Traveling to the continent of Africa is a big endeavor for singles and families alike. My family and I have been lucky enough to spend many trips there experiencing the multiple sides of what the continent has to offer. This guide is what I would describe as my “not to be missed” suggestions for exploring Kenya with your family. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like more suggestions or introductions to some of the camps and experiences we highlight below.
If you choose to use a guide to help you throughout your trip, then Africa Born is the right place to start. Paolo Parazzi and Sam Stogdale are native Kenyans who built out a family-friendly safari company that ensures the adults and kids have a trip they won’t ever forget. Each itinerary is customized for their clients and they focus on small, intimate camps and lodges that offer a true connection to the people, animals and land of Kenya.
Lewa Downs is an eco-tourism UNESCO World Heritage site at the foot of Mt. Kenya. The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is most well known for its work in bringing back the white and black rhino population in Kenya. In addition to rhino conservation, they have developed a berth of community programs, healthcare programs and schools throughout the region. They lead a top-notch anti-poaching security unit which is fascinating to learn about and see in action. A visit to Lewa is always exciting and besides the plethora of rhinos which you are guaranteed to see (either in a safari vehicle or on foot - depending what level of adventure you desire!), you’ll encounter a variety of Kenya’s large and small game. Lewa has a multitude of spectacular camps and lodges, but my personal favorite is Sirkoi where you are very close to the wildlife and almost always have some interesting nighttime noises from the various animals strolling through camp. A portion of your stay goes to supporting Lewa and the work it does to conserve and protect the wildlife within its corridor.
Kalepo is in Samburuland and is a spectacular camp. Rob and Storm Mason run the camp along with their young son, various dogs and rescued wildlife pets. They make you, your family and your friends feel instantly at home. The Masons have a particularly close relationship to the local Samburu tribe and due to that, you are invited to experience a society that lives very near to their ancestral ways. I’ve never experienced anything remotely similar in all my Africa travels. Besides the beauty of connecting to the Samburu culture, you are also treated to a stunning camp in which elephants have recently decided they love to visit as well. Rob and Storm have worked incredibly hard to encourage wildlife to return to the region and it clearly shows with the perfectly sundowner-timed arrival of the resident elephant herd to the Kalepo watering hole.
Galdessa Camp is a small eco-lodge nestled in a corner of Tsavo East. Tsavo is known for being wild and remote - the park measures larger than Israel. It is visited less than many of the other more well-known parks, but it offers an incredible diversity of topography and animal life. Galdessa Camp is run by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which was founded over 45 years ago in Tsavo. Sheldrick is known worldwide for their conservation work as well as the protection of elephant orphans, though they do much more than elephant conservation. Staying in Galdessa gives you access to resident hippos, elephants and much more. A portion of the proceeds goes to supporting the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
The Masai Mara is a must for first-time and veteran Kenya visitors alike. While it can get very crowded (especially during the annual wildebeest migration for the Serengeti), it is always incredible. The diversity of game here is unparalleled anywhere else in Kenya. Our favorite camp has been Richards Camp which is a family-run camp tucked away in the heart of the Masai Mara. It is a gem of a spot and you feel isolated from what can at times be a very busy game park.
Watamu is a coastal town that offers a variety of water-based activities. Renting a home here is ideal as there are limited hotel offerings. We rented ours through Africa Born and are happy to provide suggestions depending on your group and budget.
Nairobi - It’s very typical to have a layover in Nairobi and it’s really a fun city to spend a day in. If you find yourself there with time for a meal, DO NOT MISS Cultiva which is in the Karen neighborhood. It’s a literal farm-to-table experience (you can check out what you’re eating behind the restaurant) that is unrivaled. They also have an amazing bakery for any takeout goodies you may want for your red-eye departure!
Watamu - Lichthaus, in Watamu, is a family-friendly outdoor bar restaurant that optimizes the incredible Kenyan sunsets. There are fun nets to hang in over the water and a great coastal vibe to go with them.
There are endless MUST-do activities in Kenya. I’ve separated out some of our faves from the previously mentioned must-stays:
Don’t miss a horseback safari on Lewa. It’s the best way to get up and close to giraffes, zebras and sometimes even elephants. It’s appropriate for all riding levels.
Don’t miss an opportunity to spend some walking and tracking with the Samburu. It’s the best way to learn about all the hidden creatures (big and small) surrounding you.
Watamu’s not-to-be-missed is booking a Dhow for a sundowner cruise. These traditional fishing boats cruise the inner shoreline offering gorgeous sunset views and even flamingo viewing.
Kitesurfing is a huge must in Watamu. The season for kitesurfing is long and almost year-round. It is great fun for all levels.
Local Ocean is a turtle rehabilitation and rescue center in Watamu. They are doing critical work to save the local turtle population and have a lovely headquarters to tour and learn more about their very important work.
Watamu Snake Farm is home to East African Reptiles.
Seeing venomous snakes in Kenya isn’t usually on one's bucket list, but the Center is the most fascinating way to view them. They are a non-profit which does constant snake milking to develop the anti-venom which saves thousands on the continent. You can see all varieties of venomous snakes up close as well as view the snake milking process firsthand.
The best experience I’ve had in Kenya was on this last trip through Karisia Walking Safaris. We hiked multiple miles a day with Samburu trackers through the bush in the Laikipia area. Kerry Glen and James Christian lead this on-foot camping experience and tailor the trip to the physical abilities of your group. This is definitely an advanced safari experience and recommended for those who love to walk and also enjoy the adrenaline of seeing elephants, buffalo and more on foot.