‘For an authentic safari, it is difficult to beat a mobile – the original form of this quintessential African adventure. Sleeping in the wild on a mobile safari, with nothing but a piece of canvas between you and Africa’s wildlife, may not be for everyone, but it makes for a fully immersive experience’. – James Gifford (The Lonely Planet)
What is a mobile safari?
You may well ask ‘Ok, so what is a mobile safari?’. Thanks to James Gifford and his piece in the Lonely Planet, for what we think is a perfect description: ‘A mobile safari is exactly what it sounds like – a journey through a variety of different wildlife habitats, staying for a few nights in each area. When you move location, your camp moves with you. Each campsite is simply a designated, secluded area of bush with neither facilities nor fences. Before your arrival and after your departure, there is no trace that anyone has stayed there, and the wildlife is free to wander through camp at any time. ‘…it is amazing to watch the camp disintegrate during breakfast, only for it to reappear in time for sun-downers in a completely different location.’ In the evening, watch amber flames lick hungrily at the charred logs of the campfire as the lilting chimes of miniscule reed-frogs and vociferous crickets float through the cool night air. If you listen closely, you might hear a zebra braying in the distance, an elephant’s trumpet of displeasure or even a rasping, saw-like cough resonating from the inky darkness – the unforgettable call of a leopard patrolling its territory.
The sounds of the bush become more vivid when there is no barrier between you and the wildlife, particularly in the absence of any auditory distractions. Without the monotonous drone of a permanent camp’s generator nor any of the background noise inherent in the operation of such lodges you will find yourself listening to sounds you never imagined existed. And when everything goes quiet, the silence is so intense, it feels almost oppressive. Although activities are similar to a traditional lodge – morning and afternoon wildlife drives, interspersed with the occasional mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) journey or boat cruise – the intimacy of the operation gives you more flexibility. Normally a mobile safari will involve just one wildlife-viewing vehicle, allowing you to stay out for as long as you like without having to worry about being late for meals. On a mobile, the camp timings revolve around you, not the other way around. Having the same guide for the duration of the trip also allows the focus of the safari to be tailored to the group’s specific interests, which can be adapted according to what you see. This avoids the possibility of listening to different guides repeat the same information or spending longer than desired at similar sightings at different lodges – sometimes an unavoidable consequence of sharing a vehicle with other lodge guests.
For eco-conscious travellers, one of the attractions of a mobile is your reduced carbon footprint. Travelling between locations is done by vehicle instead of the small planes that are used to transfer between lodges, which also gives you the opportunity to watch the subtle changes in scenery as you move from one ecosystem to another. In the camp itself, lanterns are often solar-powered, and camera and phone charging is done with an inverter linked to your vehicle’s battery. Some mobile operators also use a portable water filtration system to avoid the waste from plastic water bottles.
Families or groups wanting more privacy to have the option of booking an entire mobile for themselves, giving them an exclusive safari at a fraction of the exorbitant cost of hiring out an entire lodge. Families or groups wanting more privacy to have the option of booking an entire mobile for themselves, giving them an exclusive safari at a fraction of the exorbitant cost of hiring out an entire lodge.’