Uganda’s Great Apes & Big Game
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David Beckham was in the news recently after sharing some photos of his family safari trip in Tanzania. Beckham took his 3 sons Brookyln (18 years old), Romeo (14), Cruz (12) and his daughter Harper (almost 6 yrs old) to Tanzania during half-term school holidays.
Adventure seekers are spoiled for choice when it comes to African safari destinations including Kenya, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa but it came as no surprise to us at Natural High that the Beckhams chose Tanzania for their family holiday. Here’s a run down of what makes Tanzania perfect for families :
There’s just so much to do and see in Tanzania. The sheer range of wildlife and landscape here is unrivalled anywhere in the world. The magnificent Serengeti Plains, the iconic wildebeest migration, the densest populations of big cats in Africa.
Tanzania also has Africa’s highest mountain – Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro Crater – the world’s largest volcanic caldera, and beautiful Indian Ocean beaches. The kids love seeing the incredible creatures up close, exploring the wild, taking a bucket shower, walking under waterfalls, huddling round the camp fires and sleeping in tents under the African sky.
The best time to visit Tanzania depends on what kind of activities you want to enjoy but for families Tanzania has plenty to offer that coincides with school holidays.
For example between July and October (including October half term) the northern Serengeti hosts the annual wildebeest crossing the Mara River – the most iconic safari event of all.
For February half term families should consider getting to the Southern Serengeti in time to see the wildebeest calving (migration giving birth) and then head to Tarangire for unrivalled elephant viewing.
During Easter, families can travel to the Gol mountains East of the Serengeti for superb walking and game drives with the migration herds.
Tanzania is well known for its hospitality and the locals really know how to take care of families with children. Child-focused activity programs and trained staff come as standard these days, along with children’s menus and amenities.
Northern Tanzania is safari country and Maasai country. This region has enough places to stop, so it’s easier to break up the journey without travelling for miles and miles. Kids will love seeing the animals, as well as the many colourful cultures. A good selection of child-friendly accommodation and food is easy to find.
North Eastern Tanzania has less crowded beaches, family-friendly lodging, historical Bagamoyo, and the chance to spot wildlife in Saadani National Park.
The Southern Highlands offer plenty of space for kids to run around, several wildlife parks, beautiful Lake Malawi and family-friendly accommodation.
Tanzania is renowned as one of the very best game-viewing countries in the world. Its wildlife areas, and 7 national parks (especially Serengeti, Tarangire and Ngorongoro Crater) offer the very best animal spotting opportunities, often at very close range. On game drives families will travel in open-sided 4x4 landrovers – and depending on the time of year you could see large herds of buffalo, antelope, giraffes, elephants, and the big cats - lions and leopards.
Selous and Ruaha in Southern Tanzania are perfect for families wishing to escape the crowds. Both have fewer tourists than the north and are home to incredible wildlife. Expect to see a wide range of species from lion, leopard and cheetah, buffalo and elephant to kudu, sable and antelope and maybe some wild dogs. Ruaha also boasts around 500 species of birds including some larger varieties the kids will enjoy such as ostriches, pelicans and storks.
Safaris are best suited to children of school age and many safari camps and lodges have age restrictions (typically 8 years minimum), although its possible to arrange a private trip for families with younger kids, as was the case with the Beckhams. Younger children love the outdoors, space to run around and the adventure of camping and of course seeing the animals at close quarters whether its on game drives, boat safaris or on foot.
For families with older children (12 and up) there are few experiences as memorable as a walking safari in Tanzania. Supported by a lightweight mobile camp and led by a highly experienced armed guide, this is a truly exhilarating experience. Children can learn how to read animal tracks and locate wildlife in their natural habitat without disturbing them. Gently climbing some rocks to find a herd of elephants, unaware of your presence relaxed and feeding just a few meters below you is an experience that will live with you forever.
Fly camping is the ultimate safari unplugged experience, and one of the most exciting things you can do with children in Tanzania. Cooking over an open fire, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the bush, with no other guests to worry about. By day, walk with your guide to a secluded location on a dry riverbed or island to find your camp set up. In the evening you can enjoy drinks barefoot by the campfire, eat under the stars and sleep right among the wild as never before. Watching elephant as they pass by your camp in the moonlight, or simply gazing through the mosquito net roof of your tent from the comfort of your bedroll. The best thing about fly camps is they are lightweight and mobile, allowing you to explore places like the Selous Game Reserve on foot at your leisure without having to return to base.
Chimp trekking is a very special experience and likely to be near the top of any family holiday memories. This is a unique form of safari where you walk through thick forest, in eerie silence except for the sounds of wildlife in the trees overhead. You will eventually find the chimps or they will find you, and because they’re habituated, they are very comfortable around people, and make great subjects for studying close-up in their own environment. Kids love watching the chimps playing, feeding or sometimes fighting as if in some school playground.
The stunning landscapes across Tanzania offer some astonishing photo opportunities whether its group family pictures to treasure or selfies for the youngsters to wow their friends with. The Ngorongoro crater in the Arusha region is simply breathtaking – a large, unbroken, un-flooded caldera, formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed 3 million years ago. Views from the rim of the crater are sensational as it sinks to a depth of 610 metres, with a base area covering 260 square km - an ideal stop on any safari and a great place to take children with lots of animals around often close enough that you won't need to look with binoculars. These include rhinos, buffalos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hippos, and some elephants.
One of the main attractions of Tanzania is how easily you can combine an adventurous safari with a relaxing beach holiday - a perfect combination for a truly memorable family holiday. Although most famous for its wildlife, Tanzania also has some of Africa’s best white sandy beaches. Zanzibar is the best known of the beach destinations with pristine white beached on the east coast in particular.
Families looking to escape the tourist crowds can venture to some of the more remote islands such as Pemba and Pangani. Mafia Island is well away from the main tourist hotspots and only a short flight, which keeps travelling times to a minimum for the children. Here children will enjoy taking a sailing trip on a dhow, doing some snorkeling or just splashing around in the warm Indian Ocean.
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