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As the industry has matured, standards in bush lodgings have improved and the range of options is enticing; we’re spoilt for choice! But what is the difference between a lodge and a bush camp, a tented camp or a mobile safari? And how do you know which is best suited to you? Looking to Zambia’s [...] The post Room service appeared first on Travel Africa Magazine. ...

Room service


As the industry has matured, standards in bush lodgings have improved and the range of options is enticing; we’re spoilt for choice! But what is the difference between a lodge and a bush camp, a tented camp or a mobile safari? And how do you know which is best suited to you? Looking to Zambia’s impressive operators for examples, Emma Gregg gives an overview of safari accommodation now available

What’s the best way to find your ideal place to stay on safari in Africa? Chances are, you’ll start by naming a few wildlife goals and narrowing your search down to a country or even a park. But what then? Did you know that your choice of accommodation can make an enormous difference to the quality and style of your experience?

Many of us get misty-eyed at the thought of a wilderness retreat, but the options are huge. One person’s idea of romantic bliss may be a luxurious four-poster bed in an air-conditioned room with a grandstand balcony and a bathroom as big as a flat, and with quality standards rising over the past 20 years, plenty of destinations can deliver. Others may long for the simplicity of a mosquito net, a campfire and a back-to-basics bucket shower slung in a tree. This, too, is perfectly possible and can be an immaculately presented experience, if you know where to look and who to ask.

So far, Africa’s safari heartlands haven’t been as nimble as cities in embracing technology-driven accommodation concepts, such as upcycled shipping containers, Airbnb apartments or capsule hotels. But if you’d like a private safari house equipped with an electric safari vehicle, Wi-Fi and iPads to exchange messages with your guide or chef, certain regions can deliver.

Befuddling as the choices may seem, safari accommodation falls into just a handful of categories. If you begin by imagining the type of atmosphere and facilities that will suit you best, you’ll find it easier to choose. We have picked some examples in Zambia to illustrate what we mean.

Lodge
In four words Hotel in the bush.
Open year round? Yes. Usually permanent and accessible in all seasons.
What type of safari is it designed for? Organised safari activities, usually shared with other guests. A lodge often has more facilities than a camp, so there’s more to do back at base.
Does it have fixed structures? Yes, buildings: reception and dining areas, guest rooms and other buildings, sometimes with air con.
What are they made with? Combination of modern and natural materials (e.g. stone, brick, concrete, glass, timber, reeds, grass).
Is it fenced? Sometimes.
Where do you sleep? In a solid-walled chalet, cabin or room with doors and glazed windows.
What is the bed like? Hotel-style comfort.
And your bathroom? En suite, with mains plumbing. Usually attractive, sometimes luxurious.
What will the dining experience be like? Restaurant-style service, typically in a solid-walled, insect-proof bar/dining room. Small lodges serve meals at a single table. Larger lodges have separate tables.
Any other shared facilities? Extensive (e.g. firepit, library, Wi-Fi, swimming pool, garden, spa, gym, shop, function rooms).
What about power? Usually 24-hour throughout the site.
What does the price normally include? Full board and guided activities.
Example in Zambia? Mfuwe Lodge, South Luangwa National Park
Expert view: what’s its appeal? Andy Hogg, The Bushcamp Company
“Lodges combine the best of both worlds: a bush experience with all the creature comforts. From your private deck, you watch wildlife passing by, while still enjoying fine dining, and amenities such as a swimming pool, spa, gym, library and Wi-Fi. They offer first-time safari-goers more peace of mind, with more familiar surroundings from which to experience the wonders of a safari.”

Tented camp
In four words Tents instead of rooms.
Open year round? Either dry season only or year-round.
What type of safari is it designed for? Organised safari activities, shared with other guests. Functions like a lodge, but semi-open structures with natural ventilation mean a closer connection to nature.
Does it have fixed structures? Yes, safari tents. Often on timber platforms with decks and thatched roofs. Some camps have buildings.
What are they made with? Combination of canvas and other materials (e.g. stone, brick, concrete, glass, timber, reeds, grass).
Is it fenced? Sometimes.
Where do you sleep? In a comfortable canvas safari tent,  with doors and glazed windows or mesh screens.
What is the bed like? Hotel-style comfort.
And your bathroom? En suite, with mains plumbing or a washstand, bucket shower and flush toilet.
What will the dining experience be like? Restaurant-style service, typically in an open-sided bar/dining room. Small camps serve meals at a single table. Larger camps have separate tables.
Any other shared facilities? Often extensive (e.g. firepit, library, Wi-Fi, swimming pool, garden, spa, gym, shop).
What about power? Usually 24-hour in main reception/dining area.
What does the price normally include? Full board and guided activities.
Example in Zambia? Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi National Park
Expert view: what’s its appeal? Grant Cumings, Chiawa Camp
“There is nothing quite like sleeping in a tented room ― knowing there is only canvas between you and nature. When the wind blows, the material moves slightly. When a branch (or a hippo) scrapes against your flysheet, it’s spine-tinglingly loud. Can safari get any more real than this? Even if you’re in a super-king-sized bed, with electric lights, an en suite bathroom, camera chargers and Wi-Fi?”

The full range of options (including a bush camp, fly camp, self-catering camp and a private house) are published in Issue 80 (October-December 2017), available to purchase here.

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