Safari in Style: Kenyan Tent Lodges

Kenyan safaris often qualify for the tag, trip of a lifetime, the oft-used phrase that clutters almost every brochure and ad campaign in the travel industry. And while the country is indeed an extraordinary destination, observing wildlife from the seat of some over-crowded safari truck is not necessarily the pinnacle of "lifetime" achievements. For those seeking the full, high-end African experience, a Kenyan tent safari is the ultimate once-in-a-lifetime option.
Permanent luxury tent camps are scattered throughout Kenya's premier safari spots, including the Masai Mara Game Preserve, the Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks, and Mzima Spings. In the early fall, one to two million wildebeest rumble across northern Kenya's Masai Mara, the country's section of the Serengeti ecosystem and the best place to start your safari. The secluded Mara River Camp, a permanent lodge near the famed Mara River, and Little Governor's Camp, positioned near a Masai Mara watering hole, offer wildlife viewing from your bedside. Amboseli, famous for its elephant population, has public campgrounds at Tortilis Camp, blessed with the looming backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro. Stay in Samburu Intrepid Camp in Samburu Game Reserve, or settle down in Lerai Tented Camp at Ngare Sergoi Rhino Reserve, home to over 100 black and white rhinoceros. Lodge options abound; simply pick the animals you wish to see and plan an extended stay. Alternatively, arrange a multi-site tour to hit a number of safari hot spots. Whether you wish to stay in several permanent tent lodges, or you want to join a portable camp crew, local and regional outfitters have packages to accommodate all desires.
Though specifics vary depending on location, most tent lodges are constructed of pristine wood and canvas, complete with hot water, flushing toilets, gourmet meals, and helpful guides and staff. Critically, all are positioned on the savanna for maximum exposure to the country's abundant wildlife. You should see gazelles, impalas, wildebeests, topi, zebras, giraffes, and, if you're lucky, the safari Big Five: elephants, lions, rhinos, buffaloes, and leopards. Moving via safari vehicle, horseback, or on foot, you will be led by experienced guides to where the animals congregate. Night excursion and sunrise hot-air balloon rides can also be arranged. Portable tent safaris sacrifice some of the luxury found at permanent camps—hot water and running toilets being the most elemental—but mobility allows you to delve even deeper into Kenya's wild heart. The cost is also roughly equivalent to permanent lodges, no small thing when one considers the logistics involved in moving the portable camps.

Published: 16 Aug 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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