What does it all mean?
Adventure camping, glamping, designated, wild and mobile camping, seasonal & permanent camps, participation, non participation, full participation….these are just some terms bandied around in the brochures and on the websites of safari companies BUT….what does it all mean?
And how can you make sure you choose the right safari for your travel preferences and budget?
So how about I help to cut through the jargon…
I got bitten by the African Safari bug a long time ago and I’m excited to to heading back again in 3 weeks – this time to Zimbabwe. I always hope travellers get bitten by the same bug and decide to go again, but the reality it that for many, a safari in Southern or East Africa is a once in a lifetime journey – so you want to get it right!
SIn this post I am going to demystify safari camping jargon.
This is what I like to call ‘camping camping’ You sleep in specially designed dome tents, with built in insect screens. They are usually around 2.2 x 2.2 x 1.8m in size, so roomy enough for two people and a bag each. Normally you would expect to sleep on a foam sleeping mat that is supplied by your safari operator but often you are expected to bring your own sleeping bag (or you can hire one) and travel pillow. A sleeping bag liner is advisable – keeps you bag in better nick, they wash and dry quickly and you can shake out the sand!
If you’ve camped at home and enjoyed it, there is no reason why you would not enjoy adventure camping. Which leads us on to campsites….
A domed Adventure Tent. They are spacious and comfortably sleep 2 people. Built in inset nets keep the bugs away. I wild camped in the Okavango Delta, Moremi, Savuti and Chobe a couple of years ago. It was a an amazing experience to feel part of the African wilderness rather than just a casual observer.
Designated versus Wild Campsites
On most adventure camping safaris you will find yourself sleeping in adventure tents, but staying within the confines of a Designated Camping Site/Ground. Some lodges offer multiple grades of accommodation. So where you are staying may have everything from chalets to permanent tents on platforms as well as areas for adventure tents to be pitched. The facilities vary greatly – from the very swish to rustic. You can always expect flushing toilets and showers. Showers may be solar heated and hot water could be erratic. Often there will be a restaurant/bar and swimming pool on site.
Mobile camping in Tanzania. Simple yet comfortable accommodation in the bush with your own ensuite chemical toilet. This style of mobile camping costs more $$$ than mobile adventure camping. A private 7 day mobile camping safari in Tanzania for 4 people will cost around the NZ$5600 per person twin share mark. If there was only two of you the price will jump to around NZ$8700 per person – so it is definitely better to convince some family or friends to come with you!
More and more the term ‘mobile camping’ refers to larger tents that come complete with stretcher beds, linen and at a minimum an ensuite chemical toilet. While you are on game drives or do other activities, the whole site is moved ahead by the camp staff and erected. Normally you will have a camp cook who will prepare all your meals and camp staff for all those other duties from washing dishes to stoking the camp fire. Showers will either be an ensuite bucket style shower with water heated on the fire or a bucket shower tent that is shared by all the guests.
National Parks versus Concessions
Before we move on to the next group of under canvas safari options it is good to get a handle on the difference between a Private Concession and the National Parks.
National Parks and some game reserves (think Moremi in Botswana) are open to the public and governed by strict rules. The first and most obvious rule is that you have to stay on the road. While night drives and walking safaris are either restricted or not permitted. This doesn’t mean that wildlife sightings are lessened – public areas are often in some of the best wildlife areas and safaris that concentrate on the public areas of parks tend to be more affordable.
While your campsite or lodge may be in a secluded spot you will notice that things are not so private when you head out on game drives. Especially during the peak months there could be many vehicles jostling for the best vantage point at a sighting. During these times expect traffic in popular areas of Kruger National Park (South Africa), Chobe National Park (Botswana) and the Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania).
Private Concession Areas are off limits to the public and are reserved for the guests of the camps or lodges that are located in those concessions. There are less vehicles and the rules are more relaxed so you can head off road and night drives are permitted in some areas. Concessions are usually adjacent to a National Park, and as animals move freely between the National Park and Private Concession areas there is no limit to the animals you can see. The number of vehicles allowed at a wildlife sighting are normally limited to 2-3. However, this does come at a cost and camps and lodges located on private concessions charge a premium. There also may be additional cost to access the area – for instance many of the camps and lodges in the Okavango Delta can only be accessed by light plane.
Hyena Pan Bush Lodge is a permanent camp located on a private concession in the Khwai Area just north of the Moremi Gate. You can stay here on the Botswana Wild Parks and Botswana Boababs safaris run by Sunway Safaris. Hyena Pan is a comfortable tented camp and a reasonable price when compared to some of the luxury options available. A 14 day Botswana Wild Parks Safari will set you back NZ$3990 per person twin share + a local payment of US$300 per person – accommodation is at the 2-3 star level and based on limited participation. On the Botswana Baobabs you fly into Hyena Pan from Maun and is a mix of permanent tented camps, mobile glamping and lodge accommodation at the 3-4 star level. It costs NZ$5260 per person twin share and no participation is needed.
Seasonal Camps versus Permanent Camps
Seasonal Camps are semi-permanent and are erected in a particular area for a number of months before being packed up and then erected somewhere else for a period of time. Seasonal camps are often found in Tanzania and move seasonally with the movements of wildlife. The tents are often much larger than the tents used for mobile camps and can be simply yet comfortably appointed or they could be rather luxurious.
Permanent Camps are just what their name suggests permanent. Essentially they are lodges that consist of permanent tents and can be modest to luxurious with all the bells and whistles with fine furnishings and your own personal butler.
So there you have it a bit of breakdown of the different ways to experience Africa “Under Canvas”.
So what are your thoughts on camping in Africa? If you have camped in Africa, what style of camping did you choose or if you would like to go, what would your preferred option be?
Note all prices in this post are based on current 2016 rates at at 04 August 2015.