Traveling with kids can be a very meaningful bonding experience. It can also have a deep impact on how they experience the world and how they see themselves in it. We travel not only to please ourselves, but to educate them about the world.
While we usually pick “safe” destinations – the family cabin, a road trip, and maybe a bit of camping for the adventurous – some parents take it slow when introducing their children to travel. We all have to remember that kids are their own beings, and sometimes if a child doesn’t feel comfortable travelling, you just have to go with them.
There are parents who take to travelling with kids like some take to extreme sports, and although this may be a complete NO for some parents, others might welcome a total challenge and see if their kids can flourish in the new environment, with completely new stimuli.
Sometimes, considering countries that we have never thought of – or have been on our bucket list since our college days isn’t impossible when travelling with children. Let’s talk about Kenya: its amazing natural habitats, and cultural heritage.
First off: safety, safety, safety. Tourists are a bit out of their element in any strange city, and in a city like Nairobi they’re a bit more obvious. Some common sense reminders: don’t walk around with your cell phone or wallet in your hands, and make sure you know where you are going before you set off, or find a reliable and friendly guide to help you.
The sidewalks of Nairobi often have cracks or holes in them so avoid bringing along a stroller. A child carrier is a great idea when exploring this city. Unfortunately, playgrounds are not a big thing in Nairobi, so do what the local moms and expats do: (Maybe you’ll meet some great locals along the way!) There is the Jolly Roger Theme Park, Java (Valley Arcade) or any of the Spur Restaurants. You can relax, eat some lunch, have some refreshments and watch your child play with the local kids.
In the city itself there are a couple of lodges and hotels that welcome families with kids of all ages, and most hotels have swimming pools to escape the African heat. Although you might have to pay more for a comfortable stay, there are kid friendly hotels such as the Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport, Hilton Garden Inn Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and Swiss Lenana Mount Hotel to name a few. All of them are close to shopping centers and the airport making it easy to travel here.
You can see wildlife without ever leaving the city. No, there are no elephants walking through the streets, but Nairobi has some amazing nature parks where you can see many species – The Elephant Orphanage, Maasai Ostrich Farm, Mamba Village, The Giraffe Center – this might be especially exciting for any kid who is going through their “animal stage” – much like the “dinosaur stage”, except easier to cater to. The Nairobi National Park has many animals including the endangered black rhino, lions and hyenas.
If you want a quiet day out, a good place to stop is the Nairobi National Museum. They have great outdoor walking areas, and a collection of very interesting cultural artifacts. If your child isn’t into admiring arts and crafts – it’s time to head out of Nairobi, and experience some really great outdoors.
Game Drives and Nature Walks
There are many national parks in Kenya where families can enjoy game drives or nature walks. The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a great place to witness the annual wildebeest migration that lasts from July to October. There is also the magnificent Mount Kenya National Park, home to the second highest point in Africa. This park is an excellent place for a nature walk, climbing or exploring caves with the family. Another great park, Lake Nakuru National Park, is well known for the flamingoes that enjoy the soda lakes in the area. This park is home to over 400 other bird species.
Balloon Rides and Other Organized Excursions
This is a must for older kids – and it makes for an unforgettable experience. Book a balloon flight over the Maasai Mara plains during the massive wildebeest migration. The balloon usually takes off with sunrise and the flight lasts an hour, ending with a big breakfast with champagne, or fruit juice for the kids.
There are many safari lodges that provide exciting excursions, adventures and educational trips. You can take a guided walk with a Maasai naturalist, or go birdwatching with the pros. There are over 400 species of birds here – from Ostrich to a common cuckoo (if you are coming from Europe, it may well be the same cuckoo you encountered in the park last year!).
Staying at a safari lodge gives you an insider’s access to all sorts of things to do in the area – a lot of these remote places hire people from the Maasai tribe. They are a priceless first hand resource about local customs, culture and art. You can arrange to go to a Maasai village, learn the amazing beading techniques from the female artists (men aren’t allowed to do this, sorry daddies!) or watch traditional Maasai dances by a roaring fire. These kinds of experiences can’t be gotten in a classroom, books, or the TV.
Mombasa is a great place to end a holiday in Kenya. There are many marine parks including the Mombasa Marine Park, and different water activities to choose from including snorkeling, swimming, diving, deep sea fishing or just enjoying the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. You can also experience something new by taking a dhow ride into the ocean and exploring the underwater world with knowledgeable guides.
If You Go
There is something for everyone in Kenya. If you enjoy adventure and wildlife, it can be a very exciting to get out of your comfort zone with your children. When I’m in new places, I love the fact that they aren’t the only ones learning the world around them for the first time.
Please take note that the CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccines for Kenya: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis and influenza.
This is a partner post.