Tag: Hippos

Africa Highlights

Travelling Africa 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 – FAQ: Travelling Africa with kids.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

 

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.

zambia itinerary with kids

AFRICA OVERLAND Part 4: Zambia itinerary with kids

Take a quick glance at a map and Zambia may seem like a daunting prospect. Not only is the country itself immense but, once you factor in the huge distances between the main sights, it can seem like too much too cover. Add in the high-cost of accommodation and the clear bias towards uber-luxury travel, you’d be forgiven for wondering if budget family travel is even possible. But the sheer majesty of Victoria Falls, spotting hundreds of hippos in the Zambezi, and soothing hot springs hidden deep in the bush, more than made up for those long distances and these family travel highlights certainly didn’t break the bank.

This Zambia itinerary with kids continues our African overland adventures in a Land Rover Defender and our two boys. We started in South Africa, and have so far ventured through Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania. Hence this fortnight itinerary starting from day 65.

Zambia itinerary with kids

Our route through Zambia (Google Maps, 2018)

CONTENTS

The Tanzania/Zambia border
Kapishya Hot Springs
Drive to Lusaka
Lusaka
Lower Zambezi
Lake Kariba
Livingstone
To the Namibian border

Day 65: The Tanzania/Zambia border

It’s a long wait at the Zambia border whilst you get all your various documents stamped and in order. Getting the visa and passport stamped is relatively straightforward. The drawn out process is the car and the various taxes that need to be paid. It took us 3.5 hours to get through. Kings Highway Rest House, Kalungu, is just an hour from the border. Although be warned that the road is riddled with potholes and very narrow.

Day 66: Kapishya Hot Springs

More potholes await and it’s a squeeze getting past the oncoming trucks, but it’s a lovely drive through villages and locals eagerly wave as you pass by on your way to Kapisha Hot Springs.

Whilst the welcome at the lodge might not be the warmest, the soothing warm waters of the hot springs will wash away any frustrations from the border (and it’s not too hot for little ones). There is also a swimming pool on site (although ask permission from the owner before using if camping) and you can purchase succulent Cumberland sausages to cook for dinner. Camping is USD15 per adult and USD8 for children between 3 and 12.

zambia itinerary with kids

Kids will love meeting the farmyard animals on site, or you may wish to visit the very grand Shiwa House (tours are by strict appointment and USD20pp). It all feels rather Downton Abbey in the deep Zambian bush!

Day 67-69: Drive to Lusaka

It’s a bit of a slog to Lusaka, passing the odd nondescript dusty town, with the road running alongside the railway line that runs between Tanzania and Zambia. We broke up the journey at Forest Inn, just past Mkushi, which has good camping facilities.

zambia itinerary with kids

Day 70-71: Lusaka

After two months in the African bush, the big city development of Lusaka was quite a culture shock; dual carriageways, glitzy malls, fast food restaurants and a smattering of skyscrapers await. Head to the Manda Hill Shopping Mall, the biggest in Lusaka, to stock up on meats, cheese and wine from Shoprite (a treat if you’ve been on the road a while). There are also lots of restaurants, a cinema, and even soft play at Funky Frogs.

We camped at Pioneer Lodge & Camp. It’s just on the outskirts of Lusaka, but the dirt track leads to their gate takes you out of the city and back into the African bush. There is a (very cold) pool, (wonderfully warm) showers, and flat grassy pitches with braii and fire pit.

Day 72-73: Lower Zambezi

The Zambezi river is home to hundreds of hippos and you are pretty much guaranteed to see them on a boat trip. We stayed at the very welcoming Gwabi River Lodge which has sunset-perfect views over the River Kafue (the River Zambezi is just a few kilometres away), a swimming pool, and the campsite has hot showers, fire pits and a braiis. A half day boat trip costs USD130 (including fuel). You may also see crocodiles and elephants. To get there from Lusaka, don’t take the dirt track suggested by Google Maps, instead take the seemingly longer route via Kafue along a perfect tarmac road.

Day 74: Lake Kariba

Lake Kariba is the largest artificial lake in the world. We stayed at the rather tired Eagles Rest Resort, Siavonga, which has a small rusty playground with some toys. Just across the lake you can see the mountains of Zimbabwe. Do be wary of hippos and crocodiles. We spotted a few crocodiles swimming around the campsite! Needless to say, we didn’t stay around the campfire after nightfall and retreated to our rooftop tents on our Land Rover.

zambia itinerary with kids

Day 75-79: Livingstone

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.

We broke up the long journey to Livingstone at The Moorings, and tried a few campsites once in Livingstone. Unfortunately the camping options are rather uninspiring in and around the town. There is such a focus on high end tourism, that it seems the independent budget traveller is forgotten, or rather ignored (there are a couple of buzzing backpackers in town, although they do not cater for campers). So we were very grateful to be invited to stay a couple of nights at Victoria Falls Waterfront (read our review here).

Aside from visiting Victoria Falls (an absolute must do and highlight of anyone’s Africa travels), the town of Livingstone offers a myriad of activities to squeeze out every last tourist dollar (white-water rafting, sunset boat cruises, helicopter flights, bungee-jumping). The budget-conscious traveller therefore needs to be selective. We were happy enough to spend a good few hours exploring the trails around Victoria Falls, followed by drinks and ice-cream at the Sun Deck of the lavish Royal Livingstone. Our boys were absolutely wowed by the zebras walking around the car park! We also recommend a visit to The Livingstone Museum (USD5 per aadult). Don’t even bother visiting the over-priced Railway Museum though. We were also treated to an evening sunset cruise along the Zambezi through The Livingstone Waterfront.

Livingstone is also a good base to get things sorted for onward travels with banks, well-stocked supermarkets and even a Land Rover specialist garage (Foleys Africa), which we used for servicing our Defender.

Day 80-81: To the Namibian border

It’s the old game of dodging pot-holes towards the Namibian border. Allow at least 5 hours from Livingstone to Sesheke. We stayed overnight at Brendas Best Baobab; a picturesque spot on the banks of the Zambezi with beautifully manicured gardens, although overlanders camp in the carpark. It’s then a short 5 minute drive the following morning to the border.

 

Disclaimer: Our stay at Victoria Falls Waterfront was fully hosted, in partnership with Kamageo, in exchange for an honest review. As always, these are my own words and opinions. 

Zambia itinerary with kids

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This post is linked with #FarawayFiles


Where would we be without our trusted Lonely Planet? The Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi combined Lonely Planet guide was invaluable to our overland travel planning.

Alternatively, if you are only focusing on Zambia, you may prefer this Bradt guide.

You may also like to read:
AFRICA OVERLAND Part 1: South Africa and Mozambique itinerary with kids
AFRICA OVERLAND Part 2: Malawi itinerary with kids
AFRICA OVERLAND Part 3: Tanzania itinerary with kids

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

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