Camping Safaris in Africa - Things to Know Before You Go

Laura Pattara

Laura Pattara  |  4 July 2023

Whether you're a seasoned adventure-seeker or novice explorer,  it pays to know the kind of experience you’re signing up for on a camping safari in Africa.

Falling asleep in a tent to the sounds of the African wilderness is one of the most magical travel experiences you could ever have anywhere on Earth. An African camping safari is a veritable 'adventure of a lifetime' that immerses you in the breathtaking beauty of the continent's diverse landscapes and extraordinary wildlife. Yet knowing what kind of adventure you're signing up for ensures a smooth, enjoyable, and (most importantly) perfect-for-you experience.

Here are some helpful tips and things you should know before going on an African camping safari.


Elephant and Truck in the African Savannah

Elephant and Truck in the African Savannah


1.   Be prepared for one of the most immersive travel experiences you’ll ever have

Pitching up a tent within the confines of an African wildlife reserve is the stuff of which travel dreams are made. At night, when animals are most active, you’ll hear a cacophony of sounds – from howling hyenas to roaring lions and branches crunching under the weight of meandering elephants. A camping safari offers a sensory experience that goes above and beyond any other lodging option – it is safe, exhilarating, and, for many, life-changing. If you’ve ever wanted to experience the essence of our planet, ruled by Mother Nature and her extraordinary wild creatures, that's precisely what you'll feel on a camping safari.


Lions having some rest, South Africa.

Lions having some rest, South Africa.


2.   African camping safaris are perfectly safe!

If you’ve yet to visit Africa and envisage pitching a tent among herds of predatory animals, take a breath and chill just a minute. That’s not the kind of 'camping safari adventure' we're talking about. Travel with a reputable company and follow all safety protocols outlined by your guides, and your camping safari will be blissfully safe.

A professional and experienced safari operator will have expert knowledge of the areas visited on your itinerary and provide valuable guidance to keep you safe during your entire trip. Likewise, the camps and lodges chosen will have safety protocols (like fences and night guards) to keep guests safe. No matter what kind of camping safari you choose, you'll be advised about various protocols involving your behavior at camp (what areas you should avoid after dark), food storage habits and so on.


Honeyguide Tarangire Camp 22 800

Honeyguide Tarangire Camp, South Africa


3.   You don’t have to skimp on luxury

Africa is the birthplace of glamping, the continent awash with fantastic tented luxury camping lodges that take 'sleeping in a tent' to a whole other level. While you can choose a more traditional camping safari – where you're responsible for putting up your own tent and perhaps helping with meal preparation – there's an abundance of options to add varying levels of luxury to the experience. We're talking permanent tented camps and lodges with private terraces, gourmet restaurants, swimming pools, small-group private game drives, and a host of other included experiences.

The best luxury safari camping lodges are in extraordinary locations, usually on the banks of rivers or renowned waterholes where wildlife congregates at sunset. This is camping like you’ve never experienced before!


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Kigelia Ruaha, Tanzania


4.   You can find a camping safari experience to match your budget

Choosing the right camping lodge or safari experience is a matter of personal preference. Amid the most minimalist and luxurious options lies a delicate balance: choose between immersing yourself in the raw beauty of the African wild and indulging in the creature comforts and conveniences that can lift your safari experience.

Do you long to be serenaded by the thrilling sounds of the wilderness? Or do you seek an array of facilities that offer relaxation, and entertainment? You can have both in Africa, with various budgets to match – the choice is yours!


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Chada Katavi, Tanzania


5.   Be prepared for early wake-up calls and active days

African camping safaris are exhilarating experiences that offer unparalleled opportunities to immerse yourself in the wilderness, observe wildlife up close, and connect with nature – but they can also be quite physically demanding. Since wildlife is most active at first light, early starts are a must. Trust us, even the most avid sleeper will not want to miss a single moment of the African sunrise spectacle! Sunrise game drives and other wildlife spotting excursions – like hot-air balloon safaris – are among the most unmissable experiences.

Aside from the early starts, camping safaris also involve long drives on bumpy roads and quite physically engaging days – whether you choose a luxury safari camping experience or a more budget-conscious one. Luckily, there are always a few hours for rest in the middle of the day and, most often than not, early nights so you can wake up refreshed, ready to discover the magical experiences the day has in store.


Majestic African Safari Encounter

Majestic African Safari Encounter


6.   You’ll enjoy a delectable array of food

Fantastic feasting is an integral part of the camping safari experience in Africa. Operators and lodges take great pride in offering the continent's native flavors, cooked to perfection and with great creativity. Luxury camps and reputable operators typically accommodate all dietary restrictions and preferences. Whether you follow a vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or other specialized diet, most camps can cater to your needs with advance notice.

Camping safaris that include guest participation are a phenomenal way to immerse yourself in Africa's rich culinary tapestry. With your knowledgeable guide at hand, you can visit local produce markets, learn how to prepare traditional dishes using local ingredients, and enjoy a truly hands-on experience.


Honeyguide Mantobeni Camp 58 800

Honeyguide Mantobeni Camp, South Africa


7.   You have the option of modern expedition trucks that offer comfort, safety, and reliability

A great way to minimize exhaustion on a camping safari is to go with an operator offering the latest safari truck model. Once upon a time, overland truck expeditions through the wilds of Africa were minimalist and rather rough affairs – the kind that mainly attracted adventure-seeking backpackers hoping for a few impromptu breakdowns so they could have yet another 'crazy African story' to share with their friends.

Nowadays, your options also include state-of-the-art trucks with reclining seats and private guest lockers, built-in fridges, and freezers – for those all-important refreshing drinks at the end of a steamy day on the road – as well as built-in kitchens, USB charging ports, and oversized windows so everyone can enjoy wildlife spotting and landscape viewing. As you might imagine, this kind of camping safari experience is a whole other ballgame. Generally, larger trucks are used to cover longer distances between destinations, and smaller vehicles are used for game drives within reserves.


Kenya Tanzania14

Drifters truck.


8.   Make sure your safari operator uses quality camping gear – and know what you need to bring

The kind of gear included on a camping safari expedition varies significantly among companies. It pays to specifically research the type of gear your chosen operator uses – research past guests’ reviews and see if they praise the tents, camping beds, chairs, and all other equipment. Good quality gear is essential, especially on physically demanding safaris. A good night's sleep is absolutely crucial!

On some tours, you'll need to bring your sleeping bag, pillow, and towel, but these can also be provided on others. If you need to bring some camping gear, ask about recommended ratings (like the warmth rating on sleeping bags, as it can get chilly in Africa!) and if there's an option to rent gear once you arrive.


Group of tents and 4x4 offroad safari truck in Namibia

Group of tents and 4x4 offroad safari truck in Namibia


9.   Know what the safari price includes!

All-inclusive vacations often get a bad rap, but they are genial when it comes to African camping safaris. A good tip is to carefully study the inclusions of your chosen tour to see precisely the kind of 'extra expenses you'll have to fork out for on your trip. You might not think you'll want to 'do it all,' but you probably will once you are in Africa. Entry fees to private parks and wildlife reserves can be steep. Extra expenses for food, optional game drives, and other excursions can add up fast.

We recommend choosing a tour that includes all wildlife spotting excursions but offers optional extras for activities you may not necessarily want to do and can be expensive – like whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, and hot-air ballooning.

> TOP TIP: If hot-air ballooning is on your bucket list, our Africa Destination Specialists can help you add it onto any package that includes a night in either the Serengeti or Masai Mara. Get in touch to find out more.


Hot-air Ballooning in Masai Mara, Kenya.

Hot-air ballooning in Masai Mara, Kenya. 



10. As far as environmental impact is concerned, not every camping safari is created equal

Luxury camping safaris in Africa are renowned for their remarkable wildlife encounters, and the options available are as diverse as the continent itself. Each high-end African trip and setting exudes a distinct atmosphere and style, offering a truly tailored experience.

One vital aspect to consider is the environmental consciousness of the itinerary. For those with a deep passion for nature, making ethical choices prioritizing climate change and biodiversity is imperative. Minimizing time spent in the air can be a conscious step towards reducing your carbon footprint in Africa.

While your long-haul flight will undoubtedly leave an environmental impact, you can mitigate the further impact by starting and ending your trip near an international airport and using road travel in between. By selecting destinations within the same region, you'll do away with domestic flights and will enjoy elevated wildlife spotting chances to boot. Options abound if you wish to take a more sustainable approach without compromising the splendor of your safari adventure.


Aerial shot, Namib desert, Namibia.

Aerial shot, Namib desert, Namibia.


11. Choose a camping safari operator with a track record of conservation efforts

Aside from making personal choices that support sustainability, you can also research the conservation commitments of your chosen camping safari operator. The best agencies work together with local conservation projects and actively support local communities, rehabilitating deforested areas and protecting at-risk wildlife, so you know your well-earned travel funds are going to worthwhile causes.

By considering these factors, you can embark on a luxury camping safari in Africa that immerses you in awe-inspiring wildlife encounters and aligns with your commitment to responsible travel and environmental preservation.


White Rhinoceros, Endangered Species, Kenya.

White Rhinoceros, Endangered Species, Kenya.


12. You’ll need to embrace spontaneity and unpredictability

Last-minute itinerary changes, detours, and delays are to be expected on every camping safari in Africa. Because, when you come face to face with a herd of elephants crossing the road in front of your truck… who wants to be in a hurry?!

Spontaneity and unpredictability are the names of the safari game, and, for innumerable reasons, including guests’ personal safety, last-minute changes must sometimes be made. But that's part and parcel of the African safari experience, so embrace the adventure!


Herd of Elephants crossing in Amboseli, Kenya.

Herd of Elephants crossing in Amboseli, Kenya.


13. Know the best time of year to enjoy an African camping safari

The best time to go on a camping safari in Africa depends on several factors, including the specific countries and the wildlife you want to see. Generally, the dry season is the best for camping safaris – unlike lodge-based trips, which can be enjoyed even with plentiful rain.

The dry season runs from June to October in Eastern and Central African destinations like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. January and February also offer fantastic game viewing chances. The Great Wildebeest Migration typically occurs in July-October in the Serengeti – an exceptionally popular period for many reasons. The shoulder months of November and December can offer a fabulous compromise of smaller tourist crowds, lower prices, and only slightly higher chances of showers. In Kenya and Tanzania, March, April, and May can be quite idyllic, although rains are increasing in Uganda and Rwanda.

The dry season starts a little earlier in Southern Africa, so a camping safari in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe is typically idyllic from May until October.


Warthog during the dry season

Warthog during the dry season.


14. Book your African camping safari at least six (6) months in advance – 12 is best!

Traveling to Africa during peak travel times and the dry seasons requires plentiful advance booking. For example, if you're contemplating gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda, know that permits are limited and often sell out up to one year in advance. The same story rings true for the most popular routes, tours, and lodges – the best are booked out months in advance at the best of times and up to 12 months for the peak-season months.

Naturally, last-minute cancellations and lucky finds are always possible. Still, they shouldn't be relied upon for such a momentous and meaningful travel experience.

If you've been dreaming of an African camping safari, it is never too early to get in touch! Finding the right tour, itinerary, and camping safari option to match your desires and budget can take weeks or even months. The sooner you get the ball rolling, the sooner you'll pack for your once-in-a-lifetime trip.


Mountain gorilla Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.

Mountain gorilla, Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.


Contact us to find out more.

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