How young is too young for safari?
‘They’ll never remember it’ were Dad’s parting words, as my husband and I set off for the airport. He was referring to my boys Jasper and Dudley who are four and one and who have just joined us on a trip to Kenya……
‘What’s the best age to take children on safari?’ is a question we’re often asked. Realistically the answer is probably six plus, but it’s all down to personal choice. I did my first safari aged six and taking my kids and seeing it all again through their eyes really was the most magical experience. I have family living in Kenya too so this was part safari, part family catch up.
We spent the first few days in Nairobi, which was actually brilliant to catch up and acclimatise.
One of the highlights was visiting Dololo, our adopted elephant at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. The kids loved getting so close and Dololo lifting his trunk to us – with a particular fascination for Dudley , who was totally mesmerised – was extraordinary. The baby rhino was just unbelievably sweet, too. It’s a very special little place and hats off to the carers who each sleep at night with their elephant.
The Giraffe Centre was fun, with all of us feeding the giraffes. When Jasper chickened out of putting a pellet in his mouth to be ‘kissed’ by a giraffe, his uncle stepped up and we got the money-shot. As with the elephants, the boys were both in awe of these beautiful creatures. We were staying with family but if we ever had the chance to stay at Giraffe Manor, just across the gardens from the Giraffe Centre, I would jump at it!’
Next was Nairobi National Park which was a very novel experience. Considering it’s in the middle of the city it’s great. We barely saw another vehicle during our hunt for lion (that we didn’t find) but managed to spot buffalo a-plenty and several rhino. We didn’t stay here but had we done so, Ololo Lodge would have been the ideal spot. It was the perfect introduction to what was to come for my two.
Sosian was an absolute highpoint and exceeded all expectations on the wildlife front. I’ve some immensely happy memories of the place and I’m so pleased we returned as we’ve some wonderful new memories with my boys.
The lodge itself is as charming as ever. It’s beautifully set up; very welcoming with lots of spacious public areas, interesting books, a grand piano, billiards and card table in the games room. The pool area is absolutely perfect with a canopy for ‘shade bathing’ or loungers for the sun-worshippers.
It doesn’t have a grand five star atmosphere, more a wonderfully inclusive, relaxed feel. The staff were great with the children and took it in turns to keep Dudley entertained so we could linger over lunch – taking it in turns to kick a ball or take him paddling in the pool.
The tennis court is brilliant, although you do need to play early or late to avoid the heat and glare. There were murmurs about getting flood lights so you can play at night which would be another string to the Sosian bow that makes it so effortlessly charming.
We did a gentle bush walk – with Dudley in the back pack – looking at the birdlife, the trees, plants, the poo, and elephants and giraffe from a distance. Jasper thoroughly enjoyed it and was keen to pocket elephant and giraffe poo as souvenirs.
The bush was thriving and on game drives we saw elephant, two different lion prides, two leopard sightings in one evening, reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, white-tailed mongoose, so many birds and a striped hyena.
With the boy’s supper sent out to meet us there was no rush to get back from sundowners. One evening we were greeted by a fully stocked bar and fire pit, the second was spent by the dam where Jasper tried his hand fishing for tilapia. Dudley was happy eating grit and staring at the hippos. It was very, very cool.
I am fully aware that Dudley won’t remember it, but I will never forget his little face peering out of the window seeing his first rhino in Nairobi National Park. He is a chatty little urchin and he was stunned into silence by this magnificent pair, and that was very special to see.
Similarly with the elephant, he was utterly mesmerised by them. Whoever’s lap he was sitting on during the game drives, he really took it all in. Jasper, too, was captivated. He has a keen interest in birds at home and that extended to Africa. He loved identifying them in his bird book and was very particular about the binoculars he’d been given before the trip.
The children were fine with the early morning wake-ups, their eyes were wide open and their senses alive with all things Africa. It was worth every single penny watching them soak it all up.
I honestly cannot recommend Sosian enough for families and for parents of small children. To feel so at ease in the lodge (and on safari) was key in allowing us to relax and absorb the atmosphere, too. It’s an adventure playground for all ages and our error was only staying for two nights this time.
We nipped across to Suyian where my cousin is working and wow, what a beautiful spot. We enjoyed sundowners with expansive views across Laikipia and towards the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya in the distance.
After Suyian and camping on Lake Naivasha, we arrived at Deloraine. This wonderful colonial house, full of mementos from its rich history is very close to my heart. Hosted by my aunt, Cindy Voorspuy, it offers something a bit different to the traditional safari lodge. We took beautiful morning rides to the mountain, through the forest and gully. The horses are so well schooled and there’s a jumping field and polo ground for keen riders.
There are interesting bird walks around the estate, a large croquet lawn, there is swimming, tennis, games tables for a rainy day or after-dinner retreats, fine dining and day trips to the lakes. Wherever you go, a cooler box and mini bar follow and the hosting, again, is attentive, but not invasive.
So, all in all, a most exceptional holiday. It is never too early to take your kids on safari, provided you chose the right place, and we most certainly did with Sosian. Two weeks was perfect, it was enough time for the children to really appreciate the adventures they had been on and at the end Jasper couldn’t wait to share his experiences with family and friends at home. Next time we go we will have to do the coast and hopefully the Masai Mara too, but spend a few more days at Sosian.
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We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.