Tanzania may initially seem daunting for travel with children: prices for accommodation and park entry fees can be high, road distances are long and vehicle rental is costly. But for those with a sense of adventure, it's a destination with wonderful attractions, including wildlife, beaches, friendly people and good weather.
Best Regions for Kids
- Northern Tanzania
Tanzania's north is safari country and Maasai country. It's not cheap, but kids will love seeing the animals, as well as the many colourful cultures. A good selection of child-friendly hotels and restaurants completes the picture.
- Zanzibar Island
Zanzibar Island's gentle beaches alone are enough to make the island the perfect family destination. Many hotels also have swimming pools (ideal for passing time while the tide is out) and spacious grounds, and there's a wide choice of child-friendly cuisine.
- Southern Highlands
The highlands offer plenty of space for kids to run around, several wildlife parks, lovely Lake Malawi and family-friendly accommodation.
- Northeastern Tanzania
Low-key beaches, family-friendly lodging, historical Bagamoyo and the chance to spot wildlife in Saadani National Park make the northeast a child-friendly choice.
Tanzania for Kids
Tanzania's parks are completely unfenced, as are the park lodges and camps. The necessity of carefully supervising your children while in camp cannot be overemphasised. Wild animals frequently enter public areas, and a child should not be allowed to walk alone around camp, even for short distances. Exercise particular vigilance in the evenings.
Tanzania's wildlife areas, especially Serengeti, Tarangire and Ngorongoro Crater, offer almost guaranteed animal spotting, often at very close range. While all parks offer substantially reduced children's entry fees, all fees are valid for only one entry per 24 hours. If staying inside the park, it's a good idea to choose a lodge or safari camp with a pool where the kids can expend their energy between wildlife drives. Alternatively, base yourself outside the park at a hotel with a pool and/or large grounds for running around. Then venture into the park on one well-timed animal-spotting foray, while taking advantage of cultural tours, night drives and other activities outside the park for the remainder of the time.
Tanzania's beaches are wonderful, but variable. Depending on the season, the sea can be still and clear with little debris, or cloudy, choppy and with a strong undertow. Sharp, submerged rocks are another consideration. Ask hotel staff about good areas and times to swim safely.
If your budget permits, renting a vehicle with driver is a good investment for family travel in Tanzania, giving you some control over driving speeds and the chance to stop for bathroom breaks when you'd like. That said, we've met many families happily exploring the country on public transport, particularly the train. Apart from the less-than-sanitary situation with the train toilets, and long, unbroken stretches, it's a relatively gentle introduction to Tanzania travel.
- Zanzibar Island Lovely east-coast beaches with soft sand and gentle waters, plus many swimming pools at the resorts to while away the time while the tides are out. In Stone Town, Tembo House Hotel is a good family-friendly choice.
- Pangani Quiet beaches and sheltered coves, plus many family-friendly resorts, including Peponi and Fish Eagle Point.
- Lake Nyasa Matema beach is wonderful for families year-round, except during the heavy rains (March through May) when waves can be big.
- Mafia Island Small beaches, dhow rides and snorkelling.
- Iringa area Rolling hill panoramas, plenty of space, the chance for hiking, nearby Ruaha National Park and family-friendly accommodation – especially Kisolanza – The Old Farm House – make this region an ideal destination for travel with children.
- Usambara Mountains Lovely mountain scenery, cooler temperatures, hiking possibilities and family-friendly accommodation make this another good part of the country to explore with children.
Planning for family travel takes on a new dimension in the wilds of Tanzania. Following are a few tips and pre-trip considerations to help you get set.
- The June through September cooler, dry season is best. Mosquitoes tend to be fewer (although anti-malaria precautions should still be taken) and travel overall is easier.
- Check with your doctor about recommended vaccinations and use of malarial prophylactics. It’s essential to bring along mosquito nets and ensure that your children sleep under them. Bring long-sleeved shirts, trousers and socks for dawn and dusk and always use mosquito repellent (from home).
- At beaches, keep in mind the risks of hookworm infestation in populated areas, and watch out for sea urchins while wading in the shallows and snorkelling.Take care about bilharzia infection in lakes, and thorns and the like in the bush. A fully stocked child-oriented first aid kit is essential.
- Street food isn't generally suitable for children, and 'healthy snacks' are difficult to find on the road. Stock up on fresh and dried fruit and kids' juices in major cities. Bring a pocket knife from home for peeling fruit. Plain yoghurt (mtindi) is available in major towns.
- Except in five-star hotels, baby changing areas are nonexistent. Bring a small blanket to spread out or your own portable change mat.
- Processed baby foods, powdered infant milk, disposable nappies, baby wipes and similar items are available in major towns, but not elsewhere.Child seats for hire cars and safari vehicles are generally not available, unless arranged in advance.
- Many wildlife lodges and safari camps have restrictions on accommodating children under 12.
- Most hotels and all national parks offer discounted entry and accommodation rates for children, but you’ll need to specifically request these, especially when booking through tour operators.
- Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children has more tips for keeping children and parents happy while on the road.