With the festive season in full gear, here are ideas on how to keep the whole family busy. It doesn’t matter which part of the country you are, there will surely be something interesting you do outdoors. And it’s a great way to keep the children away from the TV screen.
Even if you are heading out to the village, look out for a venue near you. This is a great way to tour the country and visit places you’ve only read about.
Lunar parks Nothing appeals to children more than the rush they feel when they are at a lunar or amusement park. The swings, slides, merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels and the most popular - the banana boat which is not for the faint-hearted, as the contraption does a 360 degree turn. The attendants usually strap in the clients with a metal chain and bar tightly fastened on the ride that looks like a banana before they set it in motion.
Rides at lunar parks vary on cost from Sh50 a ride to Sh250. You can find lunar parks at Uhuru Park, next to the Railways Club, Lunartik Park in Pangani, Mamba Village and at Rock City on Kiambu Road. For those heading to enjoy their Nyama Choma near Olepolos and Ololtepees, there is a park along the Isinya road about three kilometres from the junction.
Bird watching Safaris
Boasting of 62 world recognised sites, Kenya is ranked among the top bird-watching locations in the world. With more than 1090 species of birds colourfully dotting the skyline, bird-watching should be one of the activities lined up for the family this holiday.
The Aberdare National Park, less than three hours drive from the city provides habitat fora multitude of birds. A visit to the Ark offers the vantage point needed for bird-watching, while a lunch venue is a few minutes away.
Other bird watching sites in different regions are; Coastal Region: Arabuko-Sokoke forest and Shimba Hills National Park, Tsavo East, Tsavo West and Chyulu National Park.
Rift Region: Lake Nakuru National Park, Hell’s Gate and Mt. Longonot National Parks.
Western Region: Kakamega Forest, Mt. Elgon National Park, South Turkana and Ruma National Park in Homa Bay.
Mountain Region: Aberdare National Parks, Mt Kenya National Park and Mwea National Park.
Northern Region: Meru, Kora, Marsabit, Sibiloi and Central and Southern Island National Park.
Picnicking Armed with a picnic basket from your favourite deli or a homemade delight, Nairobi and its environs have a variety of sites for family brunch in the welcoming backdrop of nature. Karura Forest serves as a scenic venue right in the city. The Kenya Wildlife Service offers a host of sites for your picnic needs with over four sites in the Nairobi National Park.
In Nairobi, Paradise Lost on Kiambu Road, Mamba Village, Arboretum, as well as parks like Uhuru Park, Central Park, Uhuru Gardens and City Park are great for a picturesque afternoon out. Ngong Hills, Aberdare National Park, Hell’s Gate National Park, Mt. Kenya National Park, Mt. Elgon National Park, Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, and Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Park are other excellent sites too. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you make your plans as the weather might disappoint or disrupt your plans for the day. Most campsites will include adequate shelter, benches, water and latrines.
As a beginner or experienced cyclist, the skill will come in handy this holiday. Cycling is an activity that the whole family or group of friends can take part in with bicycles available for rent at costs of Sh100 to Sh500 for a few hours; you do not have to worry about getting brand new bikes. Hell’s Gate National Park and Karura Forest have some of the best cycling trails.
According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, “As you cycle in the park, you’ll get to see one of the most magnificent sceneries in Africa. Gorges deep into the Rift Valley floor, bear witness to the towering cliffs, stark rock towers, and belching geothermal steam.”
You need not catch your own dinner, but nobody said you cannot play with the fish. Sport fishing in the highlands or at the coast, just for the thrill of catching the fish before letting it back into the waters is a great pastime. Timau and the Aberdares are some of the most popular fishing destinations away from the coast. Trout fishing is organised by different groups and hotels in the country including Serena Hotels.
Streams from the Aberdares with their clear waters offer some of the best sites for brown and rainbow trout fishing, as the waters meander through the forest. Before you cast your fishing line, be sure to procure a fishing license with the relevant authority or at the park gate. The coast also offers a variety of deep sea fishing spots and packages. Malindi, Watamu, Shimoni and the Pemba Channel are just but a few of the fishing grounds.
Game drives are timeless and have no bias against age. A drive at dawn or a sunset, seeing the animals trot about their habitat is spectacular. The Nairobi National Park has several gates to access the trail for your drive. Once the entrance and vehicle fee are paid, you can drive around the park on a guided or unguided tour, taking in the scenery.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a detour that will be worthwhile visiting. Based within the park, near the Banda School gate and the KWS workshop, the Trust is home to orphaned elephants rescued from the wild. The visits are between 11am and 12pm, but the interaction with these calves will have you making a visit there a regular activity.
Outside Nairobi, Tsavo offers some of the most magnificent game drives in the world - vast herds of dust-red elephants, fat pods of hippo, giant crocodiles and a kaleidoscope of bird life are set against a blazing backdrop of endless bush.
Night game drives are also offered so that tourists get to can see the nocturnal species.
Rates: Citizen: Sh300 Resident: Sh1000. Non-citizen: U$40. For children, the rates are usually half the adult rates. The guides cost Sh1500 for the first six hours and Sh3000 for more than six hours.
Nature Trails (Walks)
Hide away in the nesting of nature; inhale the crisp clean, unpolluted scents that fill the air. Take a walk, a jog or a hike in the nature trails that are found across the country. These walks can be guided and even in the envelope of the starry sky. Night walks, however, should be guided and in groups for security reasons.
Parks that offer nature walks include the Nairobi Safari Walk, Kakamega Forest, Ndere Island National Park, Tana River Primate National Reserve, Shimba Hills National Reserve, Kisumu Impala Sanctuary, Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, Mt. Kenya National Park, Aberdare National Park, and Mt. Elgon National Park. Karura Forest, Ngong road Sanctuary under the Kenya Sorest Service, and even the Ololua Trail in Karen are just but a few to choose from.
If Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher have been your favourite sportsmen, or your children’s heroes; why not let them try Formula 1 for a day. Gp karting is adrenaline on wheels. For those who enjoy watching Formula 1, the Gp rink next to the Splash Water World is where you can fulfil the fantasy of driving a go-Kart. The Kart's easy to manoeuvre by children from five years, so it can be turned into a walk-in and drive family event, or you can call in advance and book the venue for a pre-Christmas party.
Rates (Walk-In and Drive) 5 - 8 years: Sh900. 9 - 12 years: Sh1000. 13 - 17 years: Sh1100. Adults: Sh1300