I’ve wanted to see Africa since I was a child. When I was a kid it was the adventure brought to me by the black and white adventure films, of Tarzan swinging through the jungle and Allan Quartermain in King Solomon’s mines.
As I got older I could just see myself as Robert Redford flying over the savannah in a biplane or navigating the river as Bogart in The African Queen. Then I got cable and the Discovery Channel and the world of the African documentary filled my screen and imagination. I wanted to be the photographer on the long game drive watching the miracle of the migration.
I don’t think my image of Africa is that much different than most Americans. So in planning a trip to Africa my expectations are as huge as the continent. And that, says safari planner and guide Louis Van Tonder, is one of the hardest parts of his job.
I also have to admit that part of my dream of Africa is to sleep out under the “large balls of swirling gas” in the night sky. Yes, I did it. Did you think I could write about the savannah without mentioning The Lion King?
According to Van Tonder, “you haven’t been on safari if you haven’t stayed in a tented camp. You’ve been on vacation, but you haven’t been on safari.”
I tend to agree. I was also surprised to find the camping he was talking about was very different from what I had envisioned. Amanda had something different in mind, too. I think it had something to do with being dragged out of her tent by the Ghost in the Darkness (and boom one more film reference). I went online and took a look at these tented campsites and thought wow, this ain’t the KOA.
One of the tented camp sites gave this description of its site:
”Designed in typically Edwardian style, this exclusive camp features an elegant central meeting tent evocatively furnished with a tasteful selection of chintz-covered chaises lounges, Persian rugs, antique escritoire, wind-up phonograms, leather-bound travelling cases, brass shooting sticks, carved rocking chairs, and stud-backed smoking chairs.
“In keeping with the theme of colonial opulence, the elegant twin dining tents feature Edwardian-styled dining furniture, sprung floors, crisp-starched napery, delicate blue and white china and weighty silver accoutrements, whilst the staff are attired in classical colonial ‘mess’ uniform of white Swahili robes.
“The camp has just 25 widely-spaced luxury tents, raised on timber platforms, each with a glorious view of the plains. Each tent has a spacious furnished deck leading to a bedroom furnished in antique Edwardian style with steamer-trunks, writing desk, brass lamps, rugs, sepia photographs and four-poster bed with patchwork quilt. Each tent has its own personal valet.”
Yet another description shows a more modern and “practical” approach:
“The camp has up to 16 guests staying at any one time in its eight luxury tents with en suite bathrooms. The focus of the camp is a large dining tent with a shaded ‘sitting out’ area. As well as a fully-stocked complimentary bar, there is a small reference library of African books and a variety of games. There is a campfire every evening, around which guests can share the day’s adventures with like-minded souls.
“As a guest at the Serengeti Safari Camp you will meet up and mingle with each other during the evening over pre-dinner drinks and candlelit dinners, but during the day you will set off on your own, with your own private guide and vehicle. By having your own vehicle and guide you can ensure you can do what you want when you want to do it – be that following the wildebeest, sitting by a waterhole or just waiting to get that perfect photograph.”
The decision of what kind of camping seems to be up to you (and perhaps your budget). It seems that, much like planning your trip around the “scheduled” animal movements, choosing your accommodations is also a game of managing your expectations.
The sheer volume of information we’re going over for this trip is staggering. When, where, camp, lodge – they’re all points that need planning and decision-making. Of course we’ll keep you in the loop as we put together this amazing adventure.