On safari small is often beautiful - here's our selection of the top small safari camps in Tanzania
1. Kichaka - Ruaha
The best safari camps are often the owner-run ones. These days, though, they’re few and far between in Tanzania. However, Kichaka Safari Camp in Ruaha National Park stands out as one of the best. Set up by Andrew Molinaro after 10 years guiding in Southern Tanzania and offering wonderful walking safaris, it’s run by him and his charming partner Noelle Herzog. This camp combines real bush know-how, a stunning location in the thick of Ruaha’s best wildlife area and a refreshingly simple, but stylish approach. It’s a great example of how the right people, from the owners to the excellent Tanzanian crew, contribute far more to the experience of a safari camp than the trinkets and baubles many choose to cram their tents with these days... We would wholeheartedly recommend this very special camp to anyone looking for an authentic safari experience.
2. Chada Katavi
It’s easy to overlook the logistical problems involved in running a small safari camp, hundreds of miles from your supply base. Add to this a dogged determination to leave as little imprint as possible on the environment and the task Chada sets itself is a challenging one. 400 miles from Arusha it’s stuck to its pioneering credentials (it was the first camp in Katavi) and pulls off a seemingly effortless style in a remote and beguiling wilderness. Often the game is right in front of you on Chada flood plain, but Chada’s guides are well known for their excellent standards and will take you on game drives in open 4x4s to encounter truly massive herds of buffalo or walking safaris to sleep beneath the stars in flycamps. It’s a brilliantly run little operation in an exhilarating park. Like the proverbial swan, though don’t underestimate quite how much paddling goes on beneath the surface to pull it off.
3. Manyara Light Tented Camp – Northern Tanzania
At Natural High we’ve long been advocates of the less-is-more approach to camps. But it requires some intelligence and a good eye or you quickly cross the line from intelligent simplicity, to plain uncomfortable. The Manyara Light Tented Camp is a shining example of how to make the best of a very special remote location without trampling all over it. There are no permanent structures – in fact there’s very little of anything, beyond the things you really need. These camps use bell-tents with comfortable beds, sheets and duvets. There’s also a lightweight dining tent in case of rain, but much of the living is outdoors. Show us a dining room that can compete with eating beneath a canopy of stars. Climb up to lie on a sun-warmed rock by a waterfall beneath the Rift Valley wall and watch as elephant come to drink just metres below you. This camp is all about what’s happening outside your tent. Not the interior design within it.
4. Kuro Camp - Tarangire
This little camp is a triumph of imagination and creativity. Built from lightweight sisal poles, the main building manages to be strikingly stylish despite being built mostly out of thin air. The constriction, with poles laid horizontally in rungs, gives it a contemporary, but pleasingly organic look. And the whole structure is more or less compostable. But of course the look of the camp is only the cream on the cake. Everything at Kuro is underpinned by Nomad’s impeccable credentials and the experience is built firmly on an excellent game experience at the hands of one of Nomad’s renowned guides. Game drives in Tarangire are excellent all year round (elephant sightings are exceptional in the often overlooked green season) and it’s possible to walk from Kuro too.
5. Serengeti Light Mobile – Serengeti
The Serengeti is best known for it’s wildebeest migration, a phenomenon that sees 1.5 million animals move from one end of the park to the other and back again over the course of the year. The driver for the migration is the intense seasonality of the plains around the base of the Ngorongoro Highlands and Serengeti - green and lush in the rains, dry and dusty the rest of the year. The great advantage of places like this is that their unpredictability means it doesn’t pay to build permanent lodges. This makes them ideal to explore with lightweight mobile camps safe in the knowledge that you’ll have the place to yourself. These truly expeditionary camps (expect comfortable camp beds, great food and a crew to look after you) are also the base for forays into wilderness zones in the Serengeti for walking safaris. Try a camp like this for a couple of days to add a bit of spice to your safari.
Posted by: Alex