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Safari Accommodation - Permanent Tented Camps

The morning sun paints a rosy glow on the deck of the lounge at Mombo Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
© Michael Poliza larger image
Canvas is the predominant building material in permanent tented camps, which are usually designed to evoke a classic safari ambiance - some have won awards for their innovative takes on this theme. Some permanent tented camps have thatched roofs over canvas walls, whereas others are true tents with canvas roofs. The tents, lounge, and dining area are often raised on wooden platforms and connected to each other by raised wooden boardwalks, allowing animals to wander freely through the camp.

The comfortable lounge at Tubu Tree Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, makes a great place to relax between game drives.
© Michael Poliza larger image
Power in permanent tented camps often comes from a combination of solar panels and generators (the latter run while you're away from camp on game drives to minimise any disturbance). These are used to charge invertors which are then used to power the camp at night.

Not all permanent tented camps have electrical outlets in the guest tents, so you may need to give your batteries and chargers to the staff to charge in the main lounge or the camp office - a good reason to have multiple batteries. There are usually a number of plug adaptors in camp though if you are from somewhere other than the US or the UK it would be a good idea to bring your own.

The fireplace at Mombo in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, is a popular place to gather to exchange tales of the day's sightings.
© Julian Asher larger image
Living Like lodges, permanent tented camps are centred around a main lounge and dining area. The lounge (usually a deck under thatch) has open sides to admit cooling breezes and the sounds of the bush, as well as a number of comfortable sitting areas to socialise or read.

Wide decks adjacent to the lounge provide an ideal place to watch the local wildife. In addition, there is usually a sitting area with a fireplace - a popular place for people to gather before and after dinner to share the day's experiences

Permanent tented camps will normally have a small library with a good selection of natural history books (and an eccentric collection of novels left behind by previous guests). As these camps tend to be in very remote locations, Internet access is rare -- though some do have a computer to burn photo CDs.

A table is set for al fresco dining at Jao Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
© Michael Poliza larger image
Dining Meeting people over meals is a fundamental part of the experience at permanent tented camps, and the dining area will normally have one large table where you dine together with the camp managers, guides, and your fellow guests. However, most camps are happy to put on a private dinner for honeymooners and others who might prefer to eat on their own for a night or two.

The well-stocked bar at Mombo Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana provides many options for quenching your thirst.
© Julian Asher larger image
Because of their more remote locations, food at tented camps tends to be a bit simpler than that at safari lodges. Fresh, local ingredients are used and preparation tends to be clean and elegant. However, simple doesn't mean boring -- even foodies will be astounded by what the talented camp chefs manage to create! The camps are happy to cater for special dietary requests, but it's best to advise us in advance as special supplies may need to be flown in, particularly for kosher or halal diets. In addition to the dining area there will be a well-stocked bar and often a boma (wood or reed-walled enclosure) for outdoor dining.

A comfortable bed awaits in a tent at Little Vumbura in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
© Michael Poliza larger image
Sleeping Spacious en-suite guest tents surround the central areas. The tents are usually cooled by fans and breezes through their large mesh windows rather than air-conditioning, and have plentiful bottled water but no tea or coffee making facilities or snacks (these are readily available in the main lounge if you're feeling peckish).

A four-poster bed swathed in mosquito netting is the centrepiece of a superior tent at Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi, Zambia.
© Chiawa Camp larger image
The default bed configuration is two twin beds, but the camps can usually make up the beds as a double on request. Sometimes there is a limited number of double tents, so it's best to request this in advance. Most tents have one large space, though some of the more luxurious camps may include a separate sitting area.

Bathrooms with flush toilets and hot and cold running water are standard at most permanent tented camps. Guest tents at some camps may include both indoor and outdoor showers for those who prefer showering under the stars. Bathtubs aren't common, particularly in countries where water is a scarce commodity, but can occasionally be found.

The interior of a bathroom at Mombo Camp in the Okavango Delta shows all the comforts of home.
© Julian Asher larger image
Rooms at most permanent tented camps will include a private deck or porch with a table and chairs for sitting and enjoying the wilderness setting and the local wildlife.

Sleeping under canvas is a very different experience to sleeping in a lodge with solid walls - night sounds are much more real and immediate, and animals may sometimes brush against the walls as they move through the camp.

An old-fashioned Victorian slipper bath makes a decadent touch in a superior tent at Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi, Zambia
© Chiawa Camp larger image
Many camps have a honeymoon tent, which is situated in a particularly secluded location and may have special features such as an old-fashioned clawfoot bathtub or a double outdoor shower. Some camps charge a supplement for the honeymoon tent whereas others charge the same rate as for a normal tent. If you're interested in staying in the honeymoon tent at one of your camps, please let us know.

The view from the poolside at Jao Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana is truly spectacular.
© Wilderness Safaris larger image
Relaxing Workout rooms and gym equipment are rare at permanent tented camps. Most permanent tented camps have a pool near the main lounge, but lack the private plunge pools common at many lodges (though these are becoming more common at the top-end camps).

A hammock makes a perfect place to enjoy the view at Serra Cafema Camp, Kunene River, Namibia.
© Michael Poliza larger image
Some permanent tented camps have game-viewing hides in camp, where you can sit and watch game during the day. The more luxurious camps may include a comfortably furnished sala as well as a private deck -- an ideal place to read, watch the local wildllfe, or simply laze away a sunny afternoon in the bush.

Spa services are usually quite limited at permanent tented camps. Many camps have no spa services other than massages, and those that do offer massages may require pre-booking as the therapist may travel between camps. However, some of the top-end camps do have plans to expand their spa offerings.

The curio shop at Mombo Camp has plentiful momentos of your trip to take home.
© Julian Asher larger image
Shopping Most permanent tented camps have a small curio shop, but don't carry a wide range of merchandise (or film or batteries) so it's best not to depend on them for your supplies. They will usually stock fleeces, scarves, T-shirts, caps, and other clothing items, though the size selection and stock may be eccentric due to the remote locations of the camps.

The more luxurious camps will have larger shops with a wider range of options, including fine art and crafts. Camp shops often showcase crafts made by the staff or by local villagers, and can be a great source of souvenirs. Of particular note is the exquisite ostrich-shell jewellery created by a Bushman crafts cooperative stocked by many camps in Botswana, which makes a unique memento of your trip.