Safari vacations

Why the leading safari experts recommend Kenya for spectacular family vacations

Last updated 20th May 2024

Kenya is the ideal safari destination for families according to Laura Burdett-Munns, MD of luxury tour operator Journeysmiths, mother of two and a bit of an expert, having been on her first safari at the age of just one years old. Here she reveals her top tips for the perfect safari with kids in tow.

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Laura Burdett-Munns on safari in Kenya

I have spent the last 18 years travelling to some of the planet’s most incredible places under the guise of ‘work’. For 11 of those, I had been waiting for my children to be old enough to join me. That moment finally arrived as we set off on their first safari to Kenya.

No previous vacation had anything like the impact on Isabelle (11) and Jack (8). From one parent to another, these are my top tips for arranging a family safari to Kenya.

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Cheetah, Masai Mara © Amy Nichole Harris

Why Kenya is perfect for family safari holidays with kids

Kenya was the birthplace of safari vacations and is still considered one of the best safari destinations. It has all the ingredients for an amazing family vacation.

In the long summer vacation months over two million wildebeest, gazelle and zebra cross the plains of the Masai Mara: a wildlife phenomenon known as the great migration. There’s Amboseli, beneath snow- capped Kilimanjaro. Then rift valley lakes, and the ancient volcanic hills of Samburu offer even more magical settings.

As well as wildlife-filled national parks, the country’s huge network of private wildlife conservancies enable you to experience the diverse landscape and its wildlife in a multitude of ways. Track rhino by horseback, ride by camel through the country’s northern wilderness as you spot endemic species such as the reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra, or take to the skies by private helicopter and witness vast herds of elephant from above.

Your family can also learn traditional skills from a Maasai warrior; kayak; horse riding; fly camp out under the stars and so much more. 

It’s this level of diversity that makes Kenya a superb destination for a family safari; every day you set off on new and exciting shared adventures.

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Sunset safari, House in the Wild

How to safari in Kenya the Journeysmiths’ way

My parents founded Journeysmiths more than 30 years ago, so we bring three decades of experience in arranging unique, individually crafted, family safaris. As a family business ourselves, we know it’s the little things that can matter most when you’re travelling with children. So as well as making sure you have the ‘big moments’, we also pay attention to details like organising your kids’ preferred meal choices at camps or arranging game drives that start later in the morning, to avoid tired little ones.

Journeysmiths take you away from the crowds and onto exclusive reserves where your family can experience the best of Kenya in privacy. Think luxurious, perfectly positioned lodges, where your family will have the Kenyan wilderness at their disposal, with an expert, private guide on hand to work to your family’s schedule. We know that families need flexibility to ensure little ones are well rested when it counts.

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House in the Wild, Kenya

How long should a safari vacation be with young children?

A safari in Africa can be an extremely diverse experience and this is key when travelling with young children.

I would recommend two or three safari locations, and two to four nights at each location, depending on the variety of experiences available. It’s also important to make sure each location has new experiences to keep everyone entertained.

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Ol Malo, Laikipia, Kenya © Ol Malo

Journeysmiths’ Top travel tips for a spectacular family safari

  • Don’t waste time on lengthy road journeys. Transfers by light aircraft will maximise your time on the ground.
  • A safari can be tiring. Include some time to relax, either on the coast or by extending your stay at a safari property.
  • Paying for a private safari vehicle will give you maximum flexibility.
  • Consider including an insightful cultural dimension to your holiday.
  • Get in touch with Journeysmiths‘ experienced safari specialists to start designing your family’s perfect itinerary!
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House in the Wild, Kenya

My best experiences on safari in Kenya

As MD of Journeysmiths, I’ve had the privilege to safari in Kenya many times. No two trips have been the same and with each journey to Kenya I have gained a deeper understanding of this incredible country.

However, travelling in Kenya with my children and seeing it afresh through their eyes, probably counts as one of my favourite safari memories. Naturally, you’ll make your own memories but here are a few of the moments that really stood out for my family.

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Camel Safari, Ol Malo, Laikipia, Kenya

Walking safari with Maasai and their camels

What an adventure! And the polar opposite of a crowded, minibus safari.

Your family can wander through beautiful Kenyan landscapes chatting with friendly Maasai. The camels carry everything and you can ride them too. Choose to travel with the camels for a day or longer, watching wildlife and enjoying the freedom.

Experiencing the Great Migration

Thousands of animals live on the Masai Mara plains, so there’s always a lot to see, although the region is perhaps best known for its excellent populations of lion, leopard and cheetah.

Visit from June to October, and you’re able to witness these feline predators feasting, as over two million wildebeest, zebra and Thomson gazelle come crashing across the rivers from the Serengeti. This is Africa’s Great Migration.

Becoming an expert wildlife photographer

Your private guide, is an expert in anticipating the wildlife’s behaviour, and will allow plenty of time to set up your camera to ensure you get the perfect shot. Whether you are sitting back observing a lethargic pack of lion or following a thrilling wild dog hunt, your guide will ensure your family are perfectly placed.

Journeysmiths are even able to arrange for Big Cat Diary cameraman, Warren Samuels, to guide you around his secret wildlife hotspots for a few days.

Sleeping outside beneath the stars

Imagine spending the night together, out in the wilds under a billion stars.

In the afternoon, you arrive at the private starbeds where cosy beds, a bathroom and everything else you need is on a vast wooden deck, overlooking the plains. Then, after enjoying dinner with your guide, you have the wonderful experience of drifting off to sleep in the beating heart of Africa, with nothing but a mosquito net between you and the vast, inky sky.

Witnessing conservation in action

Wildlife conservation is fascinating for children and adults alike, and Kenya is pioneering exciting conservation solutions where local communities partner with safari lodges to ensure a positive future for rhinoceros, elephant and other endangered species.

Journeysmiths have long standing relationships with Kenya’s conservation changemakers and are able to place your family at the front line of conservation. You’ll be able to meet with conservation experts and researchers and, depending on your children’s age, you can get involved with collaring and important monitoring of species.

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Steve Backshall and his son, Logan, during a Journeysmiths’ vacation, Maasai Mara, Kenya

The best places to stay on a Kenya family safari, as recommended by Journeysmiths

Understandably, over 30 years and more, the Journeysmiths’ team have travelled to many of the camps and lodges with our own families, and have an extensive list of the places we personally recommend. But here are my family’s particular favourites in Kenya.

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Family cottage, House in the Wild

House in the Wild: also personally recommended by Steve Backshall

Since its launch, this lodge has swiftly become one of our top choices for family travellers.

Between its secluded location, homely atmosphere, and three dedicated family rooms, selecting this spot is a no-brainer for families looking for a safe, interactive and educational safari experience.

Journeysmiths even arranged an exclusive safari stay here for British TV wildlife presenter, Steve Backshall, whose five year old son loved watching warthogs on the lawn, as well as hippos in the nearby river.

Take a closer look at House in the Wild

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Family safari Ol Malo, Kenya

Ol Malo House, Laikipia: unique family-owned game sanctuary

A unique family-owned ranch and game sanctuary, Ol Malo House nestles in Kenya’s rugged Northern Laikipia Range; the traditional roaming lands of the Samburu tribe.

Make yourself at home here with the Francombe family, in the luxury of the wild African bush.

Explore Ol Malo House, Laikipia

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Views from Ol Donyo Lodge, Amboseli

Ol Donyo Lodge: set high in Kenya’s Chyulu Hills

High in Kenya’s Chyulu Hills, Ol Donyo Lodge has a magnificent location bordering the Amboseli National Park and looking out towards Mount Kilimanjaro.

Not only is Ol Donyo Lodge one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, it’s also a member of Relais & Chateaux.

Discover Ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills

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Villa, Saruni Samburu, Kenya

Saruni Samburu, Samburu: a truly different experience for families

Saruni Samburu sits on the undulating, private Kalama Conservancy which borders the Samburu National Reserve.

As well as its vast, pure African landscapes, authentic local culture here makes for a truly different experience, and one families particularly love.

Take a closer look at Saruni Samburu, Kalama Conservancy

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Rain Prayer, Ol Lentille, Laikipia

Ol Lentille: perfect for families with older children

The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille has the wow factor.

Its totally secluded site is an adventurer’s paradise and sits on one of the highest points in Kenya so, naturally, it also has some of the very best views in Africa.

Explore Ol Lentille, Laikipia

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Leopard lying in tree, national park, Kenya

A few more words about Journeysmiths and family safari vacations

Who are Journeysmiths? We’re a small, passionate team who live and breathe travel and have done for over 30 years.

As a family-run and owned business, people lie at the heart of everything we do. It’s why we’re committed to sustainable travel and to working with partners who understand our values.

A sense of family is also the reason we will never grow too big to offer truly personal service. The kind of service that means we listen to you and what’s important to your family and then craft the safari that fits you perfectly.

We also make sure we’re with you every step of the way, from assigning you a personal safari consultant to providing you with access to 24/7 support during your vacation. Knowing all about travelling with children ourselves, means we pay attention to the little details so you can focus on having an unforgettable family safari. And for extra peace of mind, Journeysmiths’ vacations are ATOL protected.

How to start planning your Kenya Family Safari vacation with Journeysmiths