Welcome to Diary of a Muzungu! This week’s guest post is by Joe. I’ll let him introduce himself!
I’m Joe. I run Nature Rated. I love spending time in the outdoors. Whenever daily life gets me down, I head to the nearest lake or river with my kayak and my camera, and I spend time recharging my batteries. I hope you’ll love my ‘no fluff’ to-the-point reviews and that they’ll help you choose the right travel gear for your next adventure!
5 things to remember when backpacking with kids in Africa
Africa will always be one of the most exceptional destinations, rich in beauty and lots of places to explore. For many, it’s unexplored, wild and beautiful.
For some, travelling to Africa can be a daunting experience without proper planning. Backpacking with kids can be an even more challenging experience; but hey, adventure awaits, so who says you can’t do it?
Here are five things that you should not forget when backpacking with kids in Africa.
1. The backpack carrier or wraps
Africa is big! And that can mean walking for long distances from time to time. Of course, children get tired quite quickly, especially when it is sunny. You need to have reliable ways to carry them comfortably for long hours because there’s nothing worse than having a kid who refuses to walk, and a few hours to the next pit stop.
The most common solutions for carrying children when backpacking in Africa include backpack carriers and traditional African cloth wraps, kikois or lessu. Wraps are appropriate as many Africans use them to carry babies and young children. They certainly make you blend into African society too! They’re light to carry, but they’re not suitable for bigger kids.
A backpack carrier is functional and easy to use since it is well padded and comfortable, but it does mean that you’re carrying it around with you – in addition to everything else.
2. Get quality backpacks for you and your kids
If you want to have a fun time travelling, you should consider investing in a good quality backpack. Moving from place to place can be hectic, and the last thing you need is a bag that tears or splits because of wear and tear or poor quality.
Remember to get bags that match the kids’ sizes and yours too. The backpacks should also contain enough pockets but don’t let that inspire you to overpack. You should travel light. If you’re camping, check out the best backpacking tents available. Travelling light with the right backpack improves flexibility and mobility. I’m always amazed how much a good quality bag and tent improves the trip. Your local camping or outdoor store should be able to help with your decision.
3. Health prerequisites
You don’t want your trip to get cut short with the kids falling sick so you should investigate health requirements before you travel to Africa. Commonly, kids – and you! – should receive vaccinations against rabies, and possibly typhoid and yellow fever among other diseases that are common in the tropics.
Taking malaria prophylaxis may not be practical if you are traveling for many months, but should be taken by the whole family when you’re only traveling for a short period.
Consider the side-effects: the more expensive pills are worth investing in as they have fewer side effects. Preventing mosquito bites is your best defence in preventing malaria.
Remember to carry a mosquito repellent and a mosquito net since the little devils will be patiently waiting! Wear long-sleeved neutral coloured clothing and avoid being outside at dusk and dawn. A basic First Aid kit is also recommended.
We all know how easily kids can pick up bugs from their playmates! So, make sure your First Aid kit has medication against diarrhoea, vomiting and nausea; it should also have disinfectant, bandages and plasters. Being prepared is the key to a great trip.
Is it possible to maintain high hygiene standards when backpacking? Sure! Though it can be challenging. In warmer and poorer countries, hygiene is quite a challenge especially with the lack of clean water you might encounter.
Always have wet wipes or a damp cloth with you. You won’t always have pizza and spaghetti served to you, so you have to try out the street food delicacies. Many backpackers have reservations about eating street food. Here is the trick! Keep a close look at how they prepare the food, and you be the judge of whether it is clean or not.
Is the meat left out? What do they do with utensils once they’ve used them? Does the cook wash his hands? Does he look clean overall? Is the water fresh? Keep an eye on what your kids eat and come into contact with, and take steps to ensure that they maintain high standards of hygiene. Alcohol gel is a great help too!
The best tip is to eat at the busiest place where the locals go. If the food is popular with the, then you should be fine. Also, a busy restaurant or stall has to keep preparing fresh food. Food that seems to have been sitting around for a long time should be avoided.
Africa is a beautiful continent, full of loving and welcoming people; however, this does not mean that bad people don’t exist here. Many travellers have been victims of robbery and occasionally assault, and that does not exempt you and the kids. Please pick safe areas for backpacking. Remember to set a few personal security measures, especially for the kids, since you will interact with many people as you travel.
Ensure that all the bags are lockable and keep valuables out of sight. No child should have their travel documents with them since there is a high chance that they will lose them. All the kids should stick together; teach them to check from time to time whether everyone is present. Setting some ground rules is an important approach for ensuring that you and your kids are safe.
Hopefully, this article has convinced you that Africa has so much for you and your children to enjoy and explore safely. Backpacking with the kids in Africa does not have to be difficult. When you plan properly, it’s possible to have a fantastic experience when exploring this wild continent.
There is nothing to fear, and nothing to hold back, Africa awaits!
The Muzungu: thanks Joe for sharing your family-friendly backpacking tips!