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So what does a vintage safari experience look like?

May 19, 2022 East Africa Bush Tails

The concept of a vintage safari is connected to a nostalgic view of the past, the classic old-age ‘golden era’ of low impact and high quality journeys of discovery, disconnected from the world that we know, whilst offering a greater connection to our natural world. And the beauty of so many of the vintage safari experiences, is that they offer a true reflection of the spirit of adventure, with most vintage safari camps ascribing to a strong ethos of low environmental impact, and still allowing for the comforts we have all become accustomed to.

So what does a vintage safari experience look like?


With a growing desire amongst adventurous souls eager to seek out unique encounters or landscapes, the vintage safari experience generally takes travellers off the beaten track into areas where fewer people traverse, in many cases offering pristine wilderness experiences, surprising wildlife encounters, and in some cases a truly rustic and authentic experience of the destination itself.

It is difficult to get much more remote than Apoka Safari Lodge. Located in the remote Kidepo Valley where Uganda meets the untamed vastness of Central Africa, Akopa Safari Lodge is reflective of those timeless vintage safari images – vast golden grasslands, jagged hills, soft tepia glowing light and a landscape dotted with wildlife. With 10 expansive rooms built in amongst a rocky outcrop, the camp is symbolic of the space the landscape provides and takes advantage of ensuring open views of the savannahs. Handcrafted by local builders, Apoka Safari Lodge has fully embraced the concept of reflecting everything local with extensive interiors all made by local craftsmen. Wildlife is surprisingly diverse with an estimated 86 mammal species and a remarkable 463 plus bird species including 58 different raptors. Apoka provides travellers with an extraordinarily remote and vintage safari experience and those that make the journey here are guaranteed to be rewarded many times over.

Immersed within nature under canvas

With majority of the vintage camp offerings located alongside and within fairly monumental wildlife landscapes, the concept of being immersed within nature under canvas is emphasized by the feeling of allowing the natural outside world in. Scents of wild herbs and the well-known aroma of hot dust or freshly fallen rain permeating through the canvas and gauze, the echoing sounds and chorus of the lions roar or elephants rumble in the distance as it carries across the plains, or the glimpses of the overhead twinkle of the starlit skies – vintage camps have been designed to ensure all the senses – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the touch and the tastes – are elevated and enhance the overall experience of the surroundings. One could say that vintage camps provide as close to being a part of Africa’s natural rhythm and pulse as possible. And let’s not forget the seductive intimacy that comes with a few large tents sitting within miles and miles of an abundant wildlife filled landscape. 

Mara Toto positions itself squarely in the heart of magnificent predator country, and the camp’s traversing rights of both Mara North Conservancy and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve give guests the flexibility to explore far and wide in search of arguably the finest wildlife sightings on earth. The magic of Mara Toto is in its’ revisiting of the past, with the design of the camp drawing from Africa’s original explorers’ and designed for those in search of East Africa’s romantic safari era. “When I designed Mara Toto Camp, a perfect camp from which to enjoy your Masai Mara safari, it was based on an original 19th-century styled expedition camp with light canvas and high apex tents, supported by huge gum-poles. Right along the river’s edge and under some of the most spectacular ebony trees, its position creates a hidden haven to retire between exciting safari drives. This small 8-bed camp is ideal for families, or small parties, explorers, adventurers and photographers. Nearby leopard and lion’s calls are often heard from this safari camp.” says Dereck Joubert, CEO of Great Plains Conservation.

Private and Homely

For many of the vintage camps, space and seclusion come naturally. With a smaller number of tents or rooms, vintage camps by nature offer a lot more exclusivity, allowing for a more personalised view and experience of Africa and its wildlife and cultures with the true meaning of space encompassed in the design of the tents and camp itself.

Little Chem Chem located alongside Lake Burunge in Tanzania is the quintessential East African safari camp with six luxury vintage style tents set amidst ancient baobabs, and where as the first rays of dawn wash across the tented suites, you will understand why they affectionately refer to Little Chem Chem as their ‘sunrise camp’. The vintage-style camp sits within a vital migration corridor and is not only a haven for guests travelling there, but over time, both trust and respect have allowed the area to become somewhat of a haven for the magnificent big tuskers that call the concession home.

Silence, Seclusion and environmentally friendly

There is a purity and clarity in the silence and seclusion that comes with being on a vintage safari experience. Choosing to disconnect from the busy distractions of our modern world and immerse oneself in the tranquility of nature. In Zambia, a pioneering eco-property in the South Luangwa has taken the concept of silence and seclusion to a new level by including silent safari electric vehicles with a fully-run solar powered camp. Green Safaris have partnered with legendary guide Jacob Shawa and have created a vintage safari experience overlooking the Luangwa river where each of their tents melt away into the stillness and greenery of the surrounding trees, creating an enhanced natural privacy and peace. As one of the most favoured walking landscapes in Southern Africa, Shawa Luangwa also allows you to step out on foot and slow down to nature’s pace… absorbing the sights, sounds and smells with every footstep in an untouched wilderness where it is easy to feel like you are the only inhabitants of this wildlife rich oasis.

In the heart of South Africa’s Sabi Sands Reserve lies Notten’s Bush Camp. Where most lodges in the area are trending towards a more contemporary aesthetic, this family-run camp exudes a more “classic” vibe. Whether on game drives looking for the Big 5, dining in the boma or watching wildlife pass by the lounge, you’ll “feel at home” while on safari at Notten’s.

The way Onduli Ridge is nestled among a ridge of granite boulders, you would think the lodge has been there for a long time. In fact, it’s Damaraland’s newest lodge. The lodge as a whole is largely open air, meaning the surrounding landscape takes center stage. But the accommodations are far from basic – it’s no doubt the region’s premier safari accommodation.

The spirit of adventure

For those with a greater spirit of adventure and wanting to find an elegant blend of both the old and the new, Selinda Explorers in Botswana is one of the finest examples of an intimate, refined and stylish vintage camp. With just four meru-style tents, Selinda Explorers has a heavy focus on walking and canoeing – allowing for travellers to really grasp the old-age concept of exploration from a bygone era whilst embracing the concept of exclusivity and seclusion.

Little Vundu, located in Mana Pools, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and world renowned wildlife destination, offers an ideally situated intimate vintage camp experience for adventurous up-close encounters with unbeatable guiding. Here travellers will have the opportunity to see the famous Dynasties painted wolves up close and personal on foot and canoe the majestic Zambezi River, one of Africa’s longest and oldest rivers. Mana Pools is the ultimate destination for those with an adventurous spirit who are eager to get out on foot with top class private guides.

Similarly Camp Hwange in Hwange National Park Zimbabwe combines a distinct vintage camp experience with an emphasis on top level guiding. A large focus here is walking amongst Hwange’s famous gentle giants with the most knowledgeable, passionate and charismatic guides ensuring that your safari is more about your up close encounters with wildlife than the luxury level of your accommodation.

So if you are feeling nostalgic and eager to step back in time, to embrace the tranquility, seclusion and silence that nature provides, and to explore Africa from a the sepia-tinted glasses of a vintage safari experience, get in touch with us today to make your dream safari a reality.

Several safari destinations provide a truly remote wilderness experience. Some offer not only game drives, but opportunities for cultural interaction, hot air ballooning, boating, and “active” activities.

Stay Longer, Stay Remoter

Read More on further listings on these sorts of safari camps and lodges.