Perhaps near the top of every adventure-lover’s wish list, a safari holiday teeming with exotic wildlife, is truly a dream come true. The idea of a traditional safari conjures images of well-bred Englishmen clad in khaki with sharp accents and even sharper guns. Thankfully that is no longer the case.
Mercifully, the gun has been replaced with the camera and the plains now welcome tourists from all walks of life as more and more ordinary people seek a taste of what the savannah has to offer.
As one might expect, the more diverse the visitor the wider the range of holiday types available and a plethora of different accommodation styles now exist to ensure there is something to meet all tastes.
Where Camping Meets Glamping
In many cases, how basic or luxurious your holiday will depend on whether the night accommodation is mobile or part of a more permanent set up. Some camps can even be pitched for the whole season and tents in such areas are often replaced with log cabins or small lodges.
It is not unusual to find such excesses as private plunge pools or relaxing spas at the higher end of the market, where air-conditioning and coffee machines mean tourists can find the same level of indulgence as at any other destination in a luxury brochure.
Lodges are often built in the most idyllic locations to ensure visitors see all the sights the vivid African horizon has to offer. After spending the day walking or riding on a jeep across the bumpy plains of the safari, what could be more refreshing than treating your aching muscles to an invigorating hour in a hot-tub, before a lavish five course supper and a cozy night’s sleep between Egyptian cotton or silk sheets.
But far more important, for some, is chasing the “real deal”: many adventurers long to relive the experiences of traditional explorers who spent their nights beneath the stars with only their gun, a pocket knife and a blanket roll for company.
The Really Wild Style
For some, days spent whirring across sandy plains with windswept hair are best ended by watching a peaceful savannah sunset from a camp as close to nature as you can get. Spurred by the desire to come face to face with the wild, for thrill-seekers there could be nothing as satisfying as sleeping "al fresco" with little protection other than some flimsy canvas and a dying bonfire.
Surely, the sounds of approaching wildlife at night and the cacophony of evening song from beasts far and near make a holiday in the African bush far more authentic?
Worry-warts can rest assured that in most cases, even if it feels real, tourists will not be placed in any real danger. Some reserves ask their tourists to sleep behind electric fencing to ensure animals are kept out but even those without such imaginary walls are still absolutely sure of the safety of their campers. Obviously, bathroom and washing facilities will be completely basic and there is more than a small chance of making new friends of the creepy –crawly variety but for the robust and strong-willed adventurer, this is all part of the charm.
The hot savannah sun and the number of amazing animals straight out of story books to meet each day means a good night’s sleep is essential. Understandably, sleeping close to nature in a country notorious for cobras, lions and scorpions is not for the faint of heart! If fear of eight-legged visitors is in danger of keeping you awake at night but you still want a taste of the authentic, perhaps a better solution would be a traditional bush camp.
Again, these may be mobile or pitched long-term, seasonally or permanent. Often made from locally sourced materials, a bush camp can offer a combination of home comforts such as a reasonable standard of toilet facilities as well as a range of dining options and the added advantage of security from the beasts that prowl beyond the perimeter fence.
Other factors to consider when choosing your safari accommodation include whether you intend to sleep on the run and lodge in a different bed each night of your stay or whether to explore one area in more depth by staying put for a few days or longer. Either way, a huge variety of options are available. The exploration really starts at home as you pore through the different experiences on offer.
Provided you do your homework, you really can ensure your safari is the adventure you’ve dreamed of since watching David Attenborough documentaries as a child.