Written by Michelle Veloso
A continent I have always been drawn to.
Drawn to as a free-spirited youth, dancing in the backsplash and roar of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Drawn to as an infatuated couple, abseiling down the rock face of Table Mountain, South Africa.
And now, drawn to as a family, seeking wildlife and adventure in the Serengeti, Tanzania.
With a 4-month old in tow, we read online forums and visited travel expos and were told a safari with a baby could not be done.
But as part of an upcoming community of family travellers disrupting the travel scene, we pursued.
Armed with 720 wipes, 112 nappies, 4 bottles and 1 breast pump we set off on a 24 hour long-haul from Sydney, Australia to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Over the next five weeks, we laughed, cried and argued over the lessons learned:
8-hour time difference
First day in, we sat at a local eatery in Arusha, the central tourist hub of Tanzania, downing some Wali na Waharage (rice and beans) and Ugali na Samaki (polenta and fish).
We goggled over how well behaved our baby was, taking longer naps than usual. But then in a moment of comprehension it dawned upon us, it was 10pm Sydney time. Sleep time. Baby jet lag had unexpectedly slapped us in the face.
Over the next few days, we spotted elephants in Tarangire National Park, and drank banana beer in a small village, Mto Wa Mbu. All the while, we scheduled baby feeds according to local time. We exposed the little one to as much daylight as possible and eventually won the battle against baby jet lag!
Bumps, Bottles and Bush Baths
In a country where car seats are a rarity, it took connections of connections to source one. The search, in the end, was worth it, as having baby strapped into her restraint proved key to our survival in the bush.
The road trip from Arusha, to the heart of the Serengeti included 300 km of unsealed goodness. The serious rock bashing our Landcruiser endured was, ironically, soothing motion and white noise to our baby and she instantly fell asleep every time we hit the bumpy gravel. We secured a neck pillow around her head for extra suspension.
Cocooned safely in her seat, I was hands-free; allowing me the opportunity to manage a baby and take happy snaps of our wildlife encounters at the same time.
Whenever we slowed to a stop, baby awoke. In the shade of a wide sausage tree, we basked in the presence of a stunning leopard while baby was fed. We then changed her atop the car fridge. The stimulating environment seemed to encourage baby’s appetite, and by trip end, she had put on a significant amount of weight.
Back at the tented camp, the porters hospitably hurried to our aid to find us a suitable bucket for baby bathing. With some warm water and wash, we scrubbed off the dirt baby had accumulated during the drive, all in the heat of the setting African sun.
Supported by loving people in an accommodating country and with the determination and teamwork of Mum and Dad, despite the odds, adventuring on safari with a baby was successfully accomplished.
So long as there is access to the basics; milk, changing and bathing, a baby is manageable anywhere. At such a young age, one might argue travelling is useless because ‘they won’t remember it.’ While she didn’t remember it, the growth curve we witnessed in our baby, while travelling, accelerated significantly. She learned how to roll over, sleep on her stomach and got fat during our trip.
It’s never too early to start them young.
So I urge you to go.
To follow up on Michelle’s Adventures: