With the news that visa fees for children aged 15 and under visiting Kenya have been waived, as well as a reduction in National Park fees, there has never been a better time to plan your ultimate family adventure to Kenya. We asked Carole Argwings-Kodhek to recommend some trips that are sure to provide magical memories…
Part two: Beach breaks
Kenya’s south coast has such irresistible charm that you will be back again and again. Palm-fringed Diani Beach is at the heart of this stunningly beautiful section of the coastline, boasting powdery white sands and clear ocean waters. It’s not as fast-paced as the north coast, but offers all you need for a coast vacation: swimming in warm tropical waters, camel rides, diving, snorkelling, deep-sea fishing, kitesurfing and other watersports, as well as a large choice of day excursions that make it ideal for a family holiday. You can hire a boat or local ‘dug-out’ canoe to check out the coral reef and, if you’re really lucky, you might spot a harmless whale shark, the largest fish on the planet, which breeds around this part of the coast.
Leopard Beach Resort
Whether you are eight or eighty, ‘bored’ is an alien word at this sprawling resort in Diani. Family-friendly activities include swimming in one of several pools or lounging on the beach, floodlit tennis and 18-hole golf. There’s a full-time Animation Team, and a diving centre with a range of courses for adults and children, as well as Little Leopard kids’ club: an underwater-themed club providing a range of fun and educational indoor and outdoor activities under the watchful eye of trained in-house child animators.
The resort is also home to the fabulous Uzuri Spa, a tranquil sanctuary nestled among the trees in an indigenous forest. It offers a variety of rejuvenating therapies and treatments, a fully equipped gym and a yoga and aerobics pavilion.
The beautifully appointed rooms, cottages and newly opened villas with their own private swimming pool are all a mere couple of minutes from the beach.
The Adventure Centre will organise watersports, day excursions and big game fishing beyond the reef. There are also several indoor and outdoor dining options: everything from cheerful bars, snack food and ice-cream outlets to the fine-dining Chui Grill.
Rates: From Ksh18,000 per night on HB for a family of 2 adults and 2 children in 2 rooms. (Children under 5 years stay free if sharing with an adult.) Tel: + 254 (0)20 204 9270/1/2, 260 1409, 269 2844; www.leopardbeachresort.com; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tamani at Galu Beach (also known as Galu Sea Lodge)
If you want more affordable places to stay for a large family group, Tamani is one of the best self-catering spots on the south coast. Tamani welcomes family holidays and offers a range of accommodation options with two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, and three- to five-bedroom beach houses complete with a housekeeper and cook. The spacious houses and superb apartments are nestled in lush tropical gardens, with a well-maintained swimming pool and separate toddler pool next to the beach. Wheelchair access is available.
The local fishermen and bicycle vendors call into the compound most days. You can get fresh fish, fruits and vegetables from them. Nearby, there are plenty of restaurants, as well as vegetable and fruit stalls, shops and three supermarkets, two of which are open seven days a week.
Rates: Prices vary with the season and the number of guests, with children under 12 at half price and small children free of charge. Discounts are available for stays of more than seven nights, while from April to end of June rates are offered with up to 50% discount, and up to 30% in September to November. The normal base rate is Ksh4500 per person per night. Contact: Tel: +254 (0)727 300166; www.tamanigalubeach.com; Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s cosy, it’s budget-priced, and it’s great if your wallet is a little thin and you don’t care about having beachfront. The campsite has a pool, and you can take a guided walk to the beach 100m away, where the children can play on the sand and discover sea urchins, sea cucumbers and small fish at low tide.
You can choose anything from one- to four-bedroomed cottages and double rooms to tents with a common ablutions block on the grounds. Although a self-catering option with kitchens and barbecuing areas is available, there is a bar and restaurant serving everything from breakfast and snacks to succulent steaks, pizzas and fresh seafood.
Diani Campsite and Cottages offers comfortable accommodation for budget travellers, situated in Diani and only a stone’s throw from the beach. It is close to many shopping outlets and restaurants.
Rates per night, accommodation only: Double with an extra bed for one child: Ksh5000; two-bedroom cottage en suite with living room and fully equipped kitchen: Ksh9000; three-bedroom: Ksh15,000; four- bedroom: Ksh20,000. Contact: Tel:+254 40 320 3192; Email: email@example.com
Day trip to the North Coast
You can organise day trips to the north coast via the Likoni Ferry through your hotel or a friendly local cabbie (try Isaac, Tel: +254 (0)728 144631, about US$50). Experience the thrills of giant waterslides, evil-eyed crocs, or docile waterbuck for under US$100.
There’s plenty of water thrills and fun for kids of all ages at Wildwaters in Nyali: pulse-pounding wet rides and dry rides; body and tube slides; disco dancing under artificial rain; bumper cars and food courts. There’s also a kiddie pool and play station for the young ones in a closely monitored, safe and fun environment. www.wildwaterskenya.com
Mamba Village Crocodile Farm
The sight of bloodthirsty crocodiles thrashing their tails and fighting for their share at feeding time is the highlight of the day at Mamba Village. The village is home to the man-eater sized ‘Big Daddy’, all the way down to newly hatched baby crocs, as well as white crocodiles. If you have the stomach for it, try the superbly grilled crocodile meat at Mamba Restaurant. www.nairobimamba.com
Haller Park Sanctuary
The former limestone quarry is now a beautifully laid out animal sanctuary where waterbuck, eland, giraffes, zebras and buffalos wander through the park alongside giant tortoises, crowned cranes, peacocks and porcupines. Trained escorts will introduce you to some of the park’s more colourful characters including a 120-year-old tortoise named Mzee. Other attractions include a snake park, crocodile farm, and a restaurant that specialises in game meat.