From the Journal

Fly Camping in Africa

Travel Tips

Photo credit | Ol Malo, Kenya

You’re tucked away in your warm comfortable bed. You’re drifting off to the murmur of the bush and a soft crackling fire. The deep throaty sound of lions roaring hits your ears. They’re a few kilometres away. Your thoughts turn to witnessing the pride earlier that day. You smile and fade into a deep sleep. You’re woken to the smell of coffee brewing on the fire and you can hear a flurry of hooves outside your tent. Curiosity gets the better of you. You climb out of your tent and are greeted by the smiling face of your guide who offers you a cup of coffee and points out the small antelope grazing in the cool early morning air only a few feet from where you slept. This is unfiltered Africa. This is fly camping.

"You’re woken to the smell of coffee brewing on the fire and you can hear a flurry of hooves outside your tent."

Fly Camping In Africa Morning Coffee
Photo credit | Sanctuary Kusini

What to expect

Many modern safari expeditions offer luxury tented camps or lodges. But fly camping takes you back to the basics. The simple concept goes back to sleeping in the wilderness with nothing between you and the rawness of Africa but a thin flysheet. Hence the name. 

Often combined with a walking safari, fly camping puts you very much on the ground, giving you similar perspective to that of the wildlife you’re enjoying. A classic fly camp is basic and remote and is some distance from your main safari camp. Typically, you’ll depart from your main accommodation some time in the late afternoon. You’ll enjoy a walking safari for an hour or two, chaperoned by an armed guide, before ending up at your fly camp. There’s an immense satisfaction  in walking through the bush between camps: discovering new things about the bush, following the tracks, sights, smells and sounds wildlife in the region. Game drives might miss the rawness of this experience as the vehicle sits between you and nature.

Fly Camping Tents
Photo credit | Great Plains Conservation

"The simple concept goes back to sleeping in the wilderness with nothing between you and the rawness of Africa but a thin flysheet"

Walking Safari Fly Camping
Photo credit | Great Plains Conservation

The setup of a fly camp varies from place to place and depending on which season you’re in, but you’ll usually sleep in a small canvas tent, or gauze mosquito net cube, in a simple, but comfortable bed roll. There’s generally a very basic, clean, short-drop loo and a bucket shower, with a fire to sit around, and a table open to the skies. When you arrive at the small camp after your walking safari, you’ll be treated to a hearty meal and listen to tales from the guides and other guests around the campfire. Or you can just sit in silence and take in the majesty of the night sky before retiring to bed.

Fly Camping Shower
Mobile shower
Tent Interior Fly Camping
Interior of fly tents
Fly Camping Evenings
Fly camping, Ol Malo, Kenya

Whether you’re an early bird or a heavy sleeper, the wild bush has a way of stirring you long before the sun comes up. Sip on some coffee and take in the spectacular sunrise. After a delicious breakfast and availing yourself to your guides (or anyone who’ll listen) about how well you slept, you’ll make your way back to the main camp. Most fly camping in Africa is done just for a day or two, but for the very adventurous, you can negotiate longer trips.

Fly Camping Breakfast

"Whether you’re an early bird or a heavy sleeper, the wild bush has a way of stirring you long before the sun comes up."

Where to experience fly camping in Africa

The best fly camping on the continent can be had in Kenya or Botswana. And it really is the ultimate way to immerse yourself in the African bush. Many of those who’ve tried it have raved about it as the highlight of their safari. Just a word of caution, it is pretty wild and errs on the side of basic. You’ll use a short-drop loo, the animals are very much right there and the lack of creature comforts isn’t for everyone. But we can’t recommend it enough. It adds an entirely new dimension to your safari experience and is something you’re likely to remember for years to come.

"The best fly camping on the continent can be experienced in Kenya or Botswana."

Fly Camping Kenya
Fly camping, Kenya
Fly Camping In Africa
Selinda Reserve, Botswana

Want to find out more about fly camping in Africa? Contact our Adventurists at Ker & Downey Africa and start planning your trip today. 

Rich Wiese
Written by
Richard Wiese

Richard Wiese is a Cape-Town-based writer with an affinity for Africa, its people and its cultures. He’s realistic of his chances of getting to see every country on the continent, but a man must have dreams. A good sense of humour, quiet nature and working knowledge of all things random, make him the perfect travel buddy. 

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