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.
Note that much of the central area of the camp was destroyed in a fire in late 2015: there was a great deal of enthusiastic rebuilding work going on when we visited in November of that year. So things may appear a little different from our description.
The stylish main communal areas at Swala Camp are raised on wooden platforms under a large baobab tree. Under an open-sided thatched structure, with ochre and white walls, you'll find comfy sofas, coffee tables and armchairs. This area is perfect for cooling off in the heat of the day. In front, from the wooden deck furnished with cane sofas, you can watch passing wildlife at the waterhole.
The dining area is similar in style – open on three sides with a large deck at the front – and its polished wooden floors, black tables with cane high-back chairs and stylish décor give it a contemporary feel. Individual tables are laid out either under cover, or out on the open deck. To the side of the deck there’s a pizza oven.
To the side of the main area at Swala, you'll find a small swimming pool and pool shower, surrounded by a number of comfy sunloungers overlooking the plains. There is also a thatched hut with a more sunloungers if you prefer to be in the shade.
The 12 tented 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 wire-and-cement structures, and their elegant style is very much in keeping with that of the main area. They are decorated with artworks, all of which are for sale.
Some of the rooms are built around ancient baobab trees and one of them even has an outdoor seat built around the trunk of baobab. You can enter the tents either through the zipped canvas flaps on the front deck, or through lockable doors at the back or the side. Most tents can be set up either as doubles or twins and two can also serve as triples.
Scrubbed white floorboards, white armchairs, and a large white-linen king-size bed swathed in mosquito netting (some rooms also have twin beds) lend a very fresh, simple feel to the rooms at Swala. Beside each bed is a bedside table with a table lamp, and there are low-energy, LED reading lights over the beds too. At the front of each tent is a deck with seating.
Behind the bed is the bathroom area, separated by clothes storage space. There are twin basins recessed into a wooden unit beneath a large mirror. To one side you'll find the separate toilet, and behind another door is the shower. A door from the indoor shower leads through to a big outdoor rainfall shower – surrounded by wicker fencing for privacy. Africology toiletries are provided, along with bathrobes.
Each room at Swala Camp has a hairdryer, electronic safe, fans above the beds (inside the mossie nets), and even a yoga mat. There are also plug sockets for recharging batteries.
Although most guests arrive here with their own driver/guide, Swala Camp has its own two guides and up to four vehicles for guests to use on activities. Extra guides sometimes come from A&K in Arusha. It’s a wildlife-rich area: when we last visited in November 2015 we saw waterbuck grazing in front of the camp and lions and cheetahs are regularly seen around camp. Bush walks and night drives are available here at an extra cost (minimum age: 16).
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 are stylish. It makes a good base for a couple of nights to explore Tarangire National Park. Being in the quieter southern area of the park, it takes longer to reach than the camps around Tarangire's busier northern edge, but your wildlife-viewing experience here is much more exclusive, as there are few other vehicles around.
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 a 60–75-minute drive from Kuro airstrip in Tarangire, or a leisurely 3-hour game drive from Tarangire’s main gate in the north of the park.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Sanctuary Retreats
Staff: Managers - John and Babs
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.
They can be quite flexible about meals, and encourage guests to eat around the fire if they want to. You can also have bush breakfasts and bush lunches with proper sit-down service. Both of these bush meals are charged for, however, as the park authorities charge the camp for them.
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. The absolute minimum age is usually 6.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities for children at Swala Camp. The minimum age for walking and night drives is 16.
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 wildlife wanders freely through the camp day and night.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: The generator is on for a few hours in the morning and evening. The batteries it charges give power for personal charging to be done in the rooms at any time. Hot water is provided by wood-fired boilers using wood brought in from outside the park.They also use fuel tablets made from recycled waste. Guests who need hair driers can borrow one from the camp, and use it while the generator is on.
Communications: There is WiFi in the rooms at Swala Camp and they operate on a token system with a limit of 500mb per voucher. Cellphone reception is very patchy and can only be received in certain parts of the camp.
TV & radio: There is no TV at Swala Camp.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: For cooking and drinking, all water is brought in and Sanctuary water bottles are supplied to guests.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a trauma kit at Swala Camp as well as a first-aid kit, and both managers and two staff are first-aid trained. For serious emergencies they would drive you to Kuro airstrip for a flight to Arusha where there are full 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. They were planning staff training when we last visited in November 2015.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included: clothes are handwashed and line-dried. As with most camps in Tanzania, female underwear is not accepted and washing powder 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 Tanzanian shillings, but only if really needed.
Accepted payment on location: Swala currently accepts MasterCard and Visa with a surcharge of 5.8%. They accept cash payments in pounds, US dollars, euros and Tanzanian shillings.