Kenya – a family friendly safari
Where to go on safari with children is a question often posed to us and on a recent trip to Kenya with his daughter, team member Gareth Hardres-Williams was reminded just why this vibrant East African country often comes up in answer to that question…
Our itinerary was a simple one and included a couple of nights in Nairobi, staying at the terrific Eden Hotel and a fabulous 5 night stay at Angama Mara in the Maasai Mara.Nairobi offers so much more for the safari goer than a simple logistically-efficient one night stopover. Adding a second night here allowed us to not only recover from the international flight to Kenya but to also fit in a few wonderfully fun excursions, introducing us to the world of safari (Giraffe Centre, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust) and also to the history of Kenya (Karen Blixen Museum, Maasai Market). We were also very fortunate to pop in to the “other worldly” Giraffe Manor for tea with the Rothschild’s giraffe – the gentle giants joined us for snack too. All of these activities were a short drive from our hotel in the leafy suburb of Karen and surrounds.
Wilson Airport is the bustling safari hub airport and is also conveniently located fairly close to the Karen hotels, making the morning transfer here a quick and easy one – despite the notorious Nairobi traffic doing its best to slow us down. From this efficient and quaint regional airport we flew directly into the Maasai Mara National Park.Traffic of the vehicular kind made way for traffic of another kind on landing in the Maasai Mara, as in no time at all one is reminded of just why people come back here year after year for a consistently productive safari experience – breeding herds of elephant, journeys of giraffe and the thousands of wildebeest were all around us to welcome us to the National Park.
Our lodge for this trip was the outstanding Angama Mara, perched on the edge of the escarpment with sweeping views of the plains below – all made famous in the Out of Africa film. From our home for the next five days we explored the Mara on twice daily game drives, during which we were treated to many an exciting sighting. On virtually every drive we caught up with one of the prides of lions and invariably they were up to something, be it playing or hunting. We were even lucky enough to find a lone lioness minutes before she pounced on a warthog piglet, who’s Mara days were subsequently short-lived. The game drive treats didn’t end there as we thrilled seeing the cheetah mother “Risasi” – named for the Swahili word for bullet. The name made complete sense as we saw her sprint off after a young Thompson’s Gazelle early one morning. Unlike the warthog, the gazelle got to live another day.
Despite us being a little late in the season for views of the Great Migration (an absolute “must see” proliferation of vast herds of migrating wildebeest) – such was our luck that we got to catch up with a number of the herds heading south and were again reminded of why this spectacle draws so many travellers year on year to East Africa. It has to be seen to be understood – word’s cannot begin to describe the marvel. This good fortune also served as a reminder that so much of the safari experience is unpredictable – nature truly does set your agenda here.
Our second last morning began before sunrise and we got to experience a sensational hot air balloon safari over Maasai Mara reserve. The pilot expertly guided the balloon along the gentle meander of the Mara River, spotting all sorts of wildlife from our largely silent seat in the sky – another absolute “must do” for any visit to the Mara.
Angama Mara and their wonderful staff do such a great job of providing for both the adults and the children whilst out on safari and back at the lodge and they ensure that there is always something on offer should one want to be kept busy. Be it a movie night with popcorn and hot chocolate, a beading session with Maasai mamma’s, a walk to the veggie garden, a swim in the fabulous pool or a photo editing session in the very well kitted out photographic studio, you will not suffer for boredom here. The food is quite simply sensational – so do arrive hungry and prepare to leave a good few pounds heavier!
Access to Angama Mara is simple, with daily scheduled flights into the Mara from Nairobi Wilson airport. Charter options are equally easy to resolve and offer a greater degree of flexibility, particularly around arrival and departure times.
There are a number of child-friendly hotel offerings in Nairobi (please note that only children over 12 are accepted to the Eden Hotel).
Amélie and I cannot wait to return to this marvellous country and explore the other wonders Kenya has to offer.