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Permanent tented camp in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania.
Safari glossary
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On safari:
Lodges and camps
Most safari-goers stay in lodges or tented camps when visiting the park in Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa. The lodges and camps are your base for game drives in the park, and is where you have your meals and relax between game drives. Some lodges and camps have a swimming pool, and there is usually some kind of observation point where you can look for animals or just enjoy the scenery.

Lodges in Kenya
Lodges in Tanzania

Budget safaris may include accommodation in camping sites or bandas, offering less comfort than lodges and tented camps.

Lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.

In short, a lodge is a hotel in the bush. There are lodges of many different kinds, ranging from cottage lodges with only a few rooms, to big hotel-looking buildings sleeping 150 or more guests.

You stay in a room or a bungalow, usually for two people. Extra beds for children can usually be arranged, and some lodges have family rooms. Some have suites. The rooms and bungalows have private bathrooms with toilet, washbasin and shower or bathtub. There are either mosquito nets for the beds, or netted windows.

Meals, pools and observation points
Meals are served in a restaurant, and most lodges have a lounge, a bar and a shop (for souvenirs and toiletries). Safe deposit, laundry services, phone and Internet, baby sitting etc may be available in or arranged from the reception. Some lodges have a swimming pool, and most have some kind of garden, where you may see birds and some smaller mammals, such as genets or mongoose. There may be an observation point overlooking a waterhole or the landscape surrounding the lodge.

Some lodges arrange special activities, such as balloon safaris, bush walks or night game drives.

Tree lodges
A certain kind of lodge is often called tree lodge. It is not built in a tree (there are such lodges, too), but is rather built among the trees, to blend into the surrounding nature. The buildings are mainly wooden, and overlooking a water hole, which is lit by floodlights at night. The game viewing is mainly done from the lodge. Two well-known tree lodges are Treetops Lodge and The Ark in Aberdare National Park in central Kenya.

Tent with a savanna view in Mikumi National Park in Tanzania.

Tented camps
In a tented camp, your room is not a room, but a tent. It's not camping, though. The tents are big enough for you to stand in, and have at least room for two normal beds and your luggage. The tents in some camps are furnished with comfortable chairs, tables, wardrobes, carpets etc, often in some kind of colonial style. A normal tent size, excluding the bathroom, is 12–20 m2/130–320 sq ft, but there are also bigger tents in some camps.

The back of the tent opens to a private bathroom with a toilet, a washbasin and a shower. This means that you can use the bathroom without going out of your tent.

The size and atmosphere of tented camps varies. There are small camps with a few tents and the savanna beginning right outside the canvas, and larger camps with maybe 50 tents, paved and lit paths leading to the restaurant and swimming pool, and bars, shops and lounges. The latter kind of camp is sometimes called a tented lodge. Meals are served in a restaurant, dining-room or dining-tent.

Most tented camps are permanent, i.e. built to stay where they are. But there are also mobile camps, which may be moved, for example to follow wildlife that moves between different areas depending on season.

Standard level and comfort
Considering the fact that you're in the middle of the bush in Africa, the standard and comfort of most lodges and tented camps is good. The rooms and tents are clean and generally free of insects. There are mosquito nets and private bathrooms. The tap pressure may be poor in some lodges/camps, where water supplies are poor. Some lodges and camps use solar systems for heating water, which means the water is usually hotter in the evenings than in the mornings.

Most lodges and camps in the parks generate their own electricity. To preserve fuel, generators are usually switched off in the middle of the days and during the nights. TV sets are rarely available in the rooms, but you may find a set in the bar or lounge.

Luxury accommodation
There are exclusive lodges and tented camps, priced at USD500 or more per night and person. In such a lodge or camp, you can expect excellent service and comfort.

Savanna view from the lodge pool area.

Most safari tours in Kenya and Tanzania includes full board, i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner. The meals are served in a restaurant, dining-hall or dining-tent, depending on the lodge or camp where you're staying.

More about eating and drinking

An increasing number of lodges and camps in East Africa take an environmentally friendly approach when building or re-investing in their premises. Some have an eco-policy and go a long way, using local materials for building, generating electricity with solar energy, cleansing wastewater, installing composting toilets, etc. Others may simply have found that it's cheap using solar energy for heating water.

If you do care about this aspect of your tour, you should read about the camps and lodges you are considering, to see what they are actually doing. Some seem to have a wide definition of what being environmentally friendly may include.

Camping is less comfortable than staying in lodges or tented camps, but camping safaris cost less. You usually pitch your tent in a dedicated camping site, which are found in most parks. These sites are mostly quite basic: a piece of flat ground, a pit toilet and cold water. Some camping sites have a storage room for food. You sleep in a sleeping bag on a mattress in a small tent. The hygiene facilities are simple, if there are any, and you share them with all other campers.

Packaged camping safaris often include a cook. Otherwise, it's you or your driver who will handle the cooking. Some safari operators bring a shower tent for you.

Don't confuse camping with staying in tented camps, which are much more comfortable.

Bandas are cottages or bungalows, usually quite simple, available in some parks. You handle the cooking and other camp chores yourself, and have to bring your own food and water supplies.

The Kenyan and Tanzanian park authorities, KWS and Tanapa, have their own bandas in some national parks. Contact the park headquarters in the park where you want to book a banda.

Other accommodation
There are also hostels and other similar forms of budget accommodation, but you rarely stay in these on packaged safari tours (you normally stay in lodges or tented camps). Information about finding such places can be found in backpacker guidebooks.

Lutheran Guesthouse in Karatu, northern Tanzania.

Lodges, tented camps, camping sites and bandas are found both inside and outside parks. Staying within a park means that you are closer to the game driving areas. For example, if you're staying outside, you may have to leave an animal hotspot an hour before sunrise, to be back to your accommodation before it's dark – and that last hour of daylight is the best time of the day for game viewing.

Some lodges and camps located outside parks arrange bush walks and night safaris, which are interesting ways to experience the African nature. Such walks and night safaris are not allowed in most national parks, and are usually not offered by lodges and camps inside the parks.

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Page updated 27 April 2013