Savoring the Savannah

Camping in the game parks of northern Tanzania is a different kind of adventure

By: Judy Koutsky

MOUNT MAKAROT, Tanzania As I snuggled into my sleeping bag the thin nylon tent as the only barrier between me and animals that roamed the savannah I mused on the difference between this safari experience and most others.

Usually, travelers to East Africa take the standard package: sleeping in lodges at night and going on game drives in a 4x4 vehicle during the day.

Tanzania-based Hoopoe Adventure Tours offers a completely different experience for the more adventurous traveler but there are luxury camps for a bit of respite, too.

Combining conventional game-viewing with back-to-nature basics, Hoopoe’s “Walk on the Wild Side” itinerary focuses on the game parks of northern Tanzania, offering an unusual experience for travelers wanting a little bit of everything.

My favorite camp was Mount Makarot, located in the dense mountain rain forest that makes up the Ngorongoro Highlands. We pitched camp in a beautiful grove of acacia trees, the instantly recognizable signature tree of East Africa. Sitting by the fire at night, the view of the sunset through their thorny branches was exquisite.

Restricting yourself to adventure camping could be a bit much, so the last three days are spent at Loliondo Camp, a luxurious tent encampment, on the boundary of the Serengeti National Park. It was a welcome treat!

Through a special conservation and wildlife management partnership, Hoopoe and the Maasai tribe of Oloipiri created the camp. Tourists have an unusual chance to interact with the Maasai people, visiting their villages and trek with Maasai guides. The tribe is using the proceeds to build schools and water-purification projects.

Hoopoe sees the alliance as a continuation of its motto: “A traveler without knowledge is like a bird without wings.”

At Loliondo, the tents come equipped with two beds, a toilet, shower, sink and ample living space. Much cozier than a lodge, the tent has the feel of camping with all the comforts of a first-rate accommodation. And the food was some of the best I have had in Africa. The amazing soups carrot ginger, green banana, cream of celery were worthy of a recipe book.

At Loliondo, you have can choose to go on walking safaris, trek up mountains or look for game while riding in a comfortable four-wheel drive vehicle.

The mountain trekking can be strenuous. There is no path up the side of Losimongori mountain, so you must push through waist-high scrub, up a steep slope.

But the views of the expansive Rift Valley escarpment and the blue waters of Lake Manyara are well worth the sweat it takes to get to the top.

Hoopoe can be reached via e-mail at or through the Colorado-based Africa Travel Centre, 800-361-8024 or info@africa Hike Away

The snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro, which top out at more than 19,000 feet, have long been a goal of many avid hikers.

Tropical Trekking, the hiking arm of Hoopoe Adventure Tours of Tanzania, offers a variety of itineraries; but more than 80 percent of its clients use the Marangu route, nicknamed the “Coca-Cola” route, because of its mainstream appeal.

After much research, I chose the eight-day Machame tour, considered by many to be the most beautiful and scenic route. An extra day is included to help hikers become accustomed to the altitude.

The Machame itinerary involves hiking through five distinct ecosystems: tropical montane rainforest, moorland, heather, highland desert and the peaks. With an eye on making the final push to the summit, aided by the moon, the climb is scheduled to begin in the early morning hours.

Tropical Trekking coordinates all aspects of the climb: English-speaking guides, porters, tents and furnishings.

All guides carry two-way radios, in case of emergencies.

Jonas, Stanley and Harold our Tropical Trekking guides had in-depth knowledge of the local flora and fauna; wonderfully positive dispositions (which is needed on a strenuous hike), and were well-versed in signs of Acute Mountain Sickness.

Tropical Trekking can be reached at or through Africa Travel Centre, 800- 361-8024;