Just about every private African Safari comes with the opportunity to get away from it all—to connect with nature and get immersed in a wilder world. But when it comes down to it, nothing quite compares to the pure, exhilarating experience of fly camping. At an overnight camp set up exclusively for you, you’ll enjoy an evening of quiet solitude far out in the African wilderness, dining by flickering campfire and bedding down under a dazzling spray of stars in Tanzania or Kenya.
We receive questions all the time about fly camping:
And these questions are valid, especially if fly camping is new on your radar. Lucky for you, it isn’t something new for us at Penwell.
To set expectations upfront, fly camping and glamping are on opposite ends of the safari spectrum. Originally a style of camping preferred by hunters and explorers on the go, the term “fly camping” once referred to a trek for which the fly sheet of the tent—the outer shell layer stretched over a canvas tent to protect it and its temporary inhabitants from sun and rain—was the only shelter brought along for the trip. This practice allowed for a lighter pack weight for fast-moving adventurers, and was originally the purview of only the most seasoned safari veterans. Stretched between two trees or suspended with a few sticks, the spartan fly sheet provided only the most essential protection from the elements, and essentially meant sleeping out in the open amid the veldt—and all of its feral inhabitants.
Nowadays, fly camping packs a little more padding, but the spirit of the experience remains true to its unburdened roots. Opt for a fly camping overnight on your custom safari with Penwell, and we’ll take you into the African outback—fields afar from the main camp, leagues away from civilization, and right into the heart of the vast wilderness.
In sum, a custom, private fly camping experience is a remote opportunity to experience the raw beauty of everything Africa has to offer. Whether you wish to go fly camping in Kenya, the Serengeti, Tanzania, or even something more adventurous and wild in East Africa, we can help provide you with a stress-free fly camp planning experience.
We’re all familiar with the basic bits of conventional camping: tents, sleeping bags, campfires, and marshmallows. We’ll admit to doing it up a little fancier, though, so the safari camps you’ll stay at with Penwell are quite a few rungs up the ladder from that experience. Think spacious and well-appointed tents, elegant bedding, toiletries and plumbed facilities. Even mobile camps can offer amenities like electricity and stylish decor that bring to mind an aesthetic of African glamping. And while privately spaced accommodations are generally the rule, communal elements like sociable dining spaces and creature-comfortable common areas are ubiquitous.
For example, in the image above, you can see Penwell’s founder Kathy Harvey washing her face with her two fly camping tents in the background. The one tent is four-sided with mesh netting, and a mesh net roof so you can see the beautiful, starry night sky at night before slipping into your own twilight. The other tent she has is an extra just in case it rains.
The mesh tents are wonderful because they provide a wild and scenic, 360-degree view of everything around and above you, but may not be the best option, should you encounter rain on your private safari trip. Keep in mind that there are a wide variety of different fly camping tents to choose from when you book your travel with us.
All of this provides for some semblance of an off-the-grid, Out of Africa adventure, while providing as many trappings of modern society as sensibility and theme will allow. But if you’re really into getting as far away from everything as possible—and smack in the middle of nature—fly camping is where it’s at. We’re not going to send you out alone into the bush with just a tarp (we’ll take at least a modicum of fun and fancy with us), but we’ll keep things simple enough to ensure that nothing is left between you and a deep, authentic connection to the untouched reaches of the natural world.
For most fly camping excursions, your party and an experienced guide will set out from camp in the early afternoon, striking into the savannah by jeep or on foot. Along the way, you’ll become more acquainted with the living landscape and its denizens, and more familiar with what is—as you venture farther from base camp—increasingly their world. As the sun begins to hint at retiring the day, you’ll spot your accommodations in the distance: a modest setup of a tent or two next to a small fire.
This is your personal, intimate outpost in the wide-open African veldt—your private residence for the evening, alone in the wild.
But let’s not get too lost in whimsy right off. We packed light, but it looks like somebody snuck in some sundowners. While you while away the fading hours of the day over a cold drink, a small attaché of camp hands will fix up the evening’s supper over the open fire. Seasonal stew in cast iron pots, creamy ugali and fire-roasted local veggies—just because we’re roughing it out here doesn’t mean we can’t stuff ourselves with hearty fare. As sparkling pinpoints start to speckle the twilight skies, we’ll roast up some marshmallows, watch for roaming herds, and keep a keen ear tuned to the distant roar of lions.
Tonight, you’ll retire to modestly comfortable surroundings—a cozy tent, soft sheets, and a cushy foam mattress. With a chorus of chirping insects to keep the silence at bay and a shimmering blanket of stars overhead, you’ll drift off to sleep in contented bliss.
As dawn breaks and the sleepy savannah stirs to life, wake to the sounds of nearby groggy grazers and a crackling fire pit. A full bush breakfast awaits, and a short walk through dewy grass leads you to a hanging bucket shower, warmed by the morning sun. Once bellies are full and spirits are refreshed, you’ll lift packs and head back to the relative civilization of base camp, having experienced one of the most immersive and unforgettable nights that any luxury safari has to offer.
Not to overstate the obvious here, but if you’re wandering out into the distant African wilderness to pitch a tent for the evening, you do have to know what you’re doing—fly camping’s not something you can pull off with anyone just anywhere. So, then: who and where?
Glad you asked. For our money, nothing beats Kenya’s Maasai Mara or the Serengeti National Park as the setting for your night out of the town. Specifically, the further-removed Naboisho area is superb—not only are our friends here some of the most experienced guides around, but the area is also famous (but not too famous) for its density of lions and cheetahs. Wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, and elephants are also out in numbers—into the thousands when it comes time for the Loita migration—which means both spectacular wildlife viewing and, importantly, well-fed predators. Further security is assured with the company of a properly equipped guard, but we’ve found time and time again that experience and knowledge has always been the best protection for us and ours. We can’t wait to take you under our wing on a once-in-a-lifetime safari outing.
Ready to write an unforgettable night into the books? We’ll help you pen that chapter of your safari. Get in touch with us at Penwell, and let’s write your story together.