The type of accommodation options on safari can be daunting to the first-timer. It is logical to assume that a safari camp will accommodate you in tents but nowadays these tented camps are mostly highly luxurious and far removed from our childhood memories of camping.
In most cases the style of accommodation is inexorably linked with the type of safari experience (although there are exceptions). The more substantial Safari Lodges, often with 24 hour electricity, internet, hairdryers and even air-conditioning are normally located outside of the national parks, or in South Africa where they have electricity pylons running through some of the reserves. The further into the wilderness you progress, the greater emphasis there is on the operators having a lighter footprint and you are more likely to encounter Safari Camps. Solar power and generators provide electricity, with battery power at night. Rooms are often described as “tented” but this description applies equally to a tent just large enough to fit two single beds up to a 1000 square foot marquis style tent full of palatial luxury, maybe even with a private plunge pool.
Bush Camps are traditionally much smaller satellite camps deeper in the wilderness and very often seasonal. They would historically be much simpler and more rustic than the main safari camp. However in recent years that has been changing as the safari industry has gone increasingly upmarket. Now many bush camps are highly luxurious, although still offer a more intimate safari experience.
A Mobile Tented or Fly Camp is very often the most basic accommodation option. Tents vary from meru style walk-in tents down to small dome tents. Some of the mobile safari operators we use still manage to offer an amazing degree of luxury and this can be a great option for a group or family travelling together to enjoy their own private safari experience. The smaller tents are used where guests are constantly on the move, for example on a canoe safari.
Often the highlight of a safari turns out to be the “sleep-outs” that we can often organize…from sleeping on a platform at a regular elephant crossing to an overnight under a mosquito net on a roll mat by the fire deep in the bush, these are the truly special experiences that really reconnect our guests with nature.
Bathroom facilities are often a key consideration for guests but these are normally en-suite with conventional toilets and showers, sometimes even baths. If you book a mobile safari then you will have a long-drop toilet (with raised seat) and bucket shower but again this is generally en-suite. Only the lower budget mobile safaris and the canoe safaris will have shared ablutions.
When planning an itinerary for our guests our first priority is always the safari experience. At the end of the day, this is what you are coming to Africa for. Prices reflect the time of year, the location, the size of the camp and the standard of the guiding more than the quality of the accommodation. You can pay considerably more for a remote bush camp with few facilities than you would for a 5 star lodge on the periphery of a national park. However in many of the parks or private reserves there are different accommodation options, but with a very similar safari experience. Then it comes down to personal preference (or budget).
Our advice is to be honest with yourselves and with us at the planning stage about what level of comfort you need. Don’t be embarrassed to tell us that you really need a hair dryer or air conditioning in your room (although we may still have a discussion about whether it really is vital!). There are many ways to experience a safari and it is important to find the right one for you. The safari experience itself will be taking you out of your comfort zone so it is important to make sure you are comfortable with your accommodation. Also take a moment to think about practical considerations – are all of the guests able to cope with steps (some of the camps are raised off the ground and have numerous steps to contend with), are you travelling with any medical equipment requiring a 24 hour power supply, such as a CPAP machine, are there any children (many camps have age restrictions)? It is far better to incorporate any special requirements at an early planning stage and ensure the accommodation and the experience are right for you.
Our aim is to ultimately arrange a trip of a lifetime. In order to get this right your input is vital. Basically the more you are able to tell us about your preferences the better we can advise you.