Safari 101: Bucket Showers

You’ve probably heard us mention “bucket showers” now and again, but might still be wondering what they are exactly. Don’t worry, we get this question all the time, and yes, some of our favorite camps use bucket showers. There’s nothing to be afraid of, we promise.

Let’s break down what a bucket shower on safari really is.

What Is A Bucket Shower?

Elephant Watch Camp uses real buckets in Samburu, Kenya.

Bucket showers can come in a variety of forms. There’s the original, true-to-name bucket shower in which you suspend an actual bucket or a waterproof canvas bag complete with a tap at the bottom to control water flow. If you are in a “fly camp: it might hang from a tree with simple curtains surrounding, but most are installed in private cubicles or indoor/outdoor bathrooms that attach to your tented suite and are filled with plenty of nice warm water for a good shower. Some are actually small tanks that get heated by wood-fueled stoves which allow you to mix hot and cold water. You don’t even see the bucket and it feels like a normal shower.

Whatever spin, a bucket shower means a shower where you otherwise don’t have access to running water.

Give the camp staff a heads up when you’ll be wanting a shower and they’ll get things heated and ready for you. Typically, a bucket shower will hold 2.5-4 gallons of water. Don’t expect to indulge in a long, hot shower after your game drives but it’s enough to feel fresh and clean after a long day out, we promise.

What Camps Use Bucket Showers & Why?

Mobile camps use Bucket Showers in Tanzania.
Mobile camps use bucket showers in Tanzania.

Like we said, bucket showers rule the roost in remote areas where it’s not feasible for camps to supply running water. Mobile camps, like some of our top choices for migration-viewing, use bucket showers since they don’t stay in one place long enough to set up or justify full plumbing. The majority of camps in the Maasai Mara favor bucket showers.

Do I Have To Use A Bucket Shower If I Go On Safari?

Bucket shower at Khwai Tented Camp in Botswana.
Bucket shower at Khwai Tented Camp in Botswana.

These days, there is an outstanding array of options in most top destinations, making it easy to craft an African safari for you that doesn’t include bucket showers. That said, we recommend keeping an open mind and trying some new things while traveling—you might surprise yourself! We’re fans of modern amenities, too, don’t get us wrong; bucket showers have a certain back-to-basics nostalgia, however, that travelers often come to really enjoy. Keeping things simple and in-tune with old-school safaris can even help immerse you in the adventure of safari. Plus, how often will you get the chance?

Tips To Improve Your Bucket Shower

Save your shower for when you are done with activities and excursions. © Legendary Serengeti Mobile Camp
  • When it is hot you may really enjoy a tepid shower before your afternoon siesta. Or you may savor a hot shower at the end of the day, after your last game drive and just before or after dinner. This way you can go to bed nicely washed, instead of with the dust of your afternoon game drive or other safari excursions.

  • As soon as the water’s in the bucket, hop in! This means strategizing when you request water from the camp; you don’t want it to start cooling off while you’re lingering over your desert.

  • Rinse off, then switch the water off while you wash. Switch it back on to wash off again. This conserves water so you maximize those limited gallons.

  • Embrace the barefoot bush experience and enjoy!

Plan Your Trip

Call us at +1 (212) 226-7331 or email us at info@ejafrica.com to begin planning your safari.

RELATED: How to Do an Old-School Safari

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Jamie Mehrotra