Luxury camping may well have originated in Africa, when adventurous hunters would spend months at a time on their own migration across the continent, in pursuit of game, accompanied by a retinue of staff and all manner of home comforts. The tradition continues into modern day, although now guests ‘hunt’ with their cameras.
There’s a wonderful range of luxury camping safaris on offer from across Africa, from contemporary-styled camps to those that will take you back in time to the age of the adventurer. We’d like to share with you some of our favourites.
Cottars 1920’s Camp, Kenya
Cottars 1920’s Camp is located in a 6,000 acre private conservancy bordering the Serengeti and Masai Mara National Parks and the Loliondo Reserve. The Masai Mara Game Reserve is just a 1km drive away, allowing convenient day and night game drives as well as game walks with highly qualified guides, with a great record for spotting the Big Five.
The Camp recalls the golden age of the safari, with antique mahogany campaign furniture, damask armchairs, antique sleigh and four-poster beds and dining tables adorned with silver candelabras and crisp white linen. Sepia photographs line the canvas walls and an antique gramophone provides soft background music, setting the tone for a traditional luxury camping safari.
There are 10 en-suite tents, including one honeymoon tent, five doubles and four family tents with separate living room and fireplace. There are two ‘mess tents’ for fine dining, cocktails, relaxing and socialising as well as an infinity pool overlooking the plains and a spa area.
Garonga Safari Lodge, South Africa
Located in the Makalali Conservancy near Limpopo just west of the Kruger National Park, Garonga comprises a main lodge and six spacious en-suite tents. Contemporary in style, each of the white canvas tents is furnished with light woods and white fabrics, including draped beds with fans hanging from high sloped ceilings. Each tent has a private wooden deck with a hammock overlooking a dry riverbed – the perfect spot for whiling away the warm midday sun with a good book, or for enjoying sundowners in the early evening as the sun sets. Choose between indoor or outdoor shower, or perhaps take a traditional ‘bush bath’ in the open air.
To really get back to nature, enjoy a ‘sleep out’ experience under the stars with the sound of the savannah to lull you to sleep.
The social areas of the camp include a large open lounge with ‘help yourself’ bar, a traditional boma (African enclosure or kraal) and a swimming pool. Breakfasts and lunch are served privately but dinner arrangements vary from a communal gathering around a large table in the main lounge, to dinner at the boma or private dinners served in a variety of unique sites within the camp. The wine cellar cools an excellent choice of South African wines.
Game drives in the morning and late afternoon afford the opportunity of seeing the Big Four (there are no buffalo at present) as well as cheetah, hippo, crocodile and hyenas.
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge, Namibia
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge offers an altogether different luxury safari camping experience. Located in the NambiRand Nature Reserve in Namibia this is more of a ‘soft’ camping experience in structures that are half wooden chalet, half canvas tent. Each structure is on a deck with a wooden frame with canvas walls that lift up to reveal the magnificence of the NamibRand desert. Sleeping under and waking to these splendid vistas is a truly magical experience.
The emphasis here is less on wildlife and more on the amazing desert landscapes which range from light cream plains to deep burnt orange dunes which change with the light of the sun from dawn to dusk. That said, the wildlife here is deeply interesting: oryx, springbok, kudu, Hartman’s and Burchell’s zebra, hartebeest and baboon are regularly spotted, as are predators such as leopard, Cape fox, African wildcat and genet.
Each of the tents is contemporary-minimalist in style with a viewing deck for taking in the splendid vistas. All created with a minimal impact on the environment.
The Hide, Zimbabwe
The Hide offers a luxury safari camping experience with an emphasis on tremendous wildlife and Zimbabwean hospitality. Located within the Hwange National Park, in an area once used as a hunting ground by Ndebele kings, the camp is situated alongside a waterhole where animals congregate to drink. In fact, if you don’t wish to venture far, you can relax at the camp and wait for the animals to come to you – wild dogs have even occasionally made their kill in full view of the camp! Alternatively you can sit quietly in the hide from which the camp takes its name and watch as the animals go about their daily business.
For those wishing to venture further, take a day or night drive or a bush walk with one of the exceptionally knowledgeable guides. Game viewing is excellent – buffalo, lion elephant, leopard, African wild dog and giraffe roam and there are 400 species of birds.
There are 10 tents at The Hide – 8 standard and 2 luxury tents – all classically styled, with a contemporary twist. Tents are extremely spacious and have en-suite bathrooms – some with large bath tub or outdoor shower. Private verandas overlook the waterhole so you can watch in comfort as wildlife make their regular visits.
Meals are taken in a variety of places – Dinners are often enjoyed together with friends around a large teak dining table or outdoors under the shade of the acacia trees. Afternoon tea may be served in the A-frame overlooking the waterhole and sundowners are usually out in the bush with drinks around the campfire after the sun has set.
For a memorable luxury camping safari experience, try a night in the Dove’s Nest – a tree house overlooking the vlei, with wood-slatted windows for observing the wildlife and appreciating the sun rise.
For more information and advice on luxury safari camps in Africa, contact Albee Yeend at Red Savannah on +44 (0)1242 787800.