A guide to holidays in Kenya..with Kids!
Have you ever thought of holidaying in Kenya....with the kids?!
I have been to Kenya with my three kids number of times and I can honestly say its an incredible and truly unforgettable trip. From the most well known safari destinations, to palm tree lined beaches to busy shopping locations, train journeys winding past herds of elephants and Zebras, or have breakfast with Giraffes - there is so much to love about holidaying with kids in Kenya.
I was due to travel to Kenya for the month of July, I should have been there now but COVID 19 has other plans for us...so its Edinburgh Zoo, the Five Sisters Zoo and wide open spaces for now.
This isn't an in-depth guide because I'm definately not an expert but Im sure our experiences will help others decide if its a place for them to consider family holidays. I didn't find any family travel guides for Kenya, like you'd find for the usual holiday suspects but Ive travelled there with babies, toddlers, and now a pre teen...My kids are now almost 13, 8 and almost 5.
I'm by no means a travel writer but this blog post is filled with tips and links to the places I mention - I have been to all of these places so I can voucher first hand for the experiences, all of the photos used are my own, but please note they are mostly snap shots! I didnt know I'd be writing a blog post about our travels.
There are of course a whole host of other things to do in Kenya, but this is my advice or little guide for UK families holidaying with kids in Kenya!
How to get there
there are afew options...
Emirates fly Glasgow to Nairobi via Dubai, I havent done this route with kids, but an 8 hour layover meant we had a free over night hotel stay in Dubai including transfers.
KLM fly Glasgow to Nairobi via Amsterdam. This usually a mix of KLM for the short flight and Kenya Airways for the long haul (around 9 hours). We've mostly used this option wth a 4-6 hour layover at Schipol. That time flies past with lots to do at the airport including comfortable lounge seating with take off and landing views, a good kids play/science area, a museum and lots of places to browse and eat - and look out for the person inside the big clock!
Etihad fly from Manchester to Nairobi with a lay over at Abu Dhabi, this was the route planned for this year - we had booked a room at the Aerotel at Abu Dhabi airport to get some rest and freshen up as we had a long layover. The lounges looked good, but reviews had them as being noisy - we didn't want that at 3am! We didn't try this route so can't review.
Where to stay in Nairobi
You wont need to travel far from the airport to find great family friendly hotels.
There are lots of hotels to choose from but from first hand experience I can recommend the Tamarind Tree and the Nairobi Serena. If you are looking for luxury have a look at Hemmingways or book a special breakfast with the Giraffes at Giraffe Manor.
Hotels can arrange arrange airport transfers for you as part of your stay.
How to get around, car hire, UBER is available in Nairobi or you may also organise a driver for your stay for less than you think.
What to do in Nairobi
SO many holiday makers pass Nairobi and go straight for beach and safari packages but there are lots of fun things to do in Nairobi.
Out of Africa, if you loved the the book or seen the movie it was Nairobi where Karen started a coffee farm. You can visit her house and see the original machinery used on the farm. This areas is known as Karen, after Karen Blixen.
Elephant orphanage, Karen is also home to The Shedrick Wildlife Trust who have an orphanage base here. You can go along to daily feeds and get up close to the orphaned elephants which are eventually released in Tsavo National Park. There is no discrimination here, you'll also find Kiko the orphaned giraffe and other animals that have lucky enough to have been looked after by the orphanage. You can also adopt the elephants and follow their journey. You can read all about the founder and the beginnings of the wildlife trust in her auto biography..An African Love Story by Dame Daphne Sheldrick. "Best known for our work to protect elephants, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) operates the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.'
Kazuri Beads Factory Beautiful hand made beads, and you can have a tour of the factory - the showroom is amazing!! KAZURI began in 1975 as a tiny workshop experimenting on making handmade beads. KAZURI started with two Kenyan women and soon discovered that there were many other women in the villages around Nairobi, most of whom were single mothers, who were in great need of regular employment. Driven by the desire to provide such opportunities, Kazuri has grown and today we have a large work force skilled in the making of handmade jewellery.
The Giraffe Centre allows visitors to feed the giraffes but is ultimately a learning centre, you'll find lots of resident warthogs there too! Local school children also visit for their school projects. Its the the creation of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (A.F.E.W. Kenya), a Kenyan non-profit organisation. Our main purpose is to educate Kenyan school children and youth on their country’s wildlife and environment, as well as give local and international visitors an opportunity to come into close contact with the world’s tallest species, the giraffe. Entry is $15 for adults and $7.50 for children.
The Safari Walk is run by Kenya Wildlife Service and is place where injured or orphaned animals have been taken that may not survive being introduced into the wild. Its a great place to see some animals up close. Entry is $22 for adults and $13 for children.
- Three major ecosystems (wetlands, savannah and forestry);
- Variety of mammals, reptiles, insects and birds;
- The boardwalk;
- Children’s Museum.
- Wildlife - Cheetah,lion,leoapard,pygmy hippo,zebra colubus monkey,bongo rhino.
- Wide variety of birds and insects.
The Carnivore and the Simba Saloon - no time spent in Nairobi is complete without eating at the Carnivore and Simba Saloon. A huge indoor, outdoor space. Bar, restaurant, childrens play area, and it transforms in an events location with a night club too.
Most package holidays are a mix of safari and beach stays. The beach stay will usually be at Mombasa.
If you are travelling to Mombasa from Nairobi you can fly, its about 45 minutes usually £50-£100 return depending on the time of year. Again, many hotels will collect you from the airport. Ive travelled from Nairobi to Mombasa by car, no children at that point, just a group of friends in search of adventure...a very different experience... it was a loooong drive with a couple of punctures on the way! Ive also flown, but last time we visited we took the scenic route on the new trainline.
There is now a trainline from Nairobi to Mombasa, the huge Nairobi terminus is massively grand for train station, its like an airport! The train leaves twice a day and only makes a few stops but you get to see so much more. We spotted groups of elephant, zebras and antelope as well as seeing lots of little villages and beautiful scenery. Its around 5 hours and the first class tickets are £20-50 return. The first class carriages are spacious with tables, seats swivel round to your preferred direction of travel. We were 4 adults and 6 children aged between 11 and 2, it was a fun experience and the kids loved it.
What to do in Mombasa
R E L A X....this is what we do when we come here!
We stay at the Tamarind Village its great for everyone, a bit of luxury, a beautiful seafood restaurant, and you can book for lunch or dinner on the Tamarind Dhow, a boat that sails round the harbour port with live entertainment and THE BEST lobster... or you can choose the prawns, steak or veg option. The Tamarind village also has a small casino The Golden Key Casino which is open until the wee small hours, you can book childcare at the hotel.
Ive also stayed at the Milele beach Hotel, but this was without children, it was a different name at the time and we were a group of 20-25 year olds...it was a different holiday! You can also get the ferry across to south coast for the beautiful beaches. If not staying at south coast can use the facilities at Sarova White Sands if you go to white sands make sure you stop at Ali Babas Cave restaurant they also have a lovely spot on the beach side, think low seats, lots of cushions open sea views and space to relax... I could spend all day here.
Fort Jesus is a Unesco World Heritage site The Fort, built by the Portuguese in 1593-1596 to the designs of Giovanni Battista Cairati to protect the port of Mombasa, is one of the most outstanding and well preserved examples of 16th Portuguese military fortification and a landmark in the history of this type of construction. Whist visiting fort Jesus you can also get a tour of the old town.
Mamba Village get up close and personal with the crocs!
If you book have a package holiday to kenya its likely that you'll visit Mombasa and for Safari it might be Tsavo, which is on the way to Mombasa. Tsavo is split into east and west. A road run between the two sides and yet they are very different. The park covers an area of 9,065 square kilometres. The A109 road Nairobi-Mombasa and a railway divides it from the adjoining Tsavo East National Park. Together with adjoining ranches and protected areas, they comprise the Tsavo Conservation Area. Tsavo West is a more popular destination on account of its magnificent scenery, Mzima Springs, rich and varied wildlife, good road system, rhino reserve, rock climbing potential and guided walks along the Tsavo River. The park is operated by Kenya Wildlife Service.
You can stay at the Serena Hotel, Kilaguni it has great views. I have framed prints in my home from photographs Ive taken at this spot. there is a waterhole at the hotel which encourages animals to come and drink.
In Tsavo we've also stayed at the Kamboyo Guest House, its a self catering property that can be rented from The Kenya Wildlife Service - KWS We enjoyed a herd of elephants that came at night to the small water hole and they stayed until morning. Also a herd of buffalo sat on the lawn for most of the evening....and big cat tracks where found in the dirt around the house, they'd never come when people are around, they actually avoid us as much as possible.
We flew to the Maasai Mara from Wilson Airport in Nairobi, in a little 10 seater aircraft with Safari Link. The flight was 40 minutes, as opposed to a 6-7 hour drive. We flew over the Mara River and past various herds of animals as we came into land. Its just one small airstrip for take off and landings, your hotel will meet and greet you at the airstrip.
We stayed at the stunning Mara Serena for three nights. Stays here will usually include two game drives a day, 6am and 4pm.
In between those times there are places to eat, an outdoor pool to enjoy and beautiful views to experience...you can see wildlife from your room across the plains....and resident wart hogs a bit closer to home, look out for those along with the monkeys...don't leave your windows and doors open if you leave your room!
The rooms here are actually little houses on the hillside, we had two interconnecting houses, we absolutely loved them.
Out tour guide was Vivienne, she had just started working at the Mara Serena, previously working at Ol Pajeta, the home home of Sudan, the last white Rhino. Although new to the Mara, she knew the best places to get to at the best times, chatting to the kids about the animals.
Breakfast with the crocs and hippos...
You can arrange for a morning game drive, which will then take you for breakfast at the Mara River, and yes there'll be hippos and crocs...can you see the hippo in the river?
Everything is set up for you to enjoy a buffet breakfast..even clearing away the lazy hippos, then just relax and enjoy this amazing experience!
We have also been to Nakuru, again renting property from KWS. Lake Nakuru is known for birdwatching and a lake of flamingos and its Rhinos, we were lucky enough to spot a mother and baby white Rhino. I photographed that trip on film and transparencies....I have the scans on a hard drive somewhere!
Where to book..
There are afew ways you can book a trip to Kenya the first is the obvious travel operators...TUI, Trailfinders or Hayes & Jarvis. You can book a full package with a tour operator.
You can book your safari experience whilst in the UK but with a local company in Kenya like Twigga Tours, a family run safari company. You'll most likely get better prices, it will be more personalised, they will have better knowledge and they include private tours...some safari lodge tours may mean you might share a van with another group of holiday makers.
You can book the Mara Serena experience direct with the hotel, this includes the flights from Wilson Airport, pick ups and everything else.
And there you have it...
Our take on visiting Kenya with kids, it has something for everyone. To travel you'll need a visa which is $50 and you can pre arrange or arrange on arrival. We always arranged on arrival without ant problems, but last visit took 3 hours to arrange and get through arrivals so next time I will be pre arranging.
You can find out more about travel vaccinations on the NHS for for Travel Website You will also need Anti Materials, antibiotic tablets taken weekly or daily usually for high risk areas such a Mombasa and some safari location, not necessarily needed for when in Nairobi.
Contact your doctor 8-12 weeks before travel and they will advise on what you need. There are no anti malarias for under 1's..then there is a syrup available for under 2's, after that its tablet form - not ideal for younger ones but all three of our kids managed and we sneaked it into snacks etc.
Copyright of article and images - Seona Misumi Photography 2020