Tanzania is world-famous for its wildlife and deservedly so. Here you find endless plains with vast populations of zebra and wildebeest as well as the predators that follow in hot pursuit. There are rolling hills where striking baobab trees are the backdrop to herds of elephant and prowling cheetah. Not to mention volcanic craters teeming with hippo, giraffe, elephant and lion.
But there is so much more on offer than this. The key to a successful trip to Tanzania with the kids is to ensure that you intersperse the wildlife viewing with other activities. A morning game drive… great, but then spend the afternoon doing something different. That might be a bike ride, canoeing or visiting a local village.
So, without further ado, here are our top ten activities to do in Tanzania with kids.
Holidaying in Tanzania with kids – our Top 10 activities
1 – Walking and canoeing in Arusha National Park
Many people arrive into Arusha and head pretty much straight off to the national parks to the west. However, in our view this is a mistake. Flights to Tanzania are quite long, and having arrived in Africa, the children will be keen to see some wildlife sooner rather than later. Cue Arusha National Park, a little gem of a place just half an hour from downtown Arusha. You can spend your first morning in Africa on a walking safari across the plains, giraffe ambling past just a few metres away.
After a picnic lunch head just a little deeper into the park to go canoeing. Glide across the smooth waters of the lake in search of hippo and abundant bird life. Antelope rest in the shade on the banks of the lake and warthog scuttle around.
This is the perfect first day in Tanzania with the kids.
2 – Taking a game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater
The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the jewels in Tanzania’s very jewel-studded crown. Situated in the picturesque highlands of Tanzania, the lush soil of the crater provides one of the richest and most fertile grazing grounds in Africa, attracting a huge variety of game. All of the Big 5 can be found here together with huge populations of elephant, hippo, giraffe, wildebeest and plenty more.
The scenery is breath-taking, from the first glimpse of the crater from ‘Heroes Point’ to the open plains, lush forest and rocky pools of the crater bottom. This is the archetypal African safari; lions prowl across the plain; giraffe amble past nibbling leaves from the top of acacia trees; hippo frolick in the water and wildebeest trundle past in huge herds.
3 – Swim with a view, with wildebeest wandering past
We all know that kids love a pool. But even better than this is a pool where you have herds of wildebeest and zebra wandering past. Just a few metres away. The accommodation is key to a sucessful trip to Tanzania with kids and we know all the best camps for families. One of our favourites is a wonderful tented camp near Tarangire National Park with perhaps the best pool we have ever seen. Situated on a raised deck, you can take a dip whilst admiring the animals wandering across the plain. Watch ostrich amble past, or warthog snuffle in the dirt.
Better still, sundowner drinks are served on the deck by the pool at dusk. The kids can swim, you can have a drink as you enjoy the sunset, and the wildlife just keeps on coming.
4 – Visit the local market in Arusha and Mto Wa Mbu
There must be more wooden animal carvings in Tanzania than there are wildebeest, and there are souvenirs shops aplenty. However, if you want local colour then head to the markets in Arusha and Mto Wa Mbu. Great mounds of fresh fruit and vegetables tower in precarious piles. Rattan baskets brim with dried beans and fragrant spices. Chicken, dried fish, tamarind, ginger, mangos and huge avocados three times the size of those you get at home. Stock up on the children’s favourite fruit or perhaps stop for a snack of freshly barbequed corn on the cob with a squeeze of lime and chilli salt.
5 – Cycle through the banana plantations in Mto Wa Mbu
Spend a wonderful morning cycling along quiet tracks through the banana plantations near Mto Wa Mbu. Situated on the edge of the Rift Valley Escarpment, the countryside here is very picturesque. The banana palms are lush green against the backdrop of the rocky escarpment.
There is an endless network of tracks that you can follow depending on how far you want to cycle. You can stop along the way to have a go at traditional Masai painting (see below) or learn to cook a typical Tanzanian meal. The ride ends with a traditional lunch with a local family.
6 – Paint a Masai masterpiece
Creative children will enjoy visiting a painting co-operative. Here the resident artists will show you different styles of Tanzanian art and then give you a canvas on which you can unleash your artistic side. Try your hand at recreating the stylised pictures of tall thin Masai warriors with a palette knife and oodles of paint.
7 – Hang out with the bushmen
There are still a number of bushmen groups living in the remote area around Lake Eyasi, near the Ngorongoro Crater. Once you have located a group (not always entirely straightforward, as they are nomadic) you have the unique opportunity to experience traditional bushman life. This is a real highlight of any trip to Tanzania with kids.
Learn how to make fire by rubbing a stick vigorously into a hardwood block. Wait until wisps of smoke appear then use these to light dried grass. Practice firing a bow and arrow at a grass target, causing much hilarity with the local boys. They will then demonstrate their (vastly superior) shooting skills! You may even be invited to join the bushmen on a hunt in the bush in the search for small wild animals – usually rabbits, squirrels or birds.
8 – Sit around the campfire, under the stars in the Serengeti
The sun has set, leaving a red glow above the distant horizon. Silhouetted against this you can see zebra wandering past and warthog scampering through the bush. You are tired but exhilarated after a full day game drive. The fire is lit and you relax in the flickering light as the stars come out in the skies overhead. Welcome to the Serengeti, one of Africa’s most sensational wilderness areas.
This is the Africa that you will have dreamed of, where you spend your days out on safari and your nights in a tented camp under the African skies. This is one of the highlights of any trip to Tanzania with kids and will be an experience you will remember for a lifetime.
9 – Enjoy the picture perfect tropical beaches of Zanzibar
The fabled spice island of Zanzibar perhaps needs little in the way of introduction. There are endless sweeps of powder white sand lapped by the turquoise waters of the Indian ocean. The interior is a lush network of nutmeg and pepper plantations and Stone Town, perched on the west coast, is an enticing blend of Arabian, African and Indian influences.
But it is the beaches that the island is most famous for, and deservedly so. Here you feel as if you have stepped into the pages of a holiday brochure, with swaying palms fringing picture perfect stretches of pristine sand. Find a secluded hammock for some well-deserved R and R or sit down to a fresh fish barbeque overlooking the ocean. Wander along the beach at sunset or find a spot by the pool to top up the tan. Whatever you decide to do, Zanzibar makes for the perfect end to a holiday in Tanzania with the kids.
10 – Exploring Stone Town
If you can bear to tear yourselves away from the picture perfect beaches, there are masses of excursions in Zanzibar. Popular with children is an excursion to Mnemba Island. This is just a short hop from Zanzibar’s north east coast, and home to some of the best snorkelling in East Africa. The visibility is superb and the coral provides a home to darting moray eels, brightly coloured star fish, stingrays and turtles.
You can also spend a day in Stone Town, exploring the narrow alleyways that thread through the old quarter. Older children will also find it fascinating to visit the old slave market. There is a superb museum here, which tells the story of the slave trade using evocative pictures and numerous interesting anecdotes about individual slaves and slave traders.
Tanzania with kids next step
For advice on how to incorporate any (or all) of these activities into a holiday in Tanzania with kids, contact us and we will be very happy to help. Visit our Tanzania family holidays section for a comprehensive country overview or go straight to an example itinerary, Tanzania Safari and Beach Tour.
Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel [email protected].