There is something thrilling about staying in a tent on safari. Instead of being shut away behind brick and glass, enjoy the glow of lantern light on canvas walls and drift off to sleep to the sounds of the African night. And if your idea of staying in a tent means having to rough it in a brightly coloured 'dome', you're in for a wonderful surprise: Africa's top tented camps offer a softer kind of adventure with all the comfort and the trimmings you'd expect from a luxury safari lodge.
From Hemingway-style mobile safari camps set up in exclusive sites to massive tented suites with everything from private pools to polished wooden floors, we've combed the continent for our selection of Africa's best tented safari camps.
A TOUCH OF ROMANCE
At Baines' Camp, set on the edge of the Okavango Delta, you pretty much have the whole place to yourself. After peaceful days meandering along the languid waterways in a local canoe, return to one of only five romantic suites and have your luxurious 4-poster bed rolled out onto your private deck to sleep under the African stars.
And if the only crowds you want to see during East Africa's Wildebeest Migration are massive herds of animals; we'd highly recommend Sayari Camp. This seasonal camp lies far off the tourist track in the beautiful northern Serengeti and its huge tents and serene ambience are just a couple of the many reasons why Sayari is considered one of the 'Special Places in Africa' by Africa Geographic.
TRUE TENTED LUXURY
Singita Sabora Tented Camp is set in Tanzania's exclusive Grumeti Reserves. Expect opulent luxury from mahogany antiques and Persian rugs to dreamy spa treatments. What's more, staying in a privately owned reserve means you can experience a fantastic range of extra activities such as hot-air balloon safaris, night drives and horse-back adventures on the Serengeti plains.
Overlooking the teeming plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya, Bateleur Camp is a classic tented camp positioned just below the spot where the famous last scene of Out of Africa was filmed. Bateleur is well known for its exceptional service and elegant tented suites, as well as the occasional safari surprise such as 3-course dinners out in the African bush.
Just outside the Masai Mara, in its own game-rich conservancy, is Cottar’s 1920s Camp. Cottar’s captures the spirit of the early explorers with Hemingway-style tents lavishly furnished with authentic antiques: picture canopied beds and faded Louis Vuitton trunks, fine candlelit dinners followed by a glass of port as the gramophone crackles into life. Cottar’s also has a spa and is one of the few small luxury properties in the Mara with a swimming pool.
THE MOBILE EXPERIENCE
For an authentic camping experience, you can't really do better than a mobile tented camp. Moving to ensure you're always well positioned for great game viewing, you'll be camping in comfort in walk-in tents with crisp linen on comfortable double beds and en-suite bathrooms with hot bucket-showers.
We'd recommend Chobe Under Canvas in the Chobe National Park, an area world-renowned for its huge herds of elephant and buffalo, or Serengeti Under Canvas, a mobile camp which follows the Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania, ensuring your game-viewing seats are always in the front row.
WELL OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Wolwedans Private Camp, set in the quiet seclusion of Namibia's NamibRand Nature Reserve, has been designed for guests who really want to get away from it all. Surrounded by mesmerising red Sossusvlei dunes and distant purple mountains, this villa-type suite has a wooden frame with canvas walls which can be opened up completely - perfect for stargazing from the warmth of your bed.
Romantics seeking adventure are sure to love Jongomero: a classic tented safari camp in Tanzania’s wild Ruaha National Park. Built on raised wooden decking, these spacious tents overlook a dry riverbed where elephant are often seen. But what really sets Jonogomero apart is the people who work there: the knowledgeable, entertaining guides and wonderful hosts who conjure up delicious treats and safari surprises.
Set amongst clusters of desert palms, the white Meru-style tents of Botswana's San Camp look out over Makgadikgadi's gigantic salt pans, giving this camp a feeling of incredible space. If you're looking for something different from the norm, we'd recommend San Camp's unique activities which include nature walks guided by Kalahari Bushmen and fun interactions with wild meerkats.
ECO-FRIENDLY PEACE OF MIND
Stay in a tented suite looking down on the gin-clear waters of Lake Malawi and spend your days kayaking to hidden beaches or drifting off to sleep in your hammock to the haunting cries of fish eagles. Mumbo Island Camp was hand-built using strict principles of eco-architecture to ensure minimal impact on this peaceful private island.
Porini Lion Camp, a luxury tented camp bordering Kenya's Masai Mara, is another great example of low-impact eco-tourism: the camp uses solar power and the whole place could be dismantled within 24 hours, leaving hardly a trace. Stay in spacious safari tents and experience game drives and guided walks with Maasai warriors.