International travel to many parts of Africa is increasing as tourists seek more unconventional travel destinations. To meet the growing demand, countries across the continent have increased their tourism provisions, and many destinations that families may have been hesitant to take children to in the past have become much more viable options.
Kenya is one such place, and offers much for families with children of all ages. Not least is an African safari in the Masai Mara, the most well-known national reserve in Kenya. It’s thought to be one of Africa’s best family-friendly safari destinations because of how easy it is to spot animals on the open plains and the selection of child-friendly accommodation available.
If you’re thinking of taking your children on safari in the Masai Mara, it’s important to pick the right lodge for your stay. Here’s what you should consider.
The Masai Mara spreads over a large area, so where you stay will affect how much time you spend getting to and from the main locations for wildlife. Families with young children may be put off by the idea of a whole day’s game drive, so staying at a central camp will allow you to easily manage the drives without too much time in transit.
Within the reserve, Mara Intrepids and Mara Serena have central locations, and are ideal for those who want a large lodge with the associated facilities. However, wildlife sightings can be better in private conservancies like Speke’s Camp and Kicheche Mara, which are also well located for wildlife sightings. For families with young children, it’s advisable to book a private vehicle for your game drives so that you can adjust the length of the drives according to your family’s needs and make your own schedule.
For getting to your lodgings in the first place, consider a fly-in safari if you have young children, It is a long, bumpy drive from Nairobi to the Masai Mara, but there are chartered planes from Nairobi, and many camps will arrange for you to be picked up from the airstrip.
Some camps offer children’s activities, but a good guide will bring a normal safari to life enough that you don’t need to worry too much about keeping children occupied. However, some lodges offer storytelling, adventure clubs and guided bush walks for families, which can be a welcome break for energetic kids after long game drives.
Balancing out the types of activities you do can make international travel much easier, and is often advised for a family trip, as it allows children to use their energy and rest when necessary.
Choose a lodge that allows you to balance a busy day with some respite or variation the next day. Some lodges also offer child minding, but this service may need arranging before you arrive. Mara Intrepids is well known for its children’s Adventurer’s Clubs, and is a popular choice for families who also want a pool included in their experience.
The majority of camps in the Masai Mara provide separate tents, which can be off-putting for families with young children. Several camps, however, have family tents, and some lodges offer rooms with private lounge areas for families, so look out for these when you’re booking.
Be advised that some facilities do have minimum age limits, so be careful to check that your chosen lodge is family-friendly. Camps often mark children’s rates between 50% and 75% of adults rates, but if you’re on a particularly tight budget, look into Mara Springs Tented Camp, which offers cheaper options. However, you may lose out on the ambiance of a traditional safari with budget lodgings, as you’re unlikely to get the roaring fires and traditional environments.
A Word Of Caution
Remember that the Masai Mara is known to be a malarial area, and as with any trip to an African destination, the whole family should be vaccinated at least six months before travel. Make sure children wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirts, and use mosquito repellent, particularly during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are at their most active. Remember to use mosquito nets during the night too. Preventing mosquito bites should be a priority.
The Masai Mara is one of the most well-known safari destinations, and it’s a particularly good one for families with young children. Wildlife spotting is easy, and many camps and lodges are family-friendly. Although children’s activities aren’t a must, look out for lodges that offer them: that will be a sure sign that they are welcoming and accommodating to families.