This month our family travel snap takes us to the desert in Morocco with a baby just learning to walk. Based in Ouarzazate, Lonely Planet Pathfinder João runs a small local hotel and writes an adventure travel blog (joaoleitao.com) where he shares his experiences of more than 16 years of travelling, now with his son Daniel in tow.
What’s the story behind this photo?
My son Daniel is exploring on his own during our recent visit to the Erg Chebbi Dunes. The Sahara is a special place, exotic to adults and children alike. For a toddler still getting to know the world, it was a sensory experience: the incredible sight of the dunes, the sound of nearby drums, the dry smell of the desert, the taste of sweet dried apricot on his tongue along with the overwhelming sensation of fine, soft sand beneath his feet.
I chose this photo because it captures the moment my 15-month-old infant set off to explore an extensive open space independently. While it is often claimed that children don’t remember places they visit at an early age, I think the emotions those places evoke within us do have an impact. Thanks to our trip to the Sahara Desert, I believe my son has a greater consciousness of his surroundings. This trip was an excellent way to introduce him to the five basic human senses, all at once.
After an extended period of walking barefoot, looking attentively towards the horizon, Daniel ended up laying on the ground and performing swimming motions in the sand! Days in the desert are long and the dunes serve as an endless playground…
João’s tips for visiting Erg Chebbi Dunes with kids
1) Stay longer: don’t rush a desert trip with kids. Make sure they have plenty of time to properly appreciate and understand the unique environment they are in.
2) Take adequate precautions against the harsh climate: ensure little ones are covered up, suncream is applied regularly and there’s plenty of water to drink. Use natural coconut oil to keep young skin moisturised.
3) Moroccans love children – so make the most of it! Interacting with people they are less familiar with is great for children’s development and opens many conversational doors for the adults in the party.
Where’s next on your family travel bucket list?
We are preparing for a camper-van journey from Europe all the way to Magadan in the Russian Far East.
Lastly, complete the sentence:
When we shut the front door ready to go and travel as a family, we always…
…make sure to have our hearts wide open and prepare to indulge our souls with unforgettable, happy moments. Travelling together creates unique family bonds.
Follow João’s travels on Instagram at @joaoleitaoviagens.