Africa has so much to offer – from safaris in Tanzania to bushwalking in Kenya. King-sized beds, claw-foot baths, duck-down duvets and polished teak floorboards are some of the fabulous luxuries you can enjoy in the African bush. When it comes to glamping (an abbreviation of glamorous camping), Africa wins top prize.
Imagine having an attentive personal valet at your beck and call, bringing you coffee and cookies each morning, turning down your bed while you dine and keeping your tent looking spick and span while you search for lions, cheetahs and leopards.
These are our top picks for a stylish glamping stay in the African wilderness.
Glamping in Kenya
Maasai Mara, Kenya
Each year, during the annual migration, millions of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles thunder across the plains from Tanzania’s Serengeti to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, Africa.
The best spot to see the wildebeest herds is from the banks of the Mara River in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Staying at Sanctuary Olonana, which is an exclusive lodging with 12 luxury tents on the river, offers a quintessential five-star glamping experience. The camp has essentials like a swimming pool and gourmet meals.
Tents have en-suite bathrooms with running hot water, electricity (at certain times of the day), cotton bathrobes and quality toiletries.
They are furnished with a writing desk and two comfortable double beds draped with mosquito netting. Rustic timber trunks sit at the foot of each bed, while highly polished floorboards are adorned with patterned throw rugs.
Each tent comes with a butler whose job is to make up your tent, turn down your bed, sort out your laundry and ensure you don’t miss out on experiences such as floating in a hot air balloon above the thundering herds. For those who have never been glamping before, this is a good place to start.
Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Kenya
Another luxury camp to open its flaps is Virgin Limited Edition’s Mahali Mzuri, which is part of Sir Richard Branson’s collection of private retreats.
Mahali Mzuri’s space-age tented suites resemble futuristic gazebos. Each suite is decorated with top quality furnishings and has mod cons you’d expect in a lavish city hotel, such as en-suite bathrooms with romantic claw-foot baths, hairdryers, toiletries and bathrobes.
There are telephones and high-speed Wi-Fi in each tent. And spacious outdoor decks where you can sink back in a comfy sofa and gaze at the parade of wildlife in the valley below, making for a fabulous glamping experience.
Not far from Mahali Mzuri, is Kempinski Olare Mara, which is a classic tented camp with grandly furnished colonial-style tents.
Think huge four-poster beds, timber desks, large comfortable sofas and Oriental rugs. It definitely offers a great way to glamp in style, with lion prides at its doorstep.
Glamping in Tanzania
In the remote southern part of the Serengeti, Sanctuary Kusini is an ideal base to spot cheetah and wildebeest that congregate on the grassy plains in calving season (from mid-December to March).
Part of Sanctuary Kusini’s charm is its remote location within the park, where you can go on game drive without seeing another vehicle.
The camp is built around a rocky outcrop, which has sensational views and is a romantic spot for sundowners and stargazing.
The camp’s communal areas include an unpretentious dining area, lounge and library.
The library is stocked with reference books and guides are on hand to recount stories about exciting wildlife experiences. But the best spot, though, is sitting around the campfire after dinner, sipping on Amarula.
The camp is also designed to have minimal environmental impact and can be packed up and removed without leaving a trace.
Although it’s not as luxurious as some of the other camps, you can definitely put it in the glamping category.
Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
A hilly landscape of rivers, woodlands, swamps and savannah, Tarangire National Park is a jungle-book of elephants frolicking beneath Baobab trees and high grasses.
Home to four of the Big Five (there are no rhinos in the park), the national park is one of the best places in Africa to observe elephants and lions.
Sanctuary Swala camp has a bush luxury ambience, with 12 tents shaded by the branches of acacia trees. Tents are spacious and are serviced by friendly personal attendants.
Each tent has a separate dressing area and beds are romantically draped with swathes of mosquito netting. There are indoor and outdoor showers and Wi-Fi is provided in the reception area.
Travellers seeking a glamping experience in a lesser-known destination will love this camp.
The thatched open-air dining area is a romantic spot beneath a splendid baobab tree next to a water hole, which, during the dry season, attracts a Noah’s Ark of wildlife. It’s not uncommon for lions to be spotted drinking the water hole or the camp’s swimming pool.
Glamping in Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to look for critically endangered mountain gorillas can be hard slog. The forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site in south-west Uganda and is home to about half of the world’s gorillas.
Treks can last all day and can be a bit of a hard slog, depending on where the gorillas are foraging. But occasionally, the gorillas may choose to seek out the juicy gardens at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp.
The camp is a comfortable base, with charming cottage-like rooms sprawled across the grounds. The common area has an open-air lounge, bar and dining zone, with a cosy campfire on the lawn.
The chef prepares a packed lunch for visitors to take on all-day hikes and five-course meals are served in the main dining room each night.
Although the camp is located in a remote region, the food is surprisingly delicious and gourmet, with dishes such as rolled chicken with creamed spinach and ground nut sauce.
The small spa is extremely popular with hikers in need of pampering at the end of a tiring day. If you’re lucky you might find yourself on a glamping holiday with a difference as the gorillas are known to make their nest at this camp from time to time.
Love nature? You’ll be amazed at the elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya’s wilderness city.