Family fun

HR-Mara-Intrepids-testing-bowsWith 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 1 – on safari
A hyena’s maniacal laugh as it closes in on a free meal; spoors pointing the way to a leopard’s lair, an elephant bathing in the dust… These are just a few of the magical moments your family can expect on a Kenyan safari, along with a touch of luxury, plenty of fun and the sense of a shared adventure. Blessed with sunshine most of the year, Kenya’s warmth is reflected in its welcome approach to families and children of all ages. Take advantage of the wide, open spaces and specially tailored children’s programmes that allow you to enjoy every moment, knowing that your children are in safe hands.

Masai Mara moments
On any given day, the Masai Mara teems with wildlife: leopards sprawl hidden along the branches of fig trees; buffalos lurk in the bushes; lions lie camouflaged in the dry grass; and elephants plod the plains with calves in tow.

The Masai Mara is best known for the annual wildebeest migration, during which over a million wildebeest, zebra and other plains game criss-cross the crocodile-infested Mara River to reach their grazing grounds. This dramatic battle for survival can be witnessed between July and September, but there is always plenty to see in Kenya’s most famous reserve. A visit to the Mara, 300km from Kenya’s capital, promises thrilling game drives and eye-opening cultural tours.

Where to stay
Mara Intrepids
A massive hippo skull with bared fangs and evil-looking yellowing tusks stands at the gate of the Adventurers’ Club at Mara Intrepids, a luxury tented camp in the world-renowned Masai Mara. A Maasai ‘Chief’, resplendent in traditional headdress, red shuka and spear, tells his spellbound young audience that hippos are among the most dangerous animals in Africa.

Mara Intrepids is set on the banks of the hippo-filled Talek River amidst a forest of towering indigenous trees. While parents enjoy some pampering at the spa, younger guests can spend time at the Adventurers’ Club. The idea behind the Club is ‘edu-tainment’, a concept aimed at sharing the marvels of wildlife and conservation, as well as the cultures and traditions of local communities. Within the sprawling grounds, Maasai naturalists make a game of teaching tracking and survival skills: how to make bows and arrows; animal and bird behaviour; and identifying animals from their scats and spoors.

Rates: Resident rates from Ksh28,500 per night; non-resident rates from US$1050 per night. Fly-in packages from US$2258 for two nights. (Rates are for a family of 2 adults and 2 children below 12 years on a full-board basis with game drives. Please note that rates may vary according to the season.) Tel: +254 (0)20 444 6651 Email: sales@heritagehotels.co.ke Cell: + 254 (0)722 205 894 /
(0)733 411 105

Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp
Children are fascinated by the warthogs that freely roam the immaculate lawns or laze in the shade of the indigenous trees at Kichwa Tembo in the Masai Mara. Under the watchful eyes of trained guides, the children dress up as Maasai warriors and are led off to explore the grounds, learning to identify plants and animal tracks, try traditional beading with the local Maasai ladies, or plant seedlings in the lodge nursery. On excursions to an authentic Maasai village, the family is introduced to local folklore and the colourful Maasai culture.

The elegant tented camp offers unending views of the open grasslands and the shady forest surrounding the Sabaringo River. The family units are made up of two tents with separate entrances, but connected by a passageway that allows children to get to and from their parents’ tent without needing to go outside.

While the children are engrossed in their adventures, you can browse in the well-stocked safari shop or spend a lazy afternoon dozing in one of the many garden hammocks. Take an afternoon swim in the pool set among the trees overlooking the Mara plains where elephants lumber along and zebra, gazelle and wildebeest graze.

Rates: Standard tariff – From US$1400. Resident – the game package starts at US$630 if booked seven days in advance. (Rates are for 2 adults and 2 children per superior family tent per night and include game drives.)  Tel: +254 (0)20 374 5238; Email: safaris@andBeyond.com

Liking Laikipia
Situated on the Northern slopes of Mount Kenya overlooking the arid lowlands near Isiolo, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and world-renowned for its cutting-edge, community-based conservation efforts. The Conservancy is home to over 70 endangered black rhinos, 65 southern white rhinos and the critically endangered Grevy’s zebra. Nearly half of Lewa’s full time employees are rangers who make daily patrols around the reserve and monitor the abundant wildlife – especially the rhinos.

Lewa Safari Camp
This is a place where treasured memories are made, as Lewa is committed to imparting age-appropriate knowledge and a love of Africa that will stick with visitors for life. Children enjoy a warm welcome at Lewa, where they can learn how to throw a Maasai spear, spot their first leopard, visit baby rhinos and roast sausages and marshmallows over a campfire within hearing distance of a lion’s roar. There are a variety of children’s activities that showcase the wonders of the bush, such as guided camp walks while learning to identify bird calls, mammals, tracks and droppings. It’s all about fun while learning to appreciate and respect the surroundings and becoming champions of the Conservancy.

Extra activities include horse rides, traditional village tours, and day trips to Ngare Ndare forest, where you can swim in the clear blue waters of the spring or walk the canopy bridge through the forest and enjoy a picnic lunch. In the evenings, the adults can sit back and enjoy their cocktails in peace as there are fun distractions on hand for the kids as well as flexible dining hours and babysitting during meal times.

Lewa has beautiful gardens filled with birds, elegant tented accommodation, sunny verandas and a swimming pool where the children can pass time while waiting for their next game drive. The camp reinvests all the profits generated from tourism into its core conservation and community programmes.

Rates: From US$239 per person per night. Tel: +254 (0)730 127 000 (Nairobi); +255 754 250 0630 (Arusha); Email: reservations@elewana.com

2 good reasons to plan your trip
President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that visa fees for children 15 and under will be waived altogether from 1 February 2016. Along with the changes to visa fees His Excellency the President also announced that VAT charges on National Park fees will be removed and KWS Park fees will be capped at US$60 (down from US$90) for the 2016/17 financial year.