Swala stands in the remote south-west corner of Tarangire National Park.
Swala Camp: Our full report
On the edge of the Gursi Swamp, in the far south-west of Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park, Swala Camp sits in a quiet area, amid an area of open grassland under a grove of tall Acacia tortillis trees and baobabs. Completely rebuilt in 2009, this permanent tented camp promises high-quality accommodation, with good resident game – impala, elephant and waterbuck that are attracted to its artificial waterhole.
The main communal areas at Swala Camp are raised up on wooden platforms under a large baobab tree and are very stylish indeed. Under an open-sided thatched structure, with ochre and white walls, you'll find plenty of large comfy sofas, coffee tables and armchairs; most are pale cream or white and spotless – quite a feat considering its open-bush location! This area is perfect for cooling off in the heat of the day. In front, is a wooden deck with cane sofas, from where you can watch passing game and the waterhole.
When we last visited in July 2013 we saw a small herd of impala, as well as some waterbuck grazing in front of the camp. The manager also told us that lion had been seen in camp the day before and that there had been a cheetah kill right in front of Swala the previous week.
The dining area is similar in style – open on three sides with a large deck out the front – and its polished wooden floors, black tables with cane high-back chairs and stylish décor give it a very contemporary feel. Individual tables are laid out either undercover, or out on the open deck. To the side of the deck there’s even a pizza oven, which is used occasionally.
To the side of the main area at Swala, you'll find an infinity swimming pool, surrounded by a number of comfortable-looking sunloungers overlooking the plains. There is also a small, partially enclosed, hut with a couple more sunloungers for those who would prefer to sit in the shade.
The 12 rooms at Swala Camp are located under shady acacia trees and spread along sandy pathways to one side of the main area. Raised on wooden platforms, they are part canvas, part stone structures, and their elegant style is very much in keeping with that of the main area. Some of the rooms are built around ancient baobab trees – one of the rooms even has an outdoor seat built around the baobab. You can enter the tents either through the zipped canvas flaps on the front deck, or through proper locking doors at the back or the side.
Scrubbed white floorboards, a couple of white armchairs, and a large white-linen king-size bed (some rooms also have twin beds) swathed in mosquito netting lend a very fresh and simple feel to the rooms at Swala. Beside each bed is a bedside table with a table lamp, but there are modern LED reading lights over the beds too. At the front of each room is a deck with a couple of white chairs.
Behind the bed is the bathroom area, separated by cupboards to hang your clothes. There are twin basins recessed into a wooden unit beneath a large mirror. To one side you'll find the toilet in a separate room, and behind another door is the shower. A door from the indoor shower leads through to a vast outdoor rainshower – surrounded by wicker fencing for privacy. Toiletries and bathrobes are provided.
Each room at Swala Camp has a hairdryer, electronic safe, fans above the beds – and even a yoga mat! There are also plug points for recharging batteries.
Although most guests arrive here with their own driver/guide, Swala Camp has its own guides and vehicles for guests to use on activities. The current manager (July 2013) is a professional trails guide. However, due to current issues with TANAPA (Tanzanian National Parks Authorities), it is not possible to do walking safaris from Swala. The lodge team is hoping that this will be resolved in the near future; please ask us for further details. Night drives are also possible at an extra cost; in 2013 this cost US$80 per person.
It is also possible for guests to visit a local village near Mameri, just outside the national park, a 30-minute drive from Swala. The camp also has links with a bee-conservation project that guests are welcome to visit.
Our viewSwala Camp is very well-run, the service is friendly, and the rooms and main areas very stylish and decorated in a contemporary African design. It would make a good base for a couple of nights to explore Tarangire National Park. It’s located in the quieter southern area of the park and this means that it takes longer to reach than the camps around Tarangire's busier northern edge, but also that your game-viewing experience here is much more exclusive, as there are few other vehicles.
Ideal length of stay: Stay at Swala Camp for at least two nights, possibly three, to explore the great game in Tarangire National Park.
Directions: Swala Camp is 45 minutes from Kuro airstrip in Tarangire, or a leisurely three-hour game drive from Tarangire’s main gate in the north of the park.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Sanctuary Retreats
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: When we last visited Swala Camp we didn’t have time to stay for a meal, but the manager explained that guests could expect the following:
Breakfast is a choice of a fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurts, freshly baked breads and muffins, followed by a cooked-to-order breakfast.
Lunch is a three-course menu served with freshly baked bread. For the main course there is usually a choice of either a vegetable or a meat dish.
Dinner is another three-course menu with a starter, a choice of three mains – a vegetarian dish, red or white meat, or fish – served with vegetables, followed by a dessert.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included apart from premium wines and spirits.
Further dining info: It is possible to have meals served either to your room or around the pool.
Attitude towards children: Swala Camp markets itself as an adult camp.
Property’s age restrictions: As a general rule children under 12 are not accepted - although the camp has been known to bend this rule if we ask them well in advance.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities for children at Swala Camp.
Equipment: There is no special equipment for children.
Generally recommended for children: Swala Camp has a sophisticated and adult atmosphere so is not really suitable for children under 12 years.
Notes: Children will need to be constantly supervised by their parents as the camp is not fenced in and game wanders freely throughout day and night.
Communications: There is WiFi in the reception areas at Swala Camp and they have a computer which guests can use free of charge. Cellphone reception is very patchy and can only be received in certain parts of the camp.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a basic first-aid kit at Swala Camp and the manager is first-aid trained. For serious emergencies they would drive you to Kuro airstrip for a flight to Arusha where there is a hospital and medical facilities.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: They have three askaris (Maasai guards) patrolling at night, and a TANAPA ranger is permanently based in the camp.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the rooms and the main areas.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included: clothes are handwashed and line dried. As with most camps in Tanzania, underwear is not accepted and soap is provided in the rooms for guests to wash these themselves.
Money: There are safes in all the rooms at Swala Camp. They can normally exchange a very small amount of money if really needed.
Accepted payment on location: Swala currently accepts MasterCard and Visa with a surcharge of 5.5%. There is a minimum charge of US$50 when paying by card. They usually accept cash payments in pounds sterling, US dollars, euros and Tanzanian shillings.