On Saturday morning, my four children and I headed to East London with friends for a family safari event with Yellow Zebra Safaris. I had no idea what to expect, other than the fact we’d meet some animals, have lunch and do a bit of painting. Before I tell you more about our day, let me tell you why I didn’t hesitate for one second when we were invited to the family safari event.
I’ve always loved discovering new countries, learning about different traditions, religions and customs, listening to other languages and observing people from different cultures and how they interact with each other. Before I became a mum, I travelled and travelled and travelled some more.
In fact, my first ever trip without my mum was a horse-riding holiday to Colorado when I was only 15 years old. I’d won the trip on French radio! We’d trek all day on horseback and spend our nights in the Rocky Mountains. That’s a trip I’ll never forget! I still remember the sound of coyotes teasing our horses in the middle of the night, how much I loved learning line dancing with real cowboys and cowgirls and how cold it was after dusk. That adventure was all I needed to get the travel bug, and I didn’t stop travelling after that.
I would work whenever I was off school so I could fund my wanderlust. I would travel on a shoestring to start with, booking budget hotels and spending days and days on coaches from my hometown (Reims) to get to my destination, from Venice to Dublin to London to the French Alps. When I started working full time, there was no stopping me and I travelled extensively. My top three destinations so far are Rwanda, Iceland and Thailand, for very different reasons.
Dreaming of a Family Safari
I’ve always dreamt of going on a safari but didn’t get a chance before my children were born. My priorities changed when I became a mum but seeing giraffes in their natural habitat is still top of my bucket list. The one place I am most determined to visit is Botswana. It has been on my mind for over a decade. I have no issue taking my four children on a safari across the beautiful Southern African country, but I’ll have to save a lot before I can afford it. One day my friends, one day.
Before I delve into my reasons for keeping a close eye on Yellow Zebra for our first family safari, let me tell you a bit more about our day.
A Family Safari Day in the Heart of London
As soon as we arrived at the venue in Clapton, it was clear a lot of effort had been put into the day. The large room we walked in was filled with safari-themed props and balloons and it was all bright and busy.
Our day kicked off with an immersive experience led by Safari Pete.
Pete was an amazing presenter who immediately captivated the whole audience, children and adults alike! All the children who were keen to be involved were brought to the front and got a chance to handle one of Pete’s protégés. It was obvious he loved dearly each and every animal he introduced to us. He had an anecdote for each of the dozens of wild animals we met, and was talking fondly about each one of them and how they were rescued, mostly from people who’d acquired them illegally as pets.
First, we met Juliet the barn owl, a majestic British bird of prey. Pete explained to us that owls’ ears are asymmetrical so they can hear sounds from above as well as sounds from below. Black eyes indicate owls are nocturnal animal (owls with yellow eyes are not nocturnal).
Beanie and her friend Louise got to sit in front of the audience with Pinchy the scorpion on their lap, to show that scorpions do not tend to be aggressive unless under threat or stepped on by accident.
Then Pete introduced us to Poogy and Doogy, a couple of Australian dragon lizards. Wriggly was desperate to get involved and as she waved enthusiastically at Pete, she was picked to hold one of the friendly reptiles.
My absolute favourites were Baby bear and Steve, a couple of meerkats from the Kalahari desert in South Africa. I used to watch Meerkat Manor on TV and genuinely think it was the best TV programme ever!
Crevette got up close to see a snake eat a mouse.
Pete also fed Jay-Z the crocodile.
We also met Boo boo the monitor Lizard, Lady Gaga the tarantula and a cute tree frog before it was time for lunch.
The rescue animals in Pete’s care have a considerably better life than they had before, and it was an honour to be there for one of his demonstrations.
A Wholesome Lunch
I’d received our menu options a few weeks before we were due to go on the family safari day, and I have to say I was really impressed with the food on offer. It was all wholesome, sounding absolutely delicious and I wanted to try it all. It was very far from what I feel like when presented with a ‘party’ menu for children. Adults were also catered for beautifully, with smoked salmon, pitta, a range of cured meats, plenty of veg, salad, cheese and houmous.
With full tummies, the children each picked an animal to paint and they had the best afternoon.
Crevette, Beanie and Jumpy were all focused on making their animals look as lifelike as possible, and proceeded with care and attention to detail.
As for Wriggly, she went for a ‘disco giraffe’ and didn’t go shy with the colours.
All the children were completely engrossed in the activity and I have to say the people at Ceramic Circle were absolutely wonderful: they were supporting the children without doing the painting for them or making them feel like they were getting too messy.
Why go for Yellow Zebra Safaris?
I had a nice conversation with Julian Carter-Manning, director and co-founder of Yellow Zebra Safaris, and within a couple of minutes, it was obvious that Yellow Zebra stands out from the crowd when it comes to family safaris.
1- The people at Yellow Zebra look after you, from the moment you enquire to the moment you come back from your trip. That’s not something I would have needed 10 years ago when I was a seasoned traveller. Now though, with four young children and a tight budget, I would love to have my hand held through the process!
2- I used to be able to ‘rough it’ – not anymore. As one of my friends said recently, “If the place I’m going to is not nicer than my house, I’d rather stay at home!” I’m not saying I wrinkle my nose at modest hotels, but I would rather opt for luxury. If I’m going to be doing something once in my life, I’d rather do it in style!
3- On the Yellow Zebra Safaris website, the most common questions are answered in a clear, honest manner as you’re dreaming of your first family safari: Where to go? What do I need to pack? What are the top things to see and do? How much does it really cost?
4- Yellow Zebra Safaris do safaris and safaris only. To me, that’s a big seal of assurance that Yellow Zebra know what they’re doing and I feel they’re best equipped to give you the best advice possible for the trip of a lifetime. A safari is not your typical holiday and knowing all consultants are either pro safari guides, camp managers or people born and raised in Africa is rather impressive.
5- At Yellow Zebra, they’ve got a big focus on families, which is not your usual target audience for safaris, so that obviously appeals to me a lot! They can help you pick the best malaria-free reserves, the best kids’ clubs in the bush (for real!), and the most family-friendly locations, so the whole family can have a great trip.
6- The Family Safari Holidays Page of Yellow Zebra’s website is brilliant! It gives you destination recommendations for various age ranges, you can filter search focusing on school holidays and for each destination, they have a ‘youngest age’ recommendation, which helps a lot and means you’re not wasting time focusing on a country which might not be fully suitable for your little ones.
7- One thing I’ve always been an advocate of is trying my very best to focus on low-impact holidays. I love travelling, but I’d rather not have a negative impact on the country I’m visiting. Yellow Zebra, which is a conservation-focused company, can help you plan a sustainable holiday and that means the world to me.
8- For the third year running, they have won ‘Europe’s Leading Safari Tour Operator’ in The World Travel Awards, which are well respected within the travel industry.
9- As a photography enthusiast, the idea of going on a safari fills me with excitement at the thought of all the photography opportunities! Last year, I attended a ‘big cat’ photography course at a conservation centre in Hertfordshire. I would love to put everything I’ve learnt into practice in the wild.
10- All family safari adventures with Yellow Zebra are bespoke and completely tailored to you and you only. How good is that?
Check this video of Julian if you need convincing:
Disclosure: I was invited to the family safari day in London but wasn’t compensated otherwise for this blog post. We just had the best day and I was impressed by what Yellow Zebra Safaris have to offer. Bitten by the travel bug, much?