Safari tents – Tented lodges or Camping – Everything you need to know before your safari!
Have you ever imagined falling asleep to the sounds of lions and elephants? Wondered what it was like to spend the night in a tent, with only the canvas wall between you and the Serengeti plains? Or have you just started planning your first African safari and are wondering if these tents are safe at all. Then this article is for you!
Expert tip: Absolutely DO stay in a tented camp
Shadows’s number one tip for an unforgettable safari is: Spend at least one night in a tented camp during your trip! There is nothing so uniquely African as spending the night in a tented camp. It is a memory that will certainly stay with you. Unlike in a brick and mortar lodge – you get to smell, hear and feel the wilderness: there is simply nothing quite like it!
One thing to understand and keep in mind is that there are no fences. So yes, the animals might actually wander straight into camp and if you are lucky even straight up to your tent. This of course requires some basic safety measurements. After dark, you will be walked to your tent by an askari – watchman. And if you need to leave your tent after dark there will be a walkie-talkie or whistle provided inside the tent. If you are planning to travel with kids – you need to be aware that kids cannot wander the campsite alone and should be watched at all times. Upon arrival, the camp team will always give you a safety briefing. Having said all this: serious incidents are extremely rare. So if you follow the basic safety instructions it is perfectly safe to stay in a tented camp/lodge.
Roughing it or Luxury?
Some people imagine a very basic tent, cold showers, and a true back-to-basics experience. Others envision outdoor showers, lush surroundings, and a once-in-a-lifetime cushy experience. The funny thing is: it could be either or all of the above! One thing all of these accommodation types have in common is that they offer a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
To make things confusing there are three types of “tented” accommodations possible during your safari in Tanzania. When organizing your safari it is important to understand the lingo, so you know what you are in for. Something else to keep in mind is that it is NOT all in the name. There are many distinct mid-range camps using the term “luxury”, whereas the uber-luxury properties like to call themselves things like “barefoot” and “rustic”. But, we’re here to help to untangle any confusion that might occur!
Types of Safari tents
Luxury Safari Tented camp
The best way to look at these is basically to see them as hotel rooms – but with canvas walls. You will find a fully comfortable bed, a shower, and a flush toilet all within canvas walls. These tented camps come in basic/budget versions and uber-luxury versions – with everything in-between. The main difference will be in the quality of amenities, furnishing, and location. The more basic camps will have hot water bucket showers, perhaps limited or no WIFI, and simple, yet tasty menus. The luxury versions will have spacious showers with running water, serve eggs benedict for breakfast, and beat out any hotel room for comfort.
A lot of the tented camps in the Serengeti are migration camps. This means the camps move depending on the location of the Great migration. For most camps this means they move twice a year. From December till March – you can find the camp in the South/Ndutu area of the Serengeti. From July till November, you can find the same tents & team in the Mara/Kogatende area in North Serengeti. The luxury camps sometimes move up to 5 times – to give their guests the best possible chance of seeing the migration.
Typical Tented camp
Right in the nature
Luxury Safari Tented lodge
The difference between a luxury tented camp and a luxury tented lodge is mainly in the flooring. Whereas the tented camps are more mobile, the tented lodges are more permanent. They usually have flooring or are raised on stilts. The walls are still canvas – but this is where you will find the more plushy luxury experience.
There are some really unique experiences to be lived in this category. The outside bathtub in Mpingo Ridge is unforgettable, for example. And although often more luxurious: you are still only separated by thin canvas walls from all the wildlife action. You are – like in a classic tented camp – still right in the middle of nature.
A typical Tented lodge
Bathroom Tented lodge
Bedroom Tented lodge
This option is great for budget-conscious travelers and adventures. Basic camping is what in Europe and America is meant by “camping”. You sleep in a small dome tent with a maximum of two people. If you book this with a tour operator the tent will be set up for you. Most companies provide field beds. It is very common for a cook to accompany you and prepare tasty fresh meals for you.
With basic camping, there are two options of campsites in Tanzania: inside and outside the parks. The campsites inside the national parks are managed by Tanapa. They offer shared showers – cold water only – and shared bathrooms. If you are lucky you have a private or almost private stay. But these campsites are meant to be shared and cannot be reserved privately. So, if you are traveling in high-season in popular parks like Serengeti, you are almost sure that you will find other travelers. Sometimes even big groups of 20 to 30 people in overlanders. The campsites are not fenced so just like in tented camps you will get wildlife right up to your tent.
Tanzania also offers a limited but often quite nice range of campsites outside the national parks. My favorite being Migombani camp. With a pool, hot showers, and views that are better than those from the luxury properties down the road: this place is a steal.
Campsites can have great facilities
Safari Tented camps in the Serengeti start at around $100 to $120 per person full board and go up to $1200 per person per night. A nice midrange camp will be between $150 and $200 per person per night.
Tented lodges in the Serengeti range from around $300 to $1500 per person full board.
In general, accommodation in Africa does come with a larger price tag than you will find in for example Asia. A big part of this is the park fees. You will find most of the tented camps inside a national park. This means that, besides paying the actual accommodation, you will also need to pay concession fees. This is a fee that is on top of the entrance fee. For the Serengeti, the current price is $71 per person per night.
So to get the cost of a day + night on safari in a National Park you should count as follows:
- Accommodation fee
- 24 hour Park entrance fee
- Concession fee
If you would be looking at a budget Tented camp at $150 per person per night the sum would look like this:
- $150 pp accommodation fee
- $82 entrance fee Serengeti
- $71 concession fee
Total: $303 per person per night.
This does not include a guide and a car – or your transit fees in Ngorongoro, necessary to reach the Serengeti.
This is where & how you can save quite a bit when opting for public camping. The camping fee is $30 per person per night and you are exempt from concession fees.
The sum then looks like this:
- $60 meals/gear
- $82 entrance fee Serengeti
- $36 camping fee Serengeti
Total: $181 per person per night.
A tent for everyone!
So, in short: there is a tented camp out there for everyone! With a wide range of different options, there is a fit for everyone’s taste and budget. Shadows Safari experts are ready to help you find the perfect tent for you!