‘Glamping’, that is, luxury tented camping out in the wilderness, allows the best of all worlds. One has the exclusivity of ones own camp away from the rest of the world in almost any location according to ones interests, with all the luxuries and comforts of a top-notch establishment.
For some people, the idea of camping is a little ‘out there’, incongruous, uncomfortable, and definitely not to be repeated! A self-imposed hell of sorts. Mention the word Africa, and the idea of camping out on safari with lion and leopard surrounding you is enough to send many people running for the hills (if there were any!) For others, it embodies freedom, space and adventure. But with the advent of ‘glamping’, it suddenly allows both schools of thought to merge!
For me, the true essence of glamping means a luxury private mobile camp set up in the best wildlife areas. But with the vast range of offerings available for top-end African safaris, ‘glamping’ has now come to encompass various styles of vacation:
The most authentic, private luxury mobile camping can be taken in Kenya, Tanzania both north or south, Chad, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is also wonderful to explore the deserts in Morocco and Oman this way! Below I’ve included some of my top mobile and fixed glamping options in Africa. Each camp is amazing and the best of its kind in the region, so I won’t duplicate information on how incredible and fantastic they all are, but rather talk about why you would go to those areas!
Singita Explore, Serengeti, Tanzania: Incredible wildlife with its own resident species that can be found here year round.
Machaba Tented camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana: Beautiful tented camp in a game rich area with lovely views over a waterway. It is also pioneering in its green approach too!
The Highlands Camp, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania: An amazing, funky fixed camp, this is my pick for the Ngorongoro Crater, one of the finest wildlife areas in the country! One can take great walks to other craters such as Empakaai to see the flamingos, or to Ol Moti. Good combination of wildlife and culture.
Mila Tented Camp, Serengeti, Tanzania: Incredible private tented camp in the Serengeti – perfect for the wildebeest migration which takes place from end December through to March. Privacy, exclusivity and flexibility!
Abu Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana: One of the prettiest parts of the Okavango Delta, their USP is the Abu elephant herd of rescued and re-released elephants which you can see at close quarters and learn about.
Camp Warda, Ennedi, Chad: This incredible white camp set in the most breathtaking area of the Sahara desert. Explore this pristine area devoid of all tourism with unique geology and landscapes, and watch nomadic Berber tribes with their camel trains passing through the desert.
Mountain View Suite by Wolwedans, Namib Desert, Namibia: Just “wow”! Wolwedans is a private conservancy at the southern end of the Namib Desert, and this suite is a standalone private suite, set over 200m sq on deck rising above the dunes. Think of changing hues on the sand dunes at dawn and dusk, of desert adapted species and hot air ballooning. A real must!
Angama Safari Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya: Exclusive-use tented camp with all the accoutrements of its parent five-star lodge. Amazing game viewing in this park, renowned to be the finest on the African continent for wildlife viewings by vehicle. Incredible service and cuisine too.
Selinda Explore, Linyanti, Botswana: This is a pioneer style camp, with flavours of the Ottoman empire, Persian rugs and cushions, campaign style furniture. Beautiful, small, personal in a magical location on the waterway. Fabulous wildlife area and great walking and boating too.
Chikwenya Camp, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe: One of my perennial favourites in the most beautiful region ever - most definitely one of the top five most beautiful areas on the African continent. It has amazing concentrations of wildlife and is great for game viewing by vehicle as well as on foot and by canoe as well which makes it unique! World class guiding, too.
Jacks Camp, Kalahari Desert, Botswana: My favourite, chic, Bedouin style camp on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana. Quad biking, sleeping out beneath the stars, up close and personal with meerkats, desert dwelling animals, San or Bushmen people are top experiences here. Such a fabulous contrast when combined with the Okavango Delta.
Chisa Lodge, Busanga Plains, Zambia: Another of our favourite areas – a mini Serengeti in Zambia! Fabulous birdlife, good wildlife viewings and the most spectacular views. One of the greenest camps of all!
Camp Nomade, Zakouma National Park, Chad: It doesn’t get better than this! Zakouma is my favourite National Park of all time on the African continent! Incredible wildlife, pristine, with the camp being exclusive use only. Listen to the lions roaring at night and revel in the fact that your stay is seriously making a difference to conservation of a key wilderness in Central Africa.
Chinzombo Camp, South Luangwa, Zambia: Incredible, five star tented camp in a hugely wildlife rich region, with the greatest concentration of leopard. Overlooks the river and benefits from incredible guiding.
Naboisho Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya: The best camp in the Masai Mara, in a private concession renowned for its populations of lion, leopard and cheetah. Set in this beautiful, game rich region, the best on the African continent.
Little Chem Chem, Tarangire/Lake Manyara region, Tanzania: Exquisite tented villas with incredible views overlooking the lake. Fabulous for walking at the start or end of a safari, there is a gym and they serve international-standard cuisine for any serious foodies! Chic and sophisticated.
Elephant Watch Camp, Samburu, Kenya: For those who are keen on conservation and elephants, this is the camp to visit! Owned by the legendary Douglas-Hamilton family, here one can visit their Foundation, Save The Elephants. It is a simple, rustic camp which blends in perfectly with its surroundings. There are lovely views over the river bed and one can spot fabulous wildlife in Samburu National Park, especially elephant but carnivores too. Amazing food that is all home grown on their farm.
Kalepo Camp, Matthews Mountains, Kenya: An incredible private camp in the most perfect style, and owner managed. One can have wonderful cultural experiences here, certainly one of the best in Kenya, and fabulous walking. This is the perfect place to come and relax before or after a safari with amazing company and incredible food.
Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia: An incredible area renowned for its desert dwelling elephant and desert dwelling rhino. Beautiful camp that blends in with its pale, desert surroundings.
Cottars 1920’s Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya: Located on a private concession adjoining the Mara, this is such a fabulous camp owned by a third generation Kenyan, and owner-managed which makes such a difference. They do so much for the local community and conservation, so relax, knowing that you are in a magnificent, chic camp, but also, which gives back hugely to the local community. One of the top wildlife areas on the African continent.
Kichaka Expeditions, Ruaha National Park, Tanzania: This is a real gem, owner managed and run by one of Tanzania’s top walking guides, Moli. The fixed camp is a lovely, tasteful and cosy base from which to walk daily to see one of the most game rich regions in southern Tanzania. Once can also embark upon a more expeditionary walking safari sleeping overnight in a mobile camp. This park is almost untouched by tourism, yet has 10% of the entire lion population on the African continent. Everyone should come here!
With more and more people valuing privacy, exclusivity and flexibility, glamping or luxury camping provides the perfect answer! It is equally good for couples or families or groups of friends alike.
Space, flexibility, no crowds, incredible pristine experiences and adventure juxtaposes with, in the most luxurious of cases, Oriental carpets and floor cushions, Moroccan style lanterns, silver candelabra, sheets made from Egyptian cotton, buffed leather bedside tables and writing tables, cashmere throws, magnificent cuisine created miraculously from a fire pit in the ground, utilizing nothing but fresh ingredients.
A more pared back example might be a fabulous tent with a comfortable bed and linen where one can sit in a canvas backed safari chair on one’s own, private verandah, with a cup of early morning tea or coffee, surveying the landscape which unfolds before you.
Days are spent doing exactly as you please, with your own private guide. Methods of transport can include just walking, or horseback riding, cycling, quad biking or open 4 x 4 Landrover or Landcruiser – OR it could be a combination of all these factors! It allows the traveller to get away off the beaten track or the more trammeled paths, to their own oasis, to explore and witness the beauty before you.
I cannot describe how wonderful it is; to sit at a beautifully decorated table at night under the flickering of the candelabra and listen to the sounds of the night. Owls, cicadas and, depending upon your location, possibly villagers or wildlife. To sit around a campfire at night, beneath a star-studded sky, watching the embers die down as you discuss animatedly the excitements of the day, or your plans for the early morning. To learn about different cultures and make new friendships. To have wonderful meals lovingly prepared for you, utilizing fresh ingredients, washed down with a glass of chilled wine.
Your guide might explain the night sky in the southern hemisphere and determine which animals you can hear at night. In winter, have the luxury of arriving to your bed, warmed with a hot water bottle!
Images by kind courtesy of: Machaba Camp, Selinda Explorers and Beverly Joubert, Brian Meier, Maureen Kirk, Nayara Tented Camp, Elephant Watch Camp, Naboisho Conservancy, Wolwedans, Wilderness Safaris, Kichaka Expeditions Tanzania, Legendary Expeditions, &Beyond, Scott Ramsay, Time + Tide, Green Safaris, Kyle and Ruth.