For years our family has considered taking an African safari. I’ve researched on websites, in guidebooks, you name it, I’ve looked for answers on how to plan a safari vacation. As it turns out, I may have been looking at the wrong places for the best safari in Africa. Thanks to Nadine of The Expat Mummy, I’m starting to realize that Nairobi might just be the best place to take an African vacation with kids.
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Kid Friendly Places in Nairobi
Nairobi is real Africa. Not Africa with a European twist like Cape Town. Not a blending of cultures like Cairo with its deserts and Middle Eastern romance. A trip to Kenya is unlike anything you can image.
Nairobi is Africa from storybooks, it is lions and leopards, and zebras. It is Maasai warriors shepherding their flock through the streets, it’s a thousand different craft stalls selling bowls and necklaces of all the colors of the rainbow. It’s hot and dry and dusty.
It’s also an amazing city to bring your kids to. Nairobi offers little ones the chance to experience a completely different culture and have first-hand contact with African animals without driving into the bush for hours on safari.
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi is the only city in the entire world with a wildlife park within its boundaries. The 117 sq. km Nairobi National Park is home to lions, leopards, cheetahs, zebra, giraffe, rhino and water buffalo. In fact, you will find 4 of the Safari Big 5 here.
Elephants used to live in the park but were removed some years ago as were causing too much damage within the local vicinity. You can be in the Nairobi city centre with its tower blocks one minute and half an hour later sitting at a watering hole watching a buffalo take a bath.
This isn’t a zoo, the animals are wild and local residents frequently have leopard or lion warnings when one decides to make a break for it. The worst thing about taking kids on safari is the long drives it takes to get here, so Nairobi National Park is a firm favourite with our children as they can be there 10 minutes after finishing school. Don’t miss these other Kenya safari holidays recommendations. Location: Langata Road, Langata Cost: 40 USD adult / 20 USD child
David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
The world-famous elephant orphanage occupies a site within the National Park. They employ a huge team of people that fly across Kenya and Tanzania looking for young elephants in distress or those that may have been abandoned. This charitable organization rescues the elephants and then rehabilitates them until they are old enough to be released back into the wild.
As a tourist, you can visit the baby elephants, learn all about them, touch them and if you adopt one you can even help with feeding time. My daughter’s favourite thing to do to visit her adopted elephant Sattao and you won’t believe how tiny they are when they are babies. Location: Magadi Road, Langata Cost: 5 USD adult or child
The Giraffe Centre
The Giraffe Centre was started in 1979 to help with the rehabilitation of the endangered Rothschild giraffe. Jock and Betty Melville brought two giraffes to their garden and the breeding program started from there. Nowadays the giraffe centre is home to many wild giraffes. Surprisingly tame, you will be able to feed, touch and interact with giraffes of all ages as well as learn about them.
Nothing quite delights a child, as being up so close to such noble and magnificent creatures and there are very few countries in the world where you would be able to touch and feed a giraffe. It’s an experience not to be missed. Location: Hardy, Nairobi Cost: 5 USD child/ 10 USD adults
Animals, animals, animals. It’s all about the wildlife in Nairobi. The safari walk is located at the entrance to Nairobi National Park and is a good choice for young children or if you want a guarantee of seeing lions and leopards. This is a zoo type environment where you can see all the local animals up close. They are often orphaned animals that have been taken to the safari walk to live and are unable to be released back into the wild for one reason or another.
The safari walk is an easy walk over about 2km where you will see, rhinos, lions, leopard, cheetah, hyena and other local safari animals. There is a baby animal orphanage on site and a children’s museum. Location: Langata road, Nairobi Cost: USD 13 child / USD 22 adult
Karura Forest is an urban forest with over 50km of trails for kids to run and bike. It is a wonderland of green indigenous trees, paths and waterfalls. The forest is home to all sorts of animals such as deer, monkey, honey badgers and many birds and is a great place for animals spotting and letting the kids have a runaround.
There is a great restaurant on site, The River Café, with a small playground and its a wonderful spot for lunch or a cocktail. There is an obstacle course for the kids and sometimes a market on weekends. Location: Limuru Road, Nairobi Cost: USD 3 child/ USD 6
About the author: Nadine Murphy is a mom of 3 and British expat exploring Kenya with kids. She is the author of The Expat Mummy, a family oriented travel blog which caters for the expat in Africa.