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Family Friendly Safari In Kenya

Looking for a luxurious yet family friendly safari option? Today we jet off to Kenya where Hena shares the review from her Christmas trip to the Maasai Mara. 

Who went?

My husband, our friends Dhruv and Kavita, my two little girls Aria (nearly 5) and Amaya (3) and myself.

How did you choose your hotel?

We often go to Kenya and Nairobi in particular as my parents live there. We had booked a couple of weeks in Kenya in December. We had a week booked in Zanzibar (Baraza again) but had a few free days before hand. Our friend Dhruv and his wife Kavita live in Nairobi and love going on safaris so we decided to do a Maasai Mara trip with them!

We were not going to take the girls at first but were convinced to take them. Dhruv booked everything for us and he booked the Olare Mara Kempinski lodge as he had often been there and got along really well with the staff and guides there.

The Olare Mara Kempinski is in a Mara conservancy. When people speak of the Maasai Mara they normally mean the Maasai Mara National Reserve which is where many tourists go. There are smaller areas outside the actual national reserve’s boundary which are privately owned and known as conservancies. There are fewer tourists here and it’s a more natural experience. In the conservancies there are no curfews so night time safaris are allowed too.


How did we book?

Dhruv booked the lodge for us but it is possible to book directly with them or to use several agents from here (just do a google search).

We booked flights to Nairobi directly with British Airways. To get to the Maasai Mara we took an internal flight by Air Kenya (you can book from their website). There are several camps in Mara and the flight operates almost like a shuttle, stopping at each one (depending on the passengers).

It is a tiny plane and the several stops is not very pleasant but it’s only a 45 minute flight.


When did we go

We went during Christmas 2016. Whilst this is not the “best” time for safari as it is not migration time, we prefer going in December as it is quieter, it’s exciting actually seeking out the animals and the weather is amazing. Migration time occurs between July/early August and the end of the November and it is the time when the wildebeest migrate and it is the best time to see lots and lots of animals, hunts, kills etc but it can be quite rainy / muddy at that time. The Maasai Mara however is a year round safari experience.

The Lodge

What an amazing lodge this was. Dhruv had booked a deluxe family tent for all 6 of us which consisted of two ensuite tents with a shared terrace. Dhruv and his wife had one tent and the four of us had the other. We had one bed in our tent but it was so huge that all 4 of us fit in it, so there was no need for extra beds!

The lodge concept is an all-inclusive concept. Breakfast is normally a picnic that you take with you on the morning safari. Lunch is a buffet and dinner is a sit down meal from a set menu. The chefs were however extremely accommodating in making us whatever we wanted (especially for the children) as long as we told them in advance!

In terms of other facilities, there was a decent sized swimming pool, a lounge, a library and a bar. Massage treatments could also be booked.


The Day

We were there for 3 nights and 3 days and a typical day normally began with a wakeup call at 5.30am (!). After quickly getting dressed, we began the first safari of the day at 6.30am. At around 8am we would stop and have a picnic breakfast and then carry on till about 11am after which we would return back to the lodge.

We were then free from 11am to 4pm for a swim, lunch and relaxing. At 4pm we would have tea and head off on the second safari which normally lasted till about 8pm. At sunset, we would have a bottle of wine and some snacks. Lions normally hunt after sunset so we usually trekked some lions after this (using a night light).

At 8pm we would return back to the lodge for dinner and some drinks. We were in bed quite early most nights due to the early starts.

How it worked with the kids

The girls normally slept for an hour or so during the morning safari before breakfast but this worked out well as it gave us the chance to concentrate on finding the animals (at this time, there’s a lot of driving around and then waiting for the animal – usually a cheetah to actually do something).

They loved the breakfast picnic! One day rather than a normal picnic, the lodge staff actually set up a bush buffet breakfast for us in the middle of the Mara which the girls absolutely loved.

They enjoyed the rest of the morning safari as they had their kid cameras and liked to try and take pictures. They also loved it when we found an animal and loved watching it. On one drive we found a foot bridge that we decided to cross on foot, which they enjoyed too.

I did need to ensure I took lots of snacks to keep their attention though.

When we got back to the lodge, they usually went for a swim. The pool was freezing but they didn’t seem to care (we did!). After lunch, we would usually play cards (or monopoly deal) while they sat with their ipads or sticker books.

In the evening safari, they normally had another small nap waking up for the sundowners and night safaris.

Things to pack

  • Lots of snacks for the safari. There isn’t much available at the lodge so I would take these from Nairobi. Ensure there is at least one snack per child per safari!
  • Mosquito repellents. I bought these bracelets from Amazon
  • Onesies / warm clothes for early mornings / evenings as it can get quite cold
  • Shorts and t-shirts for during the day as in December it got really hot
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Swimsuits (and goggles)
  • I bought a potette travel potty even though both girls are potty trained for when they needed to go in the middle of a safari as I knew they would find crouching difficult:
  • Cameras for kids. I bought vTech Kidizoom Cameras
  • Card games / sticker books / colouring / ipads for after lunch (and card games for the adults too – we are loving monopoly deal at the moment)

Staff

Staff were so amazingly friendly and accommodating! They really looked after the girls and even took Amaya for walks when she threw tantrums at dinner time to try and calm her!

Our guide, Raphael was brilliant! So friendly, knowledgeable and became a real friend by the end!

Conclusion

Overall it was such a fantastic trip and one I would definitely do again.

I think maybe the girls were too young and sometimes found the safaris too long but it worked well and they really learnt a lot and enjoyed the idea! They still talk about it all the time and it was nice doing something different.

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