Bed, Bush, and Beyond

The latest safari camps aren't only rediscovering the rugged glamour and extravagance of canvas; they're also letting the community in on the action

Jan 4, 2007
Outside Magazine
Namibia Safari Camp; Africa

Nkwichi Lodge at twilight; The lounge at Onguma, in Namibia    Photo: Elsa Young

Hot African Happenings

10-to-4 Mountain Bike Challenge, Kenya (February 17)
This 50-mile ride includes a thrilling 6,000-foot technical descent from the Mount Kenya National Reserve to the dry Laikipia plains. Attracting cyclists from across the globe, the race helps fund schools and conservation efforts. $100; —A.S.


Apoka Lodge // Uganda Good-quality digs were in short supply in Uganda until locals Jonathan Wright and his wife, Pamela, opened the remote Semliki Safari Lodge and Kampala's Emin Pasha Hotel. Now comes their latest addition, Apoka, in the northeast's Kidepo Valley National Park—the choice place to see cheetahs. Ten elegant tent-cottages outfitted with locally made furnishings look out on the savanna—a landscape traversed by the Karimojong, seminomadic pastoralists who receive a percentage of the lodge revenue and sell their crafts in the lodge store. Doubles from $640; 011-256-41-251-182,

Naibor Camp // Kenya The Art of Ventures, the company that started the groundbreaking Zen-like lodge Shompole in partnership with a group of Masai in southern Kenya, created nearby Naibor in 2004. The camp has recently been moved to the banks of the Talek River in the heart of the Masai Mara Game Reserve, flush with rhinos, cheetahs, hippos, zebras, and tons of birds. Its eight opulent canvas tents with verandas sit in a riverine forest, close to a wildebeest migration route. Doubles from $860; 011-254-20-883-331,

Onguma Camp // Namibia Built just outside Etosha National Park on a 50,000-acre private reserve, the luxury camp at Onguma has seven spacious tents incorporating wood, steel, and stone, all under billowing canvas ceilings. The U-shaped layout of tents, lodge, and a pool allows 24/7 views of a central watering hole. As in Kruger National Park, plans are afoot to remove fences between private reserves alongside Etosha to create one greater park. Doubles from $500; 011-264-61-232-009,

Nkwichi Lodge // Mozambique So lavishly remote is Nkwichi, the only way to reach it is by boat. Hidden on the eastern shore of the vast white-sanded Lake Malawi—one of the world's largest freshwater lakes—Nkwichi's six chalets (each with secluded open-air baths) are surrounded by the 370,000-acre Manda wilderness reserve, the perfect setting for exploring, canoeing, sailing the cerulean waters, or hammock time. The owners have helped the community with everything from growing vegetables to creating the reserve and developing a sustainable environment for tourism. Doubles from $320;

Marataba // South Africa Opened in 2005 on a private concession in Marakele National Park, a few hours north of Johannesburg, this 15-suite camp is owned by the Hunter family, which also runs the excellent Gorah in Addo Elephant Park, in the Eastern Cape. Set in a malaria-free landscape that quickly changes from veldt to mountain, Marataba has stonework reminiscent of African ruins—and huge windows to take in the expanse of Big Five habitat. Doubles from $1,000; 011-27-44-532-7818,

Edo's Camp // Botswana In a 300,000-acre private reserve in the western Kalahari Desert, the four twin-bed tents of Edo's Camp overlook a water hole frequented by antelope and are the latest offering from esteemed outfitter Ker & Downey. Resident guides or the indigenous San people can help you track the seven endangered white rhinos relocated to the reserve from South Africa. Doubles from $660 (closed December through February); 800-423-4236,

Mequat Mariam // Ethiopia A two-bedroom tukul—a round thatch-roofed hut of stone and mud—sits at the edge of a cliff at nearly 10,000 feet, overlooking endless canyonland. This small piece of nowhere is Mequat Mariam, some 400 miles north of Addis Ababa. Mequat and its sister property, Wajela—a seven-hour trek away, with photo ops of baboons—are the work of Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives, which supports nearly 300 local families. From $35 per person; 011-251-11-122-5024,

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge // Rwanda Virunga Lodge, with its gorgeous vistas of the lakes and volcanoes of Parc National des Volcans, set the standard for comfort in gorilla-watching country, and it will soon have company: the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, set to open this spring. The brainchild of the people behind Governors' Camp, in Kenya, Sabyinyo is owned by a trust that helps support 6,000 households in the area. Doubles from $600; 011-254-20-273-4000,

Lupita Island Resort and spa // Tanzania The 14 open-air suites, each with a plunge pool, are carved into a hillside on lush Lupita Island with views across Lake Tanganyika. For off-island awe, take a four-hour drive to Katavi, one of the mainland's most remote savanna parks, or try a two-day trip on a lake cruiser to chimp-filled Mahale Mountain National Park. Doubles from $1,300; 011-255-27-250-8773,

Shumba camp // Zambia Wilderness Safaris, winner of multiple conservation and community-involvement awards, never does things in small measures. So it's no surprise that it opened four camps at once in Kafue National Park, one of the biggest reserves in Africa. All are intimate; the best of the quartet is Shumba, in Kafue's remote northwestern corner. Its six immense safari tents on raised platforms have four-poster beds and inviting couches looking onto sweeping savanna and wetlands. Doubles from $1,480; 800-513-5222,

Additional reporting by Danielle Pergament

Access & Resources
Since these lodges are remote, it's usually wise to book them as part of a bigger, customized itinerary—your best bet is to have a reputable outfitter plan the logistics for you. Lodges can direct you to favorite outfitters, or you can try these recommended companies (check out the Web sites to see what each specializes in): Abercrombie & Kent (800-554-7094,, Bushtracks Expeditions (800-995-8689,, Explore Africa (888-596-6377,, Ker & Downey (800-423-4236,, Mango African Safaris (888-698-9220,, Maniago Safaris (800-923-7422,, Micato Safaris (800-642-2861,, Africa Adventure Company (800-882-9453,, Uncharted Outposts (888-995-0909,, Volcanoes Safaris (770-573-2274,, Wildland Adventures (800-345-4453,

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