Places to visit in Tanzania
If you are new to a safari it can be difficult to know where to start when planning your holiday. There are 16 different national parks in Tanzania, each offering something a little bit different and begging to be explored. We have described some of our favourite destinations here, including a few parks in the little visited south of the country. At any time, whether you know exactly what you want or if you don’t even know where to begin, give us a call and we will help you put together your perfect Tanzanian holiday.
Serengeti National Park is the jewel in the crown for safaris in Tanzania. It offers arguably the best game viewing in Africa with a stunning backdrop of endless plains dotted with picturesque acacia trees. The trick is to snap that leopard majestically atop a rocky outcrop gazing out into the distance. The Serengeti is home to the famous annual migration of wildebeest and zebra that make their way north to Kenya’s Masai Mara in a frenzy of chaotic galloping, dust and hooves that provides one of wildlife’s great spectacles. Although the exact location and time varies year to year, we can certainly arrange a specific migration itinerary, which could also include a hot air balloon safari, surely the most incredible way to enjoy these phenomena.
At any time of year though the park is packed with incredible wildlife scenes – prides of lion, thousands of eland, impala and gazelle, leopards lazing in the high branches of the acacia tree and herds of elephants roaming at will. Morning and afternoon safaris are interspersed with plenty of relaxation around the pool and evenings are enjoyed by all ages, sat around the fire exchanging wildlife sightings whilst listening to the roar of the lions prowling outside the camp. Spine-tingling stuff for both children and parents alike.
Between Arusha and the Serengeti lies this extraordinary volcanic crater that is home to an incredible concentration of wildlife including the big-five – lion, rhino, leopard, elephant and buffalo (noticeably no giraffe as the crater walls are too steep for them to descend!). This is an amazingly photogenic place with thick rainforest covering its sides and lush grassy plains forming its centre. A picnic on the crater floor may well prove the best lunch location your children will ever enjoy.
Most itineraries will also include a visit to the Olduvai Gorge, a useful stop to break the journey en route to the crater. This is a steep sided ravine in the heart of the Great Rift Valley, and is famous for the variety of early hominid fossils that have been found here. There is an excellent museum; it is small but informative and well worth the stop.
Arusha National Park
Arusha is usually the starting point for most family safaris to Tanzania as it is the nearest town to Kilimanjaro International Airport and has been a hub for safaris for decades. The national park, although small, we feel is definitely underrated – it is close to Arusha so there are no long transfers and it can be a useful half-day trip whilst recovering from long flights or slotted in before an evening departure from Kilimanjaro.
At its centre is the Ngurdoto Crater, dramatically surrounded by steep cliffs whilst further in, the Momella Lakes are home to an abundant bird population. Zebra, giraffe, hippo and buffalo roam throughout the park. One of the attractions of a visit here are the guided walks through the montane forest near the park entrance where children will love getting close to a darting herd of antelope (who surprises who?). Definitely one of our favourite places in Tanzania.
Tarangire National Park
A three-hour drive from Arusha lies Tarangire National Park. In the dry season the wildlife viewings are concentrated around the Tarangire River which cuts through the park and proves a magnet for lion, leopard, zebra, buffalo, gazelle and wildebeest. During the wet season the wildlife is more scattered but you are still virtually guaranteed sightings of the park’s extensive elephant population. Tarangire’s swamps offer a refreshing change of scenery and are home to over 550 bird varieties.
Lake Manyara National Park
Relatively close to Tarangire you will find the scenic Lake Manyara National Park with its beautiful, calm waters stretching for nearly 50km along the base of the Rift Valley escarpment. Baboons hang out in the dense jungle-like forest and thousands of pink flamingoes feed along the lake. The park is particularly well-known for the antics of its tree-climbing lions providing that classic safari shot.
Zanzibar Beaches & Stone Town
The fabulously exotic spice island of Zanzibar is the perfect way to end a family safari to Tanzania. A short flight from Arusha and you find yourself stepping back in time amongst the wonderful labyrinthine streets of Stone Town. The heady scents of cardamom and cinnamon fill the air, a reminder of when Zanzibar was a vital stop on the Spice Route. Leave the maps behind and enjoy getting lost wandering the narrow streets, sampling the delicious cuisine from the street stalls, admiring well preserved architecture alongside crumbling colonial buildings. Enjoy a delicious curry in a rooftop restaurant or be daring in the night market – will the children bravely try a fried grasshopper?
After a day or so exploring the sights of Stone Town, including the emotive former Slave Market, it is time to head for the coast. Stop en route for an entertaining spice tour where children will love seeing spices grown in their natural surroundings and enjoy learning about their medicinal and nutritional values.
There are many beaches to choose from but one of our favourites for families is Nungwi Beach on the north coast. With gorgeous white sands and crystal waters, this laid-back village was traditionally the centre for dhow (traditional ship) building. It is a wonderful sight to watch the locals returning from fishing expeditions, laden with fresh catch that you will soon be enjoying in one of the many beachfront restaurants. There are numerous activities on offer such as snorkelling, fishing or sunset dhow trips…… or just chilling on the beach beneath swaying palm trees.
Fancy climbing the Roof of Africa at 5,895m? This will not be everyone’s idea of a holiday but active families may relish the opportunity to climb Africa’s highest peak, the mighty Kilimanjaro. The ascent is challenging but reaching the summit will provide children with a real sense of achievement and an appreciation of what it takes to reach a high peak. The climb is not suitable for children under 10 and those aged 10-14 should only attempt it if they are very fit and also have a real desire to do so. This is not something for keen parents to foist on unwilling children!
Most routes take a minimum of 6-8 days but we recommend the longer Lemosho route. This takes 10 days in total (to and from Arusha) and provides plenty of time for acclimatisation. This results in a particularly high success rate. An ascent can be combined easily with a safari or time on Zanzibar to create a rewarding two-week adventurous family holiday.
Maasai Village Visits
Many of our itineraries include a visit to a Boma (traditional homestead) for a cultural encounter with the Maasai tribe. Here you will learn many interesting things about ‘the bush’ and Maasai nomadic way of life.
We are aware that this experience will not suit every family as it is not entirely authentic – these villages are not untouched by tourism. However, we find that children are fascinated by the villages and particularly enjoy the unusual Maasai dancing which they can sometimes take part in.
Selous Game Reserve
The Selous is Africa’s largest game reserve and contains probably the greatest concentration of game animals anywhere in the world. It is vast, untamed and utterly exhilarating. The Rufiji river flows through the reserve and the best way to explore is by boat, from which there are marvellous opportunities to see the large populations of elephant, giraffe, wild hunting dog and hippo that come to drink at the banks.
This little visited national park will give you a real taste of the African wilderness, a vast area of rugged, semi-arid bushland that is kept alive by the Great Ruaha River which runs along its eastern boundary. The majority of the game trails follow the river and offer superb game viewing opportunities. Impala, waterbuck and antelope come to drink its water and the large predators naturally follow. There are large prides of lion in the area as well as leopard that hide in the dense thickets along the edge of the river and cheetah that prowl the savannah, all looking for the opportunity to pounce.
Situated in northeast Tanzania, the Usambara Mountains provide a complete contrast to the rest of Tanzania, the lush and fertile slopes covered with a combination of dense tropical forest and small cultivated plots. This area will delight walkers as there are numerous trails through the mountains providing stunning views over the plains of Mkomazi and Handeni below. The mountains also offer a refreshing respite from the heat of the plains below and children will definitely appreciate the change in temperature.
Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.
Tanzania in pictures
Talk with our friendly team about your family travel needs.