Coming from Kenya and having taken my own family on safari there most years, I am well-versed in what makes a family safari to this country so successful.
There is so much more to a successful safari than just game viewing. Nobody wants to do the same thing every day and that most definitely includes being in a vehicle all day – the death knell to any young child or teenager! You need to mix and match in order to create the perfect safari experience!
If you are travelling to Kenya from afar, you are likely to be tired on arrival. The trick is to start off somewhere which is not safari focused. The best places tend to be either around Lake Naivasha, staying at a beautiful private homestead and spending time relaxing by the lake, or in Nairobi, where Giraffe Manor is a popular choice. If staying near Nairobi, I recommend visiting the Daphne Sheldrick elephant orphanage, a fantastic charity where you can see the elephant calves with their keepers and learn all about them.
Another region of Kenya to consider starting your African family safari is Laikipia, a beautiful and wild region just north of the equator. With swimming pools, horses for riding, rivers to swim in and tube on, fishing and wildlife, this is the perfect spot to relax and unwind straight after travelling.
Keeping the children interested whilst learning about the region is vital for everyone’s enjoyment. Cottar’s 1920's Camp in the Masai Mara is just one example of a safari camp that offers engaging activities for the whole family. Children and adults alike can join the Maasai Warrior School and learn skills such as fire making, spear throwing, dancing and singing. During a safari in the Masai Mara with my family, I stayed in a lovely bush camp where my children visited a Maasai village. They learnt about the Maasai culture and were taught how to make jewellery and belts with beads. For more privacy, Cottar's Private Bush Villa is on the same concession and affords access to all the same experiences, with added exclusivity and flexibility for the whole family!
Take a tour of Cottar's Private Bush Villa >> find out more
In Samburu or Laikipia, it is possible to spend time with a wildlife researcher. This is not something open to the tourist in general, but more aligned with our ethos and relationships we have with these people. The cost is usually a collar or microchip, so in addition to enjoying a privileged experience, you will also make a difference to the fight against poaching.
Having a private guide accompany you throughout your family safari in Kenya is recommended and the very best option – as this offers greatest harmony and ensures that everything runs smoothly. Our guides are all amazing with children and really add to a safari – they are fun, knowledgeable and wonderful to have around. A few are professional photographers so you can hone your photographic skills at the same time!
From beautiful ranches in Laikipia to a tented camp or lodge in the Masai Mara, there is a range of accommodation to choose from when planning a family safari in Kenya. Many camps now have family tents which are both roomy and comfortable. If you are feeling adventurous, you can stay in a treehouse or even sleep out beneath the stars at night! If you are thinking of heading to the coast, then you will find an array of chic Robinson Crusoe style retreats, family-styled lodges, boutique hotels and five-star resorts to choose from.
Exclusive Alfajiri Villas on Kenya's coast are the most chic beachside escapes in Kenya >> watch the video
Kenya is just oozing with the most incredible places and experiences for the ultimate family safari. You could go horse riding, take a quad biking safari, visit a local school and learn about the Mukogodo tribe of Maasai origin.
For those wanting a greater dose of safari, choose Meru, Samburu or Amboseli for a complementary experience. The Chyulu Hills offers riding, as well as following blood hounds that are used for tracking, and you can sleep out on your own verandah. This area has lovely wildlife and elephants with the largest tusks!
I’d also recommend a camel trekking safari where you can walk with the nomadic Samburu warriors who are your guides for a three night safari. For families with young children, the walks are much shorter and the children can ride on the backs of the camels as much as they wish. The days are great fun for them with games and swimming in the rivers.
Near the coast, you can enjoy a range of watersports, fabulous fishing and even banana boating! During my family safari here, we explored the villages by mountain bike and went on a dhow with the local fisherman which was great fun.
With tons of diversity and interest, a family safari to Kenya delivers on every level.
Images by kind courtesy of: Karisia Safaris, Cottar’s 1920’s Camps and ‘parttimetravelers’, Giraffe Manor, Alfajiri Villas, Ol Lentille