Lodge, camp, bush camp, mobile camp, tented camp, fly camp… With so many different safari accommodation types, how do you tell the difference between them and understand what kind of safari experience to expect from each?
If you’re considering an African adventure, or are already in the planning stages of a safari, you might be struggling to wade through the seemingly limitless options so you can understand which one is right for you. Hopefully, our descriptive definitions will give you more insight into each kind of ‘safari stay’ so you can accurately plan your next safari.
Let’s look at all the different ‘safari stays’ and then unpack what makes each one special!
Whether you want solid brick walls, 24/7 electricity, hair-driers, and air-conditioning or Hemingway-styled rustic canvas with a quaint tilly lamp, bush toilet and bucket shower, there’s a safari out there waiting just for you.
It’s our job to match that safari to your expectations and not just meet them, but exceed them.
Our safari-planning consultants are extremely well-traveled and have extensive personal experience of all the destinations, camps, and lodges we use in our itineraries. They draw on this expert knowledge to tailor-design an itinerary uniquely suited to your dreams and needs.
Each type of safari camp or lodge offers its very own kind of experience, it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly which kind of experience you are looking for – and most suited to.
Safari lodges are typically solid structures offering all the usual ‘mod cons’ like electricity (with plugs for appliances), WiFi, and en-suite bathrooms. Lodges generally have a large communal lounge area, separate indoor and outdoor dining areas, viewing decks, swimming pools, and sun decks.
They can range from large, almost hotel-like establishments with plenty of accommodation options – from standard rooms to suites, to small, intimate affairs with a limited number of identical rooms.
Depending on their locations, safari lodges offer a more traditional and typically luxurious type of safari accommodation with lots of bells and whistles. Many offer air-conditioned rooms and ceiling/floor fans, full bathrooms with bathtubs, body-and-soul restoring spas, exceptional décor, haute cuisine, fine wine, and everything else you’d expect from the best Five Star establishments, even if they’re in the middle of the African wilderness.
Generally smaller than safari lodges and more ‘rustic’, and more simple in terms of structure and design, safari camps are known for being more authentic as a true safari experience due to its smaller, more intimate size. Camps can range from the uber-luxurious to more rugged and simplified — and everything in between!
Like their larger lodge cousins, camps offer a communal lounge, dining and relaxation areas like pools and viewing decks. Accommodation can be anything from solid chalets or suites to canvas tents or a combination of both! Expect your own en-suite bathrooms with flushing toilets, and showers – with hot and cold running water.
Due to their nature, camps tend to be more remote and harder to get to, off-grid (or at least partially off-grid), and more experientially immersive because everything, from the accommodations to the guides and trackers, are aimed at connecting you deeply with your wild surroundings. Many of the camps are completely unfenced allowing animals to wander through the camp unhindered.
Electricity is usually limited to the absolute essentials like cooking, lighting, charging stations and WiFi. This means there may not be enough power for a hair-drier — or air-conditioning. Cooling down in the warmer months may mean relying on a ceiling or floor fan.
While your budget dictates the luxury-level of accommodation and facilities, the service levels at safari camps are invariably excellent, with the safari experience very much focused on game drives, bush walks and exploring the wilderness around you. So whether it’s an ultra-luxury tented camp in the Okavango Delta or a more rugged safari camp in the Greater Kruger, expect a more hands-on, immersive safari experience from this kind of safari stay!
Smaller, intimate, and even more rustic and back-to-basics than the ‘tented camp’, bush camps make a concerted effort to get away from the frills and fuss of luxury décor and offer a more natural style of comfort – with a focus on simplicity and practicality, delivering an arguably more authentic safari experience in the process.
Most bush camps are off-grid and reliant on either solar power or generators to power the most basic necessities. Invariably low-key, bish camps are designed to blend in with the African wilderness.
Expect simply sumptuous homely feasts, wonderful hours around the campfire, and simple but perfectly comfortable, clean, and functional accommodation in tents or chalets with en-suite facilities. Bush camps are renowned and chosen specifically for their absolutely amazing safari experiences in the more remote corners of the untouched wilderness.
Bush camps focus on providing warm, personalized service, a wonderful team spirit, and getting out into the great wide open spaces as much as possible. This kind of camp is perfect for seasoned African travelers who seek out extraordinary wilderness experiences, combined with a feeling of exclusivity, exploring areas that fewer people venture to.
- Don’t expect white Egyptian cotton sheets, air-con and private plunge pools.
- Do expect absolute immersion in the inimitable magic and wonder of wild Africa!
One of the most marvelous and authentic ways to deeply experience the African wilderness is in a temporary tented camp that’s erected especially for you and your fellow travelers in an idyllic and wonderfully wild, remote area!
Mobile camps are just what they say they are – they move. As such they touch the earth as lightly as possible, using carefully selected camping spots to create a home base for a few days so guests can explore far flung remote areas not usually reached by mainstream safaris.
Usually consisting of a communal mess tent where meals are taken, a campfire, and individual tents (expect anything from dome tents to Meru-style canvas tents) with either en-suite bush bathrooms (bucket shower, bush toilet and bush basin) or communal camping showers and toilets.
Food is usually prepared over the campfire in front of you, or in a simple ‘bush kitchen.’ The food is always hearty, wholesome and downright delicious! You will be amazed at just how sumptuous and flavourful food tastes when it’s prepared in the wilderness like this!
Game drives, bush walks, and other adventurous activities are planned for guests each day, getting you as close and deep into the wild as you have always dreamed of.
No fences. No power. No ‘mod cons’. No wifi. The beds are comfortable, the tents are clean and functional. It’s all about where you are and your experience.
Some safari camps and bush camps offer fly camping as a truly thrilling option! A fly camp is a temporary camp set up for just a night or two somewhere exquisitely remote within the wilderness surrounding your ‘home base’ camp/lodge.
Imagine a night beneath the starlight-sparkling indigo heavens in either a dome tent, mosquito-net tent or completely open-air sleepout!
The fly camp is set up for you ahead of time, and you arrive either on foot or at the end of an afternoon game drive, enjoying sundowners and dinner around the campfire before turning in for the night.
If you’re used to more luxurious accommodation, fly camps are a fabulous way to test your travel mettle for more basic, rustic safari experiences! We heartily recommend them!
Unsure what’s right for you?
You’re a luxury traveler but would love to experience authentic wilderness but don’t want to rough it too much?