One of the highlights of going to Serengeti is the impressive plethora of accommodation styles. From camping tents to luxurious lodges to brochure-worthy tented camps, Serengeti has proved to support some of the world’s most amazing accommodation facilities. But, with so many terms — lodge, tent, tented camps, how do you know which is which? Here’s a complete guide to your African safari accommodations!
Safari accommodation 101
In Serengeti National Park, some accommodation facilities are run, managed and controlled by the park while others are run by private sector, which includes tour operators.
As of writing, the park features several permanent facilities that are located within the park: 5 lodges and 12 permanent luxury tented camps. In addition to that, the park also has 8 public campsites: 6 are in the central zone, one in the eastern zone and another one in the western zone. 108 special campsites are also spread out, but advanced bookings must be done through Tanzania National Parks Head office in Arusha.
Tent vs Lodge vs Tented Camp
The main accommodation types you can find in Serengeti are tent, lodge and tented camp. Many people get these terms mixed up so avoid possible expectation gap!
Tents are usually bivouac tents or pup-tents set up in public or special campsites. Facilities may vary — you can be sleeping in a cot or bed or, if you’re roughing it out, you can be using a sleeping bag. Of course, this variation will depend on your travel style and budget.
One distinct feature of this type of accommodation is, restrooms and shower rooms are separate and for public use. There is also usually a small dining area where food will be served.
This accommodation facility is especially ideal for those who are in a shoestring budget, on a goal to have a “rough” adventure, or those who just really want to be one with nature in the most raw way.
If you are planning to stay in a public campsite, know that you don’t need to book in advance. Each campsite can accommodate 50 to 80 visitors per night. You also need to pay the park fees and an additional special camping fee. Note that in Tanzania, if you are planning to rent a vehicle, a driver/ guide is highly recommended as there are strict rules on which routes are passable by cars being a protected area. Another thing is it’s impossible to spot wildlife without an eye of a professional guide who’s been trained in the field.
In any case, once you had that figured out, here are the public campsites in the park:
- Lobo public campsite
- Ndabaka public campsite
Lodges and tented camps are often interchanged as both facilities offer budget, mid-range and ultra-luxury experiences. The main thing you need to remember, though, is this: lodges have solid walls. Like a hotel or an inn, lodges are permanent buildings with concrete walls. Guests usually get to enjoy their own private space with their own ensuite bath, toilet and other basic facilities you can find in hotels. Typically, the differences between budget, mid-range and luxury include size of the room, level of luxury and service the guest/s can experience the view from the room and sometimes, the location as well.
Lodges are also often located slightly further from the high-density wildlife of the Seronera. However, most of these lodges can arrange expert-guided game drives that take guests to the best game viewing spots.
If you’re looking for solid buildings and added comforts like spas and swimming pools, Serengeti lodges would be perfect for you.
Categorized into budget, mid-range and luxury, tented camps are unique accommodation types that use canvas tents rather than concrete walls. This accommodation style is what people call nowadays as “glamping” or glamorous camping. You get to stay in full-sized tented camps often with modern facilities, and the best part of it is, these tented camps are strategically located in some of the best parts of the park.
There are two kinds of tented camps: permanent and mobile.
Permanent tented camps are those that are permanently stationed in their locations. They are more like safari lodges only they have canvas walls instead of concrete. These accommodation type is what most people deem “the ultimate safari experience” as visitors get to experience the magic of life in the wild while still enjoying the luxuries of conventional hotel accommodations — ensuite bath, veranda, proper furniture, superior quality linens, tea and coffee, and sometimes even an own private lounge and outdoor bathtub!
Mobile tented camps, on the other hand, are seasonal glamping camps that are only set during certain months, often to keep up with the movement of the iconic wildebeest migration. So if your main goal is to get side-court seats to “the greatest show on earth”, mobile tented camps would be most ideal. After all, this accommodation type guarantees that you will be right in the heart of the action.
Check out: Acacia Migration Camp
It is truly amazing that Serengeti, arguably the world’s best safari park, offers a plethora of decadent accommodations. And with an area spanning 14,750 square kilometers, with only a limited number of facilities, the exclusivity and feeling of being in the wild remains.