What to Expect on a Family Vacation in Kenya

What to Expect on a Family Vacation in Kenya

Taking your family on safari in Africa is not just a good idea, it’s a great one! An African Safari is fun for every age group. Family vacations in Kenya have long been delivering safe and rewarding safaris in world-renowned Big 5 game reserves as well as beach vacations on the country’s spectacular coastline and the Indian Ocean islands. There’s nothing quite like witnessing your child react to seeing a giraffe or elephant for the first time in the wild. This is what makes a family vacation in Kenya unforgettable!

The African bush is the finest family playground you can imagine. Here are a few of our top favorite experiences to consider including on your family vacation in Kenya.

Witness the World’s Greatest Mammal Migration on a Family Vacation in Kenya

Wildebeest cross a river in Tanzania's famous great migration
The famous river crossings during the Great Migration

If you really want to get those little jaws to drop, then best visit Kenya during the annual mammal migration when as many as two million wildebeest and zebra create a circuit across Tanzania and Kenya in search of greener grazing grounds created by the seasonal rains. This natural phenomena which is recognized as one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World”, sees thousands of travelers each year flock to East Africa to catch a glimpse of this spectacle. The movement of these animals is determined purely by the rainfall patterns so predicting their arrival in the Masai Mara can be somewhat tricky and isn’t an exact science, although they generally do appear during the months of July through September. Our safari experts will be able to advise you exactly where you and your family should be positioned to witness this awe-inspiring event. Enjoy an action-packed safari as you watch thousands of wildebeest attempt crossing the crocodile-infested river, with predators on either end of the river waiting on an opportunity to strike.

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Game Drives on a Family Vacation in Kenya

A young girl stands on the vehicle on a family vacation in Kenya
Game drives in Kenya offer incredible experiences – Great for family vacations in Kenya

It goes without saying that the definition of a safari is venturing out into the wilderness on game drives, encountering wild animals in their natural habitat. The excitement begins as you learn about tracking animals which is done through the observation of spoors and feces – not quite for everyone but trust us the kids find this to be much fun! It’s like a game of Cluedo, searching the evidence to find the culprit. With the help of highly experienced guides, you arrive at sighting after sighting, making for an unforgettable safari experience. Several lodges within Kenya’s premier reserves which include Amboseli, Samburu and Masai Mara national parks, welcome children from the age of 5 years. Although children from age 6 are permitted on scheduled game drives, we would strongly recommend that all families with young children consider booking a private safari vehicle and guide, enhancing your overall safari experience – this allows you to move at a pace that is suitable for the family and focus more on your interests, whether it be to see elephants, birds or those remarkable little dung beetles.

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Guided Walks on a Family Vacation in Kenya

A family enjoys the views on a walking safari in Kenya
Family walking safaris are a lesser known but make for incredible family vacations

There is nothing quite exciting like exploring big game country on foot. It’s absolutely amazing how much you discover just by using your eyes, ears and nose. The focus of a walking safari is on the smaller wildlife, birds and plants; but it’s not unheard of to encounter bigger animals such as elephants or rhino, but rest assured that the guides are always armed and have the skill set that allows them to handle situations like these competently. Walking safaris are generally three to four hours in duration and have a minimum age restriction.

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Meet the Locals on a Family Vacation in Kenya

Two local masaai tribe members guide a family on a family vacation in Kenya
A family walk with the Masaai tribe in Kenya

One of the many reasons that make Kenya a top destination for a family vacation is it allows children the chance to embrace the fascinating culture of the Maasai tribe. Visiting a Masai village is a truly rewarding experience as you gain insight into their fascinating way of life. The Masai are nomadic herders who live off the land – pure naturalists that are blessed with the most remarkable skill set. On your arrival in the village, the Masai children welcome yours as they dance and sing and show off their traditional beaded ornaments. Your family will be given a tour of the village: exploring the inside of their mud huts, bearing witness to the display of jumping performed by male warriors as a right of passage, learning how to make fire with sticks and dried leaves, and even visit a school. Spending time with the Masai people is a deeply touching experience.

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Hot Air Ballooning on a Family Vacation in Kenya

Hot air balloons rise up over elephant in a field in Kenya
Hot air ballooning in East Africa is a must-do for any family vacation

A hot air balloon safari over the Masai Mara is an unforgettable experience: With the capacity to soar 15 000 feet above the ground, you have a true bird’s eye view of the beautiful vistas and wildlife that make Kenya such a beautiful destination. Hot air balloon safaris depart at dawn when the weather is calmest and because game-viewing is best on the plains of the Masai Mara earlier in the day. You will spend an hour in the sky, soaring over the savannah and admiring the sights and sounds of the African bush. Hot air balloon safaris are great for families but there are minimum height and weight restrictions. If you’re looking for an experience that your family will never forget, this is it!

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Dhow Cruises on a Family Vacation in Kenya

Dhow safari on a sunset cruise in the Indian ocean
A sunset cruise on a traditional dhow boat

Did you know that Arabic-styled dhows in Kenya were used for many centuries as means of trade between East Africa, India and Arabia? Nowadays, when you visit one of Kenya’s tropical beaches you have the opportunity to experience a dhow cruise that leisurely explores the surrounding isles during the day, or you can enjoy your favorite beverage during a sunset cruise, or even admire the moon and the night sky on an evening cruise. The dhow boat is constructed traditionally from wood and has a square stern. Interestingly though, the FlipFlopi dhow is currently being built on the island of Lamu just off the coast of Kenya and will be made entirely of waste plastics – worth seeing for sure. A dhow cruise is part of the Kenyan way of life and is definitely a must for families, both young and old.     

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Horse Riding Safari on a Family Vacation in Kenya

horseback safari goers canter through the waters of the Okavango Delta
Horseback safaris from Eagle Island Lodge in the Okavango Delta

Horse riding is just another unique way of viewing wildlife up-close but is most definitely suited to the thrill-seeking families who have some horse riding background. Can you picture your family galloping through the plains of the Masai Mara, amongst the various antelope who identify you and your horse as one of them? If not, it’s probably best to do your game viewing from the comfort of a safari vehicle. Age restrictions do generally apply to horse riding safaris, however the rider’s level of experience will be taken into account.

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Giraffe Center Visit on a Family Vacation in Kenya

Two giraffe stand peacefully grazing in the Nairobi giraffe center
Rothschild giraffe graze in peace at the Nairobi giraffe center

There is no better way to learn about Africa’s beautiful wildlife than by getting up-close and personal. The Giraffe Center is located in the bustling city of Nairobi and is home to ten beautiful Rothschild Giraffe who are eager to meet you. Six of the giraffe were born at the center whilst the remainder were transferred there by surrounding parks in Kenya. The objective of the center is to not only educate travelers and provide a truly unique experience but raise funds for conservation education in schools across Kenya. The center is open seven days a week and is most certainly worth visiting with the kids when staying in Nairobi.

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David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage Visit on a Family Vacation in Kenya

Elephant calves play in the mud at the David Sheldrick ophanage
Orphaned elephants play in the mud at the David Sheldrick Elephant orphanage

Looking to support a worthy cause why on vacation in Africa? Consider visiting one of the world’s most successful elephant rescue and rehabilitation centers located in Nairobi. Founded by naturalists David & Daphne Sheldrick, The Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust aims to provide sanctuary to elephants and rhino orphans. To date, the orphanage has hand-raised 150 infant elephants and successfully reintroduced orphans back into the wild by placing them with various herds in Tsavo East National Park. For a mere 50 US Dollars, you and your family can foster an orphaned baby elephant for a year, receiving a fostering certificate and details of the adopted orphan, as well as monthly updates on the progress of your orphan elephant. Teaching your children to contribute to worthy causes such as this one, is the best gift you could ever give them.

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Nairobi National Park Visit on a Family Vacation in Kenya

lioness walks through the nairobi national park
A lioness walks through Nairobi national park with the city in the background.

When embarking on a safari in Kenya, the starting point is generally from the city of Nairobi which is the gateway to all the major game reserves. It is very rare that one would find a flourishing game reserve within a capital city, however Nairobi has managed to pull it off successfully. Located only 10 kilometers from the city center, this reserve is an ideal introduction to an African safari with game drives that offer an opportunity to view four of the Big Five (lion, buffalo, leopard, and rhino), as well as other rare species including cheetah and hyena. It’s the ideal location to challenge the family to a bird watching contest, with over 400 bird species waiting to be spotted on the reserve.

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Experience the Carnivore Restaurant on a Family Vacation in Kenya

The Carnivore Restaurant is located in the Langata suburb of Nairobi and is not your conventional restaurant with its open-air setting, rural and rustic atmosphere, and the all you can eat buffet menu consisting of only meats. On entering the establishment, it’s hard not to notice the whole joints of meat roasting away in a charcoal pit on top of traditional Masai swords. It is a very different means of preparing food but it works! The carnivore menu features lamb, pork, ostrich, beef, ribs, sausages, chicken wings, skewered kidneys and even crocodile. Another interesting addition to the menu is the cocktails, particularly the “Dawa” cocktail which translates in Swahili as “Magic Potion” and is delivered to you by the medicine man named Dr. Dawa. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, a visit to the Carnivore Restaurant is a firm favorite for families staying in Nairobi.

A selection of meats at the carnivore restuarant in Nairobi
Carnivore restaurant is famous for its selection of meats

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Snorkeling Safari on a Family Vacation in Kenya

Snorkelers enjoy a sighting of a whale shark in Kenya
Snorkellers watch a whale shark swim beneath them in the warm Kenyan waters.

Kenya is famous for its magnificent beaches and warm turquoise waters, but even more so is the wide variety of non-motorised water sports to enjoy. It’s incredibly easy to book a family vacation in Kenya that combines the thrill of a safari with some well deserved R&R on one of Kenya’s tropical beaches. With so many activities to offer families, including sailing and glass bottom boats, the focus of marine parks is to protect the delicate coral reefs, fish and other incredible marine life. Snorkeling safaris allow you to discover a whole new world and are most certainly an experience to be had with the entire family.      

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Embarking on a safari in Kenya is an unforgettable experience for most travelers, but it is undeniably most influential on younger children who often recall their up-close encounters with Africa’s wildlife for many years to come. There is nothing more exhilarating than being only a few feet from wild animals such as lions, leopards, and herds of elephant and buffalo. Your family vacation in Kenya will be focused less on being indoors and more on becoming one with nature. What’s most impressive is the fact that it’s an adventure suitable for multigenerational families, whether you 5 years old or 80 years old, there is something for everyone!

There is a wide range of family-friendly accommodations in Kenya and our next blog covers our Top 10 Family Friendly Lodges in East Africa.

For a rewarding family safari experience, why not contact one of our Safari Experts today, who will help you plan and book every aspect of your family vacation in Kenya.

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