If you are like many people planning their first safari to East Africa, you may be confused about the choice of accommodation facilities to stay in. Should you stay in a lodge, a tented camp, or in a budget campsite? And what is the difference anyway? This article will help you understand the differences so that you can make an informed choice.
Let's start with the more obvious one: Safari lodges
These are permanent facilities with solid walls made of brick and stone or other local walling materials. Most tourist lodges have many of the amenities you would find in a hotel, including a restaurant, a swimming pool, a bar, ensuite bathrooms and toilets, and gift shops among others. The rooms in the lodges may be housed in one main building, or in huts/chalets separated by small distances.
Not all lodges are created equal. As it is with hotels, there are different classes of lodges. Depending on who is doing the classification, you will often hear of budget lodges, mid-range lodges, high-end lodges, and luxury lodges, or lodge classification by stars (3 star, 4 star, etc.). The higher the classification of the lodge, the more likely it is to have better service, better facilities, and higher price.
As their name suggests, tented camps usually comprise of large walk-in tents or canvas structures with ensuite facilities including flush toilets and hot showers. But don't let the word "tent" deceive you; many such camps are actually luxurious properties offering the same - and in many cases even better - comfort levels as the lodges.
There are two types of tented camps: permanent, and mobile. Permanent tented camps are in many ways similar to the lodges, more so because of their permanence and the facilities/amenities available to you. They however tend to be smaller and more exclusive than the lodges, often having fewer than 10 accommodation tents. Which is why you shouldn't be surprised if a safari using tented camps costs more than one using lodges of similar standard.
The concept of mobile camps is more common in Tanzania than in Kenya. Such camps are erected in private and exclusive campsites, a few moments before you arrive. They are mobile in the sense that their actual location varies from time to time, depending on weather patterns and the concentration of wild animals at particular times and places.
The more luxurious mobile camps consist of huge walk-in accommodation tents with king sized beds and ensuite washroom facilities. This setup requires a support crew for transporting the equipment, preparing the hot bathing water, and also preparing the meals. Obviously, such an arrangement is suitable for the luxury traveller who is also seeking the rustic and more authentic safari experience of the early explorers.
If you are a budget-conscious traveller, you can stay in the slightly more modest dome tents, and sleep on camp beds.
Technically speaking, budget camping fits in the tented camps category. The experience is however completely different, making it deserve to be regarded separately.
Budget camping is for those who don't mind "roughing it". You get to stay in public campsites, inside bivouac tents, sleeping on mattresses laid on the tent floor, or in sleeping bags. Basic washroom facilities are available in the public campsites, and are shared by everyone at the campsite.
Banner Image: A club tent at Sarova Mara Game Camp in Masai Mara, Kenya