Tented Camp Safari
Sunday, 21st September 2014
The Mobile Tented Camp Experience
Travel writer Jefferson Taylor came with Aventura on a mobile tented camp safari. Here he recalls the experience and the breathtaking proximity with Tanzania’s great mammals.
As the first flickers of dawn enter my tent I hear rustling. Something is near by. Craning my ear I hope for further clues, but none of forthcoming. Just the sounds of steps in the grass. Is it safe to head outside? I wait. Patiently. But my bladder can’t take it any more and I must tentatively open the tent. There’s more than one in front of me, it’s a small herd, casually munching away within touching distance of the tent. Today it is zebra, yesterday it was evidence of elephants, and the day before that I was woken by the grunts of a nearby hippo. That’s the beauty of a mobile tented safari.
So What Is a Mobile Tented Safari?
I was a little confused when I booked a mobile tented safari. Isn’t mobility fundamental to the definition of tents and camping? Some giant elephant footprints taught me the Tanzanian definition. Most safari camps are actually static, and have been elevated to offer a supreme level of comfort in the bush. In comparison, the mobile camp is always on the move, essentially catapulting me from wilderness to wilderness. On the first night I thought the guide was joking. All I could see was decapitated trees and humongous footprints, obvious signs that we were in the midst of prime elephant territory. As we sat around an evening fire I could see the silhouettes, the great pachyderms wandering in the distance and occasionally bringing butterflies to my stomach. Looking back it sounds slightly absurd, yet it never felt dangerous.
Being Surrounded by Wildlife
It became a daily little game. Wake up, listen, and try and guess what’s next to the camp. Wildlife gradually gets used to permanent camps and lodges, usually sticking to a respectful distance. But our simple camps seemed to intrigue the mammals. Zebra and gazelle would inspect from a distance, but often get very close during the quiet dawn hours. Hippos and giraffe wandered past as I relaxed in a camping chair, never getting too close yet always within distance of my camera. Footprints in the sand revealed the nocturnal visitors, everything from a solitary leopard to unknown antelopes. Safari was a fully immersive 24 hours a day experience; even when I retied for the night an indelibly wild soundtrack rocked me to sleep.
Avoiding the Tourist Crowds and Standard Trails
Packing up the tents was done with a certain excitement; where would we be sleeping tonight? On some nights it was the forest, lost in a cacophony of birdsong and rustling ungulates. Other nights placed us on vast open plains, a sparse collection of trees the only thing separating us from them. Guides used their knowledge to pick a trail, keeping us clear of hungry lions and revealing camping spots that screamed of authenticity. Long game drives took us around and through the wilderness, and I saw how waterholes were also frequented by other safari trucks. But once the sun started to dip there was never another person in sight. Every evening I indulged in the silence, sitting beneath the moonlight and waiting for the sporadic call that reminded us all of where we were; deep in the middle of big cat country.
A Final Morning With the Zebras
Now I sit here on the final safari morning, admiring the zebras and glancing up to a giraffe pair that amble past. I’m writing, they’re all grazing and browsing, and my guide brings over a steaming cup of coffee. When I booked for a mobile tented safari I was expecting the excitement and adventure. But this charming serenity comes as an added bonus, a gentle calm enabling me to fully appreciate the inimitability of the experience. As mist rises through the valley a herd of buffalo reveal themselves, and in the distance I spot wildebeest marauding along. It might not be the luxury option but mobile tented camps certainly take you closer, and they reveal Tanzania from a fresh perspective. Because I’m not just an observer. This mode of safari immerses you in the land and makes you an active part of the experience.