The mobile safari has always been a romantic, if somewhat rugged, way to see the great African landscapes—following wildlife across the savannah, setting up camp along the way, and leaving no trace after moving on to the next secluded location. As travelers begin to head back to the continent this year, they’ll find new roving camps that emphasize the glamour of it all, without any of the grit.
The timing for a return to Africa’s great wilds couldn’t be more ideal, says Nicky Fitzgerald, owner of the Angama Mara safari lodge in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. “Nature-based tourism is definitely top of mind,” she says. “Right now, I think people want to run away toward nature.” Fitzgerald’s second camp, Angama Safari Camp, is poised to meet that demand. Launched in October, the retreat is designed for a single group at a time, with four guest tents that remain on location for no more than two weeks before moving to a new site, leaving only a bit of flattened grass behind.
Established in part to chase the Great Migration—the annual trek of millions of wildebeests from Tanzania’s Serengeti plains to the Maasai Mara that takes place from July through October every year—the mobile camp offers the chance to observe the natural event up close, yet far away from the popular tourist spots. Still, it’s all just as chic and comfortable as Angama Mara, with tents furnished with the same mattresses and duvets as at the upscale lodge, and a similar aesthetic combining bright
red, khaki, copper, and brass. The difference, says Fitzgerald, is “when you’re at Angama Mara, the lions are calling from below, but when you’re down in the mobile camp, they’re calling from right outside your tent, and that’s thrilling and chilling at the same time.”
Other safari companies are going mobile too. Hidden away on more than 40,000 acres of private ranchland in northwestern Laikipia, Kenya’s Safari Collection—known for its Giraffe Manor lodge on the outskirts of Nairobi—has pitched its first traveling tents with Siruai Mobile Camp. Totally off the beaten track, the roving retreat takes guests on walking safaris to hippo-filled watering holes and fishing expeditions on the Ewaso Narok River.
In Botswana’s Okavango Delta, outfitter Cookson Adventures chases the best weather and wildlife conditions before pitching its four solar-powered tents furnished with Persian rugs and king beds. Guests can go walking in the bush to spot rhinos, skydive over salt pans, and track big cats with the local San people. Farther east, African Bush Camps has launched Migration Expeditions Botswana, a six-tent camp that travels the salt flats of Nxai Pan National Park to follow the dazzling zebra migration and see the famous Kalahari lion prides. It also journeys into Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park along the Zambezi River for fishing and walking safaris.