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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

34 Travel Zambia November 2009 it was more a case of ' how do you follow that?' The wildlife seemed almost to have put on a welcoming committee. We saw not one but two prides of lions, plus buffalo, giraffe, elephant, hippo and numerous smaller creatures. Jake and Cerys were gripped. And when, after sundowners, we set out on a night drive, the excitement level rose still further. For Jake, being a fi ve- year- old boy, anything involving jeeps and torches was his idea of heaven. Cerys, meanwhile, loved looking for the eyes: green/ blue for cats and yellow for everything else. " This is the most exciting thing I've ever done," she whispered conspiratorially. That evening Cerys ordered our dinner over the walkie- talkie. It arrived ten minutes later by jeep, with a chilled bottle of wine for mum and dad. All four of us sat eating a splendid meal, accompanied by the sound of the bush: elephants trumpeting, hippos snorting and the cackle of a hyena. I've had plenty of takeaways, but nothing will ever beat that. The following morning, however, we learned our most important lesson about taking young children on safari: don't overdo it. We had agreed to a morning drive. But after the late night and the rigours of the previous day, the early breakfast and 5.15 start was a step too far. The children didn't last long before they became frustrated and bored and just wanted to go back to bed. So we made the decision: less is more. One long drive a day was to be our limit. Over the following days we stuck to this principle, managing an unhurried routine of morning drives, night drives, picnics and walks. The plentiful time between safari activities saw us relaxing by the pool, playing games, watching animals at the river, reading or eating. Everybody was happy. Two moments stand out from the numerous highlights of our stay. One morning, when we had decided on a lie- in ( which, in Luangwa, means about 7am), a small family party of elephants approached the tree house. Jake and Cerys were as quiet as mice, willing them nearer. As the jumbos munched away on the grass in front - close enough for us to have patted their heads - one cheeky teenager reached up and stole Jane's trousers from the balcony rail. He waved them around in his trunk, swatting fl ies off his back and - at one point - tossing them in the air so they landed square on his head. Cerys and Jake were spellbound. The second highlight came on our fi nal night. The welcoming committee of animals that had greeted our arrival turned out again to say good- bye, but this time with one signifi cant addition: a leopard. Robbie had admitted to feeling under a little pressure to fi nd us Luangwa's spotted superstar before we went home, so he was excited to hear the alarm whistle from a group of puku that suggested a predator nearby. We approached closer and, sure enough, there was the leopard, drinking at the water's edge. It looked up, turned and strolled Alrik Green and family recommend the following: DO take plenty of food ( sandwiches can be critical on night drives, when dinner comes late) vary your activities: try a night drive or a bush picnic try something different, e. g. shop for curios or visit a local village allow time to observe animals properly: baboons can be great value. DON'T try to do too much expect children to be as interested as you are tell children they should be watching; they'll resist. GOOD IDEAS Start some fun discussions, e. g. if your friends were animals, what would they be? Set challenges on a game drive: e. g. ask them to fi nd an animal in a tree Make a tally chart so the children can tick off the animals they see. Devise a points system for spotting animals. Draw a map of where you went and where you saw particular animals. WHAT TO TAKE A few familiar things from home ( e. g. favourite books, toys) A simple guide book to animals MP3 player with audio book, plus two sets of headphones. Child- friendly binoculars and cameras. Lots of pens and paper SAFARIS WITH CHILDREN: A FAMILY SURVIVAL GUIDE Safari Focus Left: Cerys and Jake with their guide, Robbie Chazangwe Above right: Binoculars are vital - small pairs work best for small hands Below right: Sandwiches can boost fl agging energy levels on a night drive