"Why are safaris offering Mobile Camps more expensive than other safaris?" This a question asked regularly by people booking safaris.
The simple answer: it's not an easy feat making sure that there's a perfectly chilled Sauvignon Blanc for your sundowner as the sun sets over the African bush 500km away from the nearest shop.
To understand better, we need to take an in-depth look into the logistics of running a mobile camp. We asked two experts to answer your questions.
What Is A Mobile Camp?
Mobile camps mean exactly that - they move. Unlike fixed, permanent camps, these campsites are set up in a different spot each day (or couple of days).
While your guide and camp staff remain the same throughout your trip, the site of your camp changes, allowing you to experience different sights, sounds and views. Africa offers an incredible, changing landscape - from sandy desert to swampland, savannah and towering mountains, it's great to be mobile and see as many parts of it as possible.
Camp is set up before you arrive, and taken down when you leave.
Who Sets Up Camp?
Depending on whether you choose to go on a semi-participation safari or fully-serviced one, this'll differ.
If you're on a fully-serviced safari, by the time you arrive at your campsite for the evening, the qualified camp staff will have everything perfectly set up and waiting. If you're on a semi-participation one, you'll need to set up your own tent and pack it. That's where your participation ends, the rest of camp life, including cooking etc., will be done by the camp staff.
On mobile camping safaris, your participation in the everyday running of the camp is minimal to none. All you have to do is kick back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful African bush.
How Many People Work On A Mobile Safari?
This may differ from safari to safari, but generally there is a guide, hostess, chef and two camp assistants per trip. For semi-participation safaris, there is generally just the guide and one camp assistant/chef.
Where And How... Bedding, Laundry And Such?
All bedding (and beds!), linen and towels are brought by the mobile safari operator on a fully-serviced safari. Semi-participation safaris generally supply tents and camping mattresses, and you need to bring your own sleeping bags (or hire them).
Some of the camps are 500 km or more from the nearest town, and that town may just be a filling station and supply store, so the logistics (and cost) of making sure everything is comfortable can't be under-estimated!
The same goes for laundry. In the African bush, water is always an issue. While small things may be washed at camp, water is precious, so preferably bring enough clean clothes, so that we can save water! Bedding etc. is washed back at the permanent/base camp.
Who Does The Cookin' And Cleanin'?
All cooking and cleaning is sorted out by the qualified chef and camp assistants, for both semi-participation and fully-serviced safaris. This is your holiday!
Where Do The Food And Supplies Come From?
Here is where the serious logistics come in. All food (including fresh vegetables and fruit) and drinks are brought on the safari. These are sourced from the nearest town which, often, may be a five hour drive away from the permanent/base camp. Depending on the area, fresh supplies will be driven or flown in. A couple of the safari companies have even established their own farms at base camp, to ensure fresh veggies, fruit and herbs!
Making sure that you have fresh, delicious food after your days spotting wildlife is a priority.
All the safari vehicles on mobile safaris are equipped with fridges and freezers, which ensures that supplies stay fresh. And that there's plenty of ice to keep your G & T cold while you watch the African sun set over the bush.
Again, depending on the safari company, drinks may or may not be included. As a general rule, drinks are not included in semi-participation safaris. They're definitely available, but are paid for as an extra.
Is There Electricity And Connectivity?
One of the best things about being on a mobile safari is that - in the majority of camp sites - there is no electricity, and no WiFi or mobile phone reception.
Being on safari is about getting back to nature, listening to the sounds of the bush - uninterrupted by the ringing and beeping of phones - and being able to see the stars in the huge African night sky, unsullied by light pollution. It'll leave you breathless with wonder.
Camera batteries, however, can be charged using an invertor on the safari vehicles, so fear not, you'll still be able to get pictoral evidence of your once-in-a-lifetime safari!