There is an amazing range of safari accommodation, from camping in simple dome tents to extravagant tents or chalets of more than 1,000 square feet that include private plunge pools and a full range of luxury amenities. There is something for virtually every style and the level of accommodation is a big factor in the price of a safari. Location is paramount in our safari planning.
The following is a general overview of the types of accommodation.
For many being under canvas is the safari dream. We are huge fans of tented safaris because it increases your connection to the wilderness. With tents you can hear the sounds of the animals, breath the fresh air, and have a sense of the natural rhythm that is surrounding you. Basically you have a 24 hour safari experience when staying in a tent.
Some people worry that they have never been camping, or worse know they don’t like camping. Don’t let these worries eliminate staying under canvas until you have seen some of the choices. The vast majority of tented camps are fully serviced by attentive staff, provide gourmet meals, include drinks, have laundry service, and the tents are fully kitted out with real beds and all the other comforts needed. It is even common at many luxury camps to hear guests comment that this is nicer than my home.
The tented camp category is further classified below:
Permanent Tented Camp
These tented camps remain fixed in a location allowing them to be substantial operations. Tents are frequently on raised platforms, having hard wood floors with canvas walls. Bathrooms are en-suite with 24 hour running water for sinks, showers and flushing toilets. Central lounge areas are usually significant and many include swimming pools. Some permanent tented camps actually deliver ultimate luxury with private plunge pools, enormous living spaces, finest linens and so on.
This style of tent is the ultimate for people who want the connected to wilderness feeling but still enjoy lots of pampered luxury.
Seasonal Mobile Camp
Seasonal mobile camps deliver the classic safari. The camp is set up to stay in a location for a months at a time, but will move locations two or three times in a year. This allows the camp to adjust to the seasonal movements of wildlife ensuring the location is always outstanding.
Tents are usually set on the ground, but as the camp remains in place for months it can still be well kitted out with real beds, some furniture and en-suite bathroom. Because the locations are not permanent there is not usually true plumbing systems but ingenious hook ups with water storage tanks allow there to be running water in sinks and for flushing toilets. In order to provide hot showers a bucket shower (sometimes called a safari shower) is used. The staff heats the water and hoists a bucket about the tent, which then feeds by gravity into a private shower stall inside the tent. Most camps have a large canvas dining tent and smaller tented lounge area. Service and food can be on par with permanent tented camps.
These camps are ideal for people who place a high value on best location and appreciate rustic luxury.
The absolute original safari camp, a true mobile camp is moved between locations on the same safari. This requires a lighter weight and less furnished set up. On the high end there are private mobile camps where the tents are very close in level to a fine seasonal camp, with the ultimate privilege of having camps private for just your party. More commonly mobile safaris are used for lower cost safaris moving between locations using smaller dome tents which would be the most primitive form of accommodation.
On the high end of the scale a mobile camp is best for private parties who want an exclusive camp experience. These camps are also the best fit for those who want a lower cost option and enjoy an adventurous camping experience with minimal amenities.
Lodges are permanent structures, typically consisting of chalets/bungalows built with walls of mortar and glass. Many assume a lodge will be more luxurious then a tented camp but often this is not the case. There’s really two different kinds of lodges. The most common is hotelish type lodges. These lodges usually cost less than tented camps, are large properties with many accommodation units, and the accommodation has a hotel room feel. Food is sometimes buffet style. There are also luxury lodges that are more of a hard walled equivalent of a permanent tented camp. These will be smaller lodges with high levels of service and food.