Our close friends who own Nasikia Camps in Tanzania recently opened a brand new safari camp in the south central Serengeti. Noana Moru Camp brings their collection of camps full circle, introducing their first real luxury "glamping" experience, and we couldn't be more excited for them.
The new camp sparked a conversation at Basecamps HQ: What defines the different levels of safari camps? What makes a safari camp luxury, versus superior, or standard?
Yeah, we're travel nerds, and we talk about these things.
Good thing we have a blog to work out the big, important questions!
This isn't a hard science, but we've been around the safari block enough times to be confident in our opinions regarding African Safari tours. So what follows is our best approximation of what defines the different levels of safari: Standard, Mid-Range, Luxury, and Mind-Blowing Uber Camping.
A Note About Staff and Service...
Before we move up the ladder of accommodation, we are obligated to mention the guides, chefs and service staff that make each camp a complete safari experience.
Along with all the listed differences in each category, consider the enormous difference in service and guiding from Standard camps to Luxury camps and beyond. Naturally, the very best staff and guides are in high demand, and the top camps are willing to pay top dollar for their contracts.
The best guides are the most knowledgeable in the wildlife they track, have the most experience, are personable and service-minded, and are generally a blast to spend your days with. The chefs employed by luxury safari camps are on par with the big city chefs, and the service staff are similarly on par with their counterparts at the world's best hotels.
Standard Stylin': We're All Watching The Same Animals, Right?
Plenty of travelers opt to save money in their accommodation levels, or maybe even save money at one camp in order to splurge at another. Even the most basic camps offer great safari experiences though, and there's no shame in saving money for the next safari, right?
- Everything you need to be comfy: mattress, private en suite bathrooms, and staff eager to make the most of your experience.
- Least desirable locations. Yes, we're all game driving in the same parks, but often with standard camps, this will involve a commute to the best spots.
- Rustic, basic design with few bells and whistles. Smaller tents.
- There's almost no such thing as bad food on safari, but while you enjoy your hardy breakfasts, lunches and dinners, you'll be thinking about the cuisine you missed out on if you had upgraded.
Mid-Range Maxin': Because We Like Both Bells And Whistles!
As we move up the ladder, we start noticing added benefits, added luxuries, and better food. There's no question that upgrading your camp is worth the money.
- Flushing toilets. There may not be plumbing out in the bush, but it's still nice to enjoy a western-style flushing toilet.
- More attention to decor.
- Mobility. The camp may move around throughout the year, to take advantage of migratory patterns. Don't worry, the camp will be set up when you get there.
- Bush dinners. Instead of a dining tent, you may be able to enjoy meals in the open air, enjoying the night sky with your wine.
Luxury Livin': We Could Get Used To This
It's really hard to believe what some of these safari camps can accomplish so far out in the middle of the African wilderness. The attention to detail in luxury camps is impressive. World class chefs are cooking your dinner, less tents per camp mean more personal attention, and better locations within the national parks offer beautiful sunset views and more convenient game viewing.
- 24-hour power and hot water. While other camps may shut off their power generators at night, some camps manage to keep those both powered up and silent. Other conveniences like on-site laundry service are available.
- Bigger tents, with perhaps an indoor and outdoor sitting area, and more modern, plush designs. To quote one of our Africa Travel Specialists, "That's when you start seeing hand-carved Zambian benches and stuff."
- Perhaps most important to the staff here at Global Basecamps, nearly all drinks (including alcohol) start being included with your nightly rate.
- Overall, none of these things would be impressive in a five-star city hotel. It's the fact that all of these amenities are out there, next to rhino and elephant, on a crater rim or elephant watering hole, that makes one feel like they are royalty on an African expedition.
Mind Blowing Uber Camping: Can We Have A Butler Back Home?
These are the far flung, exclusive, ultimate luxury properties where you might run into Brad and Angelina. These camps might only be reachable via small plane, so you can enjoy thousands of acres of wilderness to yourself. Regardless of their location, they'll definitely have the highest staff/guest ratio, ensuring the highest level of attention to detail and service.
- 24-hour butler service catering to every wish and whim. As well as your own private safari guide driver and game spotter.
- Staff might be available to provide a private sleep out, should you feel like sleeping under African stars, and rising to elephant calls and a private bush breakfast.
- Small camp size, so the world-class staff can concentrate on serving only eight tents, instead of thirty.
- Privacy, exclusivity, remoteness. At this price level, the only other people you may ever see are your fellow guests, and your safari guides.
So there you have it. From standard to mind blowing, Africa has it all. There's something for everyone, and the best thing about Africa is that it's a common natural treasure for all to enjoy equally.