Do safari camps offer 5* luxury?

January 24th 2019  |   Botswana, Family Safaris, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Travel, Zimbabwe  |  by   Richard Smith
safari camps luxury - Sundowners at Kanana Camp, Botswana
Kanana Camp sundowners, Okavango Delta, Botswana

I take part in a couple of Twitter round tables each week. When the subject for one was ‘What today’s travellers want from 5 star resorts’ I was worried that safari camps and lodges couldn’t measure up to the great hotels of the world. Safari properties are typically in remote areas where normal hotel logistics are difficult. Couple this with the bureaucracy that Africa can add to any operation and it looks like they’d never be able to compete.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised to discover things that are ‘normal’ in a safari camp are the things that high end travellers say they want from the places they stay.

The first question asked was ‘what the best thing a hotel had ever done for someone?’

To which one of the answers was ‘chilled facecloths by the pool’. Anyone who has been on safari would almost take it for granted that they’d be offered a chilled facecloth on arrival, or at the end of every wildlife drive.

Somalisa Camp, elephants by the pool, Hwange, Zimbabwe

Somalisa Camp, elephants by the pool, Hwange, Zimbabwe

The next three answers to this question were ‘a welcome drink’, ‘a hot water bottle on a cold night’ and ‘knowing our names on arrival’. If you’ve stayed in a safari camp, you will know these are offered everywhere.

Added to this are the things you’ll get on safari that most people haven’t even thought of: fresh tea or coffee to your tent or room in the morning as standard, or including drinks so a nightcap by the campfire after dinner won’t be an extra on your bill.

Early morning hot drinks served in your tent at Sayari Camp, Serengeti, Tanzania

Early morning hot drinks served in your tent at Sayari Camp, Serengeti, Tanzania

And the word ‘sundowner’ was invented, and is perhaps only used, on safari – it’s the drink you’re handed when you’re enjoying one of Africa’s stunning views as the sun goes down.

Sundowners and after dinner drinks at Tinga Lodge, Lion Sands, South Africa

After dinner drinks at Tinga Lodge, Lion Sands, South Africa

As negatives, travellers mention hating to pay for wifi and waiting to check in or out.

Well you won’t pay for wifi on safari, but it may be so slow you may also decide you don’t want to use it and enjoy your surroundings. For many, this is one of the pleasures of remote camps as husbands, wives and children interact for the first time in years!

Family picnic by the river at Sosian, Laikipia, Kenya

Family picnic by the river at Sosian, Laikipia, Kenya

And if you are checked in at all, it’s a chat in a comfortable chair with a drink in your hand as the manager checks dietary requirements and lets you know what’s possible for your first wildlife activities. Checking out is normally just hugs and perhaps tears as people climb aboard a vehicle to take them to the airstrip – where else would you hug a manager you’ve known for just three days?

Keeping standards high

Luxury safari camps know that they cannot rest in their desire for excellence. Like the team at Aardvark Safaris, safari camp managers also ‘sleep in the beds, eat the meals, and walk with the guides’.

It’s only by staying in their rooms, or joining guests for drinks and meals, that lodge managers spot problems in a room layout, or get feedback guests wouldn’t normally bother writing down. This way the best become even better and continue to exceed their guests’ expectations.

Don’t think of safari camps as rough and ready. Many are designed by some of the world’s best architects and are in fact quite sophisticated. Added to this is the quality of service which would leave plenty of 5* hotels in their wake.

Singita Boulders Lodge, Kruger, South Africa

Contemporary and natural materials at Singita Boulders Lodge, Kruger, South Africa

Any questions on a safari in Africa?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions about luxury safari camps. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.

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