Picture this: you’re lying under a blanket of stars while listening to the soundtrack of the African bush. Eventually, you drift off to sleep until the orange glow of sunrise fills your tent. You wake up to the trumpeting of an elephant, and when you step out of your tent, you spot paw prints in the dirt mere feet from your tent door.
To truly appreciate all that Africa’s wilderness has to offer, why not try camping? Camping in Africa is not nearly as daunting as it may seem. And the chance to get up close and personal with nature is more than enough reason to give it a try.
Spotting an elephant from bed – Photo credit Flickr
Camping in Africa can be done in a variety of different ways. Whether you’re the type who likes to rough it or you’re someone who needs a flushing toilet, there’s a camping experience for you. Want to pitch your tent in the wild? Watch the giraffes at play from the comfort of your bed? Sleep on the roof of your 4x4? Whichever option you choose, you can’t go wrong with camping in Africa.
Adventure camping Sani Pass, South Africa
What’s known as adventure camping is probably what you envision when you think of camping: setting up a dome-shaped tent, cooking over an open fire, and sleeping on the bumpy ground cocooned in a sleeping bag.
Bringing you as close to African wildlife as possible, adventure camping is a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts and budget travelers, especially if you choose to set up camp outside of the designated areas. This is called wild camping.
A wild campsite can mean a patch of land in the bush or a spot shared with locals in a rural African village. The amenities are quite basic, but the cost is low and the reward is high. Just keep in mind that when you’re traveling in remote areas to check if the property is privately owned. If you’re unsure, you can always ask the local authorities.
Game drive in South Africa – Photo credit Flickr
Need a little more from your campsite? Designated campsites, located in Africa’s national parks and private game reserves, offer most modern day conveniences, including flush toilets and bucket showers.
In the larger parks, you may also find electricity and power outlets, communal cooking facilities, and self-service laundry equipment. You can access these designated campsites via overland tours or self-drive safaris.
Overland tours are a great option for those who want to do the most possible with the least amount of hassle. All accommodation and transportation are included, and sometimes, food and activities are covered as well.
They’re also well-suited for solo-travelers since all the costs are shared among the group, the time spent getting around is reduced, and there’s a good chance you’ll meet like-minded people.
Zebra at sunset- Photo by Alex Berger
If independence and flexibility are important to you, then perhaps a self-drive safari would serve you better.
A self-drive safari is one where you are completely in charge of your safari experience. You decide where you want to go, how you want to get there, and for how long you want to stay.
What’s unique about self-driving safaris is the option to sleep on the roof of your vehicle. Most off-road vehicles and 4x4s are equipped with rooftop tents, giving you another way to experience camping in Africa. And if you ever want to switch it up, just park your vehicle at a national park or game reserve and pick from tented luxury suites to furnished cabin lodges.
Regardless of the type of accommodation you prefer, the main draw to camping in a national park or private game reserve is convenience. All of the amenities you need to camp comfortably are easily accessible and ready to use.
What to pack
Bush campsite in Botswana – Photo credit Flickr
In terms of equipment, what you’ll need to take with you will depend on how you choose to camp.
If you wish to camp in the wild, then you’d best be prepared for anything. You never know where you might end up and what supplies might come in handy. After all, the best gear is the gear you have with you.
The good news is, you won’t need to haul everything all the way from home. There are many stores in the cities that rent out camping equipment. And if you find yourself in need of extra supplies, you can easily pick them up from one of these stores.
For those on a tour, most companies will provide all of the necessary gear so that the only thing you’ll have to worry about is packing your suitcase. To ensure you’ve got everything you’ll need, be sure to take a look at this comprehensive camping checklist before heading out.
Tips for camping in Africa’s wilderness
Giraffes at play – Photo credit Flickr
Camping in Africa’s wilderness, even within the confines of designated campsites, can put your health and safety at risk.
Likewise, by being out in the wild, you’re sharing nature with other travelers, locals, and wildlife, so remember to respect your fellow neighbors and preserve the environment. Here are a few tips and camping best practices to help you and Mother Nature stay safe:
- When setting up your camp, try to choose a spot that is as flat as possible and at a reasonable distance from game trails and bodies of water.
- Consider buying firewood in advance, otherwise, only collect dead wood. And always extinguish your campfire before going to bed.
- Pack up all of your food, garbage, and laundry before you leave your campsite unattended to avoid unwanted visitors.
- If you’re on an independent game drive, stay in your vehicle at all times. Use a pair of binoculars to get a closer look at the animals.
- To minimize the effects of the African sun, drink plenty of liquids, apply and re-apply sunscreen, and protect your eyes with a pair of sunglasses and some kind of headwear.
- See your local health provider well before your departure for all necessary check-ups and vaccinations.
Ready to head out into the Great African Outdoors? Go to BookAllSafaris.com and choose a camping safari that will take you close to Africa’s wilderness and unspoiled nature. For more camping gear and tips, visit PlanetCamping.