The reinvention of the tented safari sees this nostalgic mode of travel get a new lease on life, with design-oriented camps that seamlessly combine contemporary comfort with all the magic of a close-to-the-earth adventure.
Jack’s Camp, Makgadikgadiki Pans, Botswana
Inspired by the classic campaign safaris of the 1940s, but with an eclectic, African and very personal slant, Jack’s Camp in Botswana is like a lodge like no other. Created by Ralph Bousfield as an extension of the concept his father Jack pioneered in the 1960s – as one of the first mobile and photographic safari operators – the eponymous camp has just had a noteworthy refurb.
The update has dramatically expanded the camp footprint; guest tents now have separate lounging, sleeping and bathing areas, and a private deck kitted with swinging day beds and a petite plunge pool. Common areas include dedicated tents for high tea, dining, the bar, pool and museum.
True to its origins, the camp is a trip back in time through the history of the landscape and Ralph’s own family. Inside the nostalgic tents (which took seven kilometres of fabric to line), you’ll find museum cabinets filled with priceless artefacts, inherited heirlooms and old family photographs, which tell the story of a multi-generational love affair with Africa.
This contributes to the deep sense of provenance and authenticity – and family feel, emphasised by meals at a long banquet table. As well as a family, Jack’s is also a tribute to the otherworldly, ancient landscape. The camp is located in the iconic Makgadigadi Pans region – a starkly beautiful and remote area whose most notable feature is a vast salt pan that was once an inland sea. The juxtaposition of this barren lunar-like landscape and the tropical scene of palms and pink flamingos just beyond is as mesmerising as it is unexpected.
Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Singita Grumeti, Tanzania
Timeless, understated and tailored, Singita Sabora Tented Camp in the Serengeti is the epitome of good taste, set under acacias frequented by impala and zebra. If Hermès designed tents, you’d imagine they’d look something like this.
When design firm (and long-time Singita collaborators) Cecile & Boyd revamped this idyllic camp, they took it in an entirely new direction while retaining Singita’s core value of intuitive design that connects you to nature. They adopted a much simpler, more contemporary concept without sacrificing any of the comfort and sophistication the brand is known for.
It’s a polished take on the tented trope that still feels close to the earth. So elegant, in fact, that despite the refreshing proximity to the plains just outside your tent flap, you might forget you were even in a tent.
Reminders of the magnificent location are at every turn, thanks to a seamless use of natural textures and a sleek, low-on-the-plains design that connects guests to the landscape, instilling a sense of serenity. An elegant symphony of neutral tones and subtle nods to classic safari (a tan leather detail here, a beautiful buckle there) all come together in a tranquil scheme that is grounding and uplifting. At the same time, meditation decks and a chicly kitted out pool area in sight of grazing herds add to the sense of wonder that comes from being in unfiltered Africa.
Angama Safari Camp, Maasai Mara, Kenya
A sole-use tented camp in the wilderness of the Maasai Mara, the iconic setting of the Great Migration, Angama Safari Camp is light (on the earth and in spirit) and captures the pioneering soul of tented safari. Canvas by Design crafted the striking contemporary African camp, which sleeps eight, with South African interior designer Annemarie Meintjes.
Designing a mobile camp comes with unique challenges – it needs to be flat packable, practical (with ventilation and insulation), and hardy (to withstand the harsh African elements). It also had to exude luxury and encapsulate the spirit of its location. The design team embraced the challenge, and the result is an unconventional and playful take that flouts the typical ‘tent’ silhouette to an extent. While most mobile camps have a portrait-oriented shape, Angama’s tents are landscape, with an unusual roof shape that allows ample light and expansive views of the landscape.
Its materials nod to sister lodge Angama Mara and bridge past and present. Traditional motifs gesture to the long heritage of this style of travel, countered by more contemporary accents that update it. Think leather straps and polished brass double-bucket showers balanced by vibrant primary-hued and black stitching, rural weaving and bold Masai-inspired accents. The result is a fresh, fun and vibrant destination, that while adventurous in sensibility and style, doesn’t skimp on comfort or luxury (which you’ll find in abundance via kitted out writing desks, dressing rooms and vanities).