Lodge or Private camp?
For many people the word “camping” is synonymous with discomfort. This is not true of top of the range African safaris.
The most expensive and exclusive way to see Africa has always been from a small and luxurious Private camp with a top class guide. You can get away from the crowds and experience the essence of a true African safari. Your individual needs are always top of the agenda, and there is no need to compromise in order to satisfy several conflicting requirements.
To make things more complicated many of the “camps” that are advertised are not true camps. They usually have a number (sometimes a large number) of tents on permanent or semi permanent bases often with permanent plumbing, sometimes with thatched roofs over the tents. In my book these are simply lodges under canvas with none of the old-world charm of a true Private camp.
Don’t be fooled by advertising. Very often the best places are small and out of the way and don’t need fancy brochures to fill their beds. Those who can afford the advertising are inclined to be slick and polished operators (often with interests in many lodges) with all the charm and individual character of a Hilton or Sheraton.
A lodge safari is a good way to go for a singles or couples if you cannot (or choose not) do a camping safari. Which lodges are best varies from month to month for several reasons. Some are better at some times of year than others. Lodges sometimes change in character overnight if the management changes, especially if sold on to an inexperienced or mass-market operator. I would strongly advise you to check up with someone who has comprehensive and up-to-date knowledge of what is on offer.
Of course there are also plenty of cheap and cheerful camping operators who fulfill your worst nightmares of what low budget camping can be like. If you decide to go the camping route it is essential to go with someone who is well known. I would suggest you go with an owner-operated and guided safari, preferably someone who comes with a recommendation from someone you trust … like me!
Nobody has the same incentive to ensure that you enjoy yourself as the owner of the company!