“Glamping” Safaris in Africa

The allure of wild African safaris beckon visitors to experience unforgettable adventures and unique personal experiences.

Having grown up in Africa, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have spent many a night on safari, and my fondest memories in life are those derived from being immersed in such a pristine natural environment.

As a result, I often yearn to be back driving across the endless plains of the Serengeti, dotted with wildebeest and zebra on their annual migration in search of greener pastures. I also have rich memories of gliding silently across the crystal clear waters of Botswana’s Okavango Delta in a mokoro (dugout canoe) through papyrus fringed channels listening to the nearby grunt of a hippo and the unmistakable cry of an African Fish Eagle.

Experiencing Nature’s Wonderland

The word “safari” is derived from the Swahili language and roughly translates to “a journey.” Traditionally this would have involved a small tent pitched deep in the wilds with little or no infrastructure surrounding it.

Today many safaris are offered with a distinct air of sophistication, and often with super luxurious accommodations. Large tents are raised seven to eight feet off the ground providing hard wood flooring, high ceilings with fans for cooling, Egyptian cotton linens with plush down comforters, not to mention private bathrooms with running water, flushing toilets and indoor as well as outdoor showers. Some even provide private plunge pools for that refreshing dip during the heat of the day. This has become commonly known as “Glamping” or glamorous camping.

However, for those looking for a more authentic experience reminiscent of bygone years there are still some wonderful possibilities. Experiences that provide all the creature comforts of home, and more importantly, an experience that is humbling, awe inspiring, and fulfills the desire that most of us have to get closer to nature.

In Harmony with Wildlife

A case in point is that of actress Jessica Chastain whose honeymoon I was fortunate to arrange last year. We spent time discussing various aspects of the safari such as best time to go to avoid inclement weather and locations where game viewing would be at its best. And in particular, we discussed the necessity to select varied eco-systems to enhance the chances of not only seeing a significant number of animals, but also greater diversity of species.

When it came to selecting accommodations, one would expect a celebrity to want the most luxurious, not to mention brand name properties. But since she had indicated a burning desire to get away from people and the daily pressures of her busy life, I suggested an itinerary that would commence with a smaller and more rustic camp namely Hwange Bush Camp in Zimbabwe, followed by progressively more luxurious properties.

Surprisingly, she enthusiastically bought into the idea.

Cherished Moments in the Wild

Upon Chastain’s return I was somewhat astounded to learn that Hwange Bush Camp was not only her favorite camp, but that she felt her guide’s knowledge was superior to others she had encountered on her travels. She eloquently described a homey feel where one did not feel like a tourist, but rather, like spending time with friends at their home.

Examples she cited included being out on a very productive game drive one morning. To avoid disrupting the adventure by going back to camp for lunch, the guide spontaneously radioed the camp and had them bring lunch out into the bush. We dined under the shade of a large tree with spectacular views across the plain.

Another memorable moment was during dinner one evening, when a troop of baboons could be heard barking in the distance. The guide suggested that they temporarily abandon dinner and head out in the vehicle with the aid of a powerful spotlight to go and determine if a predator was harassing these unsettled primates. As luck would have it, they were afforded a magnificent sighting of an impressive male leopard.

Her experience is compelling testimony that sometimes less is more. Visiting a no-frills camp is likely to offer a closer and more profound connection with the earth, which undoubtedly allows one’s senses to be reawakened and rejuvenated, providing life altering moments.

Note:Harrison who was born and raised in Africa is the owner of Premier Tours, a company specializing in travel to Africa. He has spent time working as a guide and is the author of “African Safari,” a travel guide published by Fodor’s Travel Guides.

He has arranged safaris for the likes of actors Paul Newman, Ashley Judd, Marissa Tomei, and Jessica Chastain. He frequently travels back to the continent and loves to spend time in remote safari regions. Learn more about this adventurous man and his spectacular safaris by visiting his website.


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