What is Fly Camping?
Fly camping is a sleep-out under the stars or in a simple tent, offered by some of Africa’s most luxurious safari camps and boutique lodges. If “barefoot luxury” is what you’re after, this is it.
The term “fly camping” is inspired by the old-school safaris of the when hunters would go out for days and sleep under a simple “fly sheet” protecting them from the sun and rain.
Fly camping today is much fancier and undeniably comfortable, but it maintains that incredible feeling of timeless adventure and camaraderie, especially after an exhilarating day of walking.
How Does Fly Camping Work?
Typically, you’ll embark on your afternoon game drive or bush walk from the main camp to enjoy the afternoon’s activity. As the hours pass and dusk approaches, your guide will lead you to your private fly campsite for your evening away–usually on foot, but not always!
Your camp might be along a dry riverbed, beside open floodplains, beneath the shade of trees, or under a wide, star-studded expanse of night sky. Whatever the location, you can bet there won’t be anyone else for miles around.
For your night out under the stars, you’ll be provided with a basic 2×6 tent or a simple mosquito net fly-sheet, perfect for spotting constellations as you fall asleep. Now, you may be thinking, why would I leave a luxurious camp or lodge to sleep on the ground? Not to worry! Despite the “camping” bit, you won’t really be on the ground. Beds consist of a comfortable mattress (sometimes atop a raised cot) and either warm, thick blankets, bedrolls, or sheets and a duvet. No sacrificing creature comforts here!
Along with the delightful sleeping arrangements, you’ll have a complement of staff and guides, a canvas bathroom with a bucket shower, a long-drop toilet with a “throne,” a portable kitchen, a bar, and, of course, a roaring fire perfect for enjoying an evening under the stars.
It’s likely that a fair portion of your delicious meal will be cooked over the open campfire. Chances are, you’ll find yourself chatting with the chef and enjoying an easy camaraderie with the team, a trademark of shared adventures just like these.
In the morning, you’ll wake to the smell of wood smoke as the fire is rekindled and water is heated, the day’s rhythm beginning before the sun is up. The quiet bustling is a comfort and a reminder that this is the real deal. There’s no grand performance here, simply you and your travel companions experiencing authentic Africa more personally than ever before.
Why Should I Fly Camp?
One of the biggest perks to fly camping is discovering what makes it a true luxury experience: unrivaled exclusivity and a chance to connect deeply to the wilderness around you. Like all our favorite experiences, it’s about immersion. This sensory-rich environment will impact you in ways you cannot imagine; you’ll have an undeniable sense of coming away changed.
Camp Highlight: a Night at Chada Katavi
High on our list of favorite fly-camping locations is Chada Katavi in Tanzania.
Your guides will walk you deep into Katavi’s million acres of wilderness where few humans ever venture. The night away will take you back to basics in a thrilling and intimate way. Sites are chosen for beauty, water, shade, and space where you’ll feel tucked away from the world. Here, you can escape other travelers and vehicles, wifi and computer screens, and the hubbub of life beyond the bush.
On your walk to camp, you’ll become attuned to the sounds and smells that surround you. You may get within heart-pounding proximity to elephants or lions, or you may keep a fair distance, instead of learning to follow their tracks and take cues from birds and other animals.
Finally, you’ll arrive at a camp fully prepared for you: tables with simple-yet-elegant settings for dinner and drinks, a warm fire blazing. Walking into camp is like discovering your own private safari heaven ready and waiting just for you.
After dinner, it’s time to settle in with a sundowner drink for what’s sure to be an incredible evening. You won’t be able to pry your eyes away from the magnificent night sky, illuminated by more stars than you can even begin to fathom. Savor the quiet, the cool breeze, the magic of near-solitude.
True Luxury: the Joy of Simplicity
When fly camping, you are hosted by your safari guides, and their excitement and joy at your joining them in this adventure is palpable. It’s easy to tell how at home in the bush your guides and staff are. Their energetic spirits will have you grinning ear to ear. They’re passionate about sharing this experience, and the feeling is infectious!
As you connect to your own private slice of wild Africa, you’ll quickly realize you don’t need all the luxury you thought you came here for. Fly camping amidst the raw, unfettered majesty of Africa is a humbling experience. It’s pretty easy to let the worries of the world fall away when you’re surrounded by lions calling in the distance, the rumble of elephants breaking branches, herds of buffalo greeting you from the river, and hippos roaming about.
For many, this is the ultimate African experience, perfect in its simplicity.
Check out our interview with EJ clients Dave and Ruth for their firsthand take on the magic of fly camping!
Where Can I Fly Camp?
- Chada Katavi in Katavi National Park in Tanzania
- Sand Rivers Selous in the Selous (read about Lara’s experience)
- Luwi Plains Camp in Zambia sets up a great fly camp in the river bed in South Luangwa
- Sarara Camp in the Matthews Range
- Ol Malo in Kenya offers a unique fly camp in Lake Turkana only accessible by helicopter
- Kicheche and Serian Camp in the Maasai Mara in Kenya
- Mwiba in the Serengeti in Tanzania
Whether this is your first safari or your fifth, we can’t recommend fly camping highly enough. The charm and quiet power of this off-the-grid experience might just be the highlight of your entire trip.
You’ll get authenticity without sacrificing comfort, and you’ll have a unique opportunity to connect with the landscape, the wildlife, and the passionate guides joining you in your journey.
This is an adventure not to be missed.