Exhilaration and excitement are my typical feelings when boarding a flight to a new destination.
This was not the case on my way to Nairobi to join Intrepid Travel’s 8-day Serengeti Trail trip.
Instead, I was feeling panicked and anxious; I’m not very outdoorsy, much less an experienced camper who likes to “rough it.” The romantic ideas that inspired me to book the trip in the first place (spotting the big 5, watching the sun set behind Acacia trees, game drives whilst listening to Toto’s Africa) turned into “what have I gotten myself into?!”
Turns out, what I “got myself into” was one of the best experiences of my life.
Here are six reasons why “roughing it” is not that rough when camping in East Africa with Intrepid:
Participatory camping is fun
Participatory camping entails the set-up/break-down of your tent and helping the cook with meal preparation and clean-up duty. While these might seem like odd tasks to be asked to do while on holiday, I really enjoyed them. There are some long travel days and so camp set-up is a nice way to move and stretch after a few hours on the safari truck.
The tents are easy to assemble and the local crew (made up of an Intrepid local leader, a driver, and a cook) will give you thorough lessons. By the end of the trip you will feel like an expert! Meal preparation is fun and great way to bond with your fellow travelers. Clean-up duty is fast and efficient and you will soon learn a new technique for drying dishes.
Fresh water is always accessible
Bottles of fresh water will be stored on board the truck for the duration of the trip. At each camp a water station will be set up so you are able to fill up your water bottle, wash your hands, and brush your teeth. Also, the crew will set you up with a basin to hand wash any clothing items if needed. The fresh water is also used to clean the dishes after meals – it’s all very sanitary!
The food is so yummy
I was amazed by the meals we had. The flavor and variety of the food that our cook prepared (with the help of myself and fellow travelers) was incredible. We’re talking grilled fish (caught fresh from Lake Victoria), pancakes, hearty stews, pasta, avocado salad, pineapple for dessert, and more – you will not go hungry! There were a few stops along the way to stock up on snacks for the long travel days as well.
You don’t have to fit all your belongings in the safari truck locker
Your main piece of luggage only goes into a locker which are assigned at the beginning of the trip. Trust the dimensions that are described in the Essential Trip Information as the space really is limited! A soft backpack or duffle bag is your best bet.
The truck has overhead shelf space where you can store your sleeping bag, day pack, and camera. The seat in front will have a pouch to keep your water bottle, sunscreen, and bug spray for easy access. Power outlets are also available on the truck but its good to have a portable battery charger as a backup.
Connecting with fellow travelers and crew members
So often when traveling these days, the moment there is access to wifi, everyone stops talking and turns their head down to their smartphone. I’m guilty of this myself as I like to be connected just as much as the next person. While there was the occasional wifi access on the trip, it was so nice to have a digital detox.
Not only are you connecting with your fellow travelers by working together around camp, you are also connecting because you are pretty much cut off from the rest of the world, which forces you to be in the moment and enjoy each other’s company.
In the evening, our entertainment came in the form of stargazing, listening out for laughing hyenas, and swapping stories around the campfire. I loved chatting to our lovely crew members, who even after a long day of work were still keen to share what it was like to grow up in Tanzania and tell us about their families.
The wildlife, of course!
Our first big 5 spot was the most magnificent elephant – it took my breath away. Zebras grazing just outside our tent one morning, a leopard that was curious about our safari truck and came right up to it, and watching hippos play in watering holes are just a few of many highlights I will never forget.
Don’t get me wrong, the camping was roughing it in the sense of sleeping in a tent, the occasional cold shower, and not having access to regular creature comforts.
…BUT spotting 4 of the big 5, watching sunsets with colors that did not seem real, and our group (including the crew) singing Toto’s Africa at the top of our lungs when we drove through the entrance gate to Serengeti National park made any fleeting moments of discomfort not rough at all.
To experience all the wonders this traveller did, check out Intrepid Travel’s 8-day Serengeti Trail trip.
(Image credits from top to bottom: Ashley Benjamin, Intrepid Travel, Ashley Benjamin x4, Intrepid Travel.)