For many, Kenya is East Africa in a nutshell. Dramatic landscapes, spectacular wildlife, bustling cities, historic settlements, coral reefs and white sand beaches. Not to mention shopping, from funky curios to quality African art. Whether you spend your family trip observing animals and birds on a wildlife safari or soaking up the southern sun on a beach vacation there is no one way to describe family travel to Kenya. A trip to Kenya with kids is adventure travel, cultural holiday, and just plain fun all rolled into one. From the beat of hoofs in the Maasai Mara to a shimming carpet of pink at Lake Nakura, Kenya is a top choice for a family wildlife safari. And the great migration, wildebeast and zebras, and the cacophony of thousands of flamingos aren't the only show. Tsavo, Kenya's largest national park, is touted by many as the best safari destination in Kenya. Spectacular scenary, African 'Big Five' and varied bird life are the main draw at this game reserve. The much smaller Amboseli, renown for its great herds of elephants and views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, offers a great introduction for families with a limited amount of time.
Coral reefs and white sand beaches may be the main attraction for families traveling to the Kenyan coast but they aren't the only. Lamu and Mombasa, once major trading centers in Arab East Africa, offer insight to coast's rich cultural heritage. A trip to the 12th century ruins at Gede, near Watamu, and remote Paté Island provide an opportunity to explore the region's history in a different way. Diani, Watumu and Malindi may be tourist centers but for the discerning tourist the Swahili culture can be experienced here too.
Crime, an unfortunate fact of life, in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, makes it an unfortunate place to transit and an impossible place to explore with children.
While the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi is the main hub for travel to Kenya, international and intercontinental flights including regularly scheduled and charter airlines also arrive/depart Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city and gateway to the coast.
In Kenya, there are three ways to get around. Fly, take a train (between Nairobi and Mombasa only) or take to the roads. Domestic flights connect Nairobi to the game reserves as well as various points along the coast. Mombasa Air Safari flies up and down the coast and makes it possible to travel between the beach resorts and games reserves without connecting through Nairobi. The night train referred to as the Iron Snake makes the trip between Nairobi and Mombasa three times a week and offers a bit of adventure for families traveling with older kids. While a map can show a road it can't convey quality. Driving in Kenya is a hair-raising experience; the hazards go beyond potholes. If you decide to rent a car make sure it is a 4-wheel drive, keep in mind that driving is on the left, and do not drive at night. Buses, matatus (minibus), and taxis are valid alternatives.
The best time to travel to Kenya is in the dry season from mid July to early October. It is the best time for game viewing as it is neither as hot nor as humid as the peak season (December through February). And it coincides with the Great Migration, when herds of wildebeest and other wildlife migrate north into the Masai Mara. Snorkeling and deep-sea fishing, however, are best from December to March. In August and September the Indian Ocean is still rough after the long rains (April to June). Short rains characterize the weather in Kenya in October and November.
Travelers' diarrhea is the most common ailment affecting tourists in Kenya. Malaria is a risk in all areas of the country. Nairobi lies in a low risk area. When packing your first aid kit don't forget to include high factor sunscreen, DEET insect repellent and your common sense. Pack long sleeved shirts and trousers and if you are going on a wildlife safari, pack neutral colored clothing. Sleep under a treated mosquito net or in a screened or air conditioned room. Take caution when traveling in certain areas and don't wander city streets at night. The risks in Nairobi go beyond petty theft; it is often referred to as Nairobbery for a reason.
The currency in Kenya is the Shilling. Kenya is predominately a cash economy. Thus many establishments, from hotels to safari companies, pass on credit card fees. Be sure the rate quoted is the actual rate you will be charged.