Tanzania is a fantastic family-friendly destination in waiting. Whether you’re here on safari to see the country’s astonishing portfolio of animals or looking to laze by a beach along the country’s Indian Ocean shore, Tanzania does family travel particularly well.
Tanzanians are a friendly lot, but traveling with children takes things to a whole new level: opening all kinds of doors and enabling an instant point of connection. On either a safari or beach holiday, tourism sectors are well set up for the experience with family rooms, menus, and activities, all geared towards making sure families on a visit to Tanzania have the time of their lives.
Is Tanzania good for kids?
If you’ve ever wondered about taking your kids to Africa, Tanzania could just be the ideal entry point.
For a start, Tanzania has world-class attractions that appeal to all ages. There are safari parks where you can see some of the most exciting animals on the planet; your kids will never be able to visit a zoo again after a visit here.
The beaches here are similarly special, with sheltered, accessible shorelines. While some activities may be age-specific for safety reasons, experiences like snorkeling amid the kaleidoscopic marine life of Tanzania’s islands and reefs could be your child’s starting point for a lifelong love affair with the sea.
Tanzania is also known for its highly experienced and professional tourism industry. Whether the focus of your trip is a safari in the country’s national parks or a beach holiday in the towns and resorts of the coast – we strongly recommend a combination of both – operators and accommodation places are well set up to welcome families, and have been doing so for decades.
More than anything though, it’s the Tanzanian people who make this a special place to visit. Watch how your new guide’s face lights up when he or she meets your children for the first time and you’ll see what we mean. Beyond the tourist industry, Tanzania may lack the child-friendly facilities you find in Europe or elsewhere: yes, supermarkets stock most supplies you might need, but nappy-change rooms for toddlers or flat footpaths for strollers are often lacking in Tanzania. Yet the second a local spots a visiting child or a family struggling to negotiate some aspect of daily life, you’ll be overwhelmed with people trying to help.
Where is best in Tanzania for kids?
There are two main areas where traveling with kids makes the most sense. The first is northern Tanzania, which has a number of national parks to choose from. Accommodation and tour operators in this area have more experience in catering to families than their counterparts elsewhere in the country. Plus, the wildlife you can see in the country’s north is some of the best anywhere in Africa.
The second main area that’s ideal for families is Zanzibar, which is more focused on cultural and beach tourism but has a tourism industry that’s comparable in experience to the safari sector.
Best things to do in Tanzania with babies and toddlers
A beach holiday
If you’re traveling with a baby or a toddler, a beach holiday makes far more sense than a wildlife safari. Taking a really young child out into the bush is anything but relaxing: you’ll spend your whole time making sure your toddler doesn’t crawl off into the unfenced bush, blissfully unaware of the dangers of creatures great (lions, elephants) and small (scorpions, fire ants). Zanzibar in particular has excellent beach resorts with child-friendly swimming pools, expansive lawns and play areas (some have playgrounds) and restaurants. In places like Nungwi, at Zanzibar’s northern tip, the beaches front onto gentle, almost wave-free lagoon waters.
Best things to do in Tanzania with kids
There’s nothing quite like seeing your first elephant or lion in the wild, and it’s an experience that your children will never forget. Most wildlife drives take place in open-sided 4WD vehicles with canvas roofs and tiered seating, which means there’s nothing between you and the animals. Yes, it’s perfectly safe, but the heart of even the calmest kid will skip a beat when a lion looks at them from just a few meters away. Serengeti National Park is one of the world’s best safari destinations. Ngorongoro Crater, as well as Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks, are all within a short drive of each other, and can be just as thrilling for seeing animals.
Maasai cultural visits
Much of northern Tanzania occupies the traditional lands of the Maasai, and there are numerous opportunities for a guided encounter with a Maasai community. This is especially the case around the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (which has Ngorongoro Crater at its core) – where village visits take you through a small Maasai community. Children are often treated as special guests and will be invited into family homes and to participate in ceremonial dances. As long as you visit with a Maasai guide, it can be a soulful encounter that your kids will talk about long after they’ve returned home.
You may just wish to relax in a resort, but there are ample opportunities for something a little more. The waters off Zanzibar and other coastal areas (such as Pemba or Mafia Island) are rich in marine life and coral, meaning that snorkeling is always a possibility. The best such excursions take you out onto the water in a dhow (a traditional wooden sailing boat) with a picnic lunch.
Best things to do in Tanzania with teenagers and tweenagers
Many of the things that work for kids – wildlife safaris, cultural encounters and snorkeling – also go down well with teens and tweens.
Learn how to hunt with the Hadzabe
The area around Lake Eyasi is home to a number of Hadzabe communities who still live in the traditional manner. Unlike cultural encounters elsewhere, visits to the Hadzabe involve joining the morning hunt for food, which the Hadzabe would be doing whether the visitors were there or not. It’s a fascinating immersion into a culture that has somehow survived the onslaughts of the modern world.
A recurring theme across Tanzania, from Arusha to Zanzibar, are tours where you go shopping in the market with a local chef and then learn how to cook local Swahili dishes. It’s a terrific change of pace for a day or half-day and offers many valuable insights into everyday life here.
Tanzania has numerous dive schools, and some teens may love to try something a little more challenging than snorkeling. It will open up a whole new world and imagine them returning home to tell their friends that they learned to scuba dive while away…
Hot-air balloon safari
A hot-air balloon safari over the Serengeti is a truly magical way to see a truly magical place. Yes, it’s expensive, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, whether it’s looking down on a herd of elephants or marveling at the endless Serengeti savannahs as the sun appears over the horizon.
Taking a toddler on safari can be expensive. Everyone will be happier if (and some operators will insist that) you organize a private safari so that the cries of even the best-behaved babies don’t frighten off the animals and spoil the safari experience of other travelers. Consider traveling in low season when accommodation and tour rates are cheaper and there are fewer other travelers around.
No matter how old your kids, talk to them about safari etiquette and make sure that they heed the advice of their guides at all time. Out on safari, these things matter.
Don’t try and cover too much ground, especially if you’re traveling with younger kids. Plan to see a few places – well.
These days, most accommodation has wifi, even out in the wilds on safari, although it’s often restricted to public areas. Make sure you manage expectations and find out in advance where you’re likely to have access to wifi so your kids know where they’ll be able to touch base with friends back home.