Tanzania: From Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti to Zanzibar!

After our life-changing (and emotional) time in Rwanda, hopping on a plane to Tanzania felt like going on holiday.

A rough-n-tumble holiday.

From Kigali, we landed in the Kilimanjaro National Airport, managed to eventually get through all the passport, customs and health checks (when they see your passport almost completely filled to the brim with stamps, some take extra time analyzing/talking to you, we’re used to it)…

…and eventually made our way outside to our driver, thus beginning our stay starting in Arusha, then to Kilimanjaro, then over through the Ngorogoro Crater and over a week in the Serengeti on safari…

…before flying out on a tiny little plane with just our family to eventually end up in Zanzibar! (Also part of Tanzania technically, although some would argue it’s like visiting another country with its own history, customs and culture…)

Looking back even now, my heart and head would take me back to Rwanda. Tanzania is a completely different animal.

For starters, there‘s more corruption. You’re reminded of it multiple times daily as you drive along the rough dirt roads and dozens of white-clad Tanzanian police at the side of the road “stop” you under the pretense that you’ve done something wrong.

We drove past this little place several times in Arusha…I just loved that you could get “Dinna” here!

Under threat of a ticket, they rub their fingers together and ask for the famous phrase “a little something.”

Thankfully, we had some good laughs with one of our long-day drivers about this, because with him driving next to Matt (read: tall European-looking man) in the passenger seat, he said we looked like we could be a car carrying a political official so those road police often didn’t want to risk stopping us. There were too many others to stop.

The logic for many is that if you have a car—even an old crummy one—you have money to spare them.

On the GOOD side of Tanzania, we absolutely loved our time staying on an old coffee plantation…

…which had


playing in the giant trees, it was absolutely memorable.

You could just stand under a tree and watch them play or fight (hard to tell which sometimes, much like children!? 😉 ), or once I was walking around the paths of the plantation while on the phone with a friend and suddenly exclaimed to her, “Oh! A monkey just came out and is sitting in my path!”

Our daughters loved the huge trees and spent almost every moment there playing in them. Just like the monkeys…

I also enjoyed one of my favorite activities: TALKING TO PEOPLE THERE. I’m a neverending fount of questions for people I’m curious about. 😆

We learned loads about language, customs, history, different peoples’ lives, families, all the way to the longest conversation EVER with an older man who explained to me how his current name was one he chose for himself based on his religious beliefs, not the name his parents gave him. (Apparently this is common and, I think, quite lovely.)

We discussed generational issues, how things pass down and how they are stopped. He talked more than I did; listening is key. Many fascinating parallels with so many things…(just a peek at ONE reason I enjoy travel)

I like learning about people, especially when they’re different than me. Have different perspectives. All of it.

And I hope my daughters grow up with some of that curiosity too…

Speaking of daughters, my oldest and I did a ride one day through herds of zebras, wildebeests, digdi, kudu and too many I forgot the names of (but she could tell you!)…

Kilimanjaro with kids: a separate post I could write! Not for the faint of heart!😅

We hiked 2 days’ worth of Kilimanjaro. This is the tallest mountain in Africa. Kili is a tough hike for adults…so with kids, we decided we’d still like a taste of it then can come back one day with SUCH a good idea of what we’d all be doing!

Met SO MANY serious mountaineers coming down who stopped us, concerned we were going to top over the next 6 days with two little girls. 🙂 haha Next time!

There’s Kenya down there! (Kenya side of Kili)

Many of the other guides and people coming down were cheering the girls on as they climbed. These daughters of ours have hiked a LOT over the years but I still think Kili is their “least favorite” experience yet (insofar as it was the toughest, between everything, including the muddy trail which always adds difficult). They did great and I’m sure they’ll have rosy memories of it looking back :), glad their mean parents made them do it.

Just one of about 37 impressed looks our daughters got while doing this section of Kilimanjaro. (And yes, Matt carried the little one many times. Best daddy ever!)
I loved this bathroom sign for the female side!

Going through the last bits of civilization, you can enjoy the luxury of stopping alongside the road for snacks anytime…does your child fancy a banana? No problem!

And again, I always try to prepare other travel hopefuls to be aware that THIS type of toilet might be in their future (yes, even in Europe they have these! not just Africa and Asia!):

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Tanzania-Family-Travel-Ideas-What-To-Do-Toilet.jpg


Ngorogoro Crater…this place is UNREAL and deserves it own post entirely… Our guide called it The African Garden of Eden but you have to go down into it to see what he means…

What a rough childhood these two are having…

Sometimes when they complain, I’ve started playing the updated hip-hopped-up version of “It’s a Hard Knock Life” on my phone.

Parenting is 33% love, 33% limits, and 34% making yourself laugh in order to survive with your sense of humor intact.

Seeing the elephant families and herds was ALWAYS COOL. We saw a lot and I never got tired of it. (And I’m not a crazy animal person…I was doing this for my kids and the experience!)
Our first safari camp…

In our first safari camp, where we stayed for a few days, one afternoon we came back from safari, had a big lunch, and got back to our tents just in time for an


to roll in.

I was SO HAPPY! It was fantastic…maybe one of my top 20 travel memories of all time?

Serengeti clouds. Zero editing.

Thunderstorm in the Serengeti.

Another good memory is hearing lions outside your tent at night…

You get used to it, really. Happened at both our camps.

Honestly, it didn’t bother me at all. You don’t need to be afraid. Maybe I’m just a super trusting person but there are local guys on duty and I figure the lions don’t want to eat through canvas to get to me, they have a better system with other animals. Right? Right? 😂🤷‍♀️

If you’re thinking “Sheesh those lions look close!” you’re thinking right.
I do like giraffes. They’re so unique to watch when they walk and run…OK, I’ll come to the Serengeti for you, giraffes.
Yep, I probably win the award for taking the most pictures of cool-shaped trees instead of animals. Highly satisfying shapes! 🙂

It’s also super cool to wake up to zebras grazing outside your tent…

My youngest daughter had one goal: to see a cheetah up close in the wild. Day after day, it didn’t happen.

Our last day in “cheetah territory,” we prayed about it before she went to bed, and I did one of those childish “Please Lord, if you could work it out without too much trouble to the system, can you let her see a cheetah tomorrow?”

Well hello, lady. (This is about the closest we wanted to get.)

They hang out on rock so they have a good view…the only one we spotted the whole time, so we were very grateful for that one.🙏😅
Yawn…just another day waking up to zebras outside our zippered door.

Going back to the interesting names, it was in Tanzania we met people with probably THE more interesting names, such as Lightness (female at our Arusha stay), Honest (man on our first safari), and Goodlove (quite a young man working at the camp on our second safari who was so amazing with our daughters, you could tell he had sisters and missed them terribly out there in the middle of the Serengeti for months on end..).

Our second safari camp, set up near the border with Kenya.
Hello again, Kenya.

Speaking of our second safari camp, could this be one of the greatest compliments our family has received abroad?

The second night we were there, an American businessman from the south walked up next to his wife who was in conversation with Matt and me and, after a bit, threw back his head and laughed, saying: “I noticed your family at dinner last night…

“…I thought y’all were foreign!”

We all had a good laugh about that. (I found it funny on many levels.) His accent probably got me the most.

And I understood what he meant. We often get mistaken for other nationalities, maybe because of how we behave or dress or are just not what people think typical “Americans” look like in their imaginations. Our daughters aren’t always well-mannered at the dinner table, but that first night they were tired from being out in a jeep traveling across the Serengeti all day, and they were fairly subdued as they ate their dinner and chatted with the sweet and attentive Goodlove (see above if you skipped over his name)!

In Portugal, locals kept guessing we were “Italiano?”

And now this man watched us all talking and eating dinner for a couple hours and determined we were not an American family.😂

Maybe I’ll start messing with people and hinting that we’re spies. Something to think about…I’m always up for a little bonus entertainment…🤣

Waking up in the morning to an elephant herd down the slope from our tent…

One of my daughters’ favorite memories is when this pack of about 16 lions walked past our jeep.

I have a video of them going past my semi-open window…I could have literally just reached out and pet some wild lions.

Unfortunately, that’s frowned upon. Go figure.

If you think I have too many pictures of animals and beautiful scenery, I must let you in on a little secret…

…I have thousands more. I just grabbed a “few” for this post…

NOW I could tell you a long story about 40 safari jeeps all waiting at the river for 12+ hours for the famous wildebeests crossing, and they could all take professional photos of it, but we quickly ditched that idea of joining and went out cruising around for other animals, coming back just in time to see it…but I’ll let all your animal fanatics enjoy.

One of you will have to explain to me why seeing the wildebeest crossing is worth waiting in a jeep for 12 hours to see. Someone tried telling me back at camp but we were just not convinced.😆

I’d rather sit and enjoy this view from camp with my husband, while a wonderful man brought us drinks…

The older I get (or maybe it’s the more I travel with two children under eight), the more we like to roll like this:

Speaking of how we be rollin’…😂

Half kidding. We paid for a normal flight out of the Kegotende airstrip, but for some reason they put us on our own private little plane…

“It’s a hard knock life…” for these kiddos. They’re going to have a rude awakening when they start traveling themselves one day.😂


Goodbye Serengeti…

…next landing in…

What a treat to actually get to see the Ngorogoro Crater from the air on our way from Arusha-Zanzibar.


Driving to the little house we were renting on the beach from a woman…

After all those weeks full of safari jeeps, rough roads, Kilimanjaro hiking, and too much to recount here to you (it would take a book), we arrive to THIS:

Our landlord was THE LOVELIEST LADY and let us “borrow” her own personal chef every day to cook our meals. (He asked us to pay him $25 per day for this, plus food costs, which he’d pick up on his motorcycle from the local roadside shops and fishermen on his way in every day…)

I mean, we love to cook but

a native Zanzibarian chef for a week?

Making us all the local favorites (sometimes we’d ask him to repeat a favorite)…

…why on EARTH would we cook ourselves?!?

Our three favorite Zanzibar dishes of his:

  • Pilau rice with cinnamon, clove and cardamom
  • Fried polenta with prawns/chicken/fresh fish
  • Fresh blended juices with avocado, ginger, mango & pineapple (and of course bananas)

This was our breakfast every morning, along with a kind of Spanish-tortilla-esque dish he’d make. We’d sit out here at that table to the left, with our feet in the sand…

Every day we’d go swim in the warm sea as a family (plus it’s the only way the incessant barrage of vendors don’t harass you).

Our girls are officially spoiled by the Indian Ocean and now think every ocean should be “as warm as Zanzibar!”

Then we’d enjoy the evening view…different every night…

But it had to end sometime, and after a week that felt like two…

…we left Zanzibar for our next destination!

For the full list of our destinations, see our Adventure page!

And yes, we’re still working remotely while we travel, and encourage everyone to find the Plan and/or Design Guide that will help FREE you up and help make your life WHATEVER you want it to be! 🙂 Get your space together and you’ll create more time and energy and space for yourself…we’re living proof of that!

(You don’t have to travel the world if that’s not your thing, but you can do the things YOU love to do! 🙂 )

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