What is Fly Camping and Why You Should Add it to Your Next Safari

Mwiba Lodge in Tanzania offers the ultimate fly camping experience in the Serengeti. ©Mwiba Lodge
Mwiba Lodge in Tanzania offers the ultimate fly camping experience in the Serengeti. ©Mwiba Lodge

What is Fly Camping?

Fly camping is basically a “sleep out” under the stars or in a simple tent, offered by your more luxurious safari camp or boutique lodge.

It is a term inspired by the old school safaris 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 comfortable but keeps that incredible feeling of adventure and comradery, especially after an exhilarating day of walking.

Why Would I Fly Camp?

Sarara sets up their fly camp in a very unique spot in the Matthews range in Kenya. ©Sarara
Sarara sets up their fly camp in a very unique spot in the Matthews range in Kenya. ©Sarara

You may be asking yourself, why would I leave a luxurious camp or lodge to sleep on the ground? First of all, you will not really be quite on the ground. Beds will be comfortable. Plus you will discover the real luxury of fly camping, which is its exclusivity and the chance to connect deeply to the wilderness. Like all our favorite experiences, it’s about immersion and an undeniable sense of coming away changed.

Take fly camping at Chada Katavi, in Tanzania where Jenna on our team recently stayed, for example. Your guides walk you deep into Katavi’s million acres of wilderness where few humans ever venture. The night away takes you back-to-basics in a thrilling and intimate way. Sites are chosen for beauty, water, shade and space where you can feel hidden from the world of other travelers and vehicles, wifi and computer screens, and life beyond the bush.

On your walk, you will become attuned to the sounds and smells that surround you. You may get within heart pounding distance to elephants or lions, or you may stay far away and learn to follow their tracks and cues from birds and other animals. Finally, you arrive at a camp fully set up for you, tables simply yet elegantly set for dinner and drinks, fire blazing warmly. Walking in is like discovering your own private safari heaven ready and waiting just for you. Enjoy your sundowner drinks and settle in for an unforgettable evening – the highlight possibly being the magnificent sky blazing with more stars than one could ever count.

When fly camping you are hosted by your safari guides, and the excitement and joy is palpable. It’s easy to tell how at home in the bush and energetic your guides and staff are. They’re passionate about sharing this experience, and the feeling is infectious!

As you connect to your own private slice of wild Africa, you realize you don’t need all the luxury you thought you came here for. Fly camping humbles you amidst the majesty of raw Africa, of lions calling in the distance, the rumble of elephants breaking branches, herds of buffalo greeting you from the river and hippos roaming. For many, this is the ultimate African experience.

How Does Fly Camping Work?

Ol Malo offers a unique fly camping experience in Lake Turkana in Kenya. ©Ol Malo
Ol Malo offers a unique fly camping experience in Lake Turkana in Kenya. ©Ol Malo

Typically, you 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 (This is usually on foot, but not always!). This might be along a dry river bed, beside open floodplains, beneath the shade of trees, or under the widest expanses of night-sky. Whatever the location. you can bet there won’t be anyone else around for miles around.

Guests have a basic 2x6 tent or simple mosquito net fly-sheet and warm, thick blankets, bedrolls, or sheets and a duvet, along with a complement of staff and guides, canvas bathroom with bucket shower, long drop toilet with a “throne”, portable kitchen, bar, and of course, a fire perfect for enjoying an evening under the stars. Most likely a fair part of your delicious meal will be cooked over the open campfire and you will find yourself chatting with the chef and feeling a sense of camaraderie with the team that is sharing in this adventure.

In the morning, wake to the smell of wood-smoke as the fire is rekindled, water heated, the day’s rhythm beginning before the sun is up. The quiet bustling is a comfort and a reminder that this is authentic. There’s no big performance here: just you and your travel companions experiencing Africa more personally than ever before.

Where Can I Fly Camp?

So much about fly camping is about the camaraderie and the sense of adventure.  
So much about fly camping is about the camaraderie, and the sense of adventure.

Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia offer some of the best fly camping in Africa. Here are some of our favorite experiences places we recommend:

Plan Your Trip

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Lara Ray