The safari business in Africa is going ‘wild’ – under canvas. Experiencing Africa’s wildlife in tented camps was a trend before, but has become the standard. Tented safaris come in many varieties as the tourism industry is eager to add new adventures to the experience that today’s customer is looking for. “We notice a clear desire among our customers to experience ‘wild’ Africa as real as possible”, says Angela Aschmann, marketer at Africa safari specialist Go2Africa in Cape Town.
There will always be a market for short two or three day trips in a Kruger Park lodge or in one of the other African hotspots, often as an add-on trip to a longer holiday on the continent. “This is the market of tourists that want to see the big five in the shortest time possible and strike the experience on their bucket list”, explains Angela Aschmann of Go2Africa.
Sleeping under canvas
A growing number of travelers prefer a safari that brings them closer to nature, involving sleeping under canvas. Their aim is to add excitement and to the thrill of the adventure. Staying in a tented camp brings a bit of the romance of the old days into the experience. ‘Tented safari’ includes falling asleep with the sound of howls and the roars of wildlife into the deal. The smell of the earth and the trees, the African night under the stars, it is all part of the adventure that more and more tourists prefer.
Aschmann agrees: “It is not necessarily the hard adventure of no-frills camping in the bush, it is still a bit soft adventure with (some of) the comfort you would expect in a safari lodge. Today’s safari tourists want to spend their time closer to nature and are looking for ways to expose their senses to the ‘real’ Africa.” To Aschmann, the eco-trend in South Africa and in western countries clearly feeds the interest in ‘tented safaris’.
Variety of products
Safari businesses and tour operators like Go2Africa cater for the growing group by offering a variety of products. They are keen to point out to bookers that most tented camps do not actually accommodate their guests in a tent. Often the tents are canvas and wood structures with doors, windows and all the usual lodge amenities, from electricity to hotel-style bathrooms.
However, if you book an ‘under canvas’ camp, the accommodation is in an actual tent, usually a spacious and classic East African ‘meru’ tent, with zip up doorways and windows with roll up canvas flaps. There is also the more rugged alternative of fly camping. Angela Aschmann: “This offers an overnight taste of staying in a remote under canvas camp. Luxury lodges in private concessions usually offer it as a special excursion. The lodge staff erect a comfortable temporary camp complete with compact, walk-in tents and ablutions, taking you close to the wilderness without sacrificing too many essential comforts.”
To add to the adventure, walking safaris have become more popular over the years. Tracking a rhino for a couple of hours, on foot with a guide, is an experience you are not likely to forget. “Safari operators add new items like this all the time, catering for guests that want to come close to nature. Early morning nature walks have become very popular.” According to Aschmann, there is a growing market for safari adventures at more distant camps. “It takes more time to get there, but the reward is the ultimate experience of peace and quiet, in a place where the animals have been less exposed to humans.” For those opting for ‘off-the-beaten-track’ safaris, there are trips to lesser-known safari destinations. “One relatively new destination is Congo, particularly popular among customers who want to see Africa’s gorillas.”
‘Tented camps’ come in many shapes and styles. On Go2Africa’s website, the operator’s experts mention some of their favorite locations, including:
- Kenya: Saruni Wild, ‘a classic and exclusive camp, in a peaceful valley in Mara north conservancy, offering guided bush walks with Masai and night game drives.’ Porini Mara: 'Expect privacy, authenticity and a unique personal touch’.
- Tanzania: Sayari Camp, ‘perfect in June and July for the Great Migration. Great food, hospitality and a gorgeous pool to cool off in after lovely long game drives.’
- Botswana: Savuti Under Canvas, ‘genuine and personalized service, with freshly prepared meals on open fires.’
Life under the stars
No matter what ‘tented safari’ you choose, you will quickly adapt to your new life under the stars. “In the morning, your tent attendant will announce the delivery of your morning coffee with a polite 'kho-kho!' in place of a knock at the door.” To safari novices, Angela and her colleagues happily explain the concept of the ‘bucket shower’: “A tent attendant delivers 20 to 30 litres of hot water to the ‘en suite bathroom’, filling up the shower bucket, which hangs overhead. You will have a nice shower but there is only so much water in the bucket…”
Photo credits :
Saruni (with photos of Saruni Wild)
@Beyond (with photos Savute Under Canvas and Serengeti Under Canvas)
Asilia Africa (with photos Sayari)