Whether you are heading to the wild savannahs of Africa, the white sand beaches of a remote South Pacific island, or a bustling market town in Southeast Asia, kids will love immersing in a new and foreign land! And, they can learn so much from the people and places they visit. Here are six things our kids learned on a recent trip to Zanzibar, an island off of Africa’s east coast.
1. Respectful Negotiation: Bargaining in markets helps kids learn social skills and it builds math skills!
Our kids love visiting markets and Zanzibar is packed with them. We wander down street after narrow street discovering colorful carpets, wood carvings, jewelry, shoes, textiles and more. The boys have a blast talking with locals, appreciating the crafts and negotiating a price. They learn some language and busy their minds converting from local currency to US dollar to see whether they are offered a fair price.
2. Kids will play together even if they don’t speak the same language
A lunch break at a beach restaurant in Zanzibar offers the chance to watch the boats and play on the beach. The kids find local kids to play with and have a blast jumping in the waves, playing in the sand and playing games they both seem to understand even though the local boys do not speak English.
3. Random Acts of Kindness spread love!
After playing with the boys for awhile, Seamus notices that most of them do not have shoes (both on the beach or in town). If they do have them, they have very thin rubber flip flops. Seamus has two pairs of tennis shoes on this trip, one that he is outgrowing. So, he asks if he can offer the boy he was playing with all day the shoes off his feet. The boy’s face lit up at this gift and Seamus felt empowered to make a difference in the world.
4. Persistence Pays Off
Beach sellers strolling by the cafe in which we were eating asked repetitively if we wanted to buy what they are hawking. Often times, they would ask a second or third time….sometimes fourth and fifth time on a new pass. Even though they were getting rejected, they kept a positive attitude, sure they would get that one sell. And they did! After seeing soccer jerseys over and over again from the same seller, we thought of some friends back home that would love them and the seller made his sale! The kids learned a valuable lesson: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! And his big smile and positive attitude is what made the sale.
5. Religious Tolerance: Meeting people from all different religions practicing within a few feet of each other helps kids see the similarities in religious beliefs and values, and to show respect for the other person’s beliefs.
In the afternoon, the Muslim call to prayer wafts through the streets and local men and boys wind their way towards the minaret. Nathan and Seamus follow along and are allowed to go in and watch the locals pray. It is quite an experience in cross-cultural understanding for these American boys to witness the dedicated prayer of a peaceful Muslim population.
6. Cross Cultural Understanding: Experiencing another culture by immersing really opens kids' eyes to the global community.
In the evening, after more market stops, we find a different cultural influence in Zanzibar through its Indian population. We meet Baboo, a local shop owner and activity expert, and have an appetizer at his ocean front cafe while the boys play in a park across the street – the locals teach them new exercises using jump ropes and leaping into the water. After that, we feast on scrumptious Indian food before returning to our beach paradise.
Getting To Zanzibar:
There is a ferry that runs from Dar Es Salaam, or a very short flight that provides amazing views over the Indian Ocean. And, flying on a small plane can feel like a great adventure, especially for kids. Sometimes they even let kids sit in the co-pilot seat! More information at Coastal Aviation.
Where to Stay:
We stayed at Protea Hotel Mbweni Ruins, which offered the best of two worlds: a beautiful palm-tree lined beach, but close to Stone Town where markets and sites await. We spent mornings perusing the markets and forts of Stone Town and afternoons kayaking through mangroves, watching women in colorful traditional dress scouring the tide pools for clams and crabs and playing a pick-up game of soccer with locals.
Getting Around East Africa:
Coastal Aviation works hand-in-hand with Safarilink out of Kenya making going on a family safari an easy, and fun, combination with a trip to Zanzibar. We flew from Zanzibar to Kilimanjaro airport where we picked up an onward flight on Safarilink to Masaai Mara Park in Kenya just in time for the wildebeest migration…highly recommended!
Another amazing place to experience family travel in Africa is South Africa where vibrant culture, recent history and amazing animal encounters await…especially on escorted family adventure tours to South Africa.
Before You Go:
Vaccinations: Be sure to update your routine vaccinations and check with the Center for Disease Control’s website for recommended vaccinations in the destination you are visiting.
Packing: In Africa, especially in the evenings, you want to cover up to prevent mosquito bites and the spread of malaria. Light cotton layering clothes, convertible pants (pants that can zip-off into shorts) are recommended.
Insurance: Be sure to get travel insurance in case of delays, re-routing or cancellations.
For more information on family travel in Africa, visit Travel With Kids.
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