Tented Camps and ‘Talking’ Showers in Tanzania
We were generously hosted by the Lemala Groups at their camps: Lemala Ngorongoro in the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area,  Lemala Ewanjan in the Central Serengeti, and the Lemala Mara Camp in the Northern Serengeti/ Mara River region. If you want to find out more about these camps in detail, please see my full review.
When visiting Tanzania there is a wide variety of accommodation to suit all travellers; from luxury hotel style lodges (with all the trimmings like pools, spas and restaurants) to small locally run guest cottages. For those travellers wishing to be in nature, where the wildlife roams free, then a tented camp puts you right where the action is!
Tented camps allow access to prime positions in top game viewing areas, whereas permanent camps in the Ngorongoro and Central Serengeti provide an intimate wilderness experience. Mobile camps move every few months through the Serengeti to keep travellers within remarkable distance of the greatest show on earth, the Great Migration. Every year, this spectacle sees millions of ungulates; gnu, zebra and gazelle – followed by eager awaiting predators - as they make their journey from the Southern Serengeti to the banks of the Mara River in the north.
Due to the remote location of mobile camps, pools and spas are traded for a true wilderness experience. Game viewing in these regions is so phenomenal that an afternoon at the pool can wait.
Tented camps are smaller, seldom more than ten tents per camp. The high staff compliment ensures personal and intimate attention to each guest, regardless of the level of luxury one chooses. After an exciting day out on safari, the staff’s willingness to provide every comfort to their guests is the greatest surprise and luxury of all.
Generally, a camp is made up of a main tent with a dining room, lounge, a small library, and a bar where one can relax and wait to view the game - which at times even comes right up to your doorstep.
In the evenings, travellers from around the world gather around a mesmerizing camp fire to share the adventures of the day with a cold beer, or a glass of wine before dinner. Meals are always a wonder, as the camp kitchens run occasionally on gas but mostly on wood fire. The chefs will proudly present delicious three-course meals and will gladly show off their workplace, which would confound even the most avid outdoor cook.
The tents take the concept of ‘camping’ to a whole new level. Spacious and tall canvas Hemingway tents house freestanding beds, in twin or king configuration, a small desk, cupboards, and electric lighting. Ensuite bathrooms have a flush loo, a basin with running water, and a bucket shower - a small detail that provides one of the most surprising elements of a tented camp experience.
During a recent journey of my own, in the staff’s endeavor to ensure a comfortable and memorable stay, my designated attendant asked when I would like to have a shower, as water needed to be heated separately on a wood fire to fill the bucket shower. The ‘bucket’ is a canvas bag with a shower head attached and taps to regulate the water flow; they only hold a few liters, enough for a six or seven minute shower.
On the first evening of my stay, and keeping this in mind, I scrubbed at great speed - rapidly washing and rinsing my hair, I swiftly cleaned off the dust of the day, before my allowance was up. Despite the wild surrounds, the thin canvas covering gave me a good sense of security - even though I could hear the natural sounds of the bush and its residents. What happened next gave me one of the biggest surprises I’d ever had in the wilderness! When reaching out to pull my robe (kindly provided in the tent) off its hook, I heard a noise, a voice, in the cheeriest manner from right behind me, “Miss, have you had a good shower? Would you like some more hot water?”
I paused and called out, still not sure if I would be talking to myself, “Pardon me?”
The cheerful gent called back, “If you would like some more hot water I can refill the tank for you.”
I replied - soft, slightly stunned, and suddenly conscious of my unrobed state - “No it’s okay thanks.”
This was followed by a long pause, and then a humble, “Okay Miss, goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” I replied along with some serious giggles – who would have thought, a ‘talking shower’ in the heart of the wilderness.
The next morning at breakfast my companions and I all shared our stories of wonder at the surprisingly modern, voice-operated shower facilities provided in the Serengeti wilderness. Before the week was out, and between us all, we admitted to having much longer conversations with our showers. We even had the confidence to ask for hot chocolate (instead of coffee) for the morning wake up, an extra hot water bottle ( or what the camp calls “bush babies”) on a chilly evening, and to extend thanks and evening greetings.
Following my experiences, I believe tented camps provide the perfect balance between privacy, comfort, and isolation - with a true sense of being amongst the Serengeti bush and wildlife. There is a magical camaraderie between staff and guests, and you really get up close and personal with the surrounding nature. The camp is an experience in itself; where one will take home much more than a great game viewing experience, but also warm and fun memories of your camping adventure.