Guests ask us how old children should be to get the most out of an EpicQuest safari trip. The short answer to the question is…. it depends. I have seen children as young as 6 actively engaged in the trip — but also have seen older children that really haven’t enjoyed their safari experience. Here are some of the factors to consider:
Getting there: From the East Coast, you have about 16 hours in the air, depending on your route. And, of course, much longer from the West Coast. Most of the flights connect somewhere in Europe or the Middle East, rather than fly direct to Nairobi. You may have a long layover at your connection city — with Virgin Airways from Washington, DC, for example, you spend about 8 hours at Heathrow.
When you arrive in Nairobi you may follow one of three paths, depending upon your time of arrival and your personal preferences.
- If we’re chartering a plane fly you to into the lodges, you are shepherded through customs and immigration directly to a short flight leaving from the international airport — very easy.
- If you’re taking scheduled flights, we still take care of you from the moment you arrive until your next flight, but you have a long drive (about an hour) to the domestic airport. Once on the plane, you may take off and touch down 2-3 times, depending on who’s going where on the plane. The flight can be bumpy but the amazing views as you fly over herds of elephant and giraffe tend to make you forget about the bumps.
- You may decide to take a break and overnight in Nairobi. We will book you in either a city or suburban hotel, according to your preferences, and ensure your transfer to the departure point of your flight.
As you think about the trip into the lodges consider the following:
- How good a traveler is the child? Can they survive, without a total meltdown, the multiple flights for long periods of time. Nowadays, many kids been traveling internationally since they were toddlers, so you have a pretty good idea of how they’ll survive the long flights. Some kids haven’t done it and it could be dicey for long periods in the plane.
- What class of service are you flying internationally? This impacts, not only your inflight experience, but also your layover. First class service will provide more freedom to move about the cabin, as aisles are not blocked by service carts and other passengers, and you can likely count on more attention and distractions by in-flight staff. The time you spend on the ground during your layover can be quite pleasant in the First Class lounges, compared to fighting for a quiet space in an international terminal.
- If you stay overnight in Nairobi for any reason, we have some really great options that are fun for kids, and quite frankly, as much fun for adults. One option is an overnight at Giraffe Manor, which is an old English country home in the middle of a Giraffe preserve — at breakfast, the giraffes stick their heads into the windows and “join” your breakfast. On the grounds, there are treehouses that will lift you up to giraffe level. Nearby is an elephant orphanage where you can get up close and personal with baby elephants and other orphaned animals
At the lodges: The lodges and reserves are very safe and staff will be very attentive to the special needs of families and children. Most important will be the child’s propensity and ability to follow directions and be obedient to guidance. The safari vehicles are wide open and a kid that decides to run for it would be in big trouble quickly. They will need to sit quietly for long periods of time (many times you find a group of animals where you park and silently watch). There may be game drives that are uneventful for longer periods of time, punctuated by exciting moments. For kids that might find this challenging, I would suggest that you bring a Game Boy or similar toy (one that allows you to turn the sounds off) to give them something to do when their attention span starts to fade.
Game drives occur early in the morning (pre-breakfast) and late afternoon/sunset. They last a couple hours, so you’re sitting in a truck for several hours with breaks to stop and look at animals. Mid-day is free time that guests may spend at the pool, sleeping, reading, or going off on other excursions that may be of interest (schools, tracker dogs, etc.). Lewa, in particular, is good about getting the Masaii to “babysit” –which has to be the coolest way for a kid to spend the afternoon. I watched two little boys have a ball making bows, arrows and spears from found materials, dress up like Masaii, go out tracking animals (learning about spoor and tracks). These boys were young — 6-8-ish and were having the time of their lives!
There’s no TV at the lodges, but there is electricity during the day, so I definitely would have kids bring Playstations, Game Boys, etc. for down time.
Borana has a family cottage that allows the parents and kids to stay together, without cramming into the same room. They also have excursions to fun places like watering holes, waterfalls, and fishing that little and big kids would enjoy. Several generations of children have grown up on Borana and have scouted out great things to do throughout the reserve.
We’d love to work with you to develop the perfect combination of activities to ensure that your entire family has a memorable experience in Kenya. Give us a call and we’ll tailor the trip specific to your wishes.