For those who missed it, last night I hosted a webinar with special guests, Johnny from Tent With A View; a luxury safari tour and accommodation provider in Tanzania. They offer completely personalised safari experiences across six properties around the country. At Travel Counsellors, they are our go-to supplier for Tanzanian safaris, and Johnny was more than happy to share some information about the various locations and experiences to be had.
Whether it’s your first safari or your tenth, you’ll be blown away by the level of service, quality of accommodation and feeling of utter exclusivity that Tent With A View provides. If you’re still on the fence, you’ll be won over by the end of this read.
The story behind Tent With A View
Their story began with two friends, our co-founders - a Yorkshireman, David and a Tanzanian, Masoud. After meeting in 1990 when they were working as guides in Selous, they dreamed of doing things their own way, and later began a mobile safari tour company. Their operation grew in size and popularity, and they established the first camp site in Saadani National Park in coastal East Africa. The culmination of wild bush and stunning beach offered a totally unique experience, off the beaten track and far away from the crowds.
Since then, the pair have opened six properties across Tanzania, working closely with government, conservation and environmental authorities to ensure the best possible experience for visitors and maintain the integrity of the animals and their habitats.
“We’ve been operating for 26 years as an on-the-ground operator, offering completely tailor-made trips to fit your exact requirements,” says Johnny. Along with the rest of the team, Johnny works very closely with Travel Counsellors and agents like myself to ensure every traveller is well looked after.
Tanzania’s biggest drawcard, unsurprisingly, is its wildlife. 34% of the country is dedicated to national park land and game reserves. These wilderness areas are home to 20% of Africa’s large mammals and an impressive 50% of Africa’s lions.
“Tanzanian people are extremely gentle and welcoming,” says Johnny. “They do all they can to make sure you have an incredible time. There are 125 ethnic groups within Tanzania who all live harmoniously together, speaking Swahili and English.”
The government is committed to wildlife conservation and research in order to sustain these animals. Tourism makes up a huge part of the country’s GDP so there is a genuine sense of care and importance placed on protecting these animals for future generations.
The Serengeti is the most well-known safari location in Tanzania. Every year, tourists flock to the national park to watch the great migration.
“The great migration is the movement of wildebeest who travel around the country, following the rains,” explains Johnny. “The land is totally unique; it’s covered in grasslands. The area used to be covered in volcanoes all along the rift valley, so when they exploded, the volcanic ash settled on the plains making the soil extremely fertile and flat.”
But there is so much more to see in Tanzania than the Serengeti. The smaller national parks have the same animals you might see in the larger reserves, but they’re in a more concentrated area and you’re unlikely to run into another person for miles.
Another reason people flock to Tanzania is for its gorgeous beaches, particularly those on the shores of Zanzibar. Once a hugely important trade centre for spices, the island just off the coast of Dar es Salaam is now a stunning tropical holiday spot with a rich history and truly relaxing atmosphere. After a safari on the mainland, it’s the perfect place to wind down.
Ways to experience Tanzania
“Our accommodation is always a little bit different,” admits Johnny. “We always want to be close to the action and away from the crowds. Our camps are small so you feel well looked after.”
Bush Rover Suites
The most exciting way to explore Tanzania with the Tent With A View team is to follow the migration in their award-winning Bush Rovers. These luxury safari vehicles are completely kitted out to provide a hotel-like experience in the middle of nowhere. Perched atop a Land Rover, your spacious safari tent has electricity, hot water, a full-size bed (no blow up mattresses here), and all the comforts you’d expect in a hotel. Johnny still can’t decide what the best feature is: the balcony overlooking the Serengeti, the private bath tub or the fully-flushing toilet that saves you from having to do your business in the bush.
The fleet of six Bush Rovers line up to form a make-shift campsite in the heart of the Serengeti. In a way, you’re totally exposed to the elements, but you also have the utmost privacy being in such a remote area. On these trips, around 13 staff will be looking after you. You’ll only ever be sharing the site with 10-20 people so you receive an incredibly high-level of service.
“There are no fences, so you’ll often find animals roaming between the vehicles at night,” says Johnny. Luckily, “there are guards on the lookout to keep you safe at all times.”
Everyone is always really excited to see the elephants and lions, but the longer you stay, the more you appreciate the little stuff: the birdlife, smells and colours - it's just a beautiful place to be.”
"You really feel as if you're within the grips of the animal kingdom."
The Bush Rover safaris move around depending on the time of year. In January and February, when the wildebeests are calving, the fleet will settle in the southern part of the Serengeti. It’s at this time of year that the greatest concentration of the world’s predators are in the one spot, looking for easy pickings. Of the 1.7 million wildebeests that congregate in the area, around half a million are newborn calves - easy pickings, indeed.
Over the next few months, the Bush Rovers follow the migration up the Western Corridor, and between August and October, they continue north into the Mara where the classic images of the wildebeests crossing the Mara river take place.
“This is the holy grail of safari,” Johnny says. “One of them makes a dash and the rest follow. They cross back time and again, risking this hazardous journey for seemingly no reason. They’re absolutely crackers.”
Each day on safari brings something different, but they usually begin with an early morning game drive, followed by a scrumptious brunch - pancakes, full English breakfast, you name it! Then, you can enjoy time at leisure, reading a book, soaking in the bathtub or simply taking in the surroundings from your private balcony. Then, a delicious lunch and you’re back on the road again, searching for more wildlife. At the end of the day, you gather around the fire with a drink, sharing stories, photos and exciting happenings of the day, followed by a four course meal. Yes, a four course gourmet meal right in the middle of the wilderness. After a bit of stargazing, it’s off to bed to fall asleep to the sound of the bush.
Named after the Okavango Delta in Botswana, this campsite is set among a series of waterways that attract a large number of hippos, elephants and an incredible range of birdlife. Set only 300 metres back from Lake Victoria (the second largest lake in the world), Little Okavango has rooms for couples as well as families with plenty of room to stretch out.
The Tower Restaurant is the most notable building on the site, offering unbeatable views over the Serengeti and the lake. Here’ you can listen out for the playful weaver birds and the spluttering of hippos day and night.
The site often attracts groups of elephants who wander through the shambas at night. Shambas are the small plots of farmland, owned and maintained by the local village people. You can often hear the banging of pots and pans to shoo the elephants away. The cheeky things try to eat the crops.
Sable Mountain Lodge
Set on the Beho Beho Hills above Selous Game Reserve Sable Mountain Lodge offers a resort-feel in the middle of the wilderness. The surrounding area is perhaps the best place in Africa to see wild dog, according to Johnny.
Twelve stone cottages overlook the rolling hills below. They’re spaced apart so you truly feel as if you have the place to yourself. Guests can cool off in the freshwater swimming pool, enjoy a G&T at the bush pub before dinner, and tuck into a delicious meal under the stars.
“We like people to come and enjoy the ambience without being hustled and bustled,” says Johnny.
This is where it all began. Tent With A View set up its first permanent property here in this small national park on the east coast of Tanzania. Bordering the Indian ocean, it’s a great spot for families with plenty of activities to keep kids entertained.
Elephants are known for wandering around the camp, knocking over coconut trees, but you’ll also see bush babies and antelope passing through.
Saadani is 100 kilometres from the nearest town, so you get a true sense of remoteness. The property has a private airstrip, but the bouncy drive in through the villages is just as fun, according to Johnny.
The main area has twelve “bandas” (bungalows) that are spread along the beach, including three family-sized ones with two bedrooms in each. The property also has a private tower you can stay in with only two rooms, a private bar and restaurant.
“The camp is surrounded by salt flats, so after the tide comes in and out, you’ll see all kinds of animals gravitating towards the flats to eat the minerals from the soil,” says Johnny. “You’ll see elephants and buffalo, but your guides will also point out the little stuff you might not even notice.
This boutique hotel on the north-eastern tip of the island is where most visitors stay for a few days of relaxation after the excitement of a safari on the mainland. Spread across seven acres of land, there are only eight rooms, two suites with private plunge pools and one family villa. The rooms are surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens with the crystal clear water lapping along the pure white sand just metres away.
The island of Zanzibar is a fascinating place to visit with plenty to keep you occupied. The capital, Stone Town, is a mixture of all the countries that have governed the island including Oman, India, Jordan, Britain and Portugal. Around the island, you can go horse riding on the beach, diving and snorkelling, take a boat trip out to go whale or dolphin-watching or just laze around on the sand.
Tent With A View - Vision and Values
“Integrity is very important to us,” says Johnny. “We’re conservation and environmentally-led. We work with NGOs like Bridge to Aid who send doctors and dentists to Tanzania to train the locals. We offer them accommodation free of charge because we want to support the great work they’re doing.”
“Our research centre at Saadani is a joint effort with the Tanzanian National Park Authority.
We share data and resources to help learn about the movements and habits of Tanzanian wildlife.”
Tent With A View also operates a Turtle Conservancy project on the east coast to protect and study the green turtles who return to the beaches every two years to lay their eggs. “We’ve gathered 10 years worth of data to help build local and international awareness and knowledge on the population of green turtles in the Indian ocean.”
What to pack for safari
You’ll find plenty of lists on the internet about what to pack when you’re going on a safari trip into the bush, but it all depends on your own level of comfort. “When you arrive in Tanzania, you leave the consumer life behind. As long as you bring comfortable clothing and sun protection, we pretty much take care of the rest,” says Johnny.
“We supply rain jackets and ponchos, wellies and umbrellas in case of rain,” Johnny adds. “But I’d recommend long sleeve cotton tops or blouses and long pants in the evening, plenty of mosquito repellant (although a G&T does wonders at keeping the bugs away), and binoculars if you have them.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Are the spiders big?
“I haven’t seen one for 15 years,” Johnny admits. “There aren’t many snakes either, although they are around. The staff make sure everything is clean, tidy and checked, but you’re more than welcome to ask them to have a look through your tent before you go in just to make sure.”
Is a Tanzanian safari suitable for children?
“It’s really dependent on the family. The youngest we've had is 6 weeks old, can you believe it? When it comes to choosing a property, Saadani is better for younger kids because of the beach, cuddly animals that pass through camp and the heat isn't too intense.”
What happens when it rains?
“It doesn't ruin the holiday. It's never like Blackpool on a winter's day. The weather is always warm. The vehicles all have roofs so you don't get wet. The animals love it when it's raining so they're a little more active.”
What about WiFi?
We have WiFi at all of our properties, except on the Bush Rover safaris. There is always the opportunity to connect with people if you need to, however, the idea of being in a remote area is to embrace the serenity, so most guests don’t have an issue with it.”
What food will be available?
“We look after everybody’s culinary requirements. We gather that information before guests arrive and pass it on to our chefs. The fruit and veggies are literally grown next door, so most of what you eat is far tastier than what you get from the supermarket at home.
“Our chefs have unbelievable skills, so you can expect steak, chicken, seafood. The freshly-caught fish in Zanzibar is particularly good. At Saadani, the chef makes the best chocolate pudding you have ever tasted in your life - London restaurant standard!”
“When you're in the Bush Rovers in the middle of nowhere, you're getting a four course meal. We even have ice cubes for your G&Ts.”
That brings us to the question of alcohol...
We're from Yorkshire. We can't run operations without our gins and our vodkas,” Johnny laughs. “Cocktails, local beers, you name it. There’s nothing better than having a beer around the campfire, talking about a pride of lions you've just seen.”
How do you get there?
“Tanzania has multiple international airports you can fly into including Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro. However, each national park around the country has its own airstrip so you can take a small 8-12 seater aircraft to make your route more direct. The smaller planes are a little bumpy but far more exciting. They fly at a lower altitude so you get a better view of the landscape.”
From the UK, the main airlines that offer connecting flights to Tanzania are Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul), Qatar (via Doha) and Emirates (via Dubai). Turkish is generally cheaper but can take up to 42 hours door-to-door. It’s worth paying a little extra to reduce your travel time to around 14-16 hours with the other airlines.
“This is up to personal preference, and depends on the type of safari you book. At the camps it is full-board or all-inclusive. The drinks available at the bars and restaurants are not expensive either. You’re paying local prices. And with the Bush Rover experience, everything is included so there’s no shock bill at the end of the trip.”
How has COVID-19 affected operations?
“Honestly, Tanzania has hardly been hit. The country has a very young population, (the average age is 17), and their generally rudimentary upbringing has given them a certain immunity to the flu and similar illnesses, so the pandemic is not making a huge impact.”
“Tourism is essential in Tanzania. We're following protocols but where we operate is so remote that social distancing comes naturally to us. I can't think of many places that would be safer than Tanzania at the moment.”
Do I need a visa?
“Yes, you can apply for a single-entry visa online for USD$50, or apply on arrival, however, this takes a little longer.”
As a full-service travel agent, where possible, I can apply for a visa on your behalf to take the stress out of things.
How long should I stay?
“I would recommend 4-6 days on safari on the mainland, and end with 4-6 days on the beach either at Saadani or the Zanzibari. It’s a great way to relax after a busy few days of early wake ups and exciting safari drives.”
When is the best time to visit?
"Because Tanzania is equatorial, the temperature is consistent year round, however, there are a couple of rainy seasons - April-May see the big rains and later, around November, the smaller rains sweep through."
Booking dates for next year are already filling up. So if you’d like to know more, start planning a trip or get a quote, feel free to get in touch. Johnny, the Tent With A View team and I will do everything we can to make your safari experience unforgettable.