The tour group visited a Maasai school where they got a lesson from the local kids. // © 2016 Sarah Pittard
Feature image (above): Intrepid tours combine wildlife viewing with cultural activities. // © 2016 Sarah Pittard
Earlier this year, my husband and I decided that we wanted to take a stab at adventure travel. Knowing very little about camping, we knew we would prefer to book through a tour company.
Our travel agent introduced us to a handful of tour operators that offered adventure itineraries for families. We specifically needed a tour that would accommodate our youngest child, a 5-year-old, and narrowed the search to focus on the family-themed adventures offered by Intrepid Travel. The trips we were interested in included an Africa safari, a bicycle tour in Italy and a camel trek across Morocco. Knowing our kids weren’t proficient cyclers, we quickly eliminated the Italy trip and wavered over whether a trip to Morocco or Kenya would be more suited to our style. But once we saw that Intrepid Travel offered a Kenya Wildlife Safari over the Christmas school break, we decided on that.
Although we had never booked with Intrepid Travel before, we liked that the family-themed adventures differed from the company’s regular offerings. We were especially pleased to learn that the trips were designed for families, meaning that each group of travelers would include at least one child. Another incentive was that children under 14 are given a 10 percent discount. We were also sold on the fact that the itinerary includes stays at hotels and campgrounds specifically chosen for having pools and playgrounds — something we look for no matter where we travel.
“These tours are dedicated family itineraries, not relabeled adult trips,” said Tim Winkworth, family product manager for Intrepid Travel. “The trips are delivered at a slower pace, with more inclusions and more attention paid to the children’s interests.”
Winkworth says it was great fun planning the Kenya trip and ensuring that the activities resonated with children and parents alike.
“We know that children love animals but we want to offer more, so the trip is full of real-life experiences and offers meaningful cultural connections,” he said. “We also sprinkle it with a bit of relative luxury — a hot shower, a clean room, a swimming pool for the kids and a bar or two for the adults. A perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, involvement and, most importantly, time with the family.”
The first day of our tour included a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where orphaned baby elephants are cared for in preparation for their return to the wild. Watching our children meet a 2-year-old elephant and learning how the foundation would introduce the elephant into a herd in the wild set the tone for our adventure and gave us insight into how the people and animals of Kenya live harmoniously.
Our education on Kenyan wildlife continued the next day as we traveled by overland vehicle to Lake Nakuru. We set up camp less than a mile from the park, and soon we saw our first lions and rhinos. The guide told us about the poaching that had occurred previously in the area and explained that individual park rangers are tasked with following an assigned rhinoceros to ensure its safety. As we explored the park, we saw upward of 30 rhinos and the kids were able to point out their camouflage-clad protectors, who were never more than 100 yards away.
As the tour continued, we were impressed by the range of activities planned for the entire family. In Lake Naivasha, we wandered through a game reserve on foot with a local guide and ranger leading the way. Our group walked amongst giraffes, baboons and zebras before taking a boat ride to see families of hippos.
The next day we had a unique opportunity to camp with a Maasai community. Our group hiked with the Maasai warriors and learned which trees they use for medicine and food, and visited a school where our children were taught how to count in Swahili by local kids.
Throughout our trip, we were never worried for our children’s safety and instead followed behind as they walked hand-in-hand with the local guides and Maasai warriors leading our adventures.
Our family also enjoyed camping but were pleased that we never lacked an indoor bathroom and shower on consecutive nights. Having access to playgrounds and pools also gave the kids a much-needed break between scheduled activities.
In the end, we found the perfect balance in the Intrepid Travel family tour, and experienced a new way to travel that met all our individual needs. No activity was too difficult for our children, but we also never felt a lack of adventure.
Our memories of Kenya are made up not only of game drives full of wild animals, but also of the sounds of laughter as friendships were formed amongst young children whose mutual curiosity and love of play easily defeated any cultural or language barriers.
Whether families are looking to check an Africa safari off their bucket list, or learn to explore the wild in a low-risk environment, an Intrepid Travel tour is the ultimate introduction to adventure travel with children.