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Tanzania's glamping adventures do wild with style

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Mwiba Lodge recently introduced an experience where travelers can spend a night under the stars in a luxurious, temporary “fly camp” set up on an escarpment of the Great Rift Valley.
Mwiba Lodge recently introduced an experience where travelers can spend a night under the stars in a luxurious, temporary “fly camp” set up on an escarpment of the Great Rift Valley.

In a world of consumerism and noise, where everyone has a smartphone, travelers are increasingly looking for silence and calm. They want to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature.



"We increasingly see that luxury travelers want to be as far away as possible from the crowd and the pressures of everyday life," said Henk Graaff, managing director of SW Africa Destination Management. "As the entire world is battling with overtourism and noise, Africa still offers raw natural beauty, vast open-ended landscapes and the luxury of silence."

Responding to the growing demand for such experiences, "glamping" (upscale camping) has become a popular trend, especially in Tanzania, with glamping camps opening up across the country.

Recently, the Lake Natron Camp team announced two glamping treks featuring camps in Tanzania that are both scheduled to open in January. The Great Rift Valley Trek offers expeditions from Empakai Crater to Lake Natron, while Walking in the Footsteps of Early Man is a trek back through millennia of evolution from the relatively recent (less than 100,000 years old) hominid footprints right by Lake Natron Camp all the way to Olduvai, recognized as one of the most important paleoanthropology sites in the world.

Although Africa has seen a range of camps opening recently, glamping is not a new concept. Jim Holden, president of Holden Safaris, explained that Theodore Roosevelt went glamping when he was on safari in East Africa back in 1909.

"The archetypical glamping experience is the traditional and authentic mobile, tented safari first offered in East Africa in the Serengeti and the Masai Mara," Holden said. "A tented camp is erected for a select group of clients in a specially selected, remote part of Africa, [chosen] for its wildlife and stunning scenery."

Marguerite Smit, Travel Beyond consultant and a Safari Pros member, said that recently the traditional rustic, tented experience has been given a makeover and now ranges from luxury tents to glamorous pods. "Glamping experiences offer a uniquely different experience; no two are the same," she said, adding that what all these experiences have in common is that they aim to bring you as close to nature as possible in a luxury setting.

Said Smit: "Canvas walls allow you to hear the night sounds, experiencing nature up close and personal without feeling like you are roughing it. I often find when working with couples, one of the two may be an avid camper or naturalist, while the other only enjoys traveling with all the creature comforts and amenities accompanied with hotel travel. Glamping offers that happy medium."

The Highlands’ domes provide excellent views of the Serengeti in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
The Highlands’ domes provide excellent views of the Serengeti in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Here is a roundup of some of the top glamping spots in Tanzania, according to travel professionals:

• An architectural masterpiece at the Highlands, Ngorongoro: Situated high on the slopes of the Olmoti Volcano, the Highlands raises the bar in terms of a low-impact, five-star glamping experience. "Architecturally, it blows your mind," said Smit. She said the camp consists of eight glass-and-canvas domes with breathtaking views all the way across to the Serengeti. The property has access to an authentic Masai village, where guests can interact with the community and learn about life in the highlands.

"The emphasis here is privacy, remoteness and merging yourself into a cultural experience that redefines your own way of life," Smit said.

• Follow the wildebeest with Alex Walker's Serian Serengeti South Camp: Alex Walker's Serian Serengeti South Camp is a mobile, tented camp that follows the migration. The focus is on a remote, private experience. "Travelers will get access to a prime location for watching the wildebeest give birth in the short grasslands," Smit said. "The plains are filled with millions of zebra and wildebeest following the first rains. Here they feed on the fresh, new, green grass, which starts sprouting after the rain. Based on statistics, [the] wildebeest give birth to more than 400,000 calves in a span of a few weeks."

• A cultural experience at Mwiba Lodge: Mwiba Lodge is a private safari camp far off the beaten track, which offers glamping in true style. Nina Wennersten, a Hippo Creek Safaris consultant and Safari Pros member, said Mwiba Lodge features 10 permanent tented suites sitting high on a cliff. The camp offers a wide array of experiences.

"From Mwiba, cultural experiences can be had in authentic tribal communities," Wennersten said. "Travelers can go on private game drives or embark on bush walks with immensely knowledgeable local guides, which makes this experience unforgettable. The camp owners work diligently supporting conservation and community development in Tanzania and support anti-poaching operations and innovative community projects. They are a very special team."

• An exclusive concession experience with Chem Chem Safaris:
Chem Chem Safaris offers a glamping experience on an exclusive wildlife concession, the Burunge Wildlife Management Area, which is located between two parks, Lake Manyara and Tarangire.

Wennersten said the camp is incredibly private and conveys to its guests a feeling of being alone in the world. "Travelers will experience privacy, elegance and wonderful experiences, from sundowns on the shores of Lake Manyara, where they can enjoy the pink hue from the flamingos, to a visit to the local village where they will be welcomed heartily by the local people who benefit from the camp being nearby," she said.

• Jabali Ridge: Set high on a small, rocky hill, or kopje, overlooking a landscape dotted with spiky palms and bulbous baobabs, Jabali Ridge is a sophisticated base from which to explore Ruaha National Park, said Becca Fritz from Alluring Africa. "The remarkable beauty of Ruaha is not only in the landscape and its diversity of flora and fauna or the impressive big game but in the feeling of having the wilderness all to yourself," Fritz said. "With only a handful of visitors at any one time in an area the size of New Jersey, this is an exceptional safari experience."

Fritz said Jabali Ridge's eight suites are hidden among the rocky boulders that cocoon the property. An infinity pool, spa and plenty of places to laze ensure that time off is as memorable as time out in the bush.

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