Kenya safari with Teens


Jul 7th, 2012, 12:44 PM
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Kenya safari with Teens

I am taking my two daughters 13 and 15 years old to Kenya hoping to see the wildbeest migration. We are taking the 8 days Samburu, Mt. Kenya, Lake Nakuru safari with MICS Tours & Safaris. The itinerary can be found on this link:
Am I being over ambitious considering that I am taking kids with me? Are there any accommodation suggestions suitable for teens?

Thanks for your help!
evestock is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2012, 04:49 PM
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I copied the itinerary here so other posters can see that Maasai Mara is included too.

For kids there's some interesting stuff in Nairobi if you can arrive a day early: Giraffe Center where you can feed giraffes safely & Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage. If you adopt an ele in advance, you can watch the early eve bathing, otherwise there is a midday viewing for non-adoptees. There's a snake park (all are enclosed in cages and glass) near the national museum. Arriving one day early makes sense for these activities, in case luggage gets lost, and especially with kids who might need a day to adjust to jet lag.

Day 1: Nairobi-Aberdares

Drive to Aberdares arriving in time for Lunch at the Ark. After lunch, enjoy the afternoon viewing game in this dense forest high on the mountains. Spot the mountain elephants, waterbucks, bushbucks, leopards, cheetahs and many different bird species. Dinner and Overnight at the Ark
Good spot for kids, good for anyone on a first safari

Day 2: Aberdares to Samburu

After an early morning breakfast, return to the base hotel and travel north crossing the Equator cool to stand with one leg in each hemisphere for kids

into Samburu National Reserve. Lunch at the lodge is followed by a late afternoon game drive.

The drive is about 4 hours. Knowing drive times is important with kids

(BLD) Samburu Lodge or Samburu Serena
I don't think Samburu Serena ever reopened after being flooded out in 2010. Is this safari provider up to date with info/lodging? Samburu Lodge is good for kids. Lots of vervet monkey activity on the grounds they can watch.

Day 3: Samburu

An early morning game drive is followed by breakfast at the lodge. After breakfast, have a full day game viewing with Bush lunch Explore Samburu and its rare animal species. Later in the evening return to the Samburu Lodge or Samburu Serena for dinner and overnight. Full day can be really hot, depending on when you are going. Normally I like a whole day out for more viewing, but maybe not with kids, especially in Samburu heat. Instead you can do morning drive, breakfast, post-breakfast drive before heat of day, lunch and rest and then afternoon drive.

Day 4: Samburu to Mt. Kenya Sweetwares camp

After an early morning breakfast, drive to Sweet waters Tented Camp, set in the heart of a large privately owned game reserve, enjoying magnificent views across the plains to the peaks of Mountain Kenya. Have lunch and then visit the Chimpanzees at the nearby sanctuary. Each tented accommodation has a private verandah. Sitting within the quaint, original farmhouse are the dining room, bar and reception. Dinner and overnight at the Sweetwaters Tented Camp
About 2 hour drive. SW is nice choice for kids or anyone. Lots of variety, only place in Kenya to see chimps, though they are in refuge and not wild.

Day 5: Sweetwaters to Lake Nakuru

After breakfast, drive to Lake Nakuru through Aberdares Mountain range and the Rift Valley. Enjoy an afternoon game viewing drive along the lakeshore. Lunch, dinner and overnight at the Lake Nakuru Lodge or the Sarova Lion Hill
Back to back one nighters is hectic for anyone, especially kids. Back at Sweetwater there is lots to do such as vistiting captive rhinos, taking walks, cultural activities. Another night there would help. The drive time is maybe 3 hours. Kids and everyone can look for flamingos in Lake Nakuru.

Day 6: Lake Nakuru to Maasai Mara

Today continue your safari adventure into the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Arrive in time for lunch and a late afternoon game viewing drive. Drive time about 6 hours and lodging looks fine. Mara Serena could be your best location, depending on WHAT MONTH YOU ARE GOING. Where you stay is even more important to try to see the migration.

Dinner and overnight at the Mara Sarova Camp/ Mara Serena Lodge or the Keekorok Lodge.

For kids, adults, everybody only 2 nts in the Mara is the mark of an average safari. You should spend at least 3 nts in the Mara on a Kenya only safari. That becomes even more important if you are trying to see the wildebeest migration.

This itinerary is standard and any safari provider can do it and more importantly could improve upon it if you have just a couple more days.

You ask about lodging for kids--the lodging given seems fine. There aren't lodges that cater to kids, but there are DRIVER/GUIDES that work better with kids so getting one of them is crucial. Preparing your teens is a key element. For example they can practice photography in advance. Everybody having their own binocs, even cheapies, is good to cut down on squabbles. Have them keep a journal/diary. Have them practice some Swahili words and bring a couple of pages of translations. These ideas are good for adults too.

I didn't see cultural activities, unless I accidentally cut those out when I pasted. I didn't copy every detail. Especially for kids, some village visits should be included, which are typical and easy to include.

You should have a private vehicle if you are taking teens 13 and 15. It might even be required that you are not sharing a vehicle with other adults. It will be best for all.

Day 7: Maasai Mara

Have a full day of game viewing with a visit to the Mara river migration crossing points. You can easily spend 3 hours (I've spent 10) waiting at crossing points for something to happen. Sometimes it does, sometimes not. To see a crossing and to enjoy the Mara, at LEAST 3 nights are needed otherwise you'll feel like you are wasting your time in the wildlife hotspot of East Africa sitting at the river while the wildebeest make up their minds what to do using their pea-sized brains and stampeding away from the river when a plover flies.

You will be served with picnic/ Bush lunch. Dinner and overnight at the Mara Serena Safari Lodge/ Keekorok Lodge/ Mara Simba Lodge

Day 8: Maasai Mara
Depending where you are, this is a 5-7 hour drive

After an early morning breakfast, drive to Nairobi for lunch at the Carnivore restaurant and some last minute shopping and a chance to explore the city of Nairobi in the afternoon or just spend the afternoon at leisure. Transfer to your city hotel for dinner and overnight.

Too ambitious with teens 13 and 15? Not at all. But you may be creating monsters, more specifically Africaphiles.
atravelynn is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2012, 05:54 PM
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Two more things...

The drive times above are mainly pounding the pavement on highways, not quality game drives looking at animals.

Just occurred to me you might be planning a summer vacation trip shortly. If so, get vaccines up to date soon. Check travel clinic and pediatrician.
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Jul 8th, 2012, 08:04 AM
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As Lynn, pretty much a standard itinerary, which I hope is for you and the kids only, than a group with strangers.

The Serena at Samburu has yet to reopen and have no idea if/when it will, which is a shame. But the other lodge is fine and believe with a pool, so downtime will be good for your children. There's also the Sopa Lodge here, as an alternate.

In the Mara, I'd avoid Keekorok, that while the oldest lodge here, though refurbished recently (believe about 5/yrs ago), a lovely lodge is the farthest south in the Mara, though a game drive to get here, does add about 2/hrs or more from Nakuru; on the border with Tanzania, but recent feedback indicates 'management' issues. The Sarova Camp or Serena Lodge are better options.

If you are considering for this coming summer, later in July or August, then your accommodations will be based on availability for 1/nt or consecutive nights. If for 2013, you have time to plan.

Now, MICS Safari, you might want to check out Trip Advisor, - select Africa, select Kenya, then do a search for 'Mics safaris' - there have been some really negative reports that you might want to consider, though there are also positive ones.

Is MICS the only tour outfitter contacted? Or others? If others, which and why did you choose MICS over them? Yes, we have lots of good input and do ask lots of questions, but wish for travelers to have as much info as possible when making decisions... in the end though, it's always yours.

Hope this helps.
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Jul 8th, 2012, 08:48 AM
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We went to Tanzania last December with 4 kids, 16, 15, 13, 11. Two families who have traveled together often. It was great and the kids were great and happy. for each kid in addition to binoculars. Cameras keep them focused. We stopped for more birds than our kids found interesting, but I like birds. Lots of snacks at all times!!! Buying snacks in addition to bring familiar ones is good. We brought peanut butter and nutella for lunches and meals the kids did not like. Both were completely gone by the time we left. The more swimming pools the better...we only had two. One kid did lots of electronic games and books during game drives...whatever works. Remember, no bathrooms on game drives. Not a problem with our group, but it could be.
Kids loved the elephant orphanage, giraffe park...not the snake is really a good place for locals to go for picnics, outing. Not up to level of the other stuff. Dinesen house not interesting for kids.
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Jul 8th, 2012, 09:03 AM
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Our kids just reminded me...flashlight, toilet paper (rest stops did not always have it), hand sanitizer, small bar soap for rest stops. Our kids thought it was best trip ever and they have been to 40+ counties.
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Jul 8th, 2012, 09:38 AM
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One more....since we had our own group we left the camps when we wanted. Teenagers like to sleep late. 9am was our usual leaving time. And no before breakfast animal drives. We did not leave early (8:30am) unless we had long drive that day and our guides implored. We saw plenty of animals even tho we left late. When we went to Kenya without kids we did do the usual before breakfast drives...that was good as well.
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Jul 8th, 2012, 09:49 AM
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We did a Kenya migration safari with our boys when they were 16 and 19. Ours was short (9 days on the ground, planned at the last minute), but they too ranked it as one of the best trips ever.

We chose to go to fewer places and fly to the Mara to save time and avoid one-nighters - also wanted tented camps rather than lodges. Our trip was organized by Gamewatchers, which is eco-friendly and included a built-in cultural experience because the camps are on conservancies owned by the Masai. Our loved the cultural interaction (jumping contests, dung identification, etc.) as much as the animal time.

Cameras for everyone are essential. Small binoculars for all are also a good idea - we dutifully borrowed/bought enough for everyone but found there were extras in the vehicles. We brought granola bars, but our guides always had ridiculous quantities of kid friendly snacks (cheese, crackers, chips, fruit, etc.)

When are you going? Will you have your own vehicle? We went in July and stayed at two places with (unheated) pools. It's unlikely that the kids will want to swim in the winter...

You can check out the trip report:

Lynn, Love your purple annotations!
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Jul 10th, 2012, 01:17 AM
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Thats very true of the mara river wildebeest migration crossing.The best way to ensure that you get a river crossing is to do the safari in august and liase with your travel agent to let you know how the progress of the animals in the mara. You can wait for 2 days even for the wildebeest to make the river crossing. But when it finally does, its worth the wait in gold. Imagine a stampede then multiply that by hundreds of thousands of wildebeests.

Im not surprised that most people and kids included find kenya and masai mara to be the most exciting place to visit. Make sure to get your vaccines right and the antimalarial as well. Learn more on the route of the migration from tanzania here, it makes a good reading:
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Jul 11th, 2012, 03:17 PM
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Many thanks to all of you for your time and invaluable information. We land in Nairobi in the early morning hours of Sept. 10 and have 10 nights to spend in Kenya before we fly catch our late night flight.

atravelynn, Many thanks for the commentatiries regarding the itinerary. we do not want to spend any time within the city of Nairobi based on the current security situation, we want start our safari immediately on arrival and drop off at the airport at the end of it.

Sandi, MICS has been recomended to me by my step brother who went with them on a family trip in March this year and he only sang praises, hence my decision.

Having had several e-mail exchanges with MICS and information collected here and elsewhere, I have decided to do the following.
Day 1; Aberdares; The Ark.
Day 2: Samburu- Samburu Sopa
Day 3: Samburu- Samburu Sopa
Day 5: Sweetwaters.
Day 6: Lake Nakuru. Sarova Lion Hill lodge
Day 7: Lake Naivasha-Cycling and hiking-boat trip. Lake Naivasha Sopa.
Day 8: Maasai mara. Keekorok- I understand the migration will be right at that area of the maasai mara in mid-late Sept.
Day 9: Maasai mara: Keekorok Lodge
Day 10: Maasai mara: Keekorok Lodge
Day 11: Nairobi-Fly back home

We would have preferred flying between the some of the legs but the budget will not allow. Own vehcile is a must as we would like to be flexible on what to do on a day to day basis. Being our first and probably last trip to Africa, we would like to see as much wildlife as possible as well as a cultural experience.

As for the kids, we have taken only the lodges with swimming pools to keep them busy when not on game drives. Will be taking a few play things for them as suggested for the evenings.

We have since committed ourselves for the above safari and really looking forward to it.

Many thanks once again for the very helpful input!

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Jul 12th, 2012, 11:39 AM
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Glad that your brother had a good experience, as many do. It was only that there had been some negative reviews and didn't want you to be unaware... in other words, seems MICS provides inconsistent service - hit-or-miss!

As to the itinerary, it's a typical routing. But do know that from Naivasha it's a 4/hr drive on some nasty roads just to the entry of the Mara and then at least a 3.5-4/hrs drive (though a game drive so can be longer) to Keekorok which is actually on the border with Tanzania*. You might want to think about a lodge/camp more centrally located as Sarova Mara, Fig Tree, Kichwa Tembo, even the Serena Lodge.
*recent comments of new management here and service isn't what it used to be.

While budget can be an issue, don't discount flying from Lake Naivasha (3:30pm flight) to the Mara and use the lodge (or camp) vehicles/guides for game drives and as a family will probably have your own and not have to share with others. Then fly back to NBO to avoid a further 7+/hrs drive, if staying at Keekorok.

Even if lodges/camps have pools, know that September is 'winter' in Kenya and the pools are NOT heated, so best to test the waters before taking a dip.
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Jul 12th, 2012, 08:00 PM
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Who knows where the migration will be in Sept? Might be near the border.

Arrange some all day drives (Mara not generally as hot as Samburu) to increase your odds of finding it, if it is not nearby.

Sept is often good for river crossings and Serena is closest to the river. You can watch crossings through binocs from the lodge if the wildes cooperate.

Have a great family trip.
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Jul 16th, 2012, 01:41 AM
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Thanks Sandi,
The itinerary is quite okay for us however we did some fine tuning. The first night at the Maasai mara we will be staying at the Sarova and the other two at Keekorok. Our tour operator suggests that the migration will be headed to the boarder and hence the chances of witnessing any crossing are higher while staying at the Keekorok area towards the Nothern Serengeti in mid to late September.

I trust that MICS will deliver our safari needs as I have personally read many good reviews besides my step brother's wonderful experience.

Thanks you guys for the helpful input.
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Jul 16th, 2012, 07:01 PM
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We did a Kenya/TZ safari with my teens two years ago and it was fabulous. However, I jumped in here to advise you to CAREFULLY check out the Africa based agent that you will be using, especially if there is negative feedback from anyone, regardless of that agent having performed well for a friend or family member previously.

We had a great safari and for some reason my trip report captivated many people (including complete strangers to me) who wrote and asked me how to recreate the same itinerary with the agent I had used. I gave each one my standard disclaimer that past performance is no guarantee of future success, and perhaps some had a successful safari with this agent. However, a year ago one of my close friends was completely ripped off by this guy, and even now I feel badly about it. The Kenyan authorities are useless on such matters and they never recovered the funds lost.

So while I remain partial to local agents I now insist on paying by credit card and have ramped up my due diligence. We recently had an exceptional safari in Botswana and I used a local agent but paid by credit card. So now I tell my friends who want to go on safari that if they are not prepared to do the work required to work with a local agent, either use a big company (like Gamewatchers or & Beyond) or a U.S based agent like Sandi of Africa Serendipity, who posted above. A local agent will save you money, but requires handling with extreme care that many folks don't have the time, inclination or patience for.

My trip report is below. Please IGNORE the name of the agent, unfortunately I cannot edit them out on Fodors.
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Jul 16th, 2012, 07:12 PM
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Editing one sentence above:

So now I tell my friends who want to go on safari that if they are not prepared to do the work required to work with a local agent, either use a big company who actually owns camps (like Gamewatchers or & Beyond)...
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Jul 16th, 2012, 11:09 PM
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That's very interesting AKR- I've been looking at a Kenya trip and nearly got in touch with the agent you used on the basis of your trip report on TA- you should add an update to that report with this more recent experience.
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Jul 17th, 2012, 04:23 AM
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An update was placed at the end of the trip report at the end a year ago after my friends came back after their bad experience. It is outrageous that this guy is still in business despite repeated reports to Kenyan authorities.
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Jul 18th, 2012, 02:43 PM
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AKR1 - I too read your comments about that agent... shameful.

And, to OP, evestock -
... not to dissuade you from using MICS, but while some visitors have an outstanding safari with them, there are too many (in my estimation) who don't.

You might want to go over to Trip Advisor - select Africa, select Kenya and/or Tanzania. In the search bar either on either of these, input "MICS Safaris" and you'll find some of those 'negatives' and not pretty when company messed up scheduling, number of game drives and then when a refund due, the owner says he'll refund and renegged!
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Sep 7th, 2012, 12:25 AM
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Hi Evestock, You leave in a couple days? if you see this--Safari Njema!!

I stayed at both Mara Serena and Keekorok last month and enjoyed both. You'll love Keekorok! Fortunately none of the "service issues" Sandi heard about, were present. Apparently it's much improved since the current company (Sun Africa) took over recently. Staff were great in all areas! The ONLY thing i found wanting was the food--there's a lot of it (buffet) but most was average. That said, i don't think your kids will care, since there are choices and the dining room itself is a lively place, lots of families when i was there. The kids will love the Masai shoutng and jumping in the dining room--"touristy" but fun! Everything else about Keekorok is lovely, what you imagine a lodge to be-- huge lobby/lounge area with cathedral ceilings, all wood accents,even a tree growing in the lobby. Rooms--cozy and comfortable, not big, but not cramped. Don't miss the boardwalk in back that leads to the hippo pool.

Like you, i divided the three days in Masai Mara area between Keekorok (1) and Mara Serena (2) (long story) and was glad of that, as the drive between the two gave great sighting of wildlife. About minutes drive outside Keekorok's gate, were loads of animals, and the most spectacular dark stormy sky,
meeting the plains.

Sweetwaters--i woud have recommened two nights there,as did Lynn,'s set now. I LOVE Sweetwaters!! Can't think of single thing they could improve. You and the kids will love it (and the buffet food is excellent). I had obsessed on getting a tent in the first row closest to the "pond" but having seen Sweetaters' tents layout, it doesnt matter much according to other guests, as the back row's tents are stqggered to have views, and are above the first row. You may find, as I did , that the best place to enjoy the view is the tea/bar tent (avail at all times--even Masala Chai if you like that)
Have a great trip with your teens--look forwrd to hearing jow it went, as i may travel with teenaged grandson next yr to Kenya.
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