Family holidays are a great way for a family with children to bond, especially when the school is over. Traveling to Tanzania is an interesting experience filled with different cultures, Africa’s big five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo), cities, villages and beautiful golden beaches. Tanzania is a big country, and the first thing to do is to choose the right destination.
Northern Tanzania – the great plains
There are many nature reserves and national parks surrounding Arusha city. There are a couple of museums in Arusha including a traditional style village where locals sell beautiful artworks and jewelry, and many other markets where kids can spend a whole day looking at things from a different world.
Just outside of Arusha lies the Arusha National Park with the second tallest point in Tanzania, Mount Meru. Though small children won’t be able to climb the mountain, they will certainly enjoy a day trip through the park either on a safari tour or on a nature walk. The climate in Arusha is perfect throughout the year – not too hot or cold with short bursts of rain in the rainy season.
There is also the Ngorongoro National Park that has magnificent sites and child-friendly accommodation. The park is a short distance from Arusha which means less time in the car, and more time in the park. In the park there are several local villages where kids can learn how the local tribes construct their huts, make weapons, collect food, use plants for medicine, and see the lifestyle of the traditional African tribes like the Maasai that settled here thousands of years ago. There are many archaeological sites in Tanzania including rock art in Ngorongoro where kids will get the opportunity to learn about evolution and the ancient history of humankind.
Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam
Zanzibar makes for an excellent beach holiday. It is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, and consists of a number of islands – the largest one is called Unguja, where the capital is located. Zanzibar is a very interesting tourist destination for many reasons.
There are many hotels that have swimming pools for when the sea is a bit rough, though most older kids will enjoy being able to snorkel in the shallows and look at the colorful corals that grow here. There is also a lot of history to explore in Old Stone Town and the spice plantations on the island. One of the main industries in Zanzibar is the spice trade – you can get your fill of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper.
For a city experience, a trip to Dar es Salaam, the economic hub of Tanzania, will be a fun trip for a family with kids. It’s located on the mainland, a stone’s throw away from the main island of Zanzibar. The city is surrounded by lush nature, and is very multicultural. There are many child friendly hotels and top notch restaurants where kids will be able to enjoy making friends, playing or trying some of the traditional cuisine.
Another great place for kids to enjoy a beach holiday and to see some real African wildlife is the Saadani National Park – the only park in East Africa on the coast. Animals love playing in the shallow waves and many birds like the African fish eagle make this their home.
Teenagers that love hiking through nature will definitely enjoy a trip to Lake Tanganyika, the longest lake in the world. This is a unique ecosystem that has allowed species of fish to evolve in their own way – you’re not going to see them anywhere else! While swimming in lake Tanganyika is considered safe, please be warned that this is not the case for other African lakes and rivers. The lake is a natural border for four countries – Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Zambia.
There are also two informative parks where families can go on hikes – the Gombe National Park where Dr Jane Goodall did her revolutionary studies on chimps, and the Mahale Mountains National Park that is also a safe haven for wild chimps and other primates.
Though it is impossible to see the whole of Tanzania in one trip, families will see lots of game in the national parks and enjoy either a beach holiday on the golden shores of the warm Indian Ocean, or the fresh water of Lake Tanganyika. With so many cultures and different climates in one country, there is much to choose from that is perfect for a family with kids of varying ages.