Fear of malaria shouldn't prevent you enjoying Africa - many places are malaria-free
If there’s one thing guaranteed to get the grandparents clucking it’s the mere mention of the words ‘kids’, ‘holiday’ and ‘Africa’ in the same sentence. “Is it safe?”; “What about malaria?”; “Longleat has lions – why don’t you go there instead?”
You can’t blame them for being concerned. Africa has its fair share of challenges when it comes to travel. But, equally, it has plenty of destinations that are ideal for adventurous families.
Malaria is the single most important factor in deciding where to go. We recently took our five-year-old twins to Zambia where we gave them children’s Malarone, doused them in repellent, insisted they wore long trousers and generally spent a fortnight lashing out at every winged insect that passed within a metre of them. Having taken all these precautions, we were mortified when we discovered a bite on Ellie’s back. We now have to suspect any fever she might develop over the next year as potentially malaria-related.
Paranoid? Perhaps. But it’s small wonder that the Cape has become the default choice for family travel in southern Africa. Not only is it malaria-free, but it has Cape Town’s gold-star attractions (such as Table Mountain and the Two Oceans Aquarium) and superb self-driving, east along the Garden Route and north towards the Cedarbergs.
But the malaria-free options don’t end there. We found Namibia had similar appeal to the Cape with good infrastructure for independent touring and excellent-value family accommodation. Windhoek won’t leave your kids gawping (unless they’re into German colonial architecture), but Swakopmund is adrenalin central with all kinds of activities, from paragliding and kayaking to dune-boarding and 4WD tours along the Skeleton Coast.
Malaria is present in northern and eastern parts of Namibia, particularly from November to June, so that may strike Etosha National Park from your itinerary. However, you can still get a malaria-free safari fix by visiting a game reserve in the Waterberg region or at Okonjima (over 12s only), where the AfriCat Foundation rehabituates cheetahs and leopards (www.okonjima.com).
Ultimately, though, a family trip to Namibia is about getting sand between your toes (and just about everywhere else). It took our five-year-olds a good 30 minutes to walk, crawl and stagger to the crest of one of Sossusvlei’s giant dunes – and barely 30 seconds to somersault, slide and tumble down again.
For days afterwards they would find at least a small pinch of powder-fine sand in their trainers or pockets. To them Namibia will always mean one thing: the Place of the Huge Roly-Poly.