Things to do with Kids in Nairobi
Can kids go on African safaris? How old do they have to be to go on game drives? Which country is best for seeing the biggest variety of animals while also not causing us to take out a second mortgage to afford the trip? (Joking, sort of… Safaris are notoriously incredibly expensive.) Are there any vaccines that are mandatory for entry into different countries across Africa? Keep reading to see how we planned our family safari to Kenya!
How do you Plan a Family Safari?
We had SO many questions when we saw a too-good-to-be-true alert for cheap flights to Nairobi. The problem though was that we couldn’t find much helpful information out there regarding family safaris… And we had to make a decision FAST before the flight deal disappeared (they usually only last 1-2 days!).
“Should we just book the flights and figure out the details later?” we asked each other… Being the slightly impulsive (and frugal) travelers that we are, that’s exactly what we ended up doing.
Start by Choosing Your Top Locations
Ultimately we chose to go on a 2-week trip to Kenya, visiting four main locations… And we had the time of our lives! If you’re looking for tips and ideas for planning your own family safari in Kenya, and would like to plan a trip yourself instead of paying an expensive travel agent to do it for you, keep reading (and make sure to Pin this page for future reference- Pins at the end!).
I’ll break down each of our main locations into their own blogs, and here’s what you’ll find if you keep reading:
- Our detailed family safari itinerary
- Links to all of our safari camps
- Airline recommendations for internal “bush flights”
- Our contact for a reliable, safe and dependable taxi driver
- Our total budget spent for the trip
If there’s anything missing, comment below and I’ll respond with more info to help you plan your own family safari!
How To Find Cheap Flights
One of the main questions we’re asked is “How do you always find such cheap flights around the world??” There are various flight alert companies out there, but our favorite by far is Scott’s Cheap Flights. There’s a free membership which sends you alerts for all airports across the USA, to all countries around the world. But since barely any of the alerts were for our home airport, I quickly found the free membership to be a tease!
The “Premium” membership costs $49USD a year, but you can customize the alerts to be about your own selected airport(s). This means each email from Scott’s Cheap Flights is going to be applicable to you. Talk about an easy way to fuel your wanderlust!
Is the Premium Membership Worth It?
While I generally avoid any type of membership fees across the board, I thought I’d give Scott’s a chance to change my mind. Within days of signing up I was receiving emails for all sorts of incredible flight deals across the world.
We booked our flights after receiving an alert from Scott’s for $580USD round trip from Denver to Nairobi. Georg was in disbelief that this was round trip, since flights to Africa are usually in the $1,300-$1,500USD range for us. Hence why we have never been on safari before! The $49USD “Premium” membership fee paid for itself more than a dozen times over just with one ticket. #worthit!
Here’s a referral link to Scott’s if you want to try out their “Premium” membership. If you sign up using this link you get 10% off your membership fee!
Let us know if you find a great deal somewhere fabulous!
Does Kenya Require Any Vaccines?
One of our main concerns with traveling to Kenya was if we were going to have to become human pin cushions at a tropical disease doctor’s office in preparation for our trip. There were two main diseases for us to take into consideration: Yellow Fever and Malaria. Both of these are serious mosquito-born diseases and are prevalent in different parts of the world.
Is the Yellow Fever Vaccine Required for Kenya?
At first I had a hard time finding definitive answers on Yellow Fever vaccinations in regards to it being required for entrance into Kenya. However we were relieved to find out that Yellow Fever vaccinations are required for entrance into Kenya ONLY if you are traveling from a country where Yellow Fever is prevalent, such as if we were to combine our trip to Kenya with a trip to Tanzania as well. Since we were traveling to Kenya from the USA (where there is no Yellow Fever) we did not need to have Yellow Fever vaccines or show any sort of certificate to gain entrance into the country for our family safari.
What About Malaria?
Malaria prophylaxis is available in the form of pills or tablets. You need to start taking it before you arrive in (and for a long while after leaving) a malaria zone in order to work properly. After reading about potential side effects across different brands, and taking into consideration that we were traveling with our little ones and I was still nursing our baby, we were cautious about malaria medication. We decided to research the areas and seasons in Kenya with the lowest incidence of malaria while deciding our destinations, and then opted to coat all of our clothes in copious amounts of Permethrin and cover any remaining exposed skin in bug spray to thoroughly protect against any bites during our trip.
How to Prevent
Permethrin is a clothing spray insect repellent which causes mosquitoes to perish upon landing on your pre-treated wardrobe. The coating lasts 6 weeks or 6 washings, which would be plenty long for our trip. Initially we were a little skeptical about its potential effectiveness, but after reading countless rave reviews from people who traveled to all sorts of mosquito-filled deep jungle settings we knew we had to give it a shot.
We decided to buy two 24oz bottles on Amazon and used every last drop to coat all of our clothes (family of 4 packing somewhat minimally). We’re happy to report that between the Permethrin and bug spray on any remaining exposed skin, throughout our entire 2 week trip to Kenya each of us only had one or two bug bites- total!
Make sure to talk to your doctor for medical advice concerning yourself and your family, and reference the Center for Disease Control for medical updates around the world.
The Ultimate Kenya Family Safari Itinerary
After months of researching, we realized we could spend a year exploring Kenya and all its beauty. However we only had just over 2 weeks so we had to narrow things down dramatically. Since we were traveling as a family with two small children (our 3-year-old daughter and our baby boy who was going to turn 1 during our trip) we couldn’t jump around quickly from place to place like we might have years ago when it was just the two of us backpacking around the world.
Traveling Slowly with Kids
We know we needed to honor our children and how little they are by moving through our family safari itinerary more slowly, and plan only one activity (such as one game drive or one cultural visit) per day, and allow for naps so we could hopefully avoid as many toddler melt downs as possible.
We decided to split our entire 2 weeks into 3-4 day sections for each location. Various blogs I found said you can see “plenty” during 2 days on safari, but since we take approximately twice as long to do everything between the kids, filming for our YouTube channel, and shooting for our own travel journalist photos, 2 days being sufficient for a normal person meant 4 days for us!
How we Planned Our Family Safari in Kenya
We separated our family safari to Kenya into 4 main locations, in this order: Nairobi, Amboseli National Park, Masai Mara National Reserve, and Diani Beach. Then we returned to Nairobi to catch our flight home.
Nairobi: 3 days
Amboseli National Park: 4 days
Masai Mara National Reserve: 4 days
Diani Beach: 4 days
We decided to stay in Nairobi the first few days of our trip mainly so we could adjust to the time zone (before going on expensive safari drives with kids who still thought it was the middle of the night and wanted to sleep instead of looking at all the animals). Our main criteria for a place to stay in Nairobi was that it was safe, located outside of the city, had a pool (so the kids could be active during the day and therefore hopefully tired at night), and close to activities such as the Giraffe Centre (Giraffe Manor!) and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage.
We found a safari camp called Anga Afrika which fulfilled all of those criteria!
How to Find a Reliable and Safe Driver in Kenya
Our flight landed late at night, and after over 28 hours of traveling we were happy to be picked up at the airport by our friendly taxi driver, Paul, who we ended up spending loads of time with over the next two weeks. He was reliable, polite, had fair pricing, and was a great driver (we never once felt uncomfortable with his driving, even when we got stuck on the most ridiculous used-to-be “road” five minutes from our camp in Amboseli, but that’s for the next blog…). If you do end up going to Kenya and are looking for a safe ride, we would absolutely recommend Paul. Contact him on WhatsApp: +254 724 456 778. Tell him Georg and Tara sent you!
Luxury Tent Camping in Nairobi
Back to our lodging… Anga Afrika is a luxury tent camp located in the wooded Nairobi suburb Karen, away from the hustle and bustle (read: noise!) of the city. It is a short 30-40 minute drive to each of the attractions we wanted to visit while we adjusted to the time zone. Each tent is equipped with comfortable beds (with mosquito nets), a bathroom (with hot water), a desk (perfect for Georg to edit photos/videos while the kids nap), and pitchers of filtered water. The tents are arranged among banana and avocado trees, tropical flowers, and meandering pathways that lead to the restaurant/reception area and the pool. It’s like a little oasis!
For the first couple days we are the only ones staying at the camp, so we’re able to negotiate a better deal for our stay than had we been there during the busy season (we traveled in January). The staff is absolutely wonderful and loves our children, and goes out of their way to make every day memorable. They would put hot water bottles under our bedding at night to keep us warm while the temperatures dropped! Before bed we would sit out at a bonfire in a clearing among the tropical trees and talk with their Maasai security guard about his family and views about the world.
Giraffe Centre vs. Giraffe Manor
Regardless of the big plans we (loosely) made to hit the ground running, jet lag got the best of us. Our first full day in Nairobi was a total wash! This brings us to Day 2 when we got up early to make our way to the Giraffe Centre. The Centre is located on the same grounds as the infamous Giraffe Manor (you feed the same giraffes, etc.). We would’ve loved to stay at Giraffe Manor but with $1,100USD rooms (per night), it wasn’t in the budget. So we opted to pay $15USD per adult to see the same giraffes on the other side of the lawn.
What do you do at the Giraffe Center?
After paying the entrance fee, we are each given a coconut shell filled with food pellets for the giraffes. The staff is on hand to give pointers on which giraffes were friendliest and which to watch out for. Some are incredibly personable and others might try to head butt you if you get too close! They taught us how to hold the pellet out so the giraffes could wrap their sticky black tongues around it. And how to get a slobbery kiss by holding pellets in your lips and letting them have a cheeky snack!
We recommend getting there early to beat the crowds (a trend for our entire trip). We got there first thing in the morning and had the whole place almost to ourselves. By the time we left around 11:30am TONS of people were there getting their giraffe selfies.
Sheldrick Trust Elephant Orphanage
The Sheldrick Elephant Trust is a leader in rescuing and rehabilitating orphan infant elephants. To date, they have raised over 260 baby elephants after they became orphaned. These babies are orphans due to poaching, natural causes, human-wildlife conflicts, droughts, and other traumatic incidents.
Arriving at the Orphanage
The orphanage is only open for ONE HOUR per day, from 11am-12pm. We got there 45-ish minutes early so we could get a prime spot in the viewing area. About 30 people were already ahead of us with the same idea! And what was even crazier was how many more people filed in behind us. When the gates opened it was like a mini stampede! Everyone was rushing to see the elephants for the next hour.
After the babies were introduced and sucked down huge bottles of milk, they walked around the viewing area, playing with sticks, rolling around on the dusty red ground, and getting wonderfully dirty as all elephant babies should.
Adopting a Baby Elephant
We read that if we adopt an orphan baby elephant (for $50USD per year) we could come back for a more private visit later on in the afternoon to see the babies running back from the fields to their pens to have their dinner, getting their blankets put on, and being put to bed with their caretakers (who sleep in their pens with them and feed the babies every 3 hours throughout the night).
We weren’t about to pass up that opportunity for more interactions with the baby elephants! Before the group visit was over we had our daughter choose which elephant she would adopt. She picked a baby named Kiasa (see her profile here if you’d like to sponsor her too). The staff chuckled and said Kiasa is a cheeky little elephant but is a sweet caretaker to the younger babies… Such an appropriate choice for our daughter to choose as that’s exactly how I’d describe her as well!
Our visit to the Sheldrick Trust Elephant Orphanage was the most wonderful way to end our stay in Nairobi. Our daughter still says that it was her favorite part of our whole trip to Kenya!
Where to Next?
The following day we left Nairobi to start our family safari in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park…
If you found this information useful, please consider purchasing through the affiliate links provided throughout the blog post. Thanks and see you in Amboseli.