Senior editor Norie Quintos, just back from an African safari with her teenage sons, filed this report. Previous blogs in this series include taking care of paperwork, staying healthy, and packing.

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Norie’s teenage sons swim in the Ewaso N’giro River

Teenagers act as if they’ve seen it all, and in many ways they have–most have been subjected to a 24-hour, hundred-channel television loop; they have viewed every viral YouTube video that titillates, shocks, saddens, tickles, or pulls heartstrings; they’ve done everything from fly jets to race cars to shoot bad guys in hyper-real videogames; they’ve seen the wonders of nature in HD-clarity on Planet Earth DVDs.

And yet. Real life trumps virtual reality every single time. And our recent trip to Kenya blew them away like no Playstation, Xbox, Blu-Ray, Imax, surround sound, or new-tech substitute-reality invention ever could. Turns out the travel experience just can’t be pixelated.

The trick to traveling with teens is to go beyond the visual and engage all their senses. (I worked with my outfitter, Micato Safaris, to plan such an itinerary.) Thus in the scrubland of Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau, Sabuk Lodge was such a hit. Run by Kenyan Verity Williams (that Africans can be white was one preconception busted for the kids), the eight-room ecolodge offers every fun activity and more listed in the popular The Dangerous Book for Boys; in fact the book, as well as its counterpart volume for girls, is displayed prominently on the coffee table.

There’s fishing with a stick, string, and bread-dough bait in the Ewaso N’giro River; jumping off boulders into same river; playing outdoor table-tennis with a red-robed Samburu; looking for game on foot and on camel; learning to read scat and animal tracks; and listening to Verity’s fireside bush tales (she worked on movie sets, including Out of Africa and The Ghost and the Darkness). Who knows what more we could have done had we stayed for more than a night? While it’s hard to say no to all the activity, the languorous lure of the lodge is strong, with its uniquely handcrafted local furniture, open-sided suites overlooking the river, hearty meals served family-style, and quiet library nook.

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Sabuk is one of a group of game lodges established on private reserves that once were exclusively ranch lands. Loisaba Wilderness is another one, where cattle ranchers and villagers and game lodges work in a unique, if sometimes uneasy partnership, with the result being the protection of once-hunted animals. For the visitor, it’s a more intimate and exclusive experience. At Loisaba, visitors can do everything from game drives to horseback safaris to dips in the pool to tennis to river-rafting. For all that, I loved sitting on my private deck with a pair of binocs and watching giraffe and elephant and zebra visit the watering hole far below. The kids, meanwhile, played endless rounds of bocce ball with the gardener, and made bows and arrows with the Samburu guide. We also walked to our next night’s accommodation, the Kiboko Starbeds, run almost exclusively by the neighboring Laikipiak Maasai and Samburu tribes. Our netted beds were on raised platforms and wheeled out from beneath the thatched roof at night. We slept to the tune of hippo grunts and hyena laughs.

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Loisaba also offered rides on quad bikes (also known as ATVs, or all-terrain-vehicles). Though the revenue goes to the local tribes running the operation, it somehow felt incongruous to guzzle gas, make loud noises, and kill grass in one of nature’s most wondrous landscapes. As my sons motored along rutted trails with me straining to keep up–catching flashes by startled zebra and gazelle looking up from feeding–the kids didn’t notice the contradiction; they were having too much fun.

The boys’ first sighting of a lion outside a cage was electrifying, and that the big cat was in the gutteral throes of mating was an experience my teens, themselves in early stages of adolescence, will never forget. This is what an African safari at its best provides: moments of raw, uncensored life at its most elemental.

Photos by Norie Quintos

Norie’s next installment covers Kenya’s iconic Masai Mara. Norie is updating the magazine’s safari planner. Share your own tips and experiences with us.

Comments

  1. brown
    May 30, 2013, 3:45 am

    Looks like a captivating experience,i would really want to explore it,there are also amazing places around the world you guys can tour,check travel books at http://www.booksfromus.co.ke/

  2. African Safaris
    December 31, 2010, 11:40 am

    The quad biking section looks great, I have never seen that on a safari before! I agree it does sound a bit off doing this in such a nice place and is it safe with wild animals around?

  3. R. Ruff
    July 1, 2010, 1:08 pm

    Would be interesting to know what parasites were picked up swimming in the river.

  4. Ray Ruff
    July 1, 2010, 1:06 pm

    Would be interesting to know what parasites they
    picked up swimming in the river.

  5. Jenna
    June 8, 2010, 8:15 am

    I’m always thrilled to see such a positive outlook on Africa. Kenya is a stunning country with so much to offer. For similar African adventure guides, tours and activities east and south Africa are great stops too.

  6. kathy hudson
    May 3, 2010, 2:10 pm

    yes Kenya is really a very beautiful place…..i also went there and took the services of spartan tours and travel…they really look after you very well and give you best tourism packages at very cheap price…..On this coming soccer world cup you can take their services…….cheers

  7. Kenya Travel Packages
    December 11, 2009, 11:52 pm

    Very comprehensive information. I have never experienced a safari tour. I just loved the brilliant way you narrated your experience. This kind of writing will help to promote Kenya and its natural resources.
    An African Safari is definitely an experience of a life time. Kenya is truly a blessed country with all the game the parks. It is truly inspiring.

  8. Luxury Safari
    December 11, 2009, 4:26 am

    Hey Norie, your trip looks like so much fun! We specialize in the Luxury safari market, which is geared more to the older generation, but kids these days need rough it and have a bit of adventure. I think for my next break I should give it a try…

  9. Kenya
    November 3, 2009, 1:00 am

    Have never been to Sabuk Lodge but will pay them a visit one of these days. Sounds like a very nice Lodge.

  10. kenya Holidays and Safaris
    October 17, 2009, 8:15 am

    What a brilliant report on your trip. Can only help to promote Kenya and its natural resources. We just have to make sure that it is protected so that future generations shall be able to enjoy the same experience as you.

  11. Paige
    October 13, 2009, 12:35 pm

    Hey Norie!
    This is your neighbor. I come to the NAtional Geographic website a lot and look at photographs.. I was at the photos site and a link to your pictures popped up, looks like you had a great time! These are some great pictures.
    -Paige

  12. Jimena
    October 8, 2009, 9:52 am

    I want to do something like that with my kids. I’m only waiting for them to be “teens”.
    How long did you stay there?

  13. Nancy Sathre-Vogel
    October 7, 2009, 4:52 pm

    Good for you for taking your kids along! Too many people either leave the kids behind or wait until they are in college to do these trips – but kids get so much out of travel!
    So much, in fact, that my husband and I have now bicycled 16,000 km with our twins from Alaska to Colombia. Our boys have learned so much from our experiences, and I’m sure they’ll learn even more as we make our way south to Patagonia!
    Nancy
    http://www.familyonbikes.org

  14. Lauren Stockbower
    August 19, 2009, 7:28 pm

    Norie,
    How fantastic. Sounds like an amazing trip. I would love to hear what the boys have to say about it as well. It’s so wonderful to hear that this trip was something that took them into the extraordinary. How long were you traveling? What other highlights from the trip?

  15. Milton M. Mzee
    August 19, 2009, 9:23 am

    Nice safari, you must have had a nicetime, nonetheless as a Tour and Safari Operator myself, I would like to inform the rest of us that there’s a cheaper option to the safari above, it may not provide all the privacy and walking safari but huge sighting of wild animals is guaranteed. There’s a lot of choicy safaris to pick from just visit http://www.mocabesafaris.com to make your choice and ‘FEEL’ Africa

  16. keith
    August 18, 2009, 7:27 am
  17. Romantic bed and breakfasts
    August 14, 2009, 5:48 am

    The Kenya is a great place to travel it is a fantastic place for Teens to enjoy and explore new things there. Nice Job kids!

  18. Shane
    August 13, 2009, 11:29 pm

    This kind of trip is one of the best kind of travel suit for teenage kids. I love those quad bikes I bet they have fun driving those bike. This kind of exploring makes African Safari unforgettable.

  19. Emma
    August 13, 2009, 11:08 am

    What an amazing trip and what lucky kids! At Elevate Destinations, lots of kids and teens have traveled with their parents to Africa on our trips. It’s great when you can find activities and sites that amaze the whole family like that.