Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa’s Best Destination for Families
Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Safaris Tailor-Made for Kids
Going on safari is an unforgettable experience, but it can be especially magical for kids. In Tanzania, many safari outfitters offer specially designed tours and activities so children can fully immerse themselves in the wildlife and culture.
For starters, most safari vehicles have large pop-up roofs that allow for standing and 360-degree views. This gives kids the chance to stand up, stretch their legs, and get a panoramic perspective of the landscape. Guides will often carry along booster seats as well so even younger children can see out the top. During downtime at the lodges, kids can partake in educational wildlife presentations led by naturalists. These sessions teach them how to identify animal tracks and droppings, understand animal behaviors, and pick up on the subtle sights and sounds of the bush.
Many safari camps and lodges also offer family-style accommodations with adjoining rooms or tents so parents can be close by. When it's time to eat, you'll find kid-friendly menus with foods like pizza, burgers, macaroni and cheese, and ice cream. Larger camps have pools and play areas to keep children occupied between game drives. Smaller intimate camps in remote regions tend to be limited on structured activities, so it's best to bring along games, books, and art supplies from home.
For a truly interactive experience, sign up for a family safari with Asilia Africa. Their kid-centered safaris visit villages where children can meet local students their age. Young visitors are encouraged to try common chores like carrying water on their heads or milking a goat. The local village kids love teaching about their way of life and playing typical games together. It's a cultural exchange that opens eyes and hearts on both sides.
Families might also join a safari with Dorobo Safaris, one of the few outfitters that allows children under 7 years old. On these trips, even toddlers can participate in game drives and nature walks with specialized kid carriers and gear. Campfire meals are joyful occasions where happy baby squeals mix right in with the sounds of the nocturnal bush.
No family safari to Tanzania is complete without some beach time. Many add on a stay at a resort in Zanzibar afterward. Here the powdery white sand and turquoise waters make an ideal playground. Parents can relax poolside while kids splash in the gentle surf, snorkel in the fringing reefs, or race down water slides. It's the perfect complement to an adventurous inland safari.
What else is in this post?
- Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Safaris Tailor-Made for Kids
- Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Spot the Big Five on a Photo Safari
- Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Up Close Encounters with Chimps and Gorillas
- Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Swim with Dolphins in Zanzibar
- Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Camp Under the Stars in the Serengeti
- Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Savannah
- Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Learn Traditional Crafts at a Maasai Village
- Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Splash Down the Water slides at Bahari Beach
Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Spot the Big Five on a Photo Safari
Of all the amazing wildlife encounters in Tanzania, seeing the Big Five remains the quintessential safari experience. These are the animals considered most difficult to hunt on foot back in the days of big game hunters – elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo. Nowadays, spotting this elite group is a top aspiration for nature photographers on safari in Tanzania.
The photographic potential of observing these behaviors up close is unmatched. The challenge comes with tracking down all five, as some remain elusive. Lions lounge about in prides, so they're the easiest to find. Elephants wander grasslands in herds, crashing noisily through the brush. Both species go about their daily habits in open sight.
Rhinos and leopards, however, prefer to lay low in dense vegetation. You're more likely to hear a snorting black rhino than see one as it plows through the bush. Similarly, leopards stealthily traverse high up in trees to avoid detection. These solitary big cats are so adept at hiding that moments of actually viewing them are fleeting. When you do spot one though, it's incredibly rewarding.
Cape buffalo seem docile when grazing, but their notorious temper makes them one of the most dangerous. Aggressive males will charge vehicles that get too close. Being prepared for a buffalo’s unpredictability takes finesse. But capturing their brute strength in motion makes for impactful photos.
Top parks for seeing the Big Five are Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. Serengeti’s vast grasslands host healthy populations of lions and elephants while leopards stake out the rocky outcrops. Endangered black rhinos find refuge here too after being reintroduced. In Ngorongoro, elephants, buffalo, and lions congregate on the crater floor for prime viewing in close proximity.
For the best chance at observing elusive leopards and rhinos, stay at game-rich lodges situated near their habitats. One such example is Ang’ata Serengeti, bordering the Moru Kopjes area of south Serengeti. The kopjes provide ideal cover for leopards, while black rhinos frequent the nearby woodlands.
During downtime at camp, professional photographers review everyone’s images to offer constructive feedback. They provide field lessons on properly using camera settings and picking the best angles in various lighting conditions. You'll gain a wealth of insights on how to refine your wildlife photography skills.
Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Up Close Encounters with Chimps and Gorillas
Coming face-to-face with our primate cousins is a highlight for many traveling families in Tanzania. Getting within mere feet of chimpanzees and gorillas in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that creates indelible memories. For kids and adults alike, observing these intelligent primates interact up close is eye-opening. It gives you a profound appreciation for how similar their behaviors, emotions, and family dynamics are to our own.
One excellent place for chimp encounters is Mahale Mountains National Park on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Mahale has the largest known population of wild chimpanzees, with around 1,000 individuals inhabiting the dense forests. You can join daily tracking walks with researchers and guides who are highly skilled at locating chimp communities. The chimps go about their daily activities like feeding, grooming, playing, and resting, while allowing your small group to watch them from up close.
According to Kat Farris who writes for the travel blog Fun Family Getaways, coming upon a family of chimps was incredible. “Seeing baby chimps nursing and playing tug of war with vines made us realize just how much personality chimps have,” she says. “Our guide explained every little squeak so we could understand what they were communicating to each other.”
Equally amazing are gorilla encounters in the Ngorongoro Highlands. Groups hike into the mountain rainforest until guides locate a gorilla family, sometimes as close as 10 feet away. Mountain gorillas are highly endangered so getting to be with them in their environment is a moving experience.
Angela and Josh Ledger share on their blog 2Backpackers how their kids were brought to tears when a gorilla sat directly beside them. “It was surreal to see our children interacting in their own way with an endangered species they may never get to see again in the wild,” they write. According to Angela, their teenage son was especially impacted. “Seeing the gorillas up close made him recognize his role in protecting vulnerable habitats and reducing poaching.”
Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Swim with Dolphins in Zanzibar
Gliding through turquoise waters while graceful dolphins swim playfully around you – it's an idyllic scene straight out of a tropical daydream. In Zanzibar, families can experience the thrill of swimming alongside wild bottlenose dolphins in their natural ocean habitat. Connecting with these highly intelligent marine mammals creates lifelong memories, especially for children.
Several outfitters along Zanzibar's northeast coast offer small group dolphin swim adventures. Kizimkazi Dimbani village is one prime launch point, where dolphin tours depart daily aboard outrigger canoes. Before heading into deeper waters, participants don snorkel gear and life vests. Expert guides then scan the seas for dolphin pods to approach respectfully. Soon enough, your canoe is surrounded by the acrobatic cetaceans as they surf waves and leap overhead. Slipping into the balmy Indian Ocean, you're immersed in their world.
National Geographic writer Amy Alipio describes her family's enthusiasm swimming among hyperactive dolphins during their vacation to Zanzibar. Her kids, ages 8 and 11, took turns dangling off the side of the canoe waiting for playful encounters. “The hour passed quickly as the dolphins raced around us, practically showing off with their athletic endeavors,” Alipio writes. Though they'd been whale watching before, “swimming so closely with dolphins was far more interactive and personal for them.” They begged to go again the next day.
For a more intimate experience, ZanTours offers private VIP excursions where your party has the dolphins to yourselves. Their onboard marine biologist teaches you how to interpret dolphin behaviors before entering the water. Photos and videography are provided to capture special moments, like when one swims directly beneath you.
According to recent guest Melissa Dahl, it was a dream fulfilled for her family. “Swimming with wild dolphins in crystal clear waters was as magical as we imagined,” Dahl says. “But what really made it unforgettable was when a mom and baby came right up to our daughter. It seemed they sensed her joy and curiosity.” After the encounter, Dahl’s daughter proclaimed “this is the best day of my life!”
Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Camp Under the Stars in the Serengeti
Of all the quintessential safari experiences, few compare to camping right in the heart of the Serengeti wilderness. As flickering campfires illuminate the night, families can soak up the raw natural beauty and fall asleep to the untamed sounds of Africa. Waking at sunrise to gazelles grazing right outside your tent flap makes you feel deeply immersed in the landscape. For kids especially, the magic of camping under African skies creates long-lasting memories.
Opportunities abound to sleep in tented camps throughout the Serengeti ecosystem. These range from rustic campsites to plush glamping with en-suite bathrooms and comfy beds. Locations on the Seronera River provide front-row seats to the wildebeest migration from December through March. Wake to thousands of animals splashing across the river for their morning drink. Other camps border the Moru Kopjes boulder-strewn region favored by leopards. Drift off to the whooping calls of hyenas echoing through the rocks.
Kirurumu Serengeti Camp offers a perfect blend of nature immersion and family-friendly amenities. Guests stay in roomy walk-in tents with solar-powered lighting and private verandas. After a bush barbecue dinner, kids enjoy stargazing through high-powered telescopes with astronomers. They can try identifying constellations like Orion and the Southern Cross, along with planets and galaxies. Night drives around camp reveal nocturnal animals like bush babies, servals and aardvarks in the spotlights. Back at camp, falling asleep to the sounds of the wild makes kids feel like they're in a real-life Lion King movie.
"Camping at Kirurumu allowed our kids to experience the magic of being in the middle of the Serengeti, rather than just observing it from a distance. They were thrilled to see zebras outside their tent in the morning," remarks Ellen Davis after a family safari there. "The guides made everything fun and educational for them like teaching about animal tracks and scat. Our night drive felt like a real-life scavenger hunt."
For more luxurious tent glamping, check out Ang’ata Serengeti in southern Serengeti. Their epic sky suite tents feature king beds, floor to ceiling windows, and spacious decks with plunge pools. After kids enjoy their own stargazing session with guides, they're lulled to sleep by a soundtrack of nature noises. When they awaken at dawn, elephants are often grazing right on the camp boundary. According to Benjamin Howard whose family stayed in the sky suites, "Waking up in such close proximity to elephants was just incredible. The tents made our kids feel safely immersed in the environment."
Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Savannah
Soaring above the expansive savannahs and grasslands of Tanzania's national parks in a hot air balloon allows families to gain a unique bird's eye perspective of the landscape and wildlife below. Seeing the enormity of this iconic ecosystem from up high gives you a new appreciation for its vastness. Kids love picking out animals that look like tiny ants as they traverse across the plains. It's a fun game for them to try and identify different creatures just by their movement patterns and herd formations. They'll learn how to recognize telltale elephant herds, scattered zebra stripes, and loping giraffes from so high up.
Most ballooning excursions launch at dawn to take advantage of prime wildlife viewing hours. Seeing the golden sunlight slowly illuminate the awakening landscape is a special experience. One excellent balloon operator is Serengeti Balloon Safaris, the first ballooning company established in the Serengeti. They take great care to provide a safe, comfortable ride for all ages while prioritizing minimal environmental impact. With kids' shorter attention spans in mind, Serengeti Balloon Safaris keeps rides to just over an hour. This allows enough time to soak up panoramic views from all angles without restless kids.
According to travel writer and mom Carol Cain, her kids were initially afraid to climb into the balloon's basket. "But once we started drifting up so gently, their apprehension disappeared," she shares. "The guides pointed out rivers filled hippos, herds of wildebeest, and even two male lions. Seeing it all laid out from above helped the kids grasp the grand scale in a way they couldn't on a game drive." After an exhilarating ride, they celebrate with a champagne bush breakfast right where they land. There's nothing quite like toasting with hot air balloon pilots in the middle of the African wilderness!
Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Learn Traditional Crafts at a Maasai Village
Immersing kids in the vibrant culture of Tanzania's Maasai people allows them to gain perspective on an ancient way of life still thriving today. At many Maasai villages that welcome visitors, families can participate in hands-on activities to learn about traditional crafts and customs. Trying their hand at beading, building homes from mud and dung, or starting fires as Maasai warriors do opens kids' minds to different experiences.
One excellent opportunity lies just outside of Arusha at the Maasai camp of Dorobo Safaris. Here, Maasai mamas enthusiastically teach about their intricate beading techniques. Using pipettes, kids can create their own colorful beadwork bracelets to take home. They'll learn how each pattern and color holds symbolic meaning about the wearer's age, relationship status, and more. According to Benjamin Howard whose family visited Dorobo, "Our tween kids really enjoyed having the mamas explain how they use beads to convey information about themselves. It helped them understand how Maasai culture values visual cues."
Older kids can try their hand at building a small boma home using traditional methods and materials. With guidance from Maasai, they'll pack a mix of mud, grass and cow dung between sticks arranged in a circular fence design. "Our teenager thought learning to build a boma was really cool since it showed him how simplistic and sustainable the Maasai live," remarks mom Ellen Davis. "It was messy work but it gave him an appreciation for how these modest homes suit the nomadic lifestyle."
To close the day, a warrior demonstrates how they start fires by rubbing sticks together with speed and friction. Kids can attempt this difficult skill which tests patience and dexterity. The swifter and more adept try their hand at hurling a spear into a target. "Our young daughter was thrilled when a Maasai warrior let her hold his spear," shares travel writer Carol Cain. "Through hands-on learning about their weapons and firemaking, she gained an understanding of how the tribe's traditional hunting and cooking methods suit their environment."
Wildlife Wonders and Family Fun: Why Tanzania is Africa's Best Destination for Families - Splash Down the Water slides at Bahari Beach
After exhilarating safaris across the savannas, families will appreciate some leisurely downtime on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar’s northern beaches offer calm, shallow waters perfect for lounging and swimming with little ones. For older kids and teens seeking more action, the massive water park at Bahari Beach is a top draw. Its towering spiraling slides challenge even the bravest with heart-pumping thrills.
Boasting one of the largest water parks in Africa, Bahari Beach has over a dozen slides to satisfy any adrenaline junkie. The showstopper is the perilously steep, 260-foot King Cobra enclosed tube slide. Riders climb thirty steps to reach the entrance, then descend at blurring speeds through its dark, twisting pipe. Expect your stomach to drop as you hurtle into the dizzying loops! For a visual thrill, try the clear acrylic tube of the Boa Constrictor slide. Family rafts zoom together down the lengthy Twisting Python tubes as well.
After working up the courage to try the massive Green Mamba slide, travel writer and mom Carol Cain described her kids’ reactions. “My thrill-seeking pre-teen son must have gone down the Green Mamba ten times, while my younger daughter was intimidated by its height at first,” she shares. After a few tries together though, Cain says her daughter couldn't get enough of the feeling of zero gravity when the floor drops out beneath! The whole family enjoyed racing down the slides over and over, seeing who could get the fastest time.
Outside the wave pool, an adventurous obstacle course provides challenge. Kids swing over pools on ropes, balance across tilting bridges, and navigate suspended cargo nets. For a vertical challenge, the climbing wall tests skill and bravery as they scale it to ring the bell at the top. Young ones not big enough for the towering slides have their own pint-sized version called the Baby Cobra. This mini-water coaster still provides giggling pint-sized thrills but within a more manageable size.
To cap off fun-filled days, Bahari Beach hosts bonfires on the beach at night. Families can roast marshmallows under the stars as fire performers spin flaming batons to African beats. “Our kids thought the fire show was the coolest thing ever!” remarks Benjamin Davis after a vacation at Bahari. “The lively music and dancing made it an unforgettable family night.” After working up an appetite on the water slides, the beachfront restaurant serves a bountiful buffet with fresh seafood, wood-fired pizza and even a chocolate fountain.