Types of Africa Safari Camps

Tented Safari Camps & Safari Lodges

Safari travel offers an amazing range of accommodation options, from camping in a simple dome safari tent to staying in large, extravagant suites that include private plunge pools and a full range of luxury amenities. There is something for virtually every style.

The level of accommodation is a major factor in the price of your African safari, with the other main factor being the strategic location that the camp offers. Location is paramount in our safari planning, as we strive to get you in the right place at the right time of year for the wildlife you want to see.

The following is a general overview of the accommodation options available while on safari.

Tented Safaris

What is a Tented Safari?

Tented safaris are as you would expect – lodging within a tent – but the options for tented accommodation vary widely – all the way from budget to luxury tent options.

Tented Safaris are generally located close to great scenic areas with abundant grazing for wildlife – and sometimes near water sources such as rivers or lakes where animals congregate during the day. They offer a great opportunity to view wild game up-close without having to venture far into the bush. Tents are sometimes along the river bank or lake shoreline depending upon availability. Many tented safari camps even have their own swimming pool – or plunge pool – which provides additional comfort when it’s hot outside.

Advantages of Tented Safari Camps​

For many, staying under canvas is the safari dream. We are huge fans of tented safari camps because it increases your connection to the wilderness. With tents, you can hear the sounds of the animals, breathe the fresh air, and immerse in the natural rhythm surrounding you. Basically, you have a 24 hour safari experience when staying in a tent.

In many cases, you may also have the opportunity for additional adventure opportunities.  As an example, some of the private concessions adjacent to the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya offer night drives.  These after sunset game drives offer an outstanding opportunity to view wildlife behavior in a way that many safari goers never get the chance to experience.

Not Exactly Roughing It

Never been camping or do not like camping? Do not let these worries eliminate staying under canvas until you have seen some of the choices. Forget the bed roll and long drop loo, the vast majority of tented camps are fully serviced by attentive staff, provide gourmet meals, include drinks, and have laundry service. The tents are fully kitted out with real beds and all the other comforts needed. At many luxury camps, it is common to hear guests comment, “The space is nicer than my home!”

The tented camp categories are further classified below.

Permanent Tented Camp

Amanzi Camp
Amanzi Camp, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia.

A permanent tented camp is usually a high-end luxury tented safari camp. remain fixed in a location that allows them to offer robust operations. They frequently feature a luxury safari tent situated on elevated platforms with hardwood floors and canvas walls. Bathrooms are en-suite with 24-hour running water for sinks, showers, and flushing toilets. Central lounge areas are usually substantial and many include swimming pools. A permanent luxury tented camp can deliver an unforgettable experience with a private plunge pool, butler service, enormous living spaces, the finest linens, and so on.

A permanent tented safari camp is often found near a watering hole or spring, allowing easy access to abundant wildlife. These camps also tend to be more remote, which – while offering great game viewing – can in some cases offer less opportunities for interaction with local communities.

A luxury safari tented camp like this is the top choice for people who want to feel connected to the wilderness but still enjoy lots of pampered luxury.

Seasonal Camp

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Seasonal mobile safari camps deliver the classic safari experience.  These tented safari camps are assembled to remain in a single location for months at a time and will move locations two or three times a year. This allows the camp to follow the seasonal movements of wildlife and ensure the location is always outstanding. If you’re looking to have great access to the wildebeest migration in East Africa, a seasonal mobile tented camp is a great choice.

In some regions, mobile tented camps actually only operate for part of the year depending on seasonal game viewing opportunities.  As an example,  these camps may be open throughout the dry season or they might operate exclusively between May and October.

Tents are usually set on the ground, and as the camp remains in place for months it can still be well kitted out with real beds, some furniture, and an en-suite bathroom. Because the locations are not permanent, ingenious temporary plumbing systems with water storage tanks provide tents with 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 above the tent, which then feeds by gravity into a private shower stall inside the tent. Most camps have a large canvas dining tent and a 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 having access to the best locations, who plan to spend the majority of their time out exploring, and who appreciate comfort without the need for extra luxuries.

 

Mobile Tented Safari Camp

Letaka Safaris Mobile Camp
Letaka Safaris Mobile Camp in Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana.

The original safari camp, a true mobile camp, is moved between locations on a safari itinerary. This requires a lighter weight and less furnished setup. These camps tend to be more rustic and basic, offering little luxury. They do however allow you to get off the beaten track and explore new places.

This type of mobile camp is common for lower-cost mobile safaris, using smaller tents that may or may not be en-suite. Dome tents with a cot or bed roll and shared bathroom facilities are the most primitive form of accommodation used. Some kits provide en-suite bathrooms with either pit toilets or chemical toilets. There are some high-end private mobile camps that offer the seasonal camp accommodation level, providing the ultimate privilege of an exclusive experience with a private camp for just your party.

Mobile camps are the best fit for those who want a lower-cost option and enjoy an adventurous camping experience with minimal amenities. It is also important to understand that the mobile camps are operating in national parks and game reserves, which means they are usually limited to daytime, on-road game driving only. The campsite locations, safari access, activity variety, vehicle quality, and number of guests in a vehicle are the major considerations when comparing options for experiential value.

Lodges

Virunga Lodge, Rwanda
Virunga Lodge overlooks Rwanda's Ruhondo and Bulera Lakes.

A Safari lodge is a permanent structure with a heavier build than canvas tented camps. They typically consist of chalets or bungalows with walls of mortar and glass, however the variety ranges widely across the continent, from thatched rondavels to contemporary architectural statements.

An upper-end safari lodge may have their own kitchen, dining room, lounge area, bar, pool, spa, gymnasium, laundry service, internet connection, satellite TV, and other services. Lodges are available throughout Africa, ranging from small boutique hotels to large resort complexes.

Not all lodges offer peak luxury. Many assume a safari lodge will be more luxurious than a tented safari camp, but this is not always the case. It is also a misconception that they are safer than tented camps, however lodges can offer a buffer from the outdoors, which puts some travelers at ease. Some lodges offer a hotel-style experience, which usually costs less than tented camps, since they are larger properties with many accommodation units. Rooms offer a standardized hotel feel and layout, and food is usually buffet-style. Advantages generally are location and price to help stretch the budget. They also can offer flexibility for family groups with interleading rooms for parents with children.

Boutique-style lodges offer an equally intimate safari experience as tented camps. Rooms are often spread out across expansive grounds where activities can vary beyond wildlife safaris, such as coffee plantation tours, cultural outings, yoga, swimming pools, etc.

Are Tented Safari Camps Safe?​

Tented safari camps and lodges are extremely safe places to stay if you follow basic safety precautions and listen to your tour operators and local experts.

Always use reputable tour operators and guides

Your safari planner should make sure that you are on safari in an area that is known for being safe.  Your planner should be very familiar with your guides and camp personnel.  The Wild Source prides itself on providing safari guide biographies to our safari travelers when available.

Be Aware of the Camp Rules

The camp operator will have a discussion about the rules of the camp upon your arrival.  You’ll want to pay close attention to these rules as your safety depends on following those rules.

In many tented safari camps you are not permitted to leave your tent at night without the assistance of your guide. Safari camps offer great game viewing opportunities – which means those same wild animals are near the camp – and sometimes traverse through the camp.

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