Tag: Tarangire National Park

Africa Highlights

Travelling Africa with kids: our top 10 highlights

What a truly epic adventure the last few months have been! It seems only yesterday I was announcing that we were off to Africa. Whilst there have been some seriously tough moments – record-breaking torrential rains in Tanzania, obstructive border guards in Malawi, and countless times we’ve had to turn our Land Rover around due to impassable roads – travelling Africa with kids has honestly been the best experience of all of our lives!

READ – FAQ: Travelling Africa with kids.
Includes details on safety, route planning, 4×4 hire, border crossings, and much more.  

This was our route around Southern Africa. You can read our itineraries for each stage, which provides a day by day account and our accommodation each night:

PART 1: South Africa and Mozambique
PART 2: Malawi
PART 3: Tanzania
PART 4: Zambia
PART 5: Namibia

Namibia itinerary with kids

Below are our top 10 highlights of our adventures overlanding Africa with kids. However, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the absolute highlight of this trip has been the luxury of time. It’s the time to be on our own schedule, time not distracted by other commitments, time to just simply share day by day experiences together. Time has given us the flexibility to stay longer in a place we liked, or move on if we fancy; to change our route and our ideas for this trip on a whim. But as we come to the end of this trip, I still wish we had just a little bit more time.

Namibia itinerary with kids

But without further ado, decided by Mummy and Daddy Lynn over a few glasses of South Africa’s finest red whilst sat in a campsite in Swakopmund, Namibia, here are our top ten highlights of our African overland adventures with kids that have taken us through South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia and back to South Africa. We unfortunately didn’t make it to Botswana and Zimbabwe (we needed more time!), but will save them for another adventure.

1. Skeleton Coast (Namibia)

The most stunning drive we have ever experienced where we felt like we were at the ends of the earth. The road to the Atlantic coast is an other-wordly landscape draped with unusual sandstone formations, traversed by a gravel road that cuts through the valley. Once road meets the ocean there were sand dunes, abandoned mines, untouched beaches, and shipwrecks to explore.

2. Mt Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)

Our visit to Tanzania was timed with the worst rains in over a decade. As such, Mount Kilimanjaro was completely shrouded in cloud as we approached its foothills. I was gutted. I had been desperate to see the iconic peak for too long. Still, we held tight at a campsite in Marangu and on the second morning the skies cleared to the most incredible view. Due to the uncommonly heavy rains, Mt Kilimanjaro’s peak was completely covered in snow. Just beautiful.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

3. Victoria Falls (Zambia)

Nothing quite prepares you for the sheer thundering immensity of Victoria Falls. And it’s not like you don’t get any warning; the spray is visible for miles around and the sound is the first thing you hear in the morning. But it’s not until you reach the first viewpoint that the true spectacle really hits you – literally. We got soaking wet as bucketloads of spray poured over us! We visited at the end of May, right at the end of the wet season with the falls at full volume. It was such a treat to stay at the Victoria Falls Waterfront, right on the banks of the Zambezi with restaurant views over to the plumes of spray bellowing up from the falls.

zambia itinerary with kids

4. Mating lions outside Ruaha National Park (Tanzania)

We had initially planned to camp overnight in Ruaha National Park, but we changed plans once we saw that the campground was covered in plastic litter and inhabited by a rather protective family of elephants. As the sun started setting on the horizon we drove away from the park gates, a little perturbed at the costs of entering the park, and stumbled across two mating lions in the road. Let’s just say they like it a little rough, and the deep roars from the male made my hair stand on end. We kept our distance and in throes of violent passion the male clocked us and released a deafening roar. I immediately understood and fumbled the ignition to get the Land Rover away, heart racing. An experience I will never forget.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

5. Etosha National Park (Namibia)

Due to it’s other-worldly landscape, so different from all the safaris we have done in Africa, and for the sheer ease of spotting its abundant wildlife, Etosha had to be in the top five. Spending the morning with a pride of lions surrounding the car and watching a lonesome rhino pass by was certainly memorable. However, our favourite experience in Etosha has to be venturing to the floodlit watering hole near to the campsite once the boys were asleep to watch local wildlife visit to drink and socialise (us parents took it in turns so the boys weren’t left alone). You can read here why we think Etosha is the best safari in Africa with kids.

6. Hippos on the Zambezi (Zambia)

We arranged a private boat cruise at the lodge we were camping at (Gwabi Rivier Lodge) to take us along the river. We must have seen at least 50 hippos that morning! And the boys particularly loved it as they got to drive the boat too! The campsite at Gwabi is right on the river, so we would fall asleep to the sounds of hippos grunting away.

7. Sunset cruise Lake Malawi (Malawi)

Lake Malawi was the centrepiece for much of our travels in Malawi. We drove from its southern-most point, all the way up the Western shoreline into Tanzania. Our favourite spot on the lake was Chembe Eagles Nest, Cape Maclear, where the water is calm and crystal clear. A sunset catamaran cruise was the perfect way to experience the lake.

Malawi itinerary with kids

8. Barra Beach (Mozambique)

The beaches of Mozambique completely blew us away. Long stretches of pristine silky sand as far as the eye could see. For ease of getting to, quality of campsite and sheer beauty, Barra was our favourite. Our campsite was a stone’s throw away from the sand and we mostly had the beach to ourselves. Half an hour down the road is the old colonial town Inhabane, with it’s crumbling architecture harking back to it’s Portuguese past.

9. Tarangire National Park (Tanzania)

In protest to the obscenely high park fees for Serengetti National Park, we decided to head to Tarangire instead. Our rash decision was rewarded with seeing hundreds of elephants in the wild without another soul around! But the true highlight was camping overnight in the park with the African stars above, no fence to guard off wildlife and roars of lions in the distance. I didn’t sleep a wink that night for listening out for wildlife, but certainly one of our most memorable.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

10. Mount Mulanje (Malawi)

Rising from the tea plantations of Southern Malawi, majestic Mount Mulanje seemingly soars to the heavens. With little legs, we didn’t really entertain the notion of a three-day hike to the summit. Instead, we settled for a splendid hike up to a waterfall on the mountain, where you can enjoy a refreshing dip. With our then 2 and 4 year old boys, the round trip took us about 3 hours. But most would do it 2 hours. We surprisingly bumped into Mini Travellers on our mountain hike who have written up a review of their hike up to the waterfall on Mount Mulanje. On return to our campsite, we were surprised by a performance from some local orphans, as part of Malawi Music Fund. The voices from this choir gave me goosebumps; rich tones and beautiful a capella harmonies. It was then magical to watch the views of the Mount Mulanje being cast aflame by the setting sun.

 

Disclaimer: We are sometimes offered complimentary accommodation and tours in return for an honest review. However, as always, these are my own words and opinions. 

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The Lonely Planet Africa, and the Tracks4Africa Africa Southern Traveller’s Atlas were invaluable throughout our travels.


You may also like to read:
We’re off to Africa!
Medical kit list for families travelling Africa
AFRICA OVERLAND Part 1: South Africa and Mozambique itinerary with kids

For more posts on Africa, head to our AFRICA page.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

AFRICA OVERLAND Part 3: Tanzania itinerary with kids

Tanzania boasts some big ticket items – the tallest mountain in Africa, the best game viewing in Africa, and the Arabian allure of the Zanzibar archipelago. If you have the money, the itinerary of Serengeti, Mt Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar make for an impressive African adventure. But for budget travellers overlanding from Malawi with two young kids, Tanzania wasn’t as straightforward. This is our Tanzania itinerary with kids, which forms the third part of our overland adventures through Africa. You may like to read about our South African and Mozambique itinerary with kids, and our Malawi itinerary with kids.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

Tanzania itinerary with kids

Our route through Tanzania (Google Maps)

CONTENTS

Malawi/Tanzania border
Drive to Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park
Tan-Swiss Lodge, Makumi
Bagamayo
Peponi, Pangani
Lawns Hotel, Usambara Mountains
Mount Kilimanjaro
Tarangire National Park
Driving days toward Zambia
Utengule Coffee Lodge, near Mbeya
The Zambia border

To bear in mind

Tanzania was more challenging than we had initially expected and you may want to read my recent post – is travelling Tanzania with kids worthwhile? In short, the answer is a resounding yes! But be prepared for very long travel days, negotiating an infinite number of trucks on the main road and an omnipresent police force who border on harassment. Also ensure you avoid the rainy season (March through to May) as the incessant rain turns the mud roads to an impassable slush. Unfortunately our visit was timed with the worst rainstorms in decades, which hindered any beach time and forced us to travel more quickly through the country than we had originally planned.

It was indeed difficult at times, but we experienced some incredible moments that would make us go back and do it all again in a heartbeat. To balance out the tough travel days there are a handful of fantastic family-friendly campsites across the country. Indeed, the standard of campsites in Tanzania is much higher compared to Mozambique and Malawi. Some places even have a swimming pool and kids’ play area. Prices are generally USD10 per adult (children under 5 are free).

Tanzania with kids

Our favourite campsite in Tanzania – Utengule Coffee Lodge

This 3.5 weeks Tanzania itinerary with kids continues from our Malawi itinerary with kids, hence starting from day 40. If you’re planning a budget, self-driving trip to Tanzania with kids, I hope you find this useful.

Day 40: Malawi/Tanzania border

It was a long wait on the Tanzania side of the Songwe border. The visas were straightforward, the problem was actually paying for the Road Tax; they have a policy of not accepting cash, their machines weren’t working, and as it was a Sunday, all the banks were shut. After a 3 hour wait, the officials finally accepted cash from an ATM and we were on our way.

The heavens opened as soon as we left the Malawi border. It’s a 1.5 hour drive through lush tea and banana plantations to the very basic Bongo Campsite just north of Tukuyu.

Day 41-42: Drive to Ruaha National Park

The drive from Tukuyu to the gates of Ruaha can be done in a day with a very early start. However, with young kids, we preferred to break up the journey at Kisolanza Old Farmhouse. We then camped at Chogela Campsite, 45 minute drive from the park gates.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

The drive from Iringa to Ruaha National Park.

Day 43: Ruaha National Park

Ensure you have a both Mastercard and Visa to make payment at the gate. We only had Visa and none of our three(!) cards would work (after an hour negotiation, we were allowed pay by cash). Once inside Ruaha NP we saw elephants, giraffe, zebra, impala. We decided not to camp at the only campsite open in the park; on arrival there were a family of elephants grazing next to a crocodile-infested river and no fence or ranger. We instead decided to return to Chogela Campsite (which was a third of the cost, had better facilities and no dangerous wildlife). As we made our way from the park gates we stumbled across two mating lions!

Day 44-46: Tan-Swiss Lodge, Makumi

It’s a day long drive to Tan-Swiss Lodge (stock up on food and fuel and Iringa), but we were rewarded with our best campsite yet. Run by a Tanzanian-Swiss couple, this great resort has good camping facilities and an onsite restaurant. However, the huge bonus for families is the swimming pool (including kids’ pool), playground, toy box, and kids’ bikes!

Tanzania itinerary with kids

The Tan-Swiss Hotel

Day 47: Bagamayo

After much deliberation, we decided against visiting Zanzibar. It would have meant leaving out beloved Landy behind on the mainland and blowing the budget on accommodation and restaurant meals. When the forecast warned of heavy showers for the following week, we figured it was a sign. Instead we made the 6 hour drive to the old colonial town of Bagamayo.

It’s a short walk around the old town, but it’s fascinating. It’s still unmistakably African but with a definite element of India and Arabia thrown into the mix. The narrow streets are framed with crumbling, German colonial buildings, the fisherman sit around preparing their catch, whilst the call to prayer drifts from the mosque across to the Indian Ocean.

We stayed at the quirky Firefly, where our boys loved playing with the marble run and foosball table. There is also a small swimming pool in the centre of the outdoor restaurant.

Day 48-50: Peponi, Pangani

We had initially planned to camp at Beach Crab, 45 minutes south of Pangani. However, once we turned off the main dirt track running parallel to the coastline, the road seriously deteriorated and a torrential downpour made it impassable for us. We took the car ferry across to Pagani (TSH5000 per car and TSH200 per adult) and camped at Peponi, just 30 minutes north of town.

Peponi is a very lovely resort, with a chilled-out beach front bar, swimming pool and beach-side camping. However, the beach has a large tidal range, which exposes an rather ugly shoreline, littered with plastic when far out. Also, we experienced seriously heavy rains for our two whole days here. We had initially planned a good week of beach time, but the rains forced us onwards.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

A break in the weather at Peponi

Day 51: Lawns Hotel, Usambara Mountains

Stock up in Tanga at the Mkwabi Supermarket, which has toy cars on trolleys for the kids. It’s then a three hour drive to the picturesque village of Lushoto, taking the winding paved road up the mountain from Mombo. Despite the rain, the clouds lifted just enough for us to appreciate the lush and craggy hills, defined by gushing waterfalls.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

Enjoy the hospitality of the old-colonial Lawns Hotel, with good camping facilities. The Italian-Cypriot owners have young children, so there is a fantastic playground for your little ones to enjoy whilst you soak up the old-world ambience. There are walks to the viewpoint and waterfalls. You may find it a bit far for little legs and can arrange for a taxi to take you part of the way.

Day 52-54: Mount Kilimanjaro

You don’t need to pay the hefty park fees and enter Kilimajaro National Park to appreciate the views. There are some lovely walks through coffee, banana and sunflower plantations in the foothills to enjoy that are free. We stayed at Coffee Tree Campsite, Marangu, a beautifully kept camping ground in the foothills with fantastic facilities.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

Coffee Tree Campsite, Marangu

Views were obscured by heavy rain clouds for our first day, but we sat tight and our patience was rewarded with magnificent views on the second morning. Due to the uncommonly heavy rainstorms, the peak of Kilimanjaro was covered in a thick blanket of snow.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

Then head into Moshi to enjoy a slap up Indian feast at Milan’s (such a treat after all our weeks camping) and then onwards to Arusha, where we camped at Masai Camp.

Day 55-56: Tarangire National Park

The Serengeti is perhaps the best wildlife viewing park in Africa. However, this privilege comes at a hefty price, which you can read more about in our post – Is Tanzania with kids worthwhile? For a fraction of the price, we decided to visit Tarangire National Park, which is renowned for its large elephant population. Stay overnight in the park for a true safari experience. There are no fences, but a ranger is on guard. Falling asleep to the sounds of lions roaring in the distance was a highlight of our time in Tanzania.

Tanzania itinerary with kids

Your park entrance fees last for 24 hours, so if you enter the park at 1pm on the first day, you can easily fit in a game drive the following morning. It’s then a 2 hour drive to the basic Amarula Camp, Kolo.

Day 57-58: Driving days toward Zambia

Dotted around the town of Kolo you will find some beautifully preserved ancient rock art (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). However, we were unable to reach them as the track was in such a terrible condition after the rains.

On the map, it may look like a bit of a slog to the Zambia border, but the stretch south to Iringa is void of trucks, the tarmac is in good condition and the views on a clear day are spectacular. It makes for a very pleasant drive. However, once you’re back on the Tan-Zam Highway, the road is far from relaxing with infinite trucks to negotiate and a strong police presence to keep you on edge.

We stopped over at the questionable Bwawani Lodge and Campsite as there wasn’t enough daylight to get to Kisolanza, which we stayed at the next night, before another long day to get to Utengule Coffee Lodge, just over an hour from the Zambian border.

Day 59-64: Utengule Coffee Lodge, near Mbeya

Long-term travel allows you the greater flexibility over your time. We had only planned on spending a night or two at Utengule Coffee Lodge, but ended up staying almost a week. This is a delightful lodge with beautifully manicured gardens, swimming pool with kids’ section, wonderfully accommodating staff and a grassy camping spot on their helipad. This gave us the perfect opportunity to recharge before heading across to Zambia.

Day 65: The Zambian border

It’s a 2 hour drive to the Zambian border at Tunduma. Get an early start on the day and prepare yourselves for a long wait at the border.

 

Tanzania itinerary with kids

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Where would we be without our trusted Lonely Planet? The Tanzania Lonely Planet guide was invaluable to our overland travel planning.

You may also like to read:
AFRICA OVERLAND Part 1: South Africa and Mozambique itinerary with kids
AFRICA OVERLAND Part 2: Malawi itinerary with kids
We’re off to Africa!

For more posts on Africa, head to our AFRICA page.

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