Unforgettable Camp Dining Experiences in Africa

By Abi 09 January 2018

For many first-time travellers to Africa, one of the worries is what the food will be like, and the biggest surprise is therefore how incredibly high the standard of fare is. The chefs at the majority of high-end safari properties produce meals that could easily rival some of the world’s top restaurants. This is all the more amazing when you consider that a camp kitchen is often relatively basic and remote, with no supermarket nearby and supplies delivered on a weekly or even monthly basis. These astounding dishes are made all the more enjoyable by the setting in which they are served – from the (albeit luxurious) familiarity of a lodge dining room to an outdoor table in the middle of the bush, dining on safari is not just for re-fuelling.

Private Candle-Lit Dinner at Tswalu Tarkuni, South Africa

Whether a super-lavish lodge or a remote bush camp, a safari property is always carefully designed to really immerse you in the bush experience, making the most of beautiful surroundings and resident wildlife. The central mess area or dining room will have a knock-out view by day, often overlooking a waterhole, a lagoon or a vast open plain, so you don’t miss any of the local goings-on while you dine. At night the dining area will transform into an impossibly romantic restaurant, lit with flickering candles or hurricane lanterns, conjuring images of explorers from a bygone age.

Private Candle-Lit Dinners

For the ultimate in intimacy, lodges will happily arrange a private candle-lit dinner in your room or suite, or on a secluded deck – and served by your own personal waiter. Some properties go a step further, offering a sleep-out deck (such as Loisaba in Kenya) or a night in a lantern-lit treehouse (such as Lion Sands in South Africa), which includes private sundowners and a full meal, cooked on site by a private guide. Perfect for a honeymoon or anniversary trip!

Nothing quite reflects the essence of safari like true bush dining. This can range from morning coffee arranged on the front of a safari vehicle, or sundowners served in real glasses, to a full table, complete with crisp white tablecloth, fine crockery and silver cutlery, all transported into the middle of nowhere for a unique and unforgettable meal.

Candle-Lit Secluded Deck at Lion Sands, South Africa

Surprise Bush Breakfasts

At Ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya, surprise bush breakfasts are set up under the shade of a huge and picturesque acacia tree, complete with dangling weaver nests and set in the waving grass of the surrounding plains. A full cooked breakfast is available, made to order by the mobile kitchen… and you can even arrive on horseback! At Jack’s Camp in Botswana, guests are provided with an explorer-style tiffin tin, filled with breakfast treats – cereal, hard-boiled eggs and the most delicious savoury muffins I have ever tasted. You can enjoy the whole feast whilst watching the antics of a group of habituated meerkats.

A Bush Breakfast, Africa

Bush Picnics

At Abu Camp in Botswana, we used to create a full bush picnic experience on the edge of a wooded island in the Okavango Delta. Barbequed meat was cooked on site and accompanied by a plethora of fresh and tasty salads and relishes. After lunch, guests could snooze on the picnic blankets and cushions, enjoy a mokoro ride in the lagoon, or keep watch for the elusive Pel’s fishing owl that was sometimes spotted in the area, even during the day.

A Bush Picnic in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

‘Boma’ Bush Dinner

A bush dinner is a truly magical experience, which can be set in a ‘boma’ – a fenced area, traditionally used to keep out predators – on a flat, open salt pan, in the shadow of a huge, majestic baobab tree, or on the shores of a lagoon. A long table is dressed to perfection with china crockery and polished wine glasses, lit by candlelight and Africa’s vast, twinkling sky of stars. A bush dinner is usually a buffet of freshly barbequed local meats, such as kudu or impala steaks and boerewors sausages, and delicious accompaniments. You feast surrounded by the sounds of the night and with a nearby campfire and blankets to keep you warm. If you are fortunate enough to be provided with entertainment after your meal, you are in for treat. To be surrounded by a group of Maasai warriors, chanting and whooping around you in the moonlight, is a spine-tingling experience like no other.

A Candle-Lit Boma Bush Dinner on Safari Africa

You might be lucky enough…

Whether inside the lodge or out in the bush, some of my most memorable dining experiences have starred the local wildlife. It is common to find that many lodges have one or more resident genet – nocturnal carnivores, about the same size and shape as a domestic cat. These endearing and mischievous creatures become habituated to human contact and happily creep about their business during dinner, occasionally stopping to peer in and satisfy their curiosity, much to guests’ delight.

At Seba Camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, we were once lucky enough to witness a leopard slowly passing our dinner table, less than a metre away, as we ate on the camp’s main deck. It was absolutely incredible! We also had to abandon a number of lunches and wait for a curious elephant to finish checking over the table with their trunk before helping themselves or moving off. Large mangosteen trees always made for eventful lunchtimes during the fruiting season, when large groups of vervet monkeys would visit to enjoy their own lunch. It was never wise to place the buffet underneath the tree at that time of the year – we lost a few salads that way!

If you’d like more information on planning a romantic safari honeymoon to Africa, find out about our favourite luxury lodges below. Alternatively, feel free to call us on 020 8547 2305 or send us an email at [email protected]