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Tented Dreams: The African Safari Tented Camp Experience

Tented camps are a somewhat amorphous concept that harken back to the original safari—pitching a canvas tent in the remote wilderness, tracking wildlife by day and cooking out over a fire under the stars by night. Of course, this particular experience isn’t for everyone. But for many, one of the most magical parts of a safari is the experience of sleeping in a tent. You feel completely immersed in the wilderness and can hear the sounds of nature all around you, from the occasional lion roar at night to the chatter of birds in the morning. These days, tented camps have taken the experience to a whole new level and the high-end traveler can have the best of both worlds, sleeping under canvas with all of the creature comforts of a luxury lodge–comfortable accommodations, hot running water, delicious and varied cuisine, plus high-touch service.


Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning an African Safari. Our team can match you with the itineraries, experiences and accommodations that are right for you.


The Basics: What is a tented camp?

A tented camp is a collection of tents, each with four durable canvas sides. At the higher level of tented camps, there is normally a main tent and a dining tent although they may be one and the same; then there are the guest tents with en-suite bathrooms with a shower and toilet. Tented camps exist at various levels throughout Sub-Saharan Africa but we break them out into three kinds of tented camps that we recommend to Indagare travelers. Here’s our breakdown:

True Tented Camps

There are true tented camps (which may or may not be mobile – more on that below) made up of tented structures on ground-level or slightly elevated off of ground-level (e.g. on a low wooden platform). The highest level of tented camp has hot running water while others provide a jug of purified water next to the washbasin and can prepare a hot bucket shower on demand. Tented camps usually do not have A/C or heat (although hot water bottles are often slipped in your bed before bedtime) but may have an above-ground or in-ground pool and light exercise equipment like a yoga mat and weights on offer.

Mobile tented camps are camps that have similar infrastructure to a tented camp but can be more easily packed up and are moved throughout the year in order to ensure its guests are in the best possible location for, say, experiencing the Great Migration as it moves throughout Tanzania and Kenya.

A tented camp in the Serengeti is often included in a multi-stop Tanzania itinerary and the intimate and beautiful Mila and Nyasi tented camps are two of our absolute favorites. Our members agree; in recent years, many have declared them among their favorites in their multi-stop itineraries. Singita Explore in the Grumeti Reserve is perfect for a family takeover and Great Plains’ Mara Expedition Camp in Kenya as well as Duba Explorers and Selinda Explorers camps in Botswana offer a romantic under-canvas experience that is completely personalized to the guests.

Semi-Permanent Tented Camps

There are also what we call semi-permanent tented camps that have tented structures with more infrastructure in place, such as a wooden platform to elevate the tents off the ground or wooden walkways connecting the accommodations with the main areas. These camps stay in one place for an extended period of time and will have hot running water, flushing toilets and are more likely to have A/C and in some cases a small pool, spa or gym tent. For those not quite ready for the full-on tented experience described above, this is a great foray into sleeping under canvas. Some of our favorite semi-permanent tented camps include the vintage Little Chem Chem, gorgeous Singita Sabora Tented Camp in the Grumeti Reserve and Singita Mara River Tented Camp on the banks of the Mara River with a great location when the Great Migration is crossing the river into the Mara in Kenya. In Kenya, many of the camps in the Mara are semi-permanent tented camps, from Cottar’s 1920s Camp and to Mara Nyika. In South Africa, where super lodges reign, tented camps are less common but andBeyond’s Ngala Tented Camp and Saseka Tented Camp are great options for those wanting an under-canvas feel and it can be combined with a lodge with more infrastructure in a different location for two varying experiences. For a unique tented camp experience, we love Jack’s Camp in Botswana and Tswalu’s Motse Camp in South Africa, both in different parts of the Kalahari.

Lodge-Tent Hybrid Camps

And for those still feeling uneasy at the thought of tented accommodation, a lodge-tent hybrid, not technically a tented camp, may be a good option as it provides the ambiance of a tent with the full infrastructure of a lodge. These are permanent structures that are open year-round with a pool and often a spa and gym. They will feel more like a true lodge than a tented camp but have aspects of a tented camp such as canvas on one side. Most of Botswana’s top lodges are lodge-tent hybrids including Indagare favorites like Mombo, Duba Plains, DumaTau and Selinda. Other lodge-tent hybrids include Mwiba in Tanzania and Ishara Mara and Mara Plains in Kenya.

Published onApril 18, 2024

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