A safari is an ideal way for busy families to spend quality time together and reconnect. With a little advance planning, an African vacation can include a perfect mix of fun (but educational) kids’ activities, as well as more grown-up moments of indulgence. Plus, of course, plenty of experiences that adults and children can share. If you’re planning a family safari (and especially if your party includes some first-timers) then there is no finer destination than Kenya – the country where safari began, and the stage for some of Africa’s most spectacular wildlife moments. Here’s our Kenya travel guide for families.
Making the Most of Nairobi
The bustling, colorful capital city is likely to be the starting point for your Kenyan family safari, but there’s much more to it than just the airport arrivals lounge. Nairobi boasts some historic hotels with wonderful, authentic ambiance, and it’s worth spending a day or two there.
Visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park lets you have a close encounter of the herd guide. Orphaned elephants from all over Kenya find sanctuary here, where they are nursed back to health and prepared for an eventual return to the wild. Meeting and feeding an orphaned elephant is an unforgettable experience but be warned: young elephants (just like young humans) form strong emotional bonds quickly, and you may find it hard to leave!
Happily, you can continue your association by fostering an orphan and receiving regular updates on his or her progress. Even closer to the city, you can channel your inner Robert Redford or Meryl Streep by visiting the Karen Blixen Museum. This is the actual farmhouse that the author of “Out of Africa” lived in, only now it’s surrounded by the leafy suburb that bears the author’s name.
If Mom and Dad are feeling a little jet-lagged, then a visit to Karunguru Coffee and Tours (just 40 minutes outside Nairobi) could be the wake-up call that’s required: this working coffee farm reveals the secrets of growing and producing coffee and offers revitalizing cups of Kenya’s finest.
A family safari also offers you and your kids several opportunities to give something back to the people of Kenya – and particularly its children. Any empty space in your luggage on the way to Kenya can be used as part of the Pack for a Purpose initiative – they can advise on the best sports equipment or educational materials to take to Kenya.
The One Horizon organization goes a step further by offering the chance to visit a Kenyan school and assist with teaching, preparing lunch or health education. One Horizon has made a profoundly positive impact on the lives of hundreds of children – and the experience will undoubtedly change your life, too. Meeting children who live a very different life can be an eye-opener for your own children.
Perhaps the most iconic Kenyan safari experience is witnessing the Great Wildebeest Migration. This annual event, which sees millions of animals on the move in search of better grazing, just happens to coincide with the US summer break. This is your best chance yet to give your kids the experience of seeing game, rather than spending the vacation playing video games.
Well-known safari operator Asilia Africa offers numerous safari activities that families can enjoy together. These have been carefully thought-out to include educational elements (often by stealth) as well as a great deal of fun. After all, there is no finer (or more beautiful) classroom than the rolling plains of the Masai Mara. Whether your family contains a Junior Masterchef or a future physicist, they’ll find plenty to keep them occupied. Spoor tracking and fire-lighting give them a chance to put their newly acquired bush skills to the test while learning to make (and shoot) a Maasai bow and arrow let them become a warrior for a while.
Cooking lessons include everything from choosing ingredients in lodge kitchen gardens to building termite mounds pizza ovens, while an evening spent stargazing can reveal more heroes than any trip to the movies.
Where to stay
One Forty Eight is Nairobi’s newest boutique hotel, located in the tranquil suburb of Langata. The Main House accommodation is ideal for families of almost any size, as it features three bedrooms plus a converted lodge for children. Wildlife (including monkeys and warthogs) frequents the gardens, and there is plenty of space on the lawns for a game of croquet. At night, you may even hear lions roaring from Nairobi National Park, while you can also visit your much less noisy neighbors at the adjacent Giraffe Sanctuary. One Forty Eight offers the perfect combination of proximity and peace and quiet.
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp is a wonderful way to experience the ground-breaking conservation programmes taking place at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya’s Laikipia region. As well as game drives and guided walking safaris, you can also visit the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary (run in conjunction with the Jane Goodall Institute) or learn how to locate the “king of the jungle” with lion-tracking lessons. Ol Pejeta offers a number of luxury safari accommodation options, but even though you will be superbly well-looked after, you won’t be the most important guests. That title belongs to the last two northern white rhinos on Earth, which are protected at Ol Pejeta. Unfortunately, although they are safe from harm, they are both females, which means that the species is now on the brink of extinction.
Naboisho Camp, in a private concession neighboring the Masai Mara, is a sanctuary for stressed-out humans as well as for wildlife. It offers a perfectly pitched blend of excitement and exclusivity, as well as serenity and solitude. With activity options including fly camping and horseback safaris, this is the place to scratch your African adventure itch. Best of all, their children’s safari program is run by guides who grew up in the area: this was their childhood playground. They’re also all family men, which means that they can share the secrets of the African bush while being conscious of their responsibilities. Don’t be surprised when your children pick up some words in the local language, among other new bush skills!
For more information or expert help planning and booking your family’s ultimate Kenya trip, please contact us today.