Serengeti under Canvas

Serengeti under Canvas: Our full report

Rooms
9 tents
Traveller's rating
Excellent (100%) From 8 reviews
Children
Suitable for aged 12+
Open
All year

Serengeti under Canvas is made up of three semi-permanent camps, which move from site to site in Tanzania to keep close to the migrating wildebeest herds. All are simple bushcamps that aim to maintain a level of luxury.

The Serengeti under Canvas camps are run by &Beyond, who also run Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and two permanent camps in the Serengeti region outside the national park: Grumeti River Camp and Klein's Camp.

Two of the Serengeti under Canvas camps, numbered simply 1 and 2, are usually located inside the Serengeti National Park: typically in the southern area (Ndutu) from some time before Christmas to early April; in the central area (Seronera) from early April to the end of May and again from early November to mid-December; in the western area (Grumeti) from June to mid-July; and in the northern area (Kogatende) from mid-July to early November.

Our last visit, to Camp No 2, was in December 2016, when it was located in the Seronera area. By then, Camp No 1 was already based at their Ndutu site in southern Serengeti. The sites of the camps can vary slightly year on year as they are allocated by the park authorities. In 2016, the Seronera camp was located near a river in an area of relatively sparse bush but with quite a lot of tsetse flies. Previously, it was on a rather unshaded, gently sloping hillside of scrubby low trees, which presented problems with keeping table tops level and beds comfortably aligned. Depending on the exact site location of the camp, it can be suitable for those with mobility issues as there are no steps and some tents are relatively close to the main areas. No matter where they are, the camps gets frequent visits from elephant, buffalo and, in the dry season, lion, which visit in search of water. On our last visit, we had some nighttime visits from buffalo, grazing around the tent!

There is usually a third camp outside the park, in the Loliondo Reserve in the north-east of the Serengeti ecosystem. Sometimes known as 'Klein's under Canvas', this is in the Klein's concession area, and normally operates from June to around December.

In the central area of each camp, a slightly formal dining tent is set with silver cutlery and crystal glasses, although dinner is often eaten outside around the campfire: with the area lit by storm lanterns and the glow from the firelight, it makes for a beautiful setting. The large lounge and bar tent is furnished with rather uninspiring, mustard-coloured, 1950s-style sofas and armchairs, perked up by a selection of striped and batik cushions – prints that run throughout the camp. The chairs are clustered in two groups around a heavy wooden coffee table and wooden chests, separated by a very well-stocked bar. Glass storm lanterns, leather-bound books and other items of interest scatter the surfaces and add to the old colonial style.

Each camp at Serengeti Under Canvas has nine large guest tents, whose very comfortable beds feature high-quality bed sheets and soft pillows. There’s also a day bed, two deckchairs, and two heavy wooden chests housing a safe and a minibar, complete with cooler box. Large grass mats cover the tent floor, overlaid with Indian rugs. While cushions add splashes of colour, the yellow décor of the lounge area that runs through the guest tents feels a little tired and in need of a refresh.

Outside each tent, fishing stools are provided as footrests for the directors’ chairs that are set up on your 'veranda'. There is also a vintage-style hand basin for freshening up before entering the tent.

The en-suite bathrooms are equipped with separate flush toilets with a reserve tank for water, and open-air double bucket showers, which the staff fill with hot water on request. There’s another hand basin, a jug of hot water for washing, and a variety of toiletries and insect repellents.

In keeping with the bush infrastructure, there is no running water or electricity supplied to the tents (batteries can be charged in the office tent and in the vehicles), but there are kerosene lamps dotted around the camp, and each tent has battery-operated lighting and a torch. It does not get especially cold in the evenings but the hot-water bottles placed in the beds are a welcome addition. Each tent is assigned a personal butler, who will will bring you your choice of hot drink in the morning with your wake-up call, and will be more than happy to help with any requests.

Each camp has five Land Cruiser 4WD vehicles (one six-seater and four four-seaters) and five driver-guides, known in &Beyond parlance as rangers. The vehicles are equipped with bean bags, pit-stop toilet bags and 220v, UK-style, three-pin sockets, which can be used to charge batteries.

In terms of activities, the Serengeti Under Canvas camps within the Serengeti National Park concentrate on daytime game drives, while the camp in the Klein's area of Loliondo also offers night drives and guided walks. When the camp is based within easy reach of the Seronera area, the team can usually assist in organising a hot-air ballooning trip (at extra cost).

Guests at Serengeti Under Canvas tend to be a very cosmopolitan crowd. Keen photographers typically make up a majority, whp on our visits have incorporated Americans, South Africans, Europeans from Britons and Dutch to Germans and Spaniards, plus Mexican honeymooners and the occasional Chinese group.

Our view

Serengeti Under Canvas provides a relatively traditional safari experience, under canvas, without losing out on the luxuries for which &Beyond lodges are known. So you are camping – but probably not as you know it. The food and service are fantastic but we do feel, however, that relative to some of the other tented camps we know in the Serengeti region, the overall look here needs some refreshment.

Geographics

Location: Serengeti Migration Area, Tanzania

Ideal length of stay: 3 nights

Directions: Distances from the nearest airstrip vary with location: approximately 45 minutes from Kogatende, 45 minutes from Seronera, 20 minutes from Ndutu and 45 minutes from Grumeti (the camp's location in the Grumeti district is Kigeresh).

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: &Beyond

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: We have found a good standard of food preparation and presentation at these camps, including on our last visit in December 2016. Meals are served by your butler and the service strikes a perfect balance of discreet yet attentive.

A selection of bread, condiments, cereal, fruit and yoghurt was served to the table for breakfast and a range of cooked items could be requested from the chefs in the open-air breakfast kitchen. We enjoyed poached eggs and crispy bacon on toast.

We had a really delicious lunch of beef and peppers in a tasty sauce, with cucumber and olive salad, tomato and feta salad and hot chapattis.

Our three-course set dinner, which was served around the campfire, was beautifully presented. We had tomato soup with fresh bread to start, then tilapia with roasted vegetables and grilled banana with a chocolate sauce to finish.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Bottled water is supplied and is used to make ice in drinks. Soft drinks, beer, spirits and house wine are included. Premium spirits, cognac, champagne and cigars are an additional cost. The camp can order in fine wines with advance notice, also for an additional cost.

Further dining info: The outdoor barbecue area is often used for dinner. Room service is possible both inside and outside your tent.

Children

Attitude towards children: There is no strict age limit, but under 5s are not encouraged.

Property’s age restrictions: Children under the age of 11 need approval from the reservation manager or regional manager prior to booking.

Special activities & services: Staff will organise bow and arrow games, marshmallow roasting and football on request.

Equipment: None.

Notes: Due to the possible proximity of dangerous wildlife, children require parental supervision at all times.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Power supply notes: The generator charges dry cell batteries. Guests' camera batteries, mobile phones etc can be charged in the office tent or in the vehicles.

Communications: The cellphone signal depends on the camp's location, but WiFi is available throughout all the camps.

TV & radio: There is a TV in the staff lounge tent that guests can watch for major sporting events etc.

Water supply: Transported in

Water supply notes: Water is brought in to the camp by bowser.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: First-aid kits are available in every camp, and first-aid trainers visit regularly to update staff. The camp has links to a flying-doctor service for use in case of medical emergency.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: A guard is on duty throughout the night. Butlers escort guests to and from their tents after dark.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers around the camp and all staff are trained in fire safety.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Laundry is included, hand-washed and sun-dried. Ladies underwear is accepted.

Money: There is a safe in the wooden chest in each tent.

Accepted payment on location: Any extras are normally settled in cash, with Tanzanian shilllings and major currencies accepted. When credit cards can be processed (subject to availability of cellphone signal) there is a 5% surcharge.

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