How basic camping Safaris Work?
At Monkey Adventures, for the safari tours we offer in Tanzania's northern parks, amongst various accommodation options you can also find budget/basic camping options.
In basic camping safaris, along with usual driver cum guide, you are provided with a cook and camping gear. Everyday while on safari, after you finish your game drives, you will be taken to campsite, which can inside or even outside the park, where your tent will be set up in front of you. Along with the tent, your camping gear also includes foam mattress, sleeping bags, pillows, chairs and a small table. Your cook will prepare dinner for the evening. Toilet/washroom facilities will be common/shared. In the mornings, after cook prepares meals, we packup our stuff and load them into the landcruiser and drive to next destination.
If you stay at a campsite inside the park, you will find yourself right in the midst of wilderness. There is no fence around these campsites so you will have to be prepared to have animals come and explore the area at night, and maybe even sniff around your own tent! The same cannot be said for campsites outside the park however, as they are located in the villages.
We generall use below campsites based on the itinerary For Central Serengeti - One of the public campsites in Seronera (middle of Central Serengeti) For Ngorongoro crater- Simba campsite (public), located on Ngorongoro crater rim For Manyara - A private campsite located about 5 min outside Park. Campsite located inside the park can be provided at extra cost For Tarngire - A private campsite located outside Park. Campsite located inside the park can be provided at extra cost For Ndutu - Simba campsite (public), located on Ngorongoro crater rim (1.2 hours from Ndutu). This is the nearest public campsite to Ndutu. For North Serengeti - Lobo public campsite, located about 1.5 hours from Kogatende/Mara River. This is the only public campsite in North Serengeti
Meals and drinks
The cook assigned to you will prepare three meals per day. We provide 2 litres of drinking water per client per day. Additional drinking water can be added if you inform us in advance. If you would like to add snacks and alcoholic beverages to these, you can get such items from grocery stores before arriving at the campsite.
Breakfast and dinner are served at campsite. Either a table is setup in the open grounds where the meals are served or it will be done at dinig room (if available) at the campgrounds. Lunch is almost always prepared and arranged as packed lunch boxes and served at picnic spots in the middle of park.
And don’t worry, post a hearty meal your guide and cook will ensure that the food scraps are not found near your tent which can otherwise attract a lot of animals.
About the variety/quality of food, tented camps/lodges offer better variety/quality of food as they have a resturant with team of chef/assistant chef and helpers preparing several items for each meal and they have access to large inventory of ingredients and large kitchen tent. In camping safaris, its only your cook with some help from your guide preparing the meals for you, with ingredients and cooking equipment that are carried from Arusha. Nevertheless, we rarely hear clients complaining about food on basic camping safaris and since we work with cooks that are rated highly, and allocate a larger budget for meals than most other basic camping safari operators, clients often give us 5/5 ratings for the food provided even on camping safaris.
What is included
Along with vehicle and guide fees, park fees, concession fees and other statutory fees that are required for safari, a basic/budget camping safari also includes the below:
Cook with cooking equipment and ingredients, 2 person dome tents (each tent will be shared by 2 clients), Sleeping bags, Foam mattress, Pillows, Tables, Chairs
Facilities at Campsite
The campsite will be equipped with basic washroom facilities, and many of them have a separate kitchen area as well where your cook can prepare meals. Although, since it will be a shared washroom, you might not find it as clean as a bathroom you would get in your own private room at a lodge. Often clients who have gone on budget camping have also experienced lack of hot water in these shared washrooms. Furthermore, it is not advisable to use these washrooms at night. Animals are bound to be nearby and they might pose a threat to you in the dark. Most guides keep a bottle around at night in case there is a washroom emergency, and they advise the travelers to do the same. For these reasons, a budget safari is not really suitable for groups with little kids.
Charging your devices
For charging phones and cameras, your safari vehicle will have charging ports, so you don’t need to worry about running out of batteries.
Wilderness/close to nature experience
Do camping safaris offer more close to nature or in the middle of wilderness experience compared to ensuite accommmodations (tented camps/lodges)? In our opinion answer is mostly No. Close to nature/wilderness experience depends largely on the location of your stay. At Serengeti for example, all ensuite accommodations we offer are in the middle of park and they offer same level of wilderness experience as basic camping.
At Tarangire & Manyara you have an option of staying inside the park vs outside in case of both ensuite accommodations and basic camping. Staying inside the park offers an adventorous and close to nature experience in both cases.
At Ngorongoro, in budget camping, we use Simba campsite which is on crater rim (inside the park) while the low priced ensuite accommdations are at Karatu town. So here, basic camping offers closer to nature experience compared to staying at budget lodges in Karatu.
Compared to safaris with stay at lodges/tented camps, on basic camping safaris, you have a extra person - cook traveling with you in the vehicle. And in addition to your luggage, the necessary equipment for camping like tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, chairs, tables for all the participants and the crew and cooking gear for 3 meals a day for the group will be additional. So the free space in the car, especially on safaris with 6 participants, is significantly lesser compared to safari with ensuite accommodations and consequently, the movement within the landcruiser will be more restricted.
When it rains
Its not comfortable to do budget camping when it rains. The campgrounds get muddy and slippery making it hard to step out of your tent. Despite being waterproof, sometimes, especially under heavy downpours we see from March to May, the tents can get wet and let moisture pass through. Combined with the fact that tented camps/lodges offer discounts in rainy season, we don't recommend budget camping safaris from March to May.
Relatively Budget camping safaris cost about 10-20% cheaper than similar tours with low end ensuite accommodations in itineraries that go to Serengeti.
For short itineraries that don't go to Serengeti, camping safaris cost almost same (or sometimes more expensive) than similar tours with budget lodges located in Karatu/Mto Wa Mbu.
If you wish to stay inside the parks on all nights, budget camping safaris cost about 20-25% cheaper than lowest priced ensuite accommodations located inside parks.
Mixing basic camping with tented camps/lodges
While it is possible to stay for some nights at basic camps and some nights at tented camps/lodges, it is not a convinient option as the cook/camping equipment rental are charged by day and you might be charged for these services even for the nights you stay at tented camp. So overall price might end up close to staying at tented camps/lodges for all nights. But if you are interested in experiencing both basic camps and tented camps, please check with your sales consultant and we might be able to offer such a tour at competitive rates.
So a budget camping safari has some pros (lower price in tours going to Serengeti) and several cons. It might not appeal to you if you need a spacious room to keep your things, a proper bed with solid mattress, a proper washroom where you can use hot shower after a long day in the bush. But it could be a decent option for backpackers and youngsters who are on a budget to save about 10-20% on the tour budget.