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The Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris

Deciding to take a trip to Africa for a safari adventure is an enormous proposition, involving considerable research into which country you would like to visit, where you want go, which season to visit, and what exactly you want to gain from the experience. And that is before you have looked into booking flight tickets! With such a range of options as to where, what and how, booking a safari can be a bit overwhelming: once you've chosen a particular country, you need to decide between the cosseted pampering and luxury of a top-end lodge, with magnificent accommodation and an accompanying price tag, through all the mid-level options to an overland adventure tour where you help out with daily chores.

Somewhere in the middle, you will find 'mobile safaris'. Wilderness Safaris offer these adventures under the ‘Explorations’ banner, and &Beyond call them ‘Expeditions’. 

A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - camping in the wilderness
A classic 'mobile camping' scene: you're right in the heart of the bush with elephants as your neighbours.

These are affordable, adventurous, and a huge amount of fun, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, put the idea of ‘camping’ out of your mind - this is a ‘glamping’ experience! Depending on the locations you visit, you will either be staying at a permanent classic camp at the top end of the scale, or in a mobile camp that has been set up ahead of your arrival. Both options come with fantastic meals simmering in the kitchen as you arrive, and chilled drinks awaiting you. The main difference is in the size and structure of the camp.

A permanent classic camp offers a large room with a large en suite bathroom, and a main communal building housing a lounge, bar and dining room. Some classic camps even have swimming pools. A mobile camp also offers a large room and en suite bathroom with a communal area, almost exclusively under canvas and on a smaller scale to a permanent camp. Mobile camps are just that: non-permanent structures, so you won't find a pool. Both types of camps will always offer you a proper bed to sleep in, a piping hot shower, delicious wholesome cuisine and ice cold drinks. Often an Explorations or Expeditions vacation utilises both types of camp, which adds variety to the overall safari experience.

A mobile safari offers some specific benefits and advantages...

1. Your guide:

A good guide is what makes or breaks a safari, and the guides chosen to lead mobile safaris are among the very best. They are not only personable and professional, they are also experienced in a variety of fields, from guiding on foot to having ornithology expertise to wildlife photography, and the ability to share on their vast knowledge with you.

Your guide accompanies you for the entire trip, and, as he gets to know your interests and preferences, he can really shape your safari experience in a way that is not possible when your itinerary hops from lodge to lodge with a different guide at each location. Your mobile safari guide also communicates your special interests or needs with the staff of the camps you visit. 

A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - your guide organising drinks
Your guide truly shapes your safari around you.
A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - your guide showing you the ropes
Your guide shares the delights and thrills of his vast knowledge with you.

Explorations and Expeditions guides are truly extraordinary people: you meet your guide at the beginning of your trip as a guest, and after a week or longer together, you part as lifelong friends.

2. Small group size:

A mobile safari will never have more than eight people on it. This is ideal if you are a group of friends or a family wishing to have an exclusive experience. It's also a perfect way to enjoy an adventurous safari in the company of a small group of like-minded individuals. 

3. Private concessions:

Unlike a self-drive camping holiday that makes use of public campsites, a mobile safari with Wilderness or &Beyond offers exclusive access to private concessions. That means  an uncrowded game viewing experience in areas that are not accessible to the general public.

Mobile safaris often traverse regions with far more expensive permanent lodges which are operated by the same safari companies, which is a specific and significant advantage. When your mobile safari does use a campsite in a public-access game reserve or national park, it is separate and private from the public sites, usually only available to the mobile safari companies on a seasonal lease. Again, this advantage means a better, wilder and more authentic experience for you. 

A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - private concessions
Exploring private concessions an exclusive exclusive; the general public has no access to these areas.

4. Adventurous experiences:

A mobile safari is a more adventurous experience, hands down. For one thing, you travel by vehicle between locations and arrive at each new camp like an early explorer. You also have a much wider variety of activities to choose from. To make the most of the areas and habitats that you encounter, your guide leads you on walking safaris and mokoro trips (a dugout canoe) over and above the usual game drives. When distances are not too great, the journeys between locations are undertaken by vehicle, giving you the chance to really get to know the country you travel through. Driving three to four hours across the Kalahari or in Namibia, for example, gives you an incredible insight into the vastness of the landscape and the breathtaking sense of space that Africa offers.

5. Affordability:

Mobile safaris are accessibly priced, somewhere between a participatory overland trip and a high-end luxury lodge fly-in tour. This makes mobiles appealing to a broad spectrum of people, from the young-at-heart who want to experience Africa without spending a fortune, to more budget-conscious travellers yearning for an exclusive safari experience.

A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - around the fire
The camaraderie around the camp fire is a daily ritual.
A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - dinner!
Enjoy delicious fire cooked meals served with a smile!

A mobile safari does not require you to have a special level of fitness - there is no strenuous activity required of you. But it does require an adventurous spirit and the desire to experience and enjoy some of Africa’s greatest wilderness areas in an interactive and up-close way. If you want to get the most out of a safari, getting to know a destination intimately, sharing bonding experience with your travel compantions, and encounter pristine wilderness areas, then a mobile safari might just be perfect for you! 

Written by Ryan Green. Connect with him on Google+.

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