Abi's Favourite Places to Stay With Friends & Family, Bushbaby Blog
As a busy working mum of 3, Abi would say that sometimes the only way to truly catch up with good friends is to join together on holiday. She has been fortunate to escape abroad with friends to many amazing places over the years:
When Jim and I turned 40, instead of a big party, we booked sole use of Jaci's Safari Lodge in South Africa's Madikwe Game Reserve for our close friends, kids in tow, for a very memorable 2 day adventure. We all have great memories of the safari and then heading to Cape Town to see England play in the football World Cup, vuvuzelas to the ready (noisy horns!) and still watch 'the movie' of the trip together 7 years on!
Our favourite place for a break with family and friends has to be either Ant's Nest or Ant's Hill; we've been fortunate enough to enjoy plenty of shared fun and wildlife spotting at these fantastic safari lodges over the years. They can be booked on an exclusive-use basis, so the focus is wholly on meeting the needs of your group and you can be as quiet or as raucous as you like! With a wide range of adventures on-tap, we joined together for some activities and did our own thing for others, with a rendez-vous over sundowners. Some opted for game viewing on horseback, others preferred two wheels or by foot - it didn't matter as we all met up for lunch in the bush.
Another very different South African adventure we shared with friends earlier this year was at Mount Anderson Reserve which can be easily combined with a Big Five safari in nearby Kruger. Whilst not home to the wide range of game found at Ant's Nest, it has its own special focus on the outdoors; it's all about fishing, boating and swimming with some excellent mountain-bike, hiking and horse-riding trails too. The spacious main house with one large bedroom is the focal point with dining areas, cosy corners and a snooker room. There are a further 4 bedrooms in two adjacent buildings - a brilliant combination for an active multi generational holiday!
Outside of Africa we loved our villa stay in Sri Lanka at Talaramba Reef near Mirissa. We shared the 4 bedroom villa with another family, but a second villa in the grounds means a party of 16 would be more than comfortably accommodated (with younger children also able to share thanks to flexible bed arrangements in the rooms). The team were gracious and attentive yet unobtrusive, preparing the most wonderful meals in the evening to be enjoyed on our terrace (for a minimal charge, otherwise costs were just those of the ingredients).
So where to in the future? This Easter we are trying a combination of Apartment and Hotel in Florida with a family with children of similar ages to the boys, the general idea being they don't need accompanying by a parent on fast rides! Then in the Summer we're heading west to join friends at Lagarta Lodge on the beautiful Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, so it will be interesting to compare experiences of sharing a sole-use house and staying within a hotel environment as a larger party.
However on my bucket list is a snowy extended family Christmas at Paws Up Ranch Resort, staying in one of their wonderful log cabin homes full of atmosphere. If you can't venture that far for a guaranteed white Festive Season, try Lapland, and stay with loved ones in your own little close of cabins complete with private saunas and the option of a traditional hot tub heated by logs. No disco lights in this one, but whilst our hair froze, we did get to spot shooting stars and the Northern lights from our steamy retreat, it was just very hard to get out!
If you're considering a shared holiday with family or friends, you might want to bear in mind these useful pointers:
Top 5 Tips
1. Opt for 'exclusive-use' if you can; there's something wonderfully relaxing about that home-from-home experience, but with a team of staff on hand to take care of everyone (so no resentment over missed turns at washing up!)
2. Aim for all-inclusive so there are no tricky moments when it comes to splitting the bill!
3. Look for a range of optional activities; it's great when you don't have to be in each others pockets 24/7 - Bushbaby call it 'together apart'! Perhaps a group can go horse-riding and another fishing, but you then all meet up for a special lunch and afternoon by the pool.
4. Set some ground rules for children in advance. Are you going to permit phones at mealtimes? How late should bedtime be? Will the children be sharing rooms or just siblings together? Discuss and agree your own rules before you get to the airport so expectations are set and debates on arrival avoided.
5. Book well in advance! For exclusive-use safari lodges, think at least a year in advance to ensure availability. This means that you are also well placed for booking the best flight fares when they are released approx. 11 months before departure.