The African Luxury Camping Safari Experience is a growing business in East Africa, and having recently visited various luxury camps in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, I can quite see why. Many of the high end camps offer uncompromising quality, and of course the wildlife also know how to put on a good show! Below are some of the important considerations to bear in mind and what you can expect if you embark on a luxury African camping safari.
I was extremely impressed by the standard of the high end safari camps and the attention to detail. They are usually comprised of around 8-10 tents and a couple of communal tents usually including a lounge area and dining area. I say tents…this is glamping at its very best! They are extremely spacious and often furnished as you might expect a hotel! Sofas, book-cases, coffee tables as well as framed art adorning the communal tents (and this is just the temporary camps!)
You will not be expected to sacrifice many (or any) of your creature comforts: flush toilets, warm running water (solar powered), a choice of outdoor AND indoor shower in some tents, wifi and charging station in the communal areas, a lounge area, cosy bed linen and maybe even a hot water bottle waiting for you in your turned down bed after an extremely sumptuous dinner.
Having said that, you will not feel removed from the wilderness. Many of the camps within the park are un-fenced so you are truly sharing the place with the rest of the wildlife. My toilet and outdoor shower in my eastern Serengeti abode had quite a view over a herd of Topi and uncountable species of bird (or perhaps they had quite a view of me..!) One night a pride of 6 male and approximately 5 female lions brought down a buffalo close to the staff quarters in the early hours of the morning causing quite a stir but also some amazing early morning snaps!
Safety is of course taken extremely seriously. In your tents you are safe and the standard routine is to have an escort to and from tents at all times after dark. I was escorted by a Maasai with a spear one evening. All tents have radios to use and horns should there be an emergency. The attitude is to respect the wildlife around. This is of course their habitat, not ours. Do that, and it will give back so much in return!
As this is the great outdoors, albeit in pampered comfort, another thing to take into account is the terrain. If you have mobility issues, discuss this carefully with your tour operator and the camps and lodges. They can ensure that you are placed in the most accessible tents or rooms, or advise you on the setting and terrains of their places. Some camps are set up on the rocks, which means they offer the type of views which no camera in the world can do justice, but it also means steps and rocky pathways.
Most camps have family tents (some wonderful ones actually) but one or two of the camps operate age limits so do check this prior to booking. I found most to be quite flexible on this but an age limit of 7 can be the norm in some areas.
One of my favourite elements of many luxury safari camps was the communal experience. As the sun sets, a fire is lit and sometimes a drinks cart wheeled over. Staff at some luxury safari camps will encourage you to come and enjoy the “bush television”. Certainly one of my favourite channels! Here and at the communal dinner table you can meet the other guests and exchange safari stories from the day. However, it is not compulsory, many camps will put on this type of dining only if favourable to the present guests. So if it is not your thing, you will find it not a problem. But personally I would advise you to embrace it!
Food is generally of a high standard. Ensure to let them know prior to arrival of any dietary requirements. Camps will put on lunch or provide you with packed lunch or even breakfast if you are going out on an early morning game drive. I experienced an extremely high standard of service in these camps. Your water glass will always remain topped up (and perhaps more importantly, your wine glass!)
No two places I visited were the same. Even those managed by the same company. The landscape of the Serengeti, and indeed many of the parks, changes so dramatically and spectacularly and many of the camps nestle themselves within their environments well and have a special unique-ness to them. It is advisable to spend two nights or so in a camp to truly relax and get the most out of it, but do move around and experience the variety. There is much of it on offer!
And last but not least, book in advance. I am more often than not a last minute kind of girl having done most of my former traveling out of a tatty backpack. But having spoken to many camps and lodges, bookings are looking quite healthy for next year…so to get your place on a luxury safari of a life-time, try to plan a little ahead to secure the best of those top end camps and lodges.
Therefore, there is much to enjoy from a luxury African camping safari experience. I was thoroughly treated like a queen whilst simultaneously feeling that I got to really witness the true wilderness. An unforgettable experience!
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