Are you ready to embark on an unforgettable journey into the heart of the African wilderness? Then get ready for an incredible experience as we dive into the top things you need to know about staying in tented safari camps.
Let me just tell you that as a non-camper, I was very happy with my decision to stay in a tented safari camp on my trip to the Serengeti in Tanzania. I’m here to share my firsthand knowledge and insider tips to make your tented safari camp experience a success and to answer your most burning questions. From the thrill of hearing hyenas laughing in the distance to falling asleep to the symphony of nature’s nocturnal creatures, there’s nothing quite like the charm and authenticity of these tented havens amidst the wild. So, let’s dive in and unveil the secrets that will ensure your stay is nothing short of extraordinary. Get ready for an adventure like no other!
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Before we dive into the top things to know about staying in tented safari camps, it’s important to note that every camp and experience is unique. What I’m about to share is based on my personal adventures and may not fully encompass the diverse range of safari camps out there. However, I hope that by sharing my own experience, I can give you a glimpse into the world of tented safari camps and help you prepare for your own incredible journey.
Types of Tented Safari Camps
The first thing to consider is what type of tented safari camp to choose. As you may imagine, there are varying levels of tented safari camps, ranging from basic camping to traditional tented safari camps to uber-luxury tented safari camps.
Camping: If you’re a budget-conscious traveler, basic camping is a great option. This is what people typically associate with traditional camping – think a small tent in the midst of the wilderness. While basic camping may lack the luxuries of other tented camps, it offers an immersive and authentic outdoor experience. You’ll be able to fully appreciate the sounds of nature, gaze at the star-filled sky, and bond with fellow campers. It’s a fantastic option for those seeking a closer connection with the wilderness while keeping costs in check. However, I am certainly not a camper so I steered clear of this option.
Tented Safari Camps: Tented safari camps can vary widely in amenities and range from basic (a step up from camping) to super luxurious. The differences are seen in the bathroom set up (shared vs. private), furnishings & décor, level of service, types of meals offered, etc. However, in general, you can think of tented safari camps as hotel rooms with canvas walls plopped down in the middle of an elephant’s habitat. We ended up leaning toward a more luxurious one because I was not down with shared bathrooms or cold showers. Even so, it was definitely a very rustic experience!
Mobile Migration Camp
You may have also heard the term mobile migration camp when looking into tented safari camps. Mobile migration camps in the Serengeti take glamping to a whole new level. These camps follow the footsteps of the Great Migration, ensuring you’re always at the front row of nature’s greatest spectacle. Just when you think the animals are done , the camp picks up and relocates, giving you a ringside seat for the next awe-inspiring act. In the Serengeti, the camps will typically be in the Southern Serengeti during the summer for calving season while in the winter the camps relocate to the Northern Serengeti to witness the Great Migration.
Inside a Tent
Tented camps may sound basic, but don’t let the canvas exterior fool you. These camps are designed to provide comfort and style. As you settle into your canvas abode, expect a blend of rustic charm and modern comforts. The spacious tents are thoughtfully furnished with comfortable beds, providing a cozy retreat after a day of safari adventures. You’ll have access to bathroom facilities (ours were private and located within our tent).
Wake up to the melodies of nature and step outside to witness the breathtaking landscapes and wildlife roaming freely nearby. In our case, we were located in the middle of the wildebeest migration. The tent had a screened-in porch complete with comfy chairs and tables so that you could enjoy a morning cup of tea while gazing out at the Serengeti.
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Bathrooms & Showers
The bathroom and shower situation will vary widely across tented safari camps. At our mobile migration camp, we had a private bathroom and shower located in our tent that was sectioned off from our main living room. The toilet looked like a traditional toilet, and I was very happy about that and did not investigate further how it worked.
The shower was an interesting setup. To get a hot shower, you would request that hot water be delivered to your tent. The camp employees would then heat up the water over a fire and put it in a giant, hanging container in the back of the tent. Once available, you’d pull the lever in the shower and voilà…hot water!
We had to keep our showers relatively short, but I had no trouble washing my long hair, as long as I used the water sparingly. You could also order more water, if needed, but we were fine sharing our hot water bucket between the two of us. Overall, I’d just recommend embracing the limited hot water supply as part of the safari experience!
Indulge in delectable cuisine prepared by talented chefs using fresh, local ingredients. Each night, we were treated to a delightful three-course meal that showcased the flavors of the region. We would start off with a delicious soup, crafted with locally sourced ingredients. The main courses offered a taste of traditional dishes and you cannot forget dessert to satisfy that sweet tooth!
As for breakfasts, they were a hearty affair, ensuring we had enough fuel to kickstart our adventurous days. And when it came to lunchtime, boxed meals prepared by the camp were the perfect solution, allowing us to maximize our time on safari without sacrificing a delicious lunch. We did come back to camp for lunch one day (and you had the option to each day), but we preferred to maximize our time on safari.
When it comes to electricity at tented safari camps, it’s important to remember that each experience can be quite different. In our camp, we had the convenience of lamps illuminating our bedrooms and an overhead light in the bathroom.
However, when it came to charging our essential gadgets, a strategic plan was in order. All the power plugs were located in the communal living room/bar tent, which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It meant that we could gather there after an exhilarating day on safari, enjoy a sundowner, and simultaneously recharge our phones and cameras. So no matter your camp’s organization, embrace the unique electricity setup and make it an integral part of your safari routine. I would recommend bringing extra camera batteries and an external battery to charge your phone…I ended up using them a few times overnight in my tent!
You are in the Wild
One of the most exhilarating aspects of staying in a tented safari camp is the raw and immersive experience of being in the wild. It’s important to remember that there are no enclosures separating you from the surrounding wilderness. As night falls, you may feel the gentle nudges and rustles against your tent, a reminder that you are sharing the land with the captivating wildlife. This actually happened on a few different occasions – we told ourselves it was friendly zebras just saying goodnight!
Waking up to the sight of wildebeest droppings scattered around camp is a testament to the close proximity of the animals. So, be prepared for unexpected encounters with the local residents, and make sure to zip up your tent to avoid any surprise visits from curious critters! And as you settle into your tent at night, be prepared for a symphony of sounds—the distant roars of lions, the snuffling of wildebeest, and the gentle calls of nighttime creatures. Embrace the harmony of nature and let the nocturnal orchestra serenade you to sleep.
When staying in tented safari camps, it’s important to be aware of the camp’s curfew policy. For our safety, we were instructed not to leave our tents without a guide to accompany us to the communal tent or the dining tent between sunset and sunrise. In our location in the Northern Serengeti, walkie-talkie communication was extremely spotty, which the guides seemed to attribute to the cloudy sky. Don’t ask me…I am definitely not a tech expert!
The good news was we had a super easy low-tech way to ask for an escort: flashing a flashlight twice towards the main tent. Once we did that, a guide would promptly escort us to the living room/bar tent or to our dinner spot. Safety is paramount, and these precautions ensure a secure and enjoyable experience in the wilderness.
Emergencies: What to Do
In the unlikely event of an emergency, remember that you are in the middle of nowhere. The best course of action is to seek help from a camp worker who can assist you. It’s highly recommended to consider travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuations. Though the chances are low, having this coverage provides peace of mind, knowing that you have a safety net should the unexpected occur.
Is it Safe?
Ah, the million-dollar question! Rest assured, staying in a tented safari camp should be very safe as long as you follow the guidelines set in place. These camps are well-prepared to keep you safe during your safari adventure. Experienced guides and camp staff are there to ensure your safety and provide valuable insights into the local wildlife. They know the do’s and don’ts, the lions’ preferred bedtime stories, and the hyenas’ favorite pranks. The camps also implement safety measures like the curfew I mentioned above to keep the guests safe.
When it comes to staying connected, it’s essential to set realistic expectations for Wi-Fi availability. While our camp technically offered Wi-Fi, it was often unreliable and spotty. Many safari camps provide limited internet access, allowing you to share your awe-inspiring moments with the world (and maybe make your friends a little jealous.) However, depending on the day and weather conditions, the ability to send a WhatsApp message or connect online was unpredictable. So, embrace the opportunity to disconnect and fully immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of the wilderness.
Some camps boast a well-stocked bar where you can enjoy a refreshing sundowner while exchanging stories with fellow adventurers. We definitely made friends with the bartender and my friends may have finished every single bottle of cabernet that the camp had in stock! And for those who want to unleash their competitive spirit, a game section is often available, providing opportunities for some friendly (or fierce) competition. So, get ready to relax and have a roaring good time in these tented safari camps.
Level of Service
One of the highlights of our tented safari camp experience was the exceptional level of service provided by the staff. From the moment we arrived, we were greeted with warm smiles and genuine hospitality. The entire team went above and beyond to ensure that our stay was comfortable and memorable. Whether it was offering helpful tips and suggestions, attending to our requests promptly, or simply engaging in friendly conversation at the bar in the evening, their kindness and attentiveness truly enhanced our safari adventure.
One particular gesture that stood out was being greeted with refreshing cold towels upon returning from our safaris. After a day of exploring the African wilderness, the cool towels allowed us to quickly clean up enough to feel like humans and not dust monsters! It’s those small touches of thoughtfulness that made us feel truly pampered and cared for during our stay.
For some more travel inspiration and information on safaris, check out some of the posts below!
Tanzania Itinerary: Tanzania 7 Day Itinerary
Safari Tips for First-Timers: 20 Top Things to Know Before Going on Your First Safari
Safari Photography Camera Settings: Best Camera Settings for Safari Photography
Safari Photography: 14 Outstanding African Safari Photography Tips
Safari Outfits: What to Wear on Safari for Women: 10 Cute Outfit Ideas
Tanzania: Kikuletwa Hot Springs: 14+ Things to Know Before You Go