Glamping Takes on a Whole New Meaning in Africa!

By Mary Lyons

When I first heard the word “glamping” it didn’t take long to figure out what it meant. As someone who was used to carrying her own backpack, stocked only with essentials, for several miles and then setting up camp in the wilderness, I think I had a different perspective on glamping than most people. To me it meant car camping, having someone else build a fire, and eating at an actual picnic table. A wooden hut at a campground with showers and a store to buy candy? Wow! Now that’s some serious luxury camping! There’s a pool? At a campground? Awesome! We’re glamping!

After two trips to Africa, I now fully understand that none of the above is glamping. I always thought I could never afford to stay at the beautiful campsites I saw in the coffee table books about Africa. And while I still can’t afford many of them, teaching overseas at least meant I could earn enough money to have a genuine glamping experience in Africa. Actually, I had two.

 

GETTING MY GLAMP ON – THE SERENGETI IN TANZANIA

My first safari in Africa was a year and a half ago in Tanzania. I wanted my first safari experience to be on the Serengeti. Wasn’t it Toto that sang “I miss the rains down in Africa”? That’s what I wanted my first safari experience to be like. I knew that the tents would be semi-permanent structures, but I didn’t realize that my meager 500 USD a day had bought me a glamping experience until I actually arrived.

Make no mistake, a safari is expensive. Even a cheap safari experience is expensive. At 500 USD a day, that’s a relatively inexpensive safari. I spent my first night in Tanzania in a stunning hotel at the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. (Say that three times fast!) Technically, this night wasn’t glamping because I was in a gorgeous hotel. It was so gorgeous, I’m going to post pictures anyway even though it doesn’t qualify as camping in any way!

Hotel room at the Ngorongoro Crater
Luxury digs at the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
Bathroom at our hotel at the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

My next two nights were where glamping got really interesting. My campsite in the middle of the Serengeti could accommodate up to 10 people, and there were six total, so three of the five tents were in use. There was a kitchen tent, which we didn’t get to see, and a huge dining tent, as well as a spacious tent for relaxing and having drinks at the end of a long day of safari-ing.

We were welcomed with freshly squeezed juices and a cool towel, and then we were given a tour of the camp while porters took our bags to our tent. There are certain rules in a safari camp, one being that you never go out alone without an escort when it’s dark, for obvious reasons. Another rule in this camp was that if you wanted hot water for your shower, you just had to tell them what time you wanted to take a shower, they would bring hot water to fill your tank outside, sing a little song as they walked away, and you hop in the shower in your tent where the water was so hot, you had to turn on the cold water as well.

Common living area and open bar on the Serengeti

Yep. Hot shower. In my tent. In the middle of the Serengeti. Awesome. There was also a flush toilet and two sinks. This bathroom was nicer than most of the bathrooms in apartments I’ve rented.

What really made this experience luxurious was the service. The people working at the camp were just amazing. We received 5 Star service. These young men were so charming, funny, and gracious. The dining experience was just that – an experience! Breakfast and dinner were each served in three courses on linen tablecloths, and by candlelight at night. The presentation was beautiful and the food was delicious. In fact, the food at our camp was the best food I had the entire two weeks I was in Tanzania.

Dining tent on the Serengeti in Tanzania

I could hear lions outside the first night. Their low, throaty rumbles were intimidating at first, but eventually I fell asleep. Turns out two female lions would often get quite curious about the camp almost every evening. And J.J. the elephant sometimes slept between the sleeping and dining tents, flattening a huge swath of grass! We saw the evidence our second morning in camp.

 

WANNA GO GLAMPING IN BOTSWANA?

I loved every minute of this glamping experience in Tanzania on the Serengeti. It wasn’t long before I started thinking about doing it again, this time in Botswana. So just a year later, I made my way to the Okavango Delta in Botswana. What’s with these African names being so much fun to pronounce? Ngorongoro. Serengeti. Okavango. They sound so exotic. Oh wait! That’s because they are such exotic places!

The Okavango Delta is actually drier, with fairly low water levels, during the rainy season when I was there. It’s the rains that fill the rivers in Central Africa that actually flood the Delta. I visited the Okavango Delta region in January 2017. My friend John, from Philadelphia, joined me, and he’d never been glamping. Actually, I’m not sure he’d ever been camping. So, when I showed him pictures of the tent – with a claw foot tub in the middle! – he was pretty damned excited to come to Botswana, and so was I.

We stayed at Little Kwara Camp which can host 12 people, and when we were there, five of the six tents were rented. I thought I knew what to expect since I had glamped in Tanzania, but I was blown away by these luxurious digs. I had to tell myself to close my mouth, and then I had to tell John. After a flight in a tiny six-seater Cessna, we arrived at Kwara and were met by our guide, Wago, and our spotter, Mike. Wago drove the short distance from the “airport”, and I use the term airport very loosely, to our camp.

Mike was our super spotter on safari!

When we arrived, we were met by Charles, the camp manager, and some lovely ladies who work there. We had fresh guava juice and hot towels to refresh us before going on a tour of the camp.

Holy Schnikey! It was so beautiful! These structures are actually permanent and have underground plumbing. The living room area and dining area were huge, and constructed out of local wood, but open to the elements. There was even a small pool and a shop. But more importantly, there was an open bar, and anything you wanted to drink, you could help yourself after 11:00AM. The fridge had a special baboon-proof lock on it that the rather pesky baboons hadn’t figured out yet. There was also a seating area around a fire pit, and a view of a huge pond, stocked with hippos!

Swimming pool at Little Kwara Camp
Firepit in Little Kwara Camp on a rare dry evening

John and I were shown to our tent, and we couldn’t wait to see the bathtub! Our tent was spacious, beautifully decorated, and had a big back porch with a view of the pond, the hippos, and impala. But the bathtub? Well, isn’t a claw foot tub in the middle of the room just the epitome of glamping? It was to me! John didn’t say a word. He was still in shock, but I don’t know if it was because of the luxury digs or the open bar.

My lodging in Botswana’s Little Kwara Camp
View from our tent in Botswana
Bathroom in our tent in Botswana
The clawfoot tub did get used!

This luxury experience did not include losing any weight. We had breakfast at 5:00AM every day. Muffins, porridge with all the fixins, fruit, coffee, tea. At 6:00 we left for our first safari of the day, returning at 11:00 for brunch. Then the afternoon was free until 4:00 when we had afternoon tea of homemade cakes, cheese and olives, fruit, scones, quiche, all made right there at camp by the lovely ladies in the kitchen. After another safari in the evenings, which included a sundowner with drinks and snacks at 7:00PM in the midst of the Delta, we returned to camp for a three-course dinner with all you could drink by candlelight.

Time for afternoon tea in Botswana
Dinner by Candlelight Every Night in Botswana

The people who worked at the camp in Botswana were so warm and welcoming. I became quite fond of them, especially our guide, Wago and our super spotter, Mike. Glamping in Africa is an addictive experience. The people you meet and the sights you see will make you want to go back again and again. The glamping? Well, that’s just a giant bonus.

Mike, Wago, Me, John, and Charles on our last day in Botswana

 

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34 thoughts on “Glamping Takes on a Whole New Meaning in Africa!

  • July 16, 2017 at 5:14 pm
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    WOW what an amazing experience in Botswana! This type of glamping looks a lot better than the wet muddy tent option I visited in the South of England! Would also love to visit the hotel you included here!

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  • July 12, 2017 at 8:56 pm
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    Wow! What an awesome experience! I would rather do this kind of glamping than to do it on the penthouse of some hotel. This is far better and more fun!

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    • July 14, 2017 at 8:34 am
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      Whitney, in Tanzania for dinner one night we had beef stroganoff as an entree, and this was probably my favorite. The desserts were good, but nothing that special in Tanzania. The food was western because an African diet isn’t that varied, and they are trying to cater to western tastes. Because we were on safari during the day, we were given a box lunch, mostly of various types of bread. It wasn’t that great, but they needed food they could store safely and transport easily to the camp. We also had fresh fruit at breakfast and lunch, and fresh yogurt at breakfast with omelets or some type egg to order.

      In Botswana, the dinners were served buffet style, with one meat entree, a potato dish, and a couple of vegetable dishes. We also had stroganoff here and it was even better than in Tanzania. The vegetables were roasted and seasoned. The best thing was the homemade sourdough bread with a beautiful crust, sometimes with seeds in it. I don’t even eat much bread, and I couldn’t stop eating this. Fresh fruit, feta cheese with olive oil and chilis, and the spice cake served at afternoon tea were just delicious. We also had an orange cake one day, which was divine.

      I’m not sure what traditional food is like in Botswana. Botswana is not a poor country, and the government invests money into their population, so they are able to import what they can’t grow and have a lot of variety in their food choices.

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  • July 12, 2017 at 12:08 am
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    Wow, this is glamping to the next level! I’ve never seen a set up like this, it looks absolutely amazing! I love how you even had a pool right next to your glampsite (haha I had to). And afternoon tea?? What a dream!

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    • July 12, 2017 at 5:20 pm
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      It was pretty dreamy. And I sure didn’t lose any weight, that’s for sure! The safari itself was amazing in both places, but it was even better because we got to return to these glampsites (see what I did there?). lol!!

      Reply
  • July 11, 2017 at 10:41 pm
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    Glamping on a safari sounds an amazing way to do it! I would love to go on safari one day, to see the animals in their wild habit is a once in a lifetime experience.

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    • July 12, 2017 at 5:25 pm
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      I didn’t write about the animals, but we saw them all, in Tanzania and Botswana. In Botswana we were able to get so close to them. We saw a leopard in a tree in both places. It was amazing.

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  • July 11, 2017 at 9:34 pm
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    Yes, for sure I want to go glamping in Botswana now! The price is why I wait until I can go on a proper trip, it must be so amazing. The Common living area and open bar on the Serengeti looks perfect to relax and look at your photos.

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    • July 12, 2017 at 5:27 pm
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      There are many advantages to a safari in Botswana. They only allow three vehicles at any one animal sighting. I couldn’t believe how close we could get to them, and they didn’t even seem to see us. I really enjoyed both Botswana and Tanzania and I would highly recommend either of them.

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  • July 11, 2017 at 7:48 pm
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    I have never been glamping before but your post is certainly enlightening. Although safaris seem quite expensive, I am sure they are well worth the price. Those places you mentioned look pretty luxurious even though they’re in the middle of animal habitats!

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    • July 12, 2017 at 5:30 pm
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      I think it was well worth the price in both places. I am very fortunate that I was able to see both of these amazing places.

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  • July 11, 2017 at 6:45 pm
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    Glamping is the only way you will catch me in a tent again! I had to camp when I was younger due to a big family and it was cheaper, I will stick to hotel rooms or glamping for sure!

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    • July 12, 2017 at 5:33 pm
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      Haha!! You would love these tents, even if one of them did have baboons sliding down the roof.

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  • July 11, 2017 at 5:06 pm
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    Glamping sounds far better than camping in my eyes although hearing lions outside would scare me LOL. Still what a beautiful way to take in what Africa has to offer you x

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  • July 11, 2017 at 3:48 pm
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    I always prefer camping above everything but glamping also sounds better. Especially when you can get a taste of a bit of luxury amidst jungles. Yet to visit Africa but I am dying to here

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    • July 12, 2017 at 5:36 pm
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      Africa is full of surprises. I can’t wait to go back, but I will have to save my pennies and nickels. I have been very fortunate to visit several African countries, but I think Botswana might just be my favorite.

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  • July 11, 2017 at 2:26 pm
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    Always liked the idea of Glamping but as a budget traveler camping is more suited to my budget haha. Who know’s I might just have to do a Glamping trip just to experience it.

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  • July 11, 2017 at 11:10 am
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    I LOVE Africa! I have only been to Kenya but now want to stay at these exact locations in your article! I love the African decor in these hotels and camps! Looks like you had an absolute blast!

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    • July 12, 2017 at 5:42 pm
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      We had so much fun and saw so many animals. It’s totally different seeing them in their natural habitat with no fences. It was incredible. The glamping experience just made it better.

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  • July 11, 2017 at 8:21 am
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    I’ll be totally honest with you Mary, I’m definitely more of a glamping girl, not over the top accommodation, but something like you described is perfect for me! I went to Ngorogoro a few years ago, and it’s so stunning. I didn’t do the safari, just a tour of the crater. When I eventually do a safari one day, I’d love to be on the South African/Botswana border. Great post, thanks for sharing.

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    • July 12, 2017 at 5:48 pm
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      Thanks, Lisa! Glad you enjoyed it. Ngorongoro is stunning. We spent one day on safari inside the actual crater, and then two days on the Serengeti. Loved every minute of it, even the lions in the camp at night.

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  • July 11, 2017 at 1:05 am
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    I am not a camper but I am definitely a glamper! I’m so with you – nothing compares to glamping in Africa. We spent time in Botswana, too, and absolutely loved it. Now I want to go back and stay in Little Kwara Camp. It looks amazing!

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    • July 11, 2017 at 4:21 am
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      It’s so beautiful there. Where did you stay in Botswana, Lois? I want to go back and visit the Kalahari. Time and budget did not allow on this trip. There is also Kwara Camp, which also looks amazing, maybe even better than Little Kwara!

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  • July 10, 2017 at 11:24 pm
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    I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS! I’m a terribly high maintenance camper and I feel like this would fit me perfectly.

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    • July 11, 2017 at 4:23 am
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      Oh, yes it will, Bianca! They attend to your every need, the beds are comfy, and hello, the bathtub!! I call these two camps that I experienced the “budget luxury” options. But the service at both was 5 star. The people who work there make this a true luxury experience.

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  • July 10, 2017 at 11:06 pm
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    What a beautiful experience! Going on a safari is definitely on the bucket list, and now I might be looking for a safari-glamping combo. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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    • July 11, 2017 at 4:26 am
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      Thanks for reading, Lila. I highly recommend the Africa glamping experience once in a lifetime. I am very fortunate that I got to experience it twice, in two beautiful destinations.

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  • July 10, 2017 at 11:03 pm
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    Holy shit! This is my kind of camping! I mean, a clawfoot tub and a hot shower? I don’t get those at most U.S. hotels. I’ve been really wanting to do a safari, but I’m sure we’d only go once in our lives, so I’m waiting for my kids to get older. And it sounds like I should start saving my cash now!

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    • July 11, 2017 at 4:29 am
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      I know! Just a few nights of this and I’m not sure I can ever sleep in a tent again! Okay, that’s a lie. I actually have slept in a tent since then and it was really fun.Btw, there were lots of teenagers on safari when I was in Tanzania, and none of them were looking at their phones. I think your kids would love it!

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  • July 10, 2017 at 10:56 pm
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    Oh. My. God. They definitely have a totally different view of what glamping means. Or we have the wrong view…

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  • July 10, 2017 at 10:48 pm
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    Wow, you stayed at a cool spot. I am gonna put this on my notes for Africa. Glamping it is 🙂

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  • July 10, 2017 at 9:59 pm
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    Oh my goodness this looks amazing, so I am taking notes. Glamping is so my thing, you get to adventure out to the wild but you still have the greater comforts to feel at home.

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    • July 11, 2017 at 4:32 am
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      Yes, Jennifer, get your notes ready! These two camps were so comfortable with wonderful food and such lovely people working there. Other than fixing my own drinks, on occasion, and taking my own shower, I didn’t have to lift a finger. We did have rules concerning electricity usage in both camps, so no blow dryers, but it didn’t matter. Blow drying is like work, right? I didn’t want to do my hair anyway.

      Reply

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