In Search of Family-Friendly Hidden Gems, in Egypt

In Search of Family-Friendly Hidden Gems, in Egypt. Honestly, Egypt has never appealed to me, but with the allure of my sister & her extended family temporarily living in Cairo, off the three of us went, Billy, 6, Zia, 5 and me, ancient!! A blank canvas, an open mind, eyes on stalks and fully prepared for the eyeball-sweating heat .. sort of!

Cairo’s history is fascinating beyond belief. Indeed it’s a hussling, bussling, wobbly-pavement and hanging electricity wires city … the fact that it’s dispersed with incredbly showy shopping malls & flashy kids entertainment made it difficult to fully comprenend. Do I like it, do I not? Is it grotesque amongst so much poverty? or is it just normal for nowadays? Hmmmm ….. Hey ho, any Kenyan released into shops = pure happiness; incredible culture & history, bring in on!!

Apart from the dreaded (pretending not to like them) shopping centres, did we discover any memorable Hidden gems in Cairo? Well I’m going to add a little list of the fun things we did and what we got out of them as a family .. whether the most popular tourist attractions in the world, or hidden gems:

  1. The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities – An incredible museum! For those historians out there a few days would be ideal; our personal favourite section was the breath-taking collection of the infant-king Tutankamun’s belongings …. though it transpired one child doesn’t so much love being in a room with hundreds of dead bodies (Mummies!), so our visit was fairly speedy.
  2. The Grand Bazaar, Khan El-Khalili, in Old Cairo – A trinket market primarily set up for tourists. A huge amount of colour and buzz, a little ‘badgery’ but a great experience if you love a bit of tat-shopping, as I indeed do!! Oh and we found a little silver shop hidden amongst it all with gorgeous silver goodies!
  3. A little tour around some places of worship, SEVEN to be precise – Synagogues, churches, Roman Catholic churches such St. Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, The Basilica of St Therese of the Child Jesus; Islamic mosques, the Al Hakim Mosque, the Mohammed Ali Mosque in the Citadel of Saladin etc. etc., honestly it was incredibly interesting, fastinating, beautiful and inspiring, and we saw where Jesus once lay, apparently … but … note to self, don’t take 5&6 year olds around 7 places of worship, in 42 degree heat😓, in the same day …. or their mother to be honest; Billy recounts it as his worst day ever!! Three places and three ice creams would have been perfect.
  4. Tentmakers Street (Sharia Khayamiya) – Hidden Gem – our guide was furious we’d asked him to take us here, but we had fun and it’s a pretty cool place! Hop on a TukTuk as the road is fairly narrow and overall it’s not hassly or touristy, through sdtill full of colourful little shops with men sewing beautiful tapestries, applique, weaving …. etc.
  5. The vibrant craft community of Fustat – Hidden Gem – Pottery Galore, tile-making, metal-denting, paper-making and not a tourist in sight … all in the Fustat area near Coptic Cairo, I dont mind if I do!!! This was a personal highlight for me. You can pop your kids into a little paper-making course whilst you shop until you drop in some beautiful artesan galleries / shops / art studios .. there is nothing gold plated about the area, it essentially looks like an industrial area, but the talent, the talent!!
  6. Boutique shopping – Hidden Gem – Egyption Cotton & Essential Oils, Soaps & Salts, Silk scarves, Vintage Home Accessories, Hand-made Jewelery, Organic Food … and kiddy cooking to keep them occupied and happy whilst the retail therapy takes place – all this fun can be found in the Delga Stores, 2, Road 218, Degla, Maadi. Maadi or El-Ma’adi is an affluent, leafy suburban district south of Cairo.
  7. Sundowners on the Nile on a local Felucca – Hidden Gem – Super affordable. Take a coolbag of drinks, snacks and enjoy a little no-frills sail along the nile (if theres any wind!).
  8. The Pyramids of Giza – More than 2m limestone and granite blocks were hauled into place on the Great Pyramid. The average weight of one block is about 2.5 tons … how can this not impress you? If you are planning on going during the day, get there early to miss the crowds (and heat 😓) … but we would rather suggest you go to the incredible evening sound & light show.

As well as Cairo, the family’s highlight was a couple of nights in one of Egypt’s seven Oasis’, Al Fayoum – a complete Hidden Gem!!! A land of unspoiled nature & rich history, a place worth discovering! Only 90 km southwest of Cairo, what was so much fun here?

  1. The Journey – indeed this was the first discovery. Beautiful rice paddy feilds, the sunflower fields, the water buffalo & donkeys at work, the road-side food stalls and the rustic charm of the surrounding areas.
  2. Wadi Wadi El-7itan (Valley of Whales) Little Boy Heaven!!! UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the earliest prehistoric whale fossils ever discovered. A fabulous little Fossil & Climate Change Museum, sand scattered with prehistopric fish bones and more than 400 X 40 million year old preserved basilosaurus and dorodontus skeletons show the clear evolution of land-based mammals into sea-going ones, as they have vestigial front and back legs.
  3. The Magic Lake (gorgeous) and Gabal El-Medawara – a scenic hiking option overlooking the Magic Lake, and a great place to camp and to marvel at the stars!! Here we were so, so, so lucky to spot a nearing extinction Ruppell’s Sand Fox.
  4. Maidum Pyramid – is believed to be the first attempt to build a pyramid
  5. Tunis Village – A picturesque village known for being the arts center of Al Fayoum, specializing in handcrafts and literary works. We spent two days in pottery classes and shopping, together as a family …. this was a highlight for us!
  6. The Petrified Forest of Fayoum – the largest petrified forest in the world, 40m high trees that have survived for thousands of years.
  7. A Felucca on Lake Qaroun – a beautiful evening out on this ancient natural lake.
  8. Sand boarding – Its an Oasis so sand dunes are all over the place, pick your spot and off you go. The most famous sand boarding spot is “Qoussour El-Arab”.
  9. Camel Trekking & Horse riding through the desert.
  10. Hold our breath and visit the Shakshouk Fishing Village.
  11. In Abu Boxa, fishing boats are manually produced.
  12. Visit Al-Agamiyin: for palm frond furniture known in Arabic as 3argoun.
  13. We stayed in Byoum Lakeside Hotel, I’ve never paid so little to stay anywhere in my life. It was bigger than I’m used to, but perfecly comfortable rooms, a gorgeous swimming pool and delicious food… highly recommended.

In brief, how did we find Egypt? For me the highlight of most holidays is spending time with loved ones. My sister has two gorgeous step-sons and they made this holiday awesome for me, and the ankle-biters; 24 hour entertaibnment all round, Hannes & Eduardo, legends!!!

Honestly Cairo, for me, is not a typical holiday destination I would choose, it was super sweaty, dusty and dirty, the men are infuriating but I do love ‘amazing’ and the pyramids, the churches, the museum ….. are all ‘amazing’! The people are certainly talented in arts and crafts and the food is delicious.  Al Fayoum was the hidden-gem highlight for me … rustic charm and absolutely incredible.

I’m utterly delighted that we went and feel enriched as a result!

The Pressure of Getting it Right!

The Pressure of Getting it Right! An affordable multigenerational beach holiday in Kenya … As someone who’s lived in Kenya all her life, someone who’s worked in the African travel industry for 26 years, who’s company specialises in family travel it’s up to me to book all our holidays …. this time it’s somewhere for my extended family’s summer beach holiday, again … again The Pressure of Getting it Right … is On!

Daily, I see more and more people looking to travel on a teeny, tiny budget, but expecting perfection in return. Trust me, some of my family (you knwo who you are 😉 is absolutely no different, ‘Chania let’s all go somewhere gorgeous on the beach; we have USD1 per night … how lovely, we can’t wait for amazing food and a beautiful place, with a gorgeous swimming pool, on the beach’ ….. seriously😳!

So on a mission I went, again. One of the lovely little Hidden Gems we use for our clients on a tight budget came up trumps! They offered my rather extreme family a wonderful rate … Diani Blue here we come.

The adventure begun before we even reached the airport in Nairobi (to fly on the affordable Silverstone to Ukunda, Diani Beach). My parents reached the airport in good time; my sister, myself and the three kids didn’t. Traffic was in a gridlock and we were about to miss our flight. After calling the incredibly helpful and understanding Silverstone airline on numerous occasions, they informed us they couldn’t wait for us any longer, so we jumped out of the taxi; 2 adults, 3 kids, 100 suitcases, 200 beachbags, swimming noodles, hand boards, surf-boards, cuddly toys, beach hats, flippers and snorkles and we ran, along the main Nairobi road, we ran, we ran .. screaming kids, flipflips breaking, noodles flying away; what a sight it must have been, especially when the gridlock was released and all the traffic drove past us, including our taxi!

Anyhow, stiff from all the intense activity before our flight, we arrived to the caramel-warm air of Diani beach. Our rather characterful taxi met us and off we bumbled, a 5 minute drive to Diani Blue. 1st impression of the Blue is a beautiful forested and ponded area spotted with butterflies, sleeping monkeys, and beautiful tweeting birds skipping from branch to branch… pheow something for the bored and sweaty kids to do whilst we checked in! Then the view!!! The view through the Lamu doors on the most beautiful little swimming pool in the foreground and the aqua-seas in the background … yeay.

Diani Blue is indeed a charmingly small and exclusive (only 6 rooms) place lapped by the waters of the Indian Ocean; the love-child of a little boutique hotel and a relaxed barefoot beach-family who run it; the structure is elegance personified, the décor and atmosphere homey, relaxed and welcoming, located bang-on Diani Beach, which was recently voted the ‘Best Beach in Africa’ by the ‘Oscars’ of the travel industry: The 21st Annual Travel Awards.

We were shown our lovely little air-conditioned or fanned (the choice is yours) Swahili-style rooms, with lovely en-suite bathrooms (with showers) all overlooking the swimming pool; perfect, absolutely perfect! Kids leaping on the beds whilst you’re trying to find their swimming costumes, sun cream, hats etc. etc. and then we all leap in the pool…. That was it, we were at the beach, heaven!

Our 10 days at Diani Blue were filled properly bonding as a multi-generational family, my parents, my sister, her boy, our kids and me ….. time together, a true luxury.

  • We all sat chilling and chatting, bickering & winging 😉 by the pool whilst the kids screamed around it (sorry!);
  • We spent time walking along the gorgeous beach, making sandcastles, playing beach cricket … trying to provide enough entertainment to stop the youth from bickering;
  • Surfing the crazily huge waves on belly boards; my 78 year old father was in heaven … finally two grandsons to muck around with, not two sissy daughters! Mum got tumbled a few times too .. hilarious memories that will last forever;
  • We went on an Ngalawa, Diani Blue’s traditional dugout canoe, to the sand-reef to find shells and urchins, to snorkel, to play French cricket;
  • We had a little bumpy camel ride up the beach;
  • We went on a Glass Bottom boat with the legendary John, who loves having kids on board, and they love him .. he teaches them all about marine life, starfish, sea urchins etc. etc.;
  • We visited the Colobus Conservation Trust to show the kids what people do, the lengths they go to in order to conserve the wildlife around us; pretty impressive;
  • We went to a back-packer joint to see Bushbaby’s coming in for their evening meal of bananas.

We mainly ate delicious food at Diani Blue, the restaurant is called The Edge … delicious, simple and traditional crab, lobster, fish, fish & more fish, samosas, salads (I suggest the ginger crab, the feta samosas, the self-saucing chocolate pudding … oh and the fish fingers for the kids) .. the menu was amazing, we could eat when we wanted, overlooking the beach and lapping seas and it was so damn reasonable! The only advise I give, is to order an hour before you need to eat, to avoid tears from hungry tummies.  We also went out for some deliciousness:

  • We treated ourselves for my sisters birthday at the Sails Beach Bar & Restaurant – Our personal favourite for a special occasion. Located on the beach front within Almanara Boutique Hotel & Villas, the modernization of the sweeping sails and curving beams create an ambience unparalleled on the east coast of Africa. The waiting staff are professional, kind and friendly, the ambience is friendly. As well as delicious, delumptios and heavenly fresh seafood, a selection of meat, salads and scrumptious treats for those with a sweet tooth… as well as being child friendly!!
  • We went to The Sands at Nomad Beach Bar a few times,  a wonderful beach bar, on the white sands of Diani Beach which wonderful pizzas, great Japanese, other seafood and non-seafood choices and a great ice-cream bar. Super Child friendly with a lovely little natural play area for all ages .. huge Connect 4, huge Tumbledown etc. loved this.
  • We went to Piri Piries Bar & Restaurant – a really lovely little café, restaurant and bar, very popular with Diani expat residents. Their menu is wonderful, serving seafood specialities, delicious meat dishes, vegetarian options, I loved the ploughmans and the huge selection of salads! They also offer amazing coffees and cocktails. Plus they had a great little playground for littlies.
  • We even went to the Colobus Shade – is a proper local restaurant owned by some Diani fisherman… get brave!🐙 There is nothing fancy or chic, but a great experience. It is reasonable and the fish platter or the plain fish, calamari and crab is fresh & delicious!

What a time … what special, precious time. We loved our relaxing stay at Diani Blue, we had a perfect time. The food amazing, the service slow .. but once Coastitus sets in, you don’t notice. 

For value for money, you simply can’t beat it! Even if it may not have been as fun for them as it was us (Zia may have discovered some scissors … and a mosquito net and a bed-sheet and decided to see how they all worked together!!! The guilt to this day is unbearable, especially as they still haven’t sent me a bill! Sorry Diani Blue .. again!! I am waiting.

The guilt is still there, but I do believe Diani Blue & I pulled it off. It’s an awesome little place, a perfect place to bond with your family, it suits all generations and it doesnt empty your bank account. We had amazing food and a beautiful place, with a gorgeous swimming pool, on the beach ….. seriously!

Practicalities:
Diani Blue – Is a personal, relaxed little beach place …. rather more an AirBnB than a lodge, but with the luxury of a beach-side restaurant at your fingertips.
Diani Beach – Recently voted the ‘Best Beach in Africa’ by the ‘Oscars’ of the travel industry: The 21st Annual Travel Awards. A flawless, long stretch of white-sand beach hugged by lush forest and kissed by surfable waves, it’s no wonder Diani Beach is so popular. This town/stretch of beach scores points with a diverse crowd: party people, families, honeymooners, backpackers and water-sports enthusiasts. Only one warning here, beware of high, high season as the beach can become a little busy.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids, and grandparents – If you like to spend time with your kids, rather than palming them off onto a kids club; do it, it will be the best bonding experience, you can chill by the pool or do all the fun activities we did .. and they cater for kids perfectly here.
For those who live in East Africa – go as a family or get a couple of families together to fill up the place (6 rooms only) and GO!!! You’ll have an incredible time…. and their resident rates are appealing!
Weather – of course it depends on when you travel, but generally warm days and warm nights with a gorgeous sea-breeze … delicious.
What to Pack? – High SPF sun cream, hats, swimmers and light clothes to go for your excursions (respecting the coastal Arabic society)….. If you can why not squeeze in the odd body board?
Price – Between USD85 and USD115 per person per night, Bed & Breakfast. Contact us to book!
My advise – People go on holiday for very many different reasons, if you are looking to spend quality family time, relaxing but with something rather fun to do each day, please do come here!

Real Culture, Real Wilderness, Real Kenya … & kids love it!

Real Culture, Real Wilderness, Real Kenya … & kids love it! Lentorre is my new favourite cultural find…. shhhhh don’t tell anyone ;o)

I am constantly asked ‘where’s your favourite place in Kenya?’. Honestly I simply can’t choose one .. or two .. or even five; there are so many incredible places suited to every different dynamic of person or group … but my new favourite cultural experience for my little family, is indeed Lentorre.

Receiving an invitation to visit Lentorre, with my family, at the end of a long summer holiday all seemed a little hectic to me, we were shattered and we simply didn’t know what to expect; the website was not completed, they didn’t have professional photos yet and I just didn’t know what to expect … but not wanting to appear rude …. we jumped in the car and went on our merry way, covered with smilie faces.

My travel and tourism career started 25 years ago co-managing the incredible Rusinga Island Camp on Lake Victoria (another incredible experience full of happy memories), but my marketing-tourism career begun at Shompole, just next to Lentorre, so driving here welled up incredible emotions for me of happiness and pride … after 15 years or so, it’s great to be back!

What an incredible drive it is, from Nairobi through the Great Rift Valley, over flamingo-covered Lake Magadi and through the Maasai & cattle dotted lands to the incredible Olkirimatian Conservancy where our incredible experience begun.

We spent two incredible nights here and boy oh boy, what an awesome time we had.

The lodge itself is truly delicious in a hundred different ways. It is indeed attractive in a perfectly Kenyan way, each room enormously spacious, light in colour and a truly wonderful atmosphere. Our bedroom is the same size as my entire home (bigger actually) with our very own baths (yes baths with an s!!), a view of a highly popular watering hole in the foreground and Mt. Shompole in the distance and our very own swimming pool. We had landed in heaven.

The food is unique, healthy and delicious …. coconut and avocado soup, heavenly home-made chocolate ice-cream, yummy home-made juices …. mmmmm, really yummy.

Then it came to the activities … I am so, so excited to tell you about these!! Anyone interested in experiencing real, un-spoilt, un-ruined Maasai culture, this is it! Lentorre is a community lodge, each and every member of staff here comes from the local area, so you simply spend your time here doing what they have been doing all their life …. as well as some wonderful game drives of course; oh and an amazing swimming pool … plus one in each room; and an amazing sundowner (clinking and clanking glasses to celebrate the end of another wonderful day) and a bush breakfast (having a delicious picnic breakfast to celebrate the beginning of another wonderful day), so basically you do everything amazing that you have ever wanted to do on a cultural safari. Over our 36 hours we:

  • went for a glorious walk through the arid lands of Olkirimatian with incredible guides who are simply amazing with kids (another ‘best-ever’ experience!), who kept the kids interested throughout, even if they did have to carry them for much of the way.
  • went fishing for cat-fish in the neighbouring river.
  • cooked the fish we caught, traditionally, on the banks of the river.
  • bow & arrow lessons
  • herded the cattle into their boma for the night
  • milked the cows (or viewed it to be exact)
  • chatted to the wonderful Maasai family members and played with the kids
  • went on the best night drive I have even been on in my 40+ years in Kenya … where, as well as the usual fabulous Kenyan wildlife, roaming free, we also saw all these amazing nocturnal animals – 6 genet, 1 wild cat, 1 spotted hyena, 4 bat-eared foxes, a honey badger, … and a leopard drinking from out waterhole when we got back to our room!!!!!

What an experience for all of us. What surprised me most on this wonderful safari was how I found myself pondering in a Maasai Manyatta (homesteads made from mud) … that rather than feeling pity for this family being ‘less fortunate’ than I, I was wishing I lived their life. They’re happy, truly happy; they live an incredibly happy family-friendly lifestyle, all together, they chat a lot, cook together, milk the cows together, play together; they told me they don’t get stressed or worry about anything, except when there is a drought .. and even now they cant really change anything. I wondered what happened to us ‘educated’ folk. Why have we ruined our wonderful family units?  Why do we have to answer emails within 2 seconds of them being sent? Why do we have to keep up our social media posts? Why do we have to watch the news?  Why do we have to chose the right hue of Farrow & Ball paints for our kitchen? Why? Why? Why?

Practicalities:
Lentorre – Will forever remind me of a truly uplifting cultural experience, kids swimming for hours in our room … and I’m dreaming of their food right now!
Olkirimatian Conservancy – Deep in the heart of the Great Rift Valley, beyond the volcanic lunar landscape surrounding the soda lakes of Magadi and Natron, lies this oasis. Fed by crystal clear springs running off the South Loita and Nguruman escarpments, Lentorre provides the perfect spot to relax and soak in the wonders of a wild and untouched Africa.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – Do it, it will be the best cultural experience your kids will ever experience .. and they LOVE kids here, they cater for kids perfectly!
For those who live in East Africa – get a couple of families together and GO!!! You’ll have an incredible time…. and their resident rates are appealing!
Weather – warm days and warm nights … delicious … no need to wear jumpers even on night game drives.
What to Pack? – A good camera and binoculars, high SPF sun cream, hats… and clothes for a lovely warm environment (shorts and a t-shirt).
Price – USD860 per person per night which includes it all; all your meals, all your drinks (apart from champers), your game drives, walks, bush meals, amazing guiding etc. you will just need to pay extra for the boma visits … which all goes to the boma. Contact Lilian to book!
My advise – People go on holiday for very many different reasons, if you are looking to experience incredible culture, please do come here!

De-stress, Unwind & Reconnect at Almanara … and breathe!

De-stress • Unwind • Re-connect • Breathe … with your family, without breaking the bank?! It does exist. Yup, a glorious week, or two ;o) at #Almanara Luxury Villas on #DianiBeach in #Kenya is the ideal place to chill, play & laugh. Your own private villa with your very own chef, butler and maid, the most delicious food in the world, a kiddy-friendly swimming pool and the worlds most beautiful beach  ... and breathe. 

Why do we do it to ourselves? We get into such a pickle … over life … high expectations and over-commitment at work, looking after our homes (& building a new one in our case), organizing special occasions for loved ones, doing a blog (!!),  grocery shopping, school runs, trying to spend time with a couple of little people … oh did I mention trying to put on matching shoes?

OK so, our wonderful travel company The SAFARI Company has taken off into orbit this year. Along with being completely thankful for this miracle, my levels of stress were floating dangerously around orbit too … until the sweetest email was ever received ‘would I like to stay at Almanara Luxury Villas with my family?’. Somebody stop me!

A short hop from Nairobi on the lovely Safarilink airline …. Driving up to the the entrance to our very own villa (about a millisecond from the nearest airport, Ukunda), set among the most beautiful, tropical trees and shrubs and being greeted with the ‘smiliest’ faces you did ever see, a delicious swimming pool winking at us and a beach so white, a sea so turquoise … I wanted to cry with joy.

As soon as we were introduced to our most delicious, spacious & cool villa, our delightful team and once we placed our order (yup, whatever we wanted … in the world!!!) for supper, we couldn’t have reached that beach fast enough. I forgot beaches & seas of this colour actually existed outside the world of photoshop. As soon as we hunkered down for some serious sandcastle building, the Almanara beach attendant brought us a box of beach toys for the kids and some freshly squeezed juice; hell he even offered to play with them if I wanted to relax on a beach bed … I had landed in heaven.

Three days of wave diving in the warm seas, sandcastle building, crab racing, walks on the snow-white beach, shell spotting, swimming in the pool, chilling in the sun, eating, eating and a little more eating, I thought life couldn’t get better … when the in-house reflexologist popped over to our house and offered for the services of the maid to look after the kids whilst I had a head massage and some reflexology. Back in heaven.

I feel it is only right to expand on the food as this is such a crucial part of ones enjoyment at Almanara. Honestly some of the best food I have ever had .. ginger crab, delicious salads, grilled lobster, vongole, oysters, crispy seaweed, freshly caught fish, fish & chips followed by mouth watering home made coconut ice cream … either in our villa or the glorious Sails restaurant overlooking the beach … ah yes and were you wondering what the kids ordered when offered anything in the world .. pizza … and pasta! Definitely messed up on their upbringing.

Practicalities:


Almanara Luxury Villas – Will forever remind me of being able to unwind and recoup, even in the possession of two toddlers. The location is out of this world; the concept is excellent so a family can enjoy their time without feeling guilty when disturbing others. The owners and management are absolutely charming; the staff are kind, professional and excellent… and you can actually 100% relax. We will be back.
NB. There is also Almanara Boutique Hotel … which is a beautiful boutique hotel in between the villas and the beach, this is for those who would like to have a perfect beach holiday without kids … magnificent and highly recommended.
Diani beach – Diani beach just cant help itself when it comes to winning ‘best beach in the world’ awards, it is a beautiful, wide, long white beach with beautiful shells and turquoise seas … this little part of it is even better than that.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – Do it, stay at Almanara Luxury Villas at the end of your safari, so that you can get back home refreshed and ready to tackle the world.
For those who live in East Africa – get a couple of families together and GO!!! You’ll have a scream.
Weather – It’s beautifully warm just about all of the time.
What to Pack? – High SPF sun cream, hats, swimming costumes, sarong/Kikoy and light clothes for the day. Mossi repellent, long trousers, skirts and shirts for the evenings… and light pijamas.
Price – From USD310 per person per night!!! Complete bargain. This includes just about everything!! Full board accommodation, yes, your gorgeous private villa, all your delicious food; soft drinks, beer, house wine; your personal staff. It even includes luxury airport transfers and chauffeur services in the Diani area.
My advise – People go on holiday for very many different reasons, if you are looking to spend some valuable family time on a beautiful beach, with yummy food, these villas will suit you perfectly.
Or if you would like to stay in a calm boutique hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean, with no screaming kids, stay at the hotel.

 

A Family Safari to A Little Known Gem in the Masai Mara, Entumoto Safari Camp.

A Family Safari to a Little Known Gem in the Masai Mara, Entumoto Safari Camp – Excellent location √, on a conservation area √, beautifully spacious tents √, comfiest beds √, magnificent view √, swimming pool √, great sundowners / kids suppers √, incredible gamedrives √, homegrown veggie garden √ … catch my drift?

In all honesty I was hesitant about going back to Entumoto after falling in love with it 6 years previously; in all honesty it was looking a little tired initially … but no longer, Entumoto Safari Camp has had a facelift, oh yes it has. It’s looking as handsome as it was the last time I visited 6 years ago.

The drive to Entumoto is an easy one, if a tiny bit bumpy. It’s located near enough to Sekenani gate, so it’s very easy to find. The location … Location, location, location, is marvelous … it’s elevated in the hills of a private and secluded escarpment just on the border of the legendary Masai Mara reserve with breathtaking views over the Mara plains. It’s far enough away to get away from the sights & sounds of the rather unruly reserve gate environment as well as the rather hustly bustly migration-season in July and August, but close enough to get to all the incredible action in only 1/2 an hours drive, more or less.

Entumoto Safari Camp is a partnership between a charming Maasai and an equally charming Swedish family (with new Spanish partners coming on board I understand). It has only 10 tented rooms. 4 truly beautiful family tents, each consist of two en-suite bedrooms, either side of a central sitting room with a roaring fireplace…. perfect for families! They also have 5  en-suite double/ twin tents, perfect for couples. All of these rooms have an elevated verandah overlooking ‘The Mara!’.

With regards to our activities, the game drives really are exceptional, hence super-fun for kids. Just five minutes drive from the camp there is a swamp that is full of animals and birds at all times, plus the reserve a further 15 minutes away. Of course being on a conservancy, night drives are also possible … truly thrilling for little ones. We went on a wonderful and interesting bush walk, a great time to learn about animal spoor and droppings .. mmm. Their breakfasts under an acacia tree are lovely and their sundowner / kids supper was exceptional!!! That view will stay with me for as long as I live! We didn’t do the cultural visits but they are available as are a scenic flight in a Cessna aircraft, a day trip to Lake Victoria and hot air balloon trips.

In brief, after it’s facelift, Entumoto is a great place to visit with kids as its so very close to the wildlife action, it has a swimming pool and the family rooms are perfect!

Practicalities

Entumoto Safari Camp – A handsome, though not extravagant tented camp in a super location .. so close, yet far enough from the Mara Reserve.
Masai Mara, Kenya – The Masai Mara is the premier game viewing reserve in the world. Quite simply nowhere else compares for wildlife viewing!
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – This is a great place to visit on a Kenyan safari or for a weekend if you live in Kenya with kids, though I would not suggest travelling here with crawlers as there are long distances to walk between rooms and there are large drops! You will see tonnes of wildlife and birds … and the scenery is beautiful.
Weather – The weather in the Mara is generally ‘cool nights and clear, warm days’.  The hottest month is usually December, January. The wettest month is usually April, May.
What to Pack? – Shorts for the day with a shirt & a jumper for when you’re driving along. A jumper and jacket, trousers and jumpers for the evening …. and swimming costumes for the brave (the pool is quite chilly!) and lots of suncream.
Price – Between USD320 – 540 per person per night sharing (pppns) for all inclusive or USD260 to 470 pppns for full board, this camp is actually reasonable for a private camp in such an incredible spot. For Kenyan residents, the rate is about Kshs12,000pppns!!! For rates or to book, please contact me.
My advise – Stay here, with your kids. It is not top-end luxurious but it is terribly comfortable, beautiful, you are supporting a successful conservation area, you’ll see endless wildlife and you will spend proper valuable family-time….. a rarity in this day and age.

Making Memories … at Ragati Log Cabins on Mt. Kenya

Making memories, special memories made from the REAL stuff; adventure, mud fights, swimming in mountain streams, fits & giggles, forest walks, crabbing, fly fishing, roasting marshmallows on the campfire … get my jist? All at Ragati Log Cabins on the slopes of Mt. Kenya.

Filled with excitement we departed for Mt. Kenya. What a beautiful drive through the Mweiga and Nyeri farmlands, past The Aberdare Country Club before winding your way up the mountain through its ever changing flora…. until you get to the most beautiful forest that is Ragati.

On their website, they state ‘You will not find anywhere wilder!’, I tend to agree. Ragati is an uncut gem; a find that will make you proud you found it first and trust me you’ll never want to get it ‘cut’!

Ragati Conservancy lies on the Southern slopes of Mt. Kenya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and consists entirely of Afro-montane forest and Afro-alpine heath. It’s ecosystem includes the Ragati river and its tributaries, and is home to an abundance of wildlife; elephant, buffalo, leopard as well as the rare mountain bongo, crowned eagle and African clawless otter. Home also to some amazing birdlife.

This  handsome wooden log cabin has a cozy sitting & dining room with a roaring fire, a large open verandah overlooking the stream trickling past, a little kitchen, four double rooms, a room with a bunk bed and a couple of bathrooms with delicious baths. There is no power and no fridge, but flickering safari lamps, solar lights and hot water… oh and a freezing river to keep your wine cool. It is truly self-catering, so I would suggest you take everything pre-prepared, but the wonderful Patrick is at hand to help with chopping, heating up and washing up, should you require.

The kids (6 of them, 3 to 10) were in adventure-heaven from beginning to end. This is mostly down to Ragati’s exceptional gillies; never did I meet 5 men so capable, so knowledgeable and so effortlessly excellent with a gaggle of such unruly children. They make Ragati proud. The kids & gillies day consisted of crabbing, fishing, exploring, adventure, swimming, mud-fights, water-fights, game-walks. All whilst the adults, 6 of us, relaxed, put the world to right, went on the odd beautiful forest meander, helped occasionally with some fly fishing, crabbing whilst overlooking a roaring waterfall, roasted marshmallows … heaven.

Ragati is truly an incredible weekend away or an incredible part of a safari.

Practicalities

Ragati Log Cabins  – Very special times. Having your own personal home, with no other guests, no wifi … where you get to spend valuable time together, as a family and with your friends …. whilst benefiting a community, the environment and the conservation area. We loved it, it is absolutely ideal for a family looking to travel alone or wuith another family or two (though you may need to add some beds and bedding)

Ragati Conservancy on the slopes of Mt. Kenya, Kenya – This is the ultimate if you are looking to experience unspoilt wilderness, whilst staying in a gorgeous log cabin, this is up there.
For those travelling to Kenya without kids Anyone looking to experience an area completely unspoiled and uninhabited, anyone looking for privacy, beautiful walks, birdlife and fishing … whilst being comfy, this is the perfect place to break up a wildlife-heavy Kenyan safari.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – For parents who would like their kids to experience grass-root nature, for those kids interested in the outdoors, this is heaven.
Weather – The weather was beautiful, brisk clear mornings, warm days and cool nights.  The hottest month is usually December, January. The wettest month is usually April.
What to Pack? – Lots of layers asmd lots of changes of clothes for kids!! Shorts & shirts for the day, jumpers, jacket, trousers and jumpers for the evening & early morning …. swimming costumes for the brave … and lots of suncream.
Price From Kshs8,000 / USD80 per person per night, self catering rate. Children under 7 are free. This includes conservancy fees, gillies, guilded walks, camp staff, fishing fees and firewood. If you would like food to be provided, Soames (deliciously yum, yum) can supply the following:

  • Prepared meals to be collected from Soames on route for Kshs 800 / USD80 per person, per meal. Examples are Steak & Guinness pie, Spag Bog, Shepherds pie, Lasagne, Mousakka, Fish pie, Chilli, Beef Bourguignon.
  • A Chef and food preparation at the cabin – Dinner & Breakfast & Lunch from Kshs 10,575 pp if there are 10 people, Kshs 11,200 pp if there are 8 people, Kshs 11,200 pp if there are 6 people, Kshs 13,700 pp if there are 4 people. They will also sell you bottles of alcoholic drinks, cases of beer etc.

My advise – Stay here, with your kids. Not only is it amazingly beautiful, you are supporting a positive community project, a successful conservation project and you will spend proper valuable family-time….. a rarity in this day and age.

Soames Hotel – A Charming Family Spot, at the gates to Kenya’s Rugged & Magnificent North

Truly, the place to travel in order to satisfy an entire family is Kenya’s north, Laikipia. Why? The lodges are beautiful and the array of activities are endless. Soames Hotel is 7km outside of Nanyuki town, the gates to this beautiful, diverse, rugged and magnificent north.

For Kenyans, Soames does not have to be a ‘stop-‘off’ on the way to Laikipia though, it is most definitely good enough, ideal in fact, to be a family mini-break in itself. For those travelling here from overseas, it is indeed a wonderful part of a Kenyan safari. Soames is about the little hotel itself, is not on a private conservancy or wildlife-strewn ranch, so it is important to plan your daily activities before you travel.

Soames Hotel and Jacks Bar is a newly constructed out-of-town boutique hotel, overlooking Mt Kenya. The sitting room, dining room and bar area is ‘ranch-house’ in shape and style with six separate cottages (with two bedrooms in each) as the 12 bedrooms.  The entire place is classic contemporary style with a clean cut modern look, simply and tastefully furnished … and yummy food!!  Honestly, the food is delicious; my breakfast of poached egg, smoked salmon & hollondaise sauce on a crusty brown bread is still heavily on my mind!

The Best Lodge for Family in Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

Kiangazi House, in my view, is simply the most ideal lodge in Naivasha if you’re travelling with kids. With a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, endless interesting and unique activities around both Lakes Oloidien and Naivasha, it is even perfect if you’re mad enough to travel with toddlers!

We set off for our adventure in order to arrive at Kiangazi on a Saturday morning. After Kenya’s testing display of driving and traffic-jams, we arrived to peace, calm, cool Kiangazi, with the biggest smiles you ever did see!

It really is a little gem. A beautiful 7-bedroom old ranch-style house (some rooms in the house, some are external cottages) with panoramic views across a green lawn, heavily populated waterhole (warthog, eland, zebra and impala), over Lake Oloidien and into the blue hills in the distance.

We could go here on every holiday. The place is peaceful and beautiful. The staff are simply incredible, they aren’t over the top, but nothing seems too much. The food is extremely tasty, home-cooked fare… and the activities, the activities, the fun was all about to begin.

Their swimming pool, I mean ‘oasis’ is something for a toddler to explore within, not just swim in. The lawns are rolling and perfect to exhaust the over-energetic.

The game drive / sundowner / kids supper expedition is unforgettable; all piled up high on top of the 4×4  with Bernard, the most calming, interesting and informative guide, off we went to explore Oserengoni, our very own wildlife sanctuary (OK we’re sharing it with one other tiny lodge, Chui Lodge).  This sanctuary was created in the 90’s with the sole purpose of giving the resident wildlife a place of safety as the flower farms & population increased. The first animal we saw, can you believe it was a Zonkey (work that out!). We then saw endless warthog with hundreds of the sweetest little piglets, eland, impala, bush buck, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest… a surprise ‘sundowner’ met as equipped with marshmallows ready to BBQ, amazing kids supper, the most delicious ‘bitings’ and much needed glass of wine. All this merriment were followed by an exciting night game drive back to a rosepetal bath!!

An activity not to miss is the crisp morning drive to the lake shore, followed by a lovely refreshing walk along the shore where you discover a fabulous bush breakfast (fresh fruit, pancakes, donuts, omelettes, piping hot coffee … mmm) all being prepared for you by the lake by the smiling chef. After we were sufficiently full, we were whisked off on my favourite drive by the lake, under all the Yellow Fever trees, again full of plains game and then to our boat. What an interesting hour, along the shores of Lake Naivasha full of beautiful vegetation, fisherman hard at work, the Colobus monkeys lolling around in the morning sun and general life on the lake… pheow, what a morning!

Time to leave already. We didn’t have time to visit the Oserian flower farm, but its always good to leave something for next time!

Oh … I forgot to say, we were given two beautiful bunches of roses on our departure …. how’s that for delicious!

Practicalities

Kiangazi House – I love it, we loved it. It is a great fun place for adults and children of all ages.
Lake Naivasha, Great Rift Valley, Kenya – It is important to spend time on a lake in the Great Rift Valley and with the added bonus of a private sanctuary and the flower farm, this is up there.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – If you are looking for privacy and the finer things, whilst being comfy, I highly recommend you spend some time here.
Weather – The weather was beautiful with clear, warm days when we were here in January 2017.  January is generally warm in the days and chilly’ish at night. The hottest month in Naivasha is usually December. The wettest month is usually April.
What to Pack? – Shorts for the day with a shirt, a jumper and jacket, trousers and jumpers for the evening …. and swimming costumes for the brave and lots of suncream.
Price – The rates are currently USD240 which includes full board accommodation in this lovely personal house and all these amazing activities. For rates or to book, please contact me.
My advise – Spoil yourselves, stay here, it is a really great place, it’s comfortable with children of all ages and you will dream of being back there afterwards. If you want a reduced rate, contact me.