As I learned on a recent press trip to Tanzania, luxury safaris are some of the best vacations out there.
With rates sometimes reaching $1,500 per person, per night, they aren't cheap. But that doesn't mean that everything about them is luxurious.
During my trip, I spent six nights in four different safari lodges in different parts of the country. They were all lovely, unique, and offered first-rate service. But over the course of the trip, I had some brushes with nature that made me jump.
Here were some of the more memorable moments:
I brushed my teeth while geckos climbed up the outer and inner walls of my tent
I awoke in the middle of the night to sounds of crunching — and saw a giraffe munching on a treetop nearby
Within moments of each other, a mouse and large spider ran out from under a bathtub I was about to step into
I found a small frog in my shower
I sat in bed while bats circled the mosquito netting around me on several nights
I laid awake while listening to hyenas howl over a zebra kill
I saw a monkey on my deck licking the last drops of orange juice from a glass I accidentally left out overnight
I nearly walked into the path of two elephants wandering through an open safari camp — and had to slowly back away until I reached a safe building
I also learned that safari camps may be beautiful, but they aren't necessarily built for people who prize convenience while on vacation.
One night, after returning from an evening game drive, I realized that bag containing my passport, phone, and wallet was missing. Since we were at a tiny camp and hundreds of miles from any other people, I hadn't bothered to lock it in the safe (lesson learned!)
I was alone in my room, and there was no phone to call the front desk — or a front desk at all, for that matter. It was after dark, and like all of the safari camps I'd stayed at, I couldn't leave my room without a security escort.
I didn't know what to do, so I blew the air horn I was told to use in case of an emergency.
Within a minute, two Maasai warriors with spears tucked into their traditional red robes were running to my room. I later learned that many safari camps and even businesses in cities like Dar es Salaam hire them as security guards.
Since there were no phones, one of the guards left to find a manager, who promised to sort the matter out and left to talk to the head housekeeper. In the meantime, I found the passport bag in a cabinet — the housekeeper must have put it there for safekeeping. But since I couldn't get in touch with the manager, I had to wait 15 minutes for him to return so I could let him know I'd worried him for nothing.
The brushes with animals and lost passport story are reminders that many of the best safari camps are truly off the grid. And that's what travelers love about them.
But if the sight of a spider or mouse makes you gag, and you like being able to reach hotel housekeeping on speed dial, you may want to stick with a Caribbean cruise.
Disclosure: Our trip to Tanzania, including travel and lodging expenses, was sponsored by the Tanzania Tourist Board, Africa Adventure Company, Singita Grumeti Group, Coastal Aviation, Qatar Airways, Tanzania National Parks, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority and Wildlife Division.
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