On a multi-day safari you’re in the heart of the wilderness looking out. You don’t travel to a park for the day and then leave to stay in a hotel. You get to live and breathe the wilderness at every moment. Accommodation is central to the experience and it comes in a wide variety of styles.
Some people will love camping in the bush, with nothing but the wild to keep them company. Others prefer a lodge that still has a number of western comforts.
Accommodation is an expensive part of the experience and the most expensive accommodation tends to be in the best areas for wildlife. Just like a city hotel, you’re paying for location. But there can be something for every budget.
With these unfenced landscapes you don’t always have to stay in a national park to see the animals, because the animals have no sense of where the official boundaries are. So even at a cheaper camp just outside a park you’ll be surrounded by wildlife.
Game lodges are as close to a hotel as you can get in the wild. They could have anywhere from 10 to 50 rooms and are permanent structures. Typically there’s a large restaurant and decking area, along with hot showers, western-style toilets, plus electricity for some or all of the day.
Some lodges can be incredibly luxurious, with private outdoor bath tubs and facilities loved by honeymooners. Others are much simpler, just a comfortable place to rest your head and eat a hot meal. They are found all over Africa and are a good first or last stop on the safari.
You’ll get a connection with nature without having to step too far from your comfort zone.
Tented camps are glamping with a difference. Think of these as boutique hotels, just with canvas for walls. They are spacious and often stunningly beautiful, erected in areas of real wilderness. Many tented camps are packed up at the end of the safari season.
This flexibility allows you to stay in areas where permanent structures can’t be built, so you’ll enjoy a greater feeling of the wild. Most tented camps are intimate and few will have more than ten guest tents, so there’s an intimacy that help makes the experience.
Amenities are basic but it’s far more comfortable than traditional camping. And you get to enjoy the soundtrack all night long: the canvas walls help you experience Africa with all your senses.
Mobile camps are more like traditional notions of camping. You take a tent and put it up in the wild so you can enjoy nature. They are the ultimate immersion in the wilderness and usually there is only a small handful of guests.
Some mobile camps move with the seasons while others move with you, such as on a multi-day walking or horse riding safari.
Although there are some hyper luxurious (and expensive) mobile tented camps, most are fairly simple and ensure you have the basics for a night in the bush: a comfortable place to sleep, warm food, ablution facilities, and the chance to be fully connected with your wild side.
The cheapest of the safari accommodation on offer but still a great place to spend the night, public campsites are found within national parks and reserves. They are often located in prime wildlife areas, with the one in Ngorongoro Crater just one famous example.
Tour operators use these public campsites for budget tours in East Africa, or you can also use them for yourself in Southern Africa. Don’t expect anything fancy. However, public campsites have a feeling of exclusivity when so many animals can be seen on the surrounding plains.
What Accommodation is Best for My Safari?
That’s a tough question. Part of the answer will depend on your budget. Naturally, the more exclusive the experience and accommodation the more you will pay.
Some people think of Africa as a poor continent with limited facilities. But safari accommodation can be as luxurious as anywhere else in the world. If you want it to be of course. There are also great opportunities to go off the grid and camp out in the wild, surrounded by wildlife.
With a multi-day safari we’d encourage you to try out different styles of accommodation, as each has a different atmosphere and feel. Sometimes your decision is dictated by what’s available in a specific park. At other times you can try different accommodation in the same park for a new experience.
Ultimately, remember that safari is a long-standing industry and all the accommodation is part of your experience. You’ll be safe and secure in the wild. And it always feels special to wake up and watch a giraffe or springbok herd walking straight past your front door.