Before going on our first Kenya safari with kids in the Masai Mara, we had a bunch of questions. As we didn’t know anyone who had been on a safari holiday recently, we browsed the web in search of answers. But still, a lot of questions remained without a clear answer. We hope we can address some of yours in this article and please if you have more, drop us a message.
Planning Stage of a Kenya safari holiday with kids
Flights to Nairobi
This should be the easiest task. If you are flying to Kenya from Europe, airports like Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, London, Amsterdam have directs flights to Nairobi. You can check Kenya Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss, British Airways and KLM.
We flew Lufthansa to Nairobi and KLM on the way back. The flights took around 8 hours.
If you are flying from the US you can consider either a layover via one of the hubs in Europe or in the Middle East. Stopping in the Middle East will increase the flight time but you might be able to find a better air fare. Check flights with Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.
In January 2018, Kenya Airways announced a direct flight from New York- JFK to Nairobi operated by the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. Flights are planned to start operating in October 2018.
From Asia, Kenya Airways offers direct flights from Bangkok, Hanoi and Hong Kong. You can also consider a layover in the Middle East with Emirates, Etihad or Qatar.
Kenya safari with kids – When to go?
The high season in Masai Mara runs during the great migration from July to October. This period coincides with the highest prices but also with the lowest temperatures (it’s winter in Africa). April and May are best to be avoided as it is the rainy season and some camps even close down during that time.
We went in February and the weather was perfect. A bit chilly at night but warm during the day.
Kenya safari with kids – How long to stay in Masai Mara?
3-4 days should be enough, especially when traveling with kids. If you stay longer, their interest in the animals will drop significantly and the thrilling game drives from the beginning will quickly become an ordeal for everyone. Why not extent your trip on the Kenyan coast with a beach holiday?
Kenya safari with kids – Where to stay in Masai Mara?
Whether you want basic or luxurious accommodations, you should be able to find something according to your budget. If you are not used to building your own trip, we recommend booking through an agency. They will plan your flights, accommodation and transportation. You won’t need to worry about anything. Otherwise, the planning can be a bit overwhelming…
If you are a seasoned traveler, choose a camp/lodge and book directly with them. They will be able to assist you with the flights to and from Wilson airport to the closest airstrip and will pick you up to take you to the camp.
Our tent at the Kempinski Olare Mara. A review will follow, so stay tuned.
Masai Mara National park or private game reserve?
We stayed at the Kempinksi Olare Mara which is one of the five camps that are part of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. (Porini Lion Camp, Kicheche Bush Camp, Mara Plains Camp and Mahali Mzuri) This means that only those camps are allowed to do game drives inside the reserve.
In the National Park, everyone is allowed to enter after paying 80$ per adult or 45$ for children (this fee needs to be paid everyday you want to enter the park or if you stay in a camp inside (70$/40$)) Compared to a private reserve, you are not allowed to leave the roads, which we think is a big drawback because you can’t get as close to the animals. Taking into account the location of the camp is also very important if you don’t want to drive 30 or more minutes even before you see the first animals.
E-Visa or Visa on arrival?
We didn’t apply for an E-Visa but with hindsight we should have because the wait was very long. In fact, we were a bit confused as to if it was possible to apply when you were travelling with kids. Turns out, parents can apply for their children in the parents account. We really recommend getting an E-Visa in advance. It will save you some precious time. The single entry e-visa costs 51$ (compared to 50$ for visa on arrival) and children are free of charge.
Kenya safari with kids – How to reach Masai Mara?
You have two options: by car or by plane.
Although it’s only 250km, it will take around 7-8 hours to reach Masai Mara from Nairobi. The roads are in bad condition. Our seat neighbor in the small plane who traveled with his wife and two small kids told us that the journey was a real nightmare. He wouldn’t do it again (especially with children), so he decided to fly back to Nairobi.
The flights are operated by Air Kenya or Safarilink. They use small airplanes with only 11 or 16 seats. When the flight is packed it gets really cramped and if you are prone to airsickness, don’t forget your medecine! Depending on where you and the other passengers are flying to, the plane can make several stops before your final destination!
Transport to/from Wilson Airport
There are local taxi companies that you can hire for the transport. You can either pay in advance (at Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta airport) or walk to the taxi stand. Most taxis don’t have a meter so you need to discuss the price in advance. If you have no idea about the rate, chances are high that you’ll get ripped of. Make sure to know more or less what the standard fare is for the trip you are planning to do.
To avoid haggling, we recommend Uber, but you’ll need to be aware that:
1. Traffic in Nairobi is insane (especially during rush hour, morning & afternoon) so you need to order well in advance. Once we waited 30 minutes, although the car was just around the corner.
2. The Uber driver might not know the city in detail despite the gps and could have troubles finding you. Make sure to clarify the exact pick up location and enable the message function on the app.
Stuck in traffic in Nairobi
Waiting for boarding at Nairobi Wilson airport
Kenya safari with kids – Health
Our main concern was without a doubt, the possible side effects of the yellow fever injection and the antimalaria pills. The good news is that neither of us had any side effects whatsoever from these. So you shouldn’t worry too much and above all don’t start google-ing possible symptoms 🙂
We recommend booking an appointment with your nearest travel clinic. They are best placed to know exactly what you need to keep yourself healthy during your trip to Africa. Make sure to plan this well in advance.
Our travel doctor recommended the following vaccinations for Kenya:
• Hepatitis A
• Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (1 joint injection for all)
• Yellow fever
• Other vaccines might be recommended based on age, health condition, itinerary and length of stay (typhoid for example)
Furthermore, he prescribed antimalarials. Malaria is present in many safari parks. It is essential to protect from mosquito bites by following these rules:
• proper clothing (long sleeves, no shorts)
• sleep under a mosquito net
• use insect repellent
• take the anti- malaria pills 1 day before entering the affected area until 7 days after the return
and you should be fine.
A slight word of warning: At the drugstore, they will likely want to sell you Malarone. Ask for a generic as it will save you some $$$. As an example, for 12 generic “Provaquoneg” pills we paid 19,92€. Malarone was 10€ more and every healthcare professional confirmed that both medecines are exactly the same. So why pay more?
Regarding the children: there are special antimalarials for children with lower doses but strangely, prices for those are higher than for adults. So we bought the “normal” version with a pill splitter: our daughter (8yo) needed half a pill and our son (10yo) 3/4. This wasn’t really bothersome as they would have needed to take more than 1 of the children pills anyway.
• Diarrhea medicine
• Medecine for pain and fever
• Antibacterial hand sanitizer / wipes
• Antiseptic wound cleanser
• Insect bite treatment (anti- itch creme or gel)
• Digital thermometer
• Band- Aids
• Needles or syringes
• Tick remover (our son ended up with a tick and we weren’t prepared for that!)
• Travel Health insurance with medical evacuation and repatriation
Kenya safari with kids – Packing List
The most important thing to know when packing before flying to Masai Mara or any other safari park in Kenya, is that you are limited to 15kg per person and all in soft bags. You will be flying in a very small airplane and the companies are very strict about this.
We packed more clothes than we finally wore for our 3 night safari in February. Here’s what you’ll need:
• Safari pants
• Long sleeved shirt/s (safari color)
• Pants/ jeans for the evening
• Underwear and socks
• Long sleeve pajamas
• Walking/ sport shoes and shoes for the camp
• Safari hat with chin strap (very important!)
• Light scarf or buff
• Personal toiletries
Maybe: short, swimsuit
Some camps offer complimentary laundry services. Check with yours!
• Converter plug
• Battery chargers
What is a typical day on safari?
6am: wake up
6.20am: small breakfast (hot beverage & cookies)
6.30am: first game drive
4pm: afternoon tea & cookies
4.30pm: afternoon game drive
Sundowner in Kenya