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It’s becoming easier and easier for committed vegetarians to enjoy safaris in Africa and, while vegan menus haven’t quite caught up just yet, great strides are being made all the time to cater for those who follow plant-based diets. In this blog we discuss the following:

  • What food to expect on safari
  • How to plan a trip to Africa if you are vegan
  • A selection of suitable accommodation

 

Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp boma dinner.

What to Expect

What Food to Expect on Safari

We’ve been crisscrossing the length and breadth of Africa since 1998 and have really seen a sea-change in approaches to food. As logistics and supply chains have improved so tinned, dried and pre-packaged foods have given away to fresh produce, fashionable vegetables, salads beyond lettuce and tomato, and even hand-made cordials, pasta and cakes.

Eating is a huge part of most safaris and it’s not unusual to have the following meals:

  • Continental breakfast of coffee, tea, juice and pastries on your morning game drive.
  • Full-cooked breakfast or brunch back in camp (cereals, fruits, bread, eggs and cheese).
  • Afternoon or high tea before your afternoon game drive (beverages and biscuits, cakes, sandwiches, quiches and tarts).
  • Sundowners on your final game drive (alcoholic beverages with snacks such as dried fruit, nuts and savouries).
  • Dinner back at camp (usually three courses such as soup, mains and pudding).

Luxurious sundowners at Belmond Khwai River Lodge in Botswana

”Best

I worked with Bonita at Go2Africa. She was wonderful. She was able to accommodate all my requests and her suggestions were spot on. She returned my emails quickly and she organized the most amazing holiday I have ever been on. It was eleven days and 4 lodges through Uganda and everything went exactly as planned… I am a solo female traveler as well as vegan, and the lodges were able to accommodate no problem. All the lodges were exceptional. I saw lions, leopards, zebras, elephants, hippos and giraffes. And I trekked to see gorillas!

- ”Melany

Lodge chefs have a difficult task: they must provide a variety of meals for different palates far from any stores or suppliers. It’s not unknown for monkeys or even elephants to raid kitchen gardens, which many camps now have to ensure a fresh supply of herbs, vegetables and fruits. If a generator fails, the chef must ensure that cold produce is not spoilt in places where temperatures regularly hit 40°C / 104°F. Once you think about all the obstacles a camp chef faces, you really appreciate the extraordinary meals they create!

Outdoor table beautifully laid out at Kigelia Camp, Zambia

Many safari operators try to work closely with local communities for items like eggs and fruit – conservation works best when local people feel the financial benefits directly.

Generally, you can expect familiar food with occasional local touches. Dinner may consist of butternut soup, vegetable curry and fruit pudding. Brunch is anything from omelettes to quiches with a variety of salads. Snacks – called ‘bitings’ in East Africa – are often delicious local items like freshly roasted peanuts or cashews, washed down with plenty of local beer. Wine and spirits are always available, and many lodges are doing away with bottled water in favour of filtered water that is a hundred percent safe to drink.

Some places will offer a set menu while others provide options for dinner. If you can, choose a lodge that doesn’t rely on set menus as they will be more likely to be able to accommodate dietary requests.

Africa safari bush picnic laid out at Saruni Samburu in Kenya

Planning Tips

How to Plan a Trip if You are Vegan

The most important part of planning your safari is to communicate openly with your personal Safari Expert so he or she can ensure they place you at a lodge or camp that can accommodate your needs. Although more and more places can cater for vegans, not all can due to remoteness or limited access to supplies.

It’s very important to stress what you can and can’t eat, and to ensure that your safari hosts are able to feed you. Don’t assume items like vegan cheese or almond milk are widely available as they are not.

Vegan and Vegetarian safari snacks at Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, Botswana

13 Top Tips for Vegan and Vegetarian Safaris

1. Communicate openly

The more information your Safari Expert has, the better your safari will be. No detail is too small to be mentioned.

2. Head for more developed countries like South Africa

South Africa has a growing vegan community so accessing vegan items like tofu, calcium-fortified ‘yoghurts’, meat substitutes and vegan butter is much easier here. Cape Town and the surrounding Winelands probably have the widest variety of vegan options on the continent.

3. Plan on a surcharge

There may be a small surcharge if specialist items are secured just for you.

4. Ask about taking your own snacks

This may not always be possible – be sure to check the customs rules about bringing in dried fruits, seeds and vegetables, nuts and so on. Some governments will not allow foreign agricultural produce to enter their countries. Also, check that your camp is happy to store these items for you – never keep food in your tent or suite as this will attract bugs and monkeys. Check whether you can transport food in plastic bags as countries like Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa are clamping down on plastic.

5. Consider areas that have a large number of Indian guests

The traditional Indian diet is famously easily adaptable to being vegan so these lodges will be more familiar cooking plant-based dishes. Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, South Africa and Mauritius all have sizable Indian communities.

6. Consider staying in a stand-alone safari villa

This will allow you to determine your menu as you please due to the presence of a private chef.

Chef standing in the private villa kitchen at Singita Castleton, Sabi Sand, South Africa

7. Ensure that you eat enough and stay hydrated

You may not feel like eating much in hot weather but a safari can be very taxing and it’s important to keep your energy levels up. Drink plenty of water too as long hours out in the heat and dust can be very dehydrating.

8. Consider a supplement

If your usual diet is going to change, consider taking nutritional supplements on safari to ensure optimal health. This is especially important if you are going gorilla trekking as trekkers who are ill are not allowed near the gorillas because they are very susceptible to human infections and diseases.

9. Stay at the most upmarket lodges possible

These are more equipped to handle vegan menus.

10. If animal welfare is very important to you, carefully consider village visits or cultural encounters.

Villages have livestock such as chickens, goats, cattle, pigs and sheep living cheek-by-jowl with dogs, donkeys and sometimes horses – standards of care may be very different to what you are used back home. Vets are expensive and few and far between, and animals are prized for their produce.

11. Ask if your lodge has a kitchen garden.

Camps with kitchen gardens can more readily supply delicious fresh fruits and veggies – some even allow you to spend time with the gardeners and chefs harvesting your own salad goodies for lunch and dinner.

12. If the sight of other diners eating meat is upsetting to you, enquire about private dining.

This is not always possible and some camps have a communal dining set-up that can’t be altered. Rather ask your Safari Expert to find a lodge with private, in-room at least separate dining. For some safari-goers, sampling venison such as zebra, kudu, eland or even ostrich eggs is part of the experience but we understand that this is definitely not for everyone.

13. Don’t be shy about requesting more of dish that you enjoyed

Africans are famously very hospitable and will take it as a compliment if you politely request a second helping. If it is a buffet, help yourself to what takes your fancy and ask questions if you are unsure of the ingredients.

Romantic bush dinner under a tree at Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Tanzania

”Thank

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, for the best holiday I have ever had! The lodges were amazing… and the food was delicious everywhere I went! Thank you so much for organizing my vegan safari to Uganda!

- ”Melany

Where to Stay

A Selection of Accommodation

The following is by no means an exhaustive list – there are many more lodges, hotels and guesthouses in South Africa, for example, that can easily accommodate vegetarians and vegans. All these options can provide vegetarian meals but be sure to double-check that they can provide vegan ones, too.

Botswana:

Savuti, Botswana
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Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Bush dining Game drives Specialist guides
Botswana, Botswana
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Muchenje Safari Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Boat excursions Full-day safaris Game drives Guided walking safaris
Okavango Delta, Botswana
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Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Boat excursions Fishing Game drives

Namibia:

Windhoek, Namibia
All accommodation at Goche Ganas is fully en suite.
Air conditioning & draped mosquito nets ensure a good night's sleep at Goche Ganas.
Breakfast on the terrace is served Namibian-style - with plenty of sunshine & big views.
Stroll out onto your private timber deck for a cooling desert breeze.
Wildlife in Goche Ganas' private game reserve ranges from giraffe & rhino to cheetah & leopard.
Treat yourself to a soothing massage after your long journey.
Each chalet at Goche Ganas enjoys panoramic views over the lodge's private reserve.

Goche Ganas

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Biking Game drives Guided walks Star gazing
Caprivi, Namibia
Namushasha River Lodge is situated on the banks of the Kwando River, overlooking a hippo pool. The comfortable Standard Chalets are equipped with mosquito nets, air conditioning and electronic safes. Hop on board a river boat to explore the Kwando River and discover the exceptional bird life and other animals of the Caprivi. Watch hippos splash in the river from your suite's private deck. Enjoy delicious meals served at Namushasha's restaurant, while watching over the hippo pool. One of the best ways to discover the wonderful animals around the river is on a boat cruise. Cool off in the lodge's swimming pool or simply relax under a shady tree.

Namushasha River Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Boat excursions Fishing Game drives
Damaraland, Namibia
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Etendeka Mountain Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walks Hiking

Kenya:

Samburu, Kenya
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Saruni Samburu

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Bush dining Cultural visits Game drives
Masai Mara, Kenya
Porini-Cheetah-Camp Porini_Cheetah_Camp_img_4564 Porini-Cheetah-Camp_1 Porini_cheetah_camp_1 Guest-Tent-Porini-Cheetah-Camp Porini-Cheetah-Camp Wildebeest-Porini-Cheetah-camp

Porini Cheetah Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Game drives Guided walks Hot air ballooning
Amboseli National Park, Kenya
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Ol Tukai Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Bush dining Game drives Guided walks

South Africa:

Kruger National Park, South Africa
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Singita Lebombo Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walking safaris Guided walks
Cape Winelands, South Africa
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Babylonstoren

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Biking Canoeing Guided walks Spa treatments
Kruger National Park, South Africa
The bedroom adds a cozy and romantic atmosphere to your stay.
Tranquil abodes are great for retreating from the group and enjoying uninterrupted views from your balcony.
A magical atmosphere is created with the purposeful absence of electric lighting and natural but elegant interiors.
Safaris are led by experienced rangers in open-top land rovers.
Panoramic views from the main deck is perfect for watching animals meander past.
Spend afternoons at the pool after a day of game viewing and exploring.
Accommodation consists of beautifully appointed suites with open plan bedroom and en-suite bathroom

Notten's Bush Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Day tours Game drives

Tanzania:

Serengeti, Tanzania
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Singita Faru Faru River Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Biking Bird watching Game drives Specialist guides
Ruaha, Tanzania
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Kigelia Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bush dining Game drives Guided walks
Tanzania, Tanzania
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Lengai Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Game drives Guided walks Hiking
Angela
Written By

Angela

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