Kenya is a wonderful destination for families. Everyone will need vaccinations and Africa can seem like a daunting place for kids, but if you’re prepared to spend a little extra and take comfort over adventure for the core of the trip, you might just have the holiday of a lifetime.
Best Regions for Kids
- Masai Mara & Western Kenya
A safari in the Masai Mara, particularly during the extraordinary spectacle of the massed wildebeest migration (July to October), is surely one of the most memorable experiences your child will ever have in nature. If you take your kids to one wildlife reserve, make it the Masai Mara.
- Southern Rift Valley
Shorter distances, better roads, scenic variety, child-friendly parks and great big lakes make the Rift Valley the best overall part of inland Kenya for little people.
- Lamu & Diani Beach
You could go anywhere along Kenya’s coast and find your family’s own little slice of paradise. But there’s something about the languid pace of life in and around Lamu that seems perfectly suited to a family holiday. On the south coast Diani Beach has loads to offer younger travellers.
Kenya for Kids
Families travelling with kids have long been an established part of Kenyan travel and most Kenyans will go out of their way to make your children feel welcome.
Beach holidays are a sure-fire way to keep the kids happy, and factoring in some beach time to go with the safari can be a good idea. Kenya’s beaches alone should be sufficient, but some of the watersports on offer, such as snorkelling, may be suitable for children, depending on their age. And packing a picnic lunch and sailing out to sea on a dhow (a traditional old sailing boat) is a fine way to spend some fun family time.
The safari could have been custom-built for children. Driving up almost to within touching distance of elephants, watching lion cubs gambolling across the plains or holding their breath as a cheetah accelerates across the savannah – these are experiences that will stay with your kids for a lifetime.
National Parks & Reserves
- Masai Mara National Reserve Africa’s charismatic megafauna in abundance.
- Lake Nakuru National Park Lions, leopards and playful monkeys with easy access.
- Nairobi National Park A kid-sized park with no time for interest levels to flag.
- Shimba Hills National Reserve A quick half-day safari from the coast with good roads all the way.
- Hell's Gate National Park Walk and cycle with megafauna.
- Ballooning Ride high over the Masai Mara in a balloon.
- Dolphin watching Swim with the dolphins at Kisite Marine National Park.
- Snorkelling Snorkel at Manda Toto Island to discover a whole new underwater world.
- Sailing Take a dhow trip from Lamu for a picnic lunch on the beach.
- Elephant feeding Feed the elephant orphans at Nairobi’s David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Local attitudes towards children vary in Kenya just as they do in the West, but kids will generally be welcomed anywhere that’s not an exclusively male preserve, especially by women with families of their own.
Safari lodges can handle most practicalities with aplomb, whether it’s an extra bed or cot, or buffet meals that will have something even the fussiest of eaters will try. Some lodges have children’s playgrounds and almost all have swimming pools. In non-lodge accommodation, your chances of finding what you need (such as cots) increase the more you’re willing to pay.
Budget hotels are probably best avoided for hygiene reasons. Most midrange accommodation should be acceptable, though it’s usually only top-end places that cater specifically for families. Camping can be exciting for the little ones, but you’ll need to be extra careful that your kids aren’t able to wander off unsupervised into the bush.
Most hotels will not charge for children under two years of age. Children between two and 12 years who share their parents’ room are usually charged 50% of the adult rate; you’ll also get a cot thrown in for this price. Large family rooms are sometimes available, and some places also have adjoining rooms with connecting doors.
Be warned that some exclusive lodges, especially those aimed at a honeymoon or similar market, impose a minimum age limit for children. Others are more welcoming and lay on child-friendly activities.
Kenyans are family friendly and dining out with children is no problem. Hotel restaurants occasionally have high chairs, and while special children’s meals aren’t common, it’s easy enough to find items that are suitable for young diners. Supermarkets stock boxes of fresh juice, and fresh fruit (tangerines, bananas and more) is widely available.
Consult your doctor well in advance of travel as some vaccinations or medications (including some for preventing malaria) are not suitable for children under 12 years.
Safari vehicles are usually child friendly, but travelling between towns in Kenya on public transport is not always easy with children. Car sickness is one problem, and young children tend to be seen as wriggling luggage, so you’ll often have them on your lap. Functional seatbelts are rare even in taxis and accidents are common – a child seat brought from home is a good idea if you’re hiring a car or going on safari. You might also want to consider flying some parts of the journey in order to avoid long road trips.
What to Pack
While supplies of the following are available in most large supermarkets, they can be expensive and may not be the brands you're used to back home. Bring as much as possible from home:
- canned baby foods
- child-friendly insect repellent (not available in Kenya)
- child seat if you’re hiring a car or going on safari
- disposable nappies
- powdered milk