. Once road meets the ocean there were sand dunes, abandoned mines, untouched beaches, and shipwrecks to explore.

Read our Namibia itinerary with kids and why Namibia is fantastic for kids

2. Mt Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)

Our visit to Tanzania was timed with the worst rains in over a decade. As such, Mount Kilimanjaro was completely shrouded in cloud as we approached its foothills. I was gutted. I had been desperate to see the iconic peak for too long. Still, we held tight at a campsite in Marangu and on the second morning the skies cleared to the most incredible view. Due to the uncommonly heavy rains, Mt Kilimanjaro’s peak was completely covered in snow. Just beautiful.

Find our whether we found travelling Tanzania with kids worthwhile

Tanzania itinerary with kids

3. Victoria Falls (Zambia)

Nothing quite prepares you for the sheer thundering immensity of Victoria Falls. And it’s not like you don’t get any warning; the spray is visible for miles around and the sound is the first thing you hear in the morning. But it’s not until you reach the first viewpoint that the true spectacle really hits you – literally. We got soaking wet as bucketloads of spray poured over us! We visited at the end of May, right at the end of the wet season with the falls at full volume. It was such a treat to stay at the Victoria Falls Waterfront, right on the banks of the Zambezi with restaurant views over to the plumes of spray bellowing up from the falls.

Read our Zambia itinerary with kids.

zambia itinerary with kids

4. Mating lions outside Ruaha National Park (Tanzania)

We had initially planned to camp overnight in Ruaha National Park, but we changed plans once we saw that the campground was covered in plastic litter and inhabited by a rather protective family of elephants. As the sun started setting on the horizon we drove away from the park gates, a little perturbed at the costs of entering the park, and stumbled across two mating lions in the road. Let’s just say they like it a little rough, and the deep roars from the male made my hair stand on end. We kept our distance and in throes of violent passion the male clocked us and released a deafening roar. I immediately understood and fumbled the ignition to get the Land Rover away, heart racing. An experience I will never forget. And before you ask, yes, you can take young kids on safari!

Read our Tanzania itinerary with kids.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

5. Etosha National Park (Namibia)

Due to it’s other-worldly landscape, so different from all the safaris we have done in Africa, and for the sheer ease of spotting its abundant wildlife, Etosha had to be in the top five. Spending the morning with a pride of lions surrounding the car and watching a lonesome rhino pass by was certainly memorable. However, our favourite experience in Etosha has to be venturing to the floodlit watering hole near to the campsite once the boys were asleep to watch local wildlife visit to drink and socialise (us parents took it in turns so the boys weren’t left alone).

You can read here why we think Etosha is the best safari in Africa with kids.

6. Hippos on the Zambezi (Zambia)

We arranged a private boat cruise at the lodge we were camping at (Gwabi Rivier Lodge) to take us along the river. We must have seen at least 50 hippos that morning! And the boys particularly loved it as they got to drive the boat too! The campsite at Gwabi is right on the river, so we would fall asleep to the sounds of hippos grunting away.

Read our Zambia itinerary with kids.

7. Sunset cruise Lake Malawi (Malawi)

Lake Malawi was the centrepiece for much of our travels in Malawi. We drove from its southern-most point, all the way up the Western shoreline into Tanzania. Our favourite spot on the lake was Chembe Eagles Nest, Cape Maclear, where the water is calm and crystal clear. A sunset catamaran cruise was the perfect way to experience the lake.

Read our Malawi itinerary with kids.

Malawi itinerary with kids

8. Barra Beach (Mozambique)

The beaches of Mozambique completely blew us away. Long stretches of pristine silky sand as far as the eye could see. For ease of getting to, quality of campsite and sheer beauty, Barra was our favourite. Our campsite was a stone’s throw away from the sand and we mostly had the beach to ourselves. Half an hour down the road is the old colonial town Inhabane, with it’s crumbling architecture harking back to it’s Portuguese past.

Read our Mozambique itinerary with kids.

9. Tarangire National Park (Tanzania)

In protest to the obscenely high park fees for Serengetti National Park, we decided to head to Tarangire instead. Our rash decision was rewarded with seeing hundreds of elephants in the wild without another soul around! But the true highlight was camping overnight in the park with the African stars above, no fence to guard off wildlife and roars of lions in the distance. I didn’t sleep a wink that night for listening out for wildlife, but certainly one of our most memorable.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

Read our Tanzania itinerary with kids.

10. Mount Mulanje (Malawi)

Rising from the tea plantations of Southern Malawi, majestic Mount Mulanje seemingly soars to the heavens. With little legs, we didn’t really entertain the notion of a three-day hike to the summit. Instead, we settled for a splendid hike up to a waterfall on the mountain, where you can enjoy a refreshing dip. With our then 2 and 4 year old boys, the round trip took us about 3 hours. But most would do it 2 hours. We surprisingly bumped into Mini Travellers on our mountain hike who have written up a review of their hike up to the waterfall on Mount Mulanje. On return to our campsite, we were surprised by a performance from some local orphans, as part of Malawi Music Fund. The voices from this choir gave me goosebumps; rich tones and beautiful a capella harmonies. It was then magical to watch the views of the Mount Mulanje being cast aflame by the setting sun.

Read our Malawi itinerary with kids.

 

Disclaimer: We are sometimes offered complimentary accommodation and tours in return for an honest review. However, as always, these are my own words and opinions. 

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The Lonely Planet Africa, and the Tracks4Africa Africa Southern Traveller’s Atlas were invaluable throughout our travels.


You may also like to read:
We’re off to Africa!
Medical kit list for families travelling Africa
AFRICA OVERLAND Part 1: South Africa and Mozambique itinerary with kids

For more posts on Africa, head to our AFRICA page.

Medical kit list for families travelling Africa

Medical kit list for families travelling Africa

A good medical kit list is imperative for any travel to Africa. But with kids in tow there is even more to consider, as good medical care is not always on hand and kids can be unpredictable at the best of times. So in preparation for our African overland adventures Joanne from Southern Sands Safaris has written this knowledgable guest post detailing a comprehensive medical kit list for families travelling Africa.


We are a family that has travelled Africa on guided tours and independently, often to remote areas where you are far from medical care.

We currently live in the bush on a nature reserve about 45-50 minutes from town and the nearest doctors. We have paramedics on speed dial that can get to us within 15-20 minutes; a long time if your child has been bitten by a snake, stung by a scorpion or sustained an injury that needs medical attention. The stuff we have in our kit does not replace calling a doctor or paramedic, but it should be enough to help you through until you can get medical attention.

First Aid book for children

The first thing on my list is a simple first aid book for children. It gives simple and clear instructions on what to do in those emergency situations. Because it is British it doesn’t cover Snake Bites or Scorpion stings.

Basic first aid kit

This is my first aid kit (photo below) and it is quite neatly packaged up. You can buy a similar kit here. I have this at home and if we go out for the day or a long weekend then it is easy to carry with me. It has all the basics and I have added a few things to it I find useful.

Medical kit list for families travelling Africa

In the Medical Kit I have the usual range of bandages, sterile dressings, alcohol wipes, ice pack, saline solution, plasters, adult paracetamol and ibuprofen, tweezers and scissors.

Dioralyte

I have added Dioralyte. This is an electrolyte powder you add to water and will help to rehydrate your children. I live in a hot part of the world and diarrhoea and sickness in children can quickly become serious.


Calpol and Iboprofen

I have sachets of Calpol and children’s ibuprofen. These fit much better into the first aid kit than bottles. The dosage is set at 5ml, so it can be difficult to administer 2.5ml. High fever is something that needs to be brought down quickly so having these on hand is really helpful.

Extras for the medical kit

Cohesive bandage tape is actually something the vets always used on our dogs. It’s great stuff as it sticks to itself. You have to be careful not to make it too tight as with heat it shrinks. Just place it around the injury and use your hands to heat it up so that it molds into place. No more fiddling with tape or safety pins!

For some reason as soon as we take a break we get sore throats. Tyrozets are great for adults. You cannot give them to children.

Antiseptic is really important. I am sure the heat is to blame again, but wounds seem get infected very quickly here. I also pack a thermometer, Micropore for the normal bandages, and this mosquito repellent (its totally natural so super good for babies and young children).

Sterile medical kit

If we are going off the beaten track to a country with poor medical facilities then we always carry our own sterile medical kit. This is not something that you would use yourself, but rather give to a doctor to use.

Tea tree oil

Tea Tree oil is another great antiseptic, but also works a treat to take the itch out of mosquito bites.

Malaria test kit

A malaria test kit is another essential I have in my kit. Symptoms of malaria are very similar to the flu (fever, chills, continual headache). The doctors here aren’t always open at a weekend or even over the holiday periods, so having this test to hand helps to quickly check if you need to seek urgent medical assistance.

Tick removal tool

Ticks are an issue here, as is tick bite fever (caused by the pepper tick – another reason to get fever checkout by your doctor). I hate ticks and removing them can be difficult. You don’t want to do it incorrectly, so a tick removal tool is great and it’s painless.

Snakes and scorpions

It is worth buying a good snake and scorpion identification book, as identification of a snake or scorpion if stung is important for treatment. Try and remember every detail of a snake if you are bitten. I must urge that snake and scorpoion bites are very rare and the majority of families who travel Africa don’t even come across a snake or scorpion. Snake bites usually happen when someone is trying to catch a snake.

Snakes

We have some deadly snakes in South Africa and they have venom that works in two ways. Some venom works on cells killing cytotoxin and usually you would have a few hours as an adult to seek medical attention; children considerable less. The other type of venom is a neurotoxin. This works on your nervous system. It can reduce or stop breathing and stop your heart working.

Three snakes we worry about here are the:

  1. Mozambique Spitting Cobra
    If they spit in your eye, wash it out with a LOT of water and seek medical advice. The venom is mainly a cytotoxin, so the quicker you seek medical attention the better. It does have neurotoxin as well, so you may suffer from breathing difficulties and drowsiness.
  2. Black Mumba
    They are actually not black; the name comes from the black inside their mouths. These are big, up to 4m long and fast snakes. They are generally olive brown to grey in colour and shy in nature unless cornered. Their venom is a cardiotoxin and neurotoxin. Children have a matter of minutes if this snake bites them as the venom is very toxic. Carry out CPR, until you get medical assistance.
  3. Puff Adder
    Puff adders are ambush hunters, so are often trodden on, which is when they strike in self-defense. Consequently, it is the most dangerous snake in Africa. The venom is a cytotoxin and if a bite is left untreated it can kill. The symptoms can include severe pain, swelling, blistering, nausea, vomiting and later on necrosis with massive muscle and tissue damage.
What to do if bitten by a snake

With all snakebites they are very rare, but if they do occur, call a paramedic, immobilise the patient (they are not to walk or move), keep them calm, DO NOT APPLY A TORNIQU. If possible, keep their heart above the bite site, and check their breathing.  Try to ID the snake or scorpion taking a picture if you can without risking yourself. 

Keeping children calm when they have been bitten will be quite a challenge, particularly young ones. So I have a few balloons and lollies my medical kit to help. Thankfully these are not tried and tested, but I am hoping that they might help. The lollies have been spotted by the boys and they work well if they have hurt themselves badly.

Scorpions

A simple rule to follow with scorpions is that if they have little pincers and a thick tail they are going to be more dangerous than ones with a small tail and large pincers.

The one on the right is a parabuthus. It is particularly dangerous to the very young or infirm. With Scorpions size matters; the bigger the scorpion the more sting they can deliver.

What to do if bitten by a scorpion

If you are stung by a scorpion with a small tail it is going to be very painful, but you usually do not require medical attention (although very young and infirm are more at risk). You can take an antihistamine and charcoal tablet, and a soak in hot water should alleviate the pain (the hot water breaks down the proteins, which the sting is made up from). But if you are in any doubt contact a medical professional as each person can react differently to stings.

The same applies if a thick tailed scorpion stings you, but you MUST contact a GP.

Teaching our children about snakes and scorpions

We have spent quite a lot of time educating our children what to do if they find a snake or scorpion. When I have found a scorpion I have shown it to them and talked about what they should do. Leave it alone and come and find mummy or daddy. We have a local reptile centre and whenever we visit we drum in the advice – If you see a snake STOP, then SLOWLY WALK AWAY, and come and find Mummy or Daddy.

Snakes are scared of us, so if we threaten them they will attack as a form of self-defense; so it is really important that children do not try to poke or annoy them in any way. Snakes are deaf, so noise isn’t an issue. Again if we see a little snake and it’s not venomous a one, then we show the boys and check with them that they understand what to do. Our youngest was two years old when we came here, with no bush or snake experience, and he quickly understood what to do.

The boys are also not allowed to play in long grass, just in case they accidentally stand on a snake.

 

Disclaimer: Neither Joanne nor myself are medical experts, however the content (including snake and scorpion advice) has been checked over by a doctor. This post was put together by a Mum who lives in the African bush and all suggestions are from her own experience. This post should not replace any advice from a trained medical professional. Please seek advice from your doctor. Also, this post contains affiliate links. Should you purchase anything from this page, I get a small commission that goes towards our African camping fees.

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Africa with kids

We are off to AFRICA!

I think we have left you all in suspense for far too long. I’m not normally one for being secretive with plans, but we just had to ensure a few things were lined up and concrete before any announcements were made. However, I’m so excited to announce that… TRAVELYNN FAMILY ARE OFF TO AFRICA!

Me pregnant on Table Moutain, South Africa (2013)

Leaving India

India was a rollercoaster of adventures and I can’t believe that just this time last year we were packing up our lives in Kent, UK, and moving to Bangalore. In that year we managed to pack in so much including long weekends away to Hampi, Pondicherry and Kochi, and a couple of weeks in Northern India to visit the iconic Taj Mahal and splash in the River Ganges in Rishikesh. We also managed to travel to nearby countries Sri Lanka and Thailand, and more recently to Nepal for a 5 day Himalaya trek to Poon Hill.

2017 Travels in Review for TraveLynn Family

We did consider staying longer in India, but with changes in Daddy Lynn’s work it was not to be. It was a big decision to make, but after weighing everything up, he decided to take voluntary redundancy.

The decision

With a bit of money in the bank, the boys not in school yet (they’re only 2 and 4 years old) and our house in the UK still rented out, we felt the stars had aligned for a big trip. But where to go?

For a long time we considered South America as it’s a place we have never been, then we thought about heading back to Australia where we used to live and seeing old friends. We even thought buying a campervan and driving down to Morocco. We were going round and round in circles. But then another opportunity came our way…

Africa

Africa has always held a special place in my heart. Kenya was my first true travel adventure when I finished school at 18. I spent a summer working in the slums with street kids, climbed Mt Kenya, and travelled around making friends with likeminded people and opening my eyes to a whole different world. Then in 2000 when Jay and I met at Hull University, we spent our first summer together camping around Malawi. It was this trip together that bonded us as life-long travel buddies and we’ve been travelling ever since.

Africa with kids

Me in Kenya (1999)

Malawi (2000)

Africa with kids

Namibia (2013)

Those of you that have read Our Story will know that it was in Kruger National Park where we found out we were pregnant with our first. We continued travelling through South Africa, Botswana and Namibia (with a carefully chosen route to avoid malarial areas), before returning to the UK in time for the 12 week scan. We knew we would be back one day; Africa just has so much to offer!

Essaouira with kids - medina

We have taken the boys to Morocco (Essaouira), but we want to take them to the heart of Africa.

Our home for the next few months

So when a friend from Kent, who now runs an eco lodge and tour company in South Africa, got in touch and offered to help us out with a 4WD with roof tent, my imagination went into overdrive. This was just the adventure we were looking for!

Africa with kids

Our new home

This 4WD is our home for the next 3.5 months as we road trip around Southern Africa, and it is all thanks to Southern Sands Safaris. I love the fact that we have a ‘base’ and I won’t need to un-pack and pack everyone’s backpacks every day. We are all big fans of camping and can’t wait to see where she’ll take us.

Our route

We only have a rough idea of where we’re going; we only decided to do this trip a couple of weeks go! The boys are up to date on all vaccinations for Africa, except yellow fever, so we have taken this in to consideration. We will firstly head straight into Mozambique, up north into Tanzania, then back down through Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. If we have time we’ll explore more of Botswana and South Africa, but we really want to embrace a slower pace of travel.

Slow travel will help with budgeting, but also gives us time to plan a couple of weeks in advance at a time. With the countries we are visiting, it’s not really advised to arrive at a destination and drive around for a place to camp.

Follow along with our adventures

Flights are booked and we leave in 10 days! You can follow the next chapter of our adventures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and make sure you sign up for emails each time I publish a new blog post.

And to guide us on our travels, we’ve bought Lonely Planet Africa, and the Tracks4Africa Africa Southern Traveller’s Atlas.


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