The Lessons My Son Learned on Safari that He Never Would Have Learned in School
Every year, I make it a point to take my sons on a mother-son trip. I have found this is a great way to bond with each child individually, as well as cater to their individual likes and dislikes. I’m sure my kids are a lot like yours. While they certainly have common interests, they also are very different. By creating two different trips, it accomplishes several things; it’s cheaper to travel with just one child, I’m able to plan things that I know that child will enjoy, we’re able to spend time one on one. I also firmly believe travel is one of the best forms of education.
The older my children get, the harder it is for me to find a time to take them out of school. I fully understand the need for them to keep up with their peers, however, I also recognize that not all learning happens in the classroom. I took my nine year old son on a safari to Kenya this fall and faced backlash from his teachers. So, I took the time to do a little breakdown of what he learned while we were away. In total, he missed six days of school, as I did plan around weekends.
It goes without saying that any safari experience is going to be a crash course in animal science. We spent hours spotting animals. K learned about animal life cycles and migration patterns. He learned to identify different types of deer. He discovered new animals he had never heard of. He also saw a lot of dead animals who were either killed by predators or died naturally...the true “circle of life,” up close and personal.
The safari camp we stayed with, Angama Mara, works closely with the local Masai tribe. We spent one morning at a Masai village, where we were taught about the traditions and lifestyle of the tribe. My son got hands on with one of the village elders as he learned how to make fire with two sticks (and yes, he really did it!). During our visit, we learned about their diet, belief system, and so much more. He doesn’t associate this experience with a picture in a book, he associates it with John, the son of the chief who he personally met. Not only did he learn about a new culture, but he has a personal tie to the tribe as people and not just something in a book.
Traveling to a new country means a new currency, and this is always prime time for a math lesson. Whenever we travel, I make sure to put my kids in charge of doing some currency conversions. While they now know to do this, on some of our earliest trips, I pointed out the conversion rate and how to figure out what things cost in dollars. Now this is their “job” when we travel somewhere new. In the Maasai village, we purchased some souvenirs. It was up to K to figure out what things cost and negotiate with the sellers on the final price.
The local language used is Swahili, and we learned a few words here and there. It was interesting for K to pick up similarities between English and Arabic (both which are mixed into the language). He speaks three languages, and so quickly picked up new Swahili words, and dare I say, even took on the accent. Even if your kids learn a word or two, it’s a great experience!
I handed off my camera countless times for K to take his own pictures. It was interesting to see what he saw as “photo worthy.” The landscapes of Kenya are stunning! Aside from observation, having kids color or draw pictures is an easy way to spend time and get them engaged.
Music plays an important role in Masai life. We were fortunate to witness a traditional singing and dancing ceremony where everything was completely new! Most African cultures have a strong musical connection, and so this is impossible to miss.
These are just a few of the lessons learned on safari. I think it’s safe to say that he learned quite a lot - and dare I say, more than he may have during that week at school?
Amanda is the blogger behind the website MarocMama, a fearless guide to food and travel. She lives in Marrakech, Morocco with her family and loves to share culinary experiences and unique destinations around the world with her readers. She visited Kenya this October on a mother-son trip.
All photos courtesy and copyright MarocMama.com