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32 Travel Zambia November 2009 CHILD'S PLAY Is a big- game park really any place for a family holiday? Sceptics will give you plenty of good reasons to leave the kids at home - but teacher Alrik Green took his wife and two young children to South Luangwa to fi nd out for himself. With the help of a tree house, a walkie- talkie and a stolen pair of trousers, it turned out to be a holiday to remember. Photos by Alrik Green sshh!" I whispered, " let's see how close it gets." My son Jake and I waited patiently as the big white bird approached. Closer and closer it came until, just three metres away, it took fright and fl apped off into the afternoon sky. Okay, I'll come clean: this wasn't a great white egret in the African bush but a seagull in an English supermarket car park. But it was still a signifi cant moment: I was about to head out on safari to South Luangwa National Park with my wife Jane, my daughter Cerys ( aged nine) and son Jake ( aged fi ve). In planning our trip, we had struggled to fi nd a place suitable for a family safari. Many camps, after all, do not take young children. We eventually chose Flatdogs Camp, not only because of its great location on the Luangwa river right beside the park entrance, but also because it seemed to offer a relaxed and family-friendly set- up. Furthermore we were intrigued by staying in the Jackalberry Tree House - and all of us liked the idea that a ' fl atdog' is, in fact, a crocodile. We couldn't wait to get going. Any anxieties about taking the children on such an adventure evaporated immediately we arrived. At Mfuwe Airport a smiling Robbie Chazangwe introduced himself as our guide and drove us the short distance to camp, where Adrian and Jess, the owners, gave us a warm welcome. Already we felt at home. The tree house turned out to be a minute's drive from reception and the restaurant. Upon arrival we received strict instructions never Safari Focus Lego is as absorbing in the bush as anywhere else - especially when you can build a safari truck

November 2009 Travel Zambia 33 to walk this route unsupervised; the camp is open to wildlife, and many animals - notably Gilbert the elephant - wander around day and night. Thus we were given a walkie- talkie with which to summon a ride whenever we needed. Our excitement as we climbed the steps into our arboreal abode was palpable. The children behaved as if they had just walked onto the set of Swiss Family Robinson, and they were not far wrong. We were amazed to find that the whole ingenious structure was suspended from three enormous jackalberries, and that our open bedrooms, bathrooms and living area - all arranged on a beautiful wooden deck - looked straight out onto the bush. Wildlife was everywhere. Before we'd even unpacked we'd seen elephant, impala and vervet monkeys, while hippos snorted away down at the river. And the open- plan design meant that we felt very much in the middle of things: " Alrik, there's a monkey watching me shower," came a shriek from a giggling Jane, as a vervet peered down from the tree above our bathroom. That afternoon we set out for our first game drive with Robbie and Paul Sakala, our excellent spotter. Flatdogs provide families with their own vehicle - a sensible policy, as not all guests want to share a drive with kids and it gives parents less to worry about. The anticipation was mounting as we climbed into the jeep. There is an art to managing children's expectations - building up excitement, without overdoing it and risking disappointment. After our first amazing game drive, however, Top: The Flatdogs treehouse is built around three enormous jackalberries Above left: a mini walking safari around camp Above right: monkey business in the shower " This is the most exciting thing I've ever done!" whispered nine- year- old Cerys