For many years I worked as a camping guide throughout East and Southern Africa, so to say I was excited to go fly camping at Serian would be an understatement! But what exactly would it entail? I honestly was not sure what to expect. My own camping safaris had been limited to basic two-person dome tents in mostly public campsites where we put up our own tents and cooked for ourselves. Fun, yes, but not a hint of luxury in sight!
A night under the stars at Alex Walker’s Serian fly camp
On a recent trip to Tanzania, Kelly and her partner Richard spent a night under the stars at Alex Walker’s Serian fly camp in the Serengeti. Here are her thoughts on the experience:
What is fly camping?
Firstly, let me explain what fly camping actually means. The concept comes from the very early days of safari, when those wishing to travel light would head out with only the outer sheet of their tent, called a fly sheet. This would be strung up between trees to provide shelter from the elements, then easily packed up and moved on to the next stop. Today, fly camping has evolved somewhat – and the experience, as I was to discover, offers a whole new dimension to a traditional safari.
The idea of fly camping is to allow safari-goers to immerse themselves in nature and to show them a completely different perspective of the bush – it’s the ultimate in escapism! You could choose to just ‘dip your toe in’ and fly camp for one night (as we did), or you might want to truly indulge your adventurous side and go for three or four nights – either way, you are in for a real treat.
The fly camping experience at Alex Walker’s Serian
Kelly and partner by the Mara river
Sunset view from camp
We started our mini-adventure late in the afternoon, heading out from the main camp by vehicle and driving to a remote spot by the banks of the Mara river – from this point, we were on foot! Fly camping will usually incorporate a walking safari or two, and the combination is absolutely perfect. We rendezvoused with a Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) ranger, who was to accompany us on our walk. A ranger is always present during walking safaris in the Serengeti – this is big game country, so an experienced ranger provides an extra layer of safety.
Also with us were our phenomenal guide Michael and our equally talented tracker Jololo – we had spent the previous day game driving with them and we knew we were in expert hands. Our party headed off in single file along the riverbank – the walk to camp was going to take us a couple of hours and we were excited to see what we would encounter along the way! I honestly cannot describe how awe-inspiring it feels to look in every direction and see the Serengeti stretching endlessly away from you.
What do you see during the walking safari?
One of the things that’s so wonderful about walking is all the little things you notice – the different scents in the air, the sounds of insects and birds everywhere, and the textures under foot that you can’t experience in a vehicle. We saw so much – a very nonchalant buffalo drinking on the opposite bank of the river, two curious but relaxed giraffes who kept pace with us for a little while, and a troop of mischievous vervet monkeys cautiously watching from the trees. In a dry bend of the river, Michael found a rock pool full of recently spawned tadpoles, while Jololo educated us on the flora growing in abundance and the medicinal uses that many of the plants have.
The walking was gentle and unhurried, but it felt like no time had gone by at all when we saw our camp begin to materialise on the horizon. The sun was just starting to sink low in the sky as we strolled in and were welcomed by a small team who instantly equipped us with sundowner drinks.
What is the fly camp like?
G&T’s in hand, we took some time to appreciate our camp – it was beautiful! We had two colonial-style tents. One was our ‘chill-out’ tent complete with colorful scatter cushions to lounge on, while the other was our ‘bedroom’ and had a super-comfortable futon-style mattress with thick duvets and blankets to ward off the chill. We also had a separate long-drop-style toilet and a hot bucket shower.
Interiors of the 'chill-out' tent
Beautiful campfire, perfect for G&T time
After settling down by the campfire with another G&T (if you insist!), we got to witness one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen. One thing I’ve discovered about being on safari is how quickly time passes while you are in the bush – you become so wrapped up in the beauty of your surroundings that time just seems to drift by unnoticed. Before we knew it, dinner was being served. This, too, was impressive – our food wasn’t just good, it was fantastic and it was cooked right in front of us on our campfire. After dinner, we swapped stories with the team and eventually headed off to bed, where we were lulled to sleep by the night-time cacophony that is so typical of the African bush.
The overall experience
Waking bright and early the next morning after a wonderful night’s sleep, we were just sipping the first coffee of the day when we had some visitors pass by camp. Slowly and silently a huge herd of elephants began to walk by, peering at us inquisitively as they went, one after another, then another, and another – it seemed to go on forever! Sadly, it was soon time to leave, but this was an experience that will stay with me always. I cannot recommend highly enough a few nights spent fly camping – there really is nothing like it!
If you’d like to sleep under the stars for a night with a fly-camping safari, please don’t hesitate to contact us here to start planning your trip. Alternatively, do take a look below for more inspiration: