Part 2 in a series. Click here for Part 1.
Luxury Tented Camps
All my childhood vacations were tent camping and I looked forward to the excitement of outdoor living for a week. The summer before my senior year I told my parents that would be the last camping trip I ever took. After watching all the work my mother did on those vacations, I made my husband promise never to ask me to go camping.
When I planned this safari, I thought, I’ve paid beaucoup bucks to stay in a tent? The juxtaposition of luxury with tent has to be something of an oxymoron.
Permanent tented camps have a raised foundation, plumbing, electricity and hardwood floors with real doors. My tent had a huge bathroom with two sinks, a “water closet” big enough to put a twin bed in and an even larger shower. The back of the tent unzipped to an open air porch with a round double futon and a table with two chairs. The electrified fence crackled nearby. Of course, the fence wasn’t on all day and a tree near our tent connected with a tree on the other side of the fence.
Before dinner I washed a few things and set them outside on the chairs. After dinner I decided it was too cold and I was too tired to bring in my probably still-wet clothes. I turned out the light and settled in with my hot water bottle only to hear the patter of not-so-little feet.
I jumped up, couldn’t find the light switch, but ran to the zipper to the porch. It pulled down easily and I stepped outside, grabbed my clothes and popped back into the tent, zipping it up fast so nothing would follow me inside.
Whew! Did I just run outside knowing there were wild animals really close? Good thing there was no light. But none of those professional photographers (a whole ‘nuther story) on the trip was going to get a picture of my clothes on a baboon!
Three days later, after six hours on the road, I knew we were approaching our second tented camp in the Serengeti because it was close to sunset. I saw a group of tents in the distance. Looked pretty much like the tents my dad had pitched every summer. I’m dreading having to walk to an outhouse—hopefully only once—during the night.
On the rocks? Yep, it was. The only canvas was the outside walls and the roof. And it came with our own butler! Oh, yeah. I could get used to this.
Every night during the sunset cocktail hour, the manager of the camp asked us what time we wanted our wake-up call and what we’d like “on the tray.” If you have to get up at 5:15 a.m. for a game drive, how civilized to be greeted with a tray with a thermos of coffee, warm milk, hot chocolate and freshly made breakfast pastries. And while we were on the game drive, the butler did our laundry. It was perfect. Too bad we were only there two nights.
Of course, there was the need for an askari to escort you in the dark. But never fear, even though there was no phone in the room, the askari sat on a rock all night, positioned to watch over three tents. If an animal tried to get into our tent or if we had any emergency I just needed to stick out the flashlight and flash it three times into the sky. The askari would come at a run. One couple flashed their light when a one-ton cape buffalo leaned against their tent.
I’m still saying prayers of gratitude that I didn’t have to stick my arm out into the night. One dash in my nightgown was plenty of exposure, thank-you very much. Oh, and damp clothes dry fairly fast with your body heat—even at 5:30 a.m.
Next week: The game drive experience or “Why I was moved to sing the Indiana Jones theme-song.”