Safari Camp vs Lodge: What’s the Difference?

safari camp vs lodge, safari camp, safari lodge, luxury safari, bush camping, Under One Botswana Camp, Robin Pope Safaris, Tongabezi, Garonga

So you’ve chosen which safari destination in Africa you’re going to visit. The next decision to be made is whether do your trip the traditional way in a safari camp or go modern in a luxury safari lodge.

Whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple or family, going on safari in Africa entails extensive decision-making throughout the process. An important one is, of course, where to stay and this can get a little daunting with the phrases ‘safari camp’ and ‘safari lodge’ popping up in all your online searches.

If you need a hand distinguishing between the two, this guide should help clarify your expectations:

Safari Camps

The general rule of thumb is that when you’re staying at a safari camp, you’ll be bedding down in a tent. That in no way means you’ll be boiling your own water, scrounging around for firewood or going for days without a shower. The level of luxury in a safari camp can range from rustic chic, relaxed luxury or to exclusive luxury.

Mobile and rustic

Camping in a rustic-style camp in the wilderness is an exhilarating way to immerse yourself in nature and share the night with Africa’s wildlife. It’s a chance to really step off the beaten path and is particularly special when the camping spots are designed to make the most of nature’s beauty and potential wildlife sightings.

Canvas fly-tent pitched in the South Luangwa National Park © Robin Pope Safaris

During Zambia’s Emerald Season in April, it’s as though the colours in the South Luangwa National Park get turned on full. The Luangwa River is at its highest from the seasonal rains and the surrounding vegetation is green and lush. Robin Pope Safaris has made the most of this underrated, low season in a special Bush Camping safari experience, where guests stay at two fixed tented camps and a mobile campsite on the riverbank.

Wilderness camping in Moremi Game Reserve © Under One Botswana Sky

Under One Botswana Sky really does justice to a safari experience in Moremi Game Reserve at Moremi Crossing Camp. Along with the 16 fixed luxury en-suite Meru-styled tents, Moremi Crossing offers more adventurous guests the unique opportunity to camp in the bush. This involves packing up a mokoro with camping equipment and going with a professional guide out into the Delta for a magical night or two.

Fixed and luxurious

Camps that combine traditionally styled tents with modern comforts are a great way to experience the thrill of the wild whilst being more enclosed and enjoying little luxuries like 24 hour electricity and running hot water. Often, luxury safari establishments, will give guests the choice between a luxury safari camp or lodge, depending on what accommodation style they prefer.

A luxury en-suite unit at Garonga Safari Camp © Garonga

Located in the Makalali Conservancy in northern South Africa, Garonga Safari Camp has six en-suite luxury units that are sculpted out of rough-plastered walls and overarching canvas tents. These units are nestled in the bush and overlook a dry riverbed so guests definitely feel part of the wild. But when compared to the more rustic mobile tents, Garonga Safari Camp is stylish with more modern trappings.

An open-plan, luxury canvas tent at the Safari Camp © Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camps

As one of Africa’s oldest and most well-established safari camps, Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp knows how to do camping in Kenya’s Masai Mara with utmost elegance. It’s camping with a twist, as the nine cream canvas tents are styled traditionally but with today’s modern world travellers in mind. All tents are spacious and have en-suite facilities, family tents have living rooms with fireplaces, and a soak in the safari bath or shower can be arranged.

Safari Lodges

A safari lodge – both the main lodge and suites – tends to be bigger and equipped with amenities that ensure most, if not all, your creature comforts are met. Think electricity, air-conditioning, hair dryers, and four solid walls around you; you won’t find canvas tents at a lodge. There is a distinction in safari lodges, however, particularly related to scale and budget.

Comfortable and affordable

While safari lodges with a large number of rooms feel less personal and intimate, they generally still offer good service in excellent locations and at a reasonable price. These are the establishments which serve as a great base to explore surrounding areas at a relatively cheap rate. It also means you can splurge elsewhere on your safari holiday.

The communal swimming pool at Chobe Bush Lodge © Under One Botswana Sky

Kasane is the gateway to Botswana’s Chobe National Park, making it a hive of activity throughout the year. Perfectly located within this tourism hub, Under One Botswana Sky’s Chobe Bush Lodge houses 38 luxury en-suite rooms and four family rooms, making it a large property by safari lodge standards. The main areas are all communal and can accommodate groups of guests at one time so it’s the perfect place to meet new people.

A luxury en-suite river room at Chobe Safari Lodge © Under One Botswana Sky

The oldest and largest of the two Under One Botswana Sky lodges in Kasane, guests at Chobe Safari Lodge can choose between the 46 luxury safari rooms, 22 luxury river rooms, eight standard rondavels, and camping. The safari rooms, for instance, have full en-suite bath and shower facilities, equipped, air-conditioning, satellite TV and telephone.

Exclusive and intimate

A safari lodge with all the creature comforts, doesn’t have to be shared with 50 other people. There are multiple smaller and more intimate lodges that you can book into at most major safari destinations. They often offer fantastic game-viewing opportunities as many are located in a private conservancy that only allows access by guests.

The private plunge pool and viewing deck of the Bird House © Tongabezi

Tongabezi is a 5-star safari lodge that sits on a stunning spot on the banks of the Zambezi River. Guests bedding down in the well-appointed luxury cottages and houses are taken care of by a private valet and concierge. Most of the units are best suited for couples as special indulgences like a private plunge pool and open-air bath make Tongabezi the perfect retreat for newly weds.

The main bedroom at Pumulani Lodge © Robin Pope Safaris

Staying at Pumulani Lodge by Robin Pope Safaris is quite a different experience to the remote bush camping safari they offer in the South Luangwa National Park. This stunning lodge is made up of 10 luxury villas, each with a private deck that opens onto Lake Malawi. The large bedrooms have full bath and shower en-suite facilities and lead onto a spacious living area that offers beautiful views.

No matter your travel style, interest and budget, there’s a lodge or camp that will make your safari dreams possible. If you’re interested in finding out more about the different safari accommodations or are ready to plan your next safari to Africa, chat to us and we’ll be able to guide you through the process.