Michael Janser, Angela Toda, and their two kids: Nathan (11) and Isabel (8).
Roundtrip airfare from Beijing to Nairobi, with a transfer in Dubai, came up to RMB 11,930 per adult and RMB 8,970 per child. The Jansers flew with Emirates Airlines. In Nairobi, the Jansers stayed at the Nairobi Serena Hotel. In Dubai, everything was expensive. For two adults and two kids, a room at the Palm Atlantis in Dubai averaged RMB 3,190 per night.
The Jansers visited Kenya during high season, which is tied with the annual wildebeest migrations. They found that costs were higher than the ones quoted in the 2009 edition of Lonely Planet. Their safari trip was arranged by Norwegian-owned Basecamp Explorer, a group that focuses on responsible tourism. A five-day, four-night package for four people in the Maasai Mara ranges from RMB 8,250-RMB 12,200 per person.
The Best Part
The great thing about a safari is that there is something for everyone, which isn’t easy when there’s a wide range of ages and interests. No one was bored, no one complained that they would rather be doing something else, and no one said they wanted to go home.
The best part of the Jansers’ trip was experiencing the natural beauty of Kenya’s Maasai Mara Natural Reserve. The abundance of wildlife was amazing, as was the opportunity to see animals at arm’s length in their natural habitat. Each member of the family had a favorite animal that they had a special thrill in seeing.
They also enjoyed interacting with the local Maasai people. They received a bow and arrow lesson from some of the warriors and visited a local village. The Maasai way of life has changed over time; traditions like lion hunting have fallen by the wayside. Nonetheless, their warm smiles and colorful red wraps brightened the family’s travels.
In Dubai, the family had the opportunity to swim with a dolphin. Their hotel, the Palm Atlantis, had a built-in water park and aquarium with free admission for hotel guests. They enjoyed having a couple more days to unwind before returning to Beijing.
The Worst Part
Despite Kenya’s natural beauty, the country has a host of potentially serious diseases. Travelers should take every precaution to avoid getting sick, including vaccinations to prevent rabies, tetanus, yellow fever, and malaria. Unfortunately, a few members of the family reacted badly to their malaria pills, to the point where one of the kids required overnight hospitalization. As a result, the safari trip was cut short by a few days.
A very sweet zookeeper at Nairobi National Park’s animal rescue center bent a few rules to allow Nathan and Isabel to get up close and personal with some of the rescued animals.
The Jansers also had two unexpected stops – one resulting from a flat tire, the other from helping another vehicle stuck in the mud – that led to charming encounters with local Maasai children. The newcomers and locals were mutually curious and open to each other.
- Families should do a lot of research and consider investing in a mid- to upper-range safari. While camping and “roughing it” might sound great, there are several security issues to consider (such as the driver or guide’s depth of knowledge).
- Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars for each person, sturdy walking shoes and sensible clothes that you can layer.
- Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
- Though the majority of Kenyans earn about RMB 6 a day, expect to pay Western prices for Western-style accommodations and amenities. Likewise, be prepared for the fact that Dubai can be quite pricey.