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Kichaka Zumbua Camp

Luxury safari vacations in Tanzania

Kichaka Zumbua Camp

By Tanzania specialist Dickie

Whether it’s your first safari or your tenth, Tanzania’s vast wilderness provides a level of solitude that’s hard to come by in many other parts of Africa. Unlike some countries where private conservancies are a must for remote safari experiences, Tanzania’s sweeping national parks provide all the seclusion you need — and for me, that’s the ultimate luxury.

Here, it’s not about lavish stays dripping in opulence but about camps that have truly embedded themselves in their surroundings, that get you irresistibly close to the action without compromising on peace, and benefit from superb guides, many of whom have lived and worked in the parks for decades. Having worked as a guide and lodge manager in Tanzania myself, I may be biased, but I believe the country offers exclusivity like nowhere else on the continent. So, here are my recommendations for a luxury vacation in Tanzania.

Where to go on a luxury vacation in Tanzania

It’s entirely possible to while away your days scouting out wildlife in just one of Tanzania’s sweeping national parks. However, I think the country’s plethora of landscapes, wildlife, and experiences are best explored by dividing your time between the north and the lesser-visited south, staying at luxury camps along the way.

I recommend starting your journey in Serengeti National Park in the north, where you can watch thousands upon thousands of migrating wildebeest and zebra huddling, grazing, and stampeding in a never-ending quest for survival. Between July and October is the best time to visit if you want to catch them hurtling into the Mara River, frantically trying to evade the crashing jaws of resident crocodiles.

After a drama-filled safari in the Serengeti, I suggest heading down to Ruaha National Park for some solitude. A great deal larger than the Serengeti and receiving just a fraction of the visitors, Ruaha offers you the luxury of spotting lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo with no one else around.

If you have two weeks or more and would like to witness Tanzania’s screeching chimpanzees in the wild, I suggest heading to Mahale Mountains National Park next. Here, you can track these noisy primates through the forest with a private guide as they preen, forage, and keep a curious eye on you through the trees.

I don’t think a luxury trip to Tanzania would be complete without adding on time at a beachside retreat where you can finally hang up your hiking boots, let your feet sink into the sugary sand, and indulge in a little pampering. The archipelago of Zanzibar is a popular choice, but for me, a private island escape in the Songo Songo Archipelago is a level of luxury above the rest. With just ten villas on the entire island you can’t beat that sense of serenity.

Safari drive in Serengeti National Park
Safari drive in Serengeti National Park

Best luxury safari camps in Tanzania

Whether luxury means poolside cocktails after a day of spotting the Big Five or stripped-back stays that get you as close as possible to nature while you sleep, Tanzania has a handful of camps that have surpassed my seasoned safari expectations time and time again.

Lamai Safari Camp, Serengeti National Park

Elevated on the grassy outcrop of Kogakuria Kopje, Lamai Safari Camp is my personal favorite in northern Tanzania for its far-reaching views across the plains — plains that over a million wildebeest pass through on their way to the Mara River.

Each of the 12 rooms embraces nature in its design, with warm textured walls, wooden beams striping the ceiling, and bright open-fronted bedrooms that welcome in every distant roar and rustle that echoes from the outstretching wilderness. For extra exclusivity, you can stay in a separate private lodge with your own pool, lounge, and camp team.

During your stay, you’ll be paired with an expert guide and private 4x4 to explore the Serengeti at your own pace. You might park up at the nearby Mara River to watch the frenzied river crossings, take a morning drive to spot leaping cheetah and grazing giraffe, or go on a bush walk for a true sense of harmony with the plains.

Additionally, Lamai’s conscious effort to protect the local community and environment through its conservation and education work makes a stay here all the more meaningful.

Mkombe's House, Lamai Serengeti, Serengeti National Park
Lamai Safari Camp

Olakira Migration Camp, Serengeti National Park

As wildebeest and zebra migrate across the Serengeti, some camps follow suit, keeping you as close to the action as possible. Olakira Migration Camp is one of the best, moving twice a year to capture dramatic river crossings in the north (June to October) and calving season in the south, when big cats congregate to catch more vulnerable prey (December to March).

Mobile camps typically aren’t as lavish as their permanent counterparts, but staying at Olakira still feels luxurious. You’ll stay in a private canvas tent with sleek wooden furnishings, a tucked-away en-suite area, and your very own stargazing nook big enough to roll your bed into for a peaceful night under the twinkling constellations.

While here, wildlife-packed safari drives are a given, but for a different perspective, I recommend soaring above the action in a hot-air balloon at sunrise. In between the roar of the burners, the stillness and quietude is startling, unlike any helicopter safari I’ve been on before. I’ll never forget the moment an elephant tilted its head towards my balloon and looked directly at me, unfazed by the giant contraption floating overhead.

Stargazing at Olakira
Olakira Migration Camp

Kichaka Zumbua Camp, Ruaha National Park

Far from the rush of the Great Migration, Kichaka Zumbua Camp is nestled in the quiet depths of Ruaha National Park. It’s certainly one of the most elegant camps I’ve seen, with just three suites set atop a ridge overlooking the baobab-scattered grasslands.

Far from the single-room abodes you often find on safari, each suite here is practically a self-contained home in itself, featuring a central open-fronted bedroom, open-air bathroom, private plunge pool, and stargazing deck. There are as few permanent walls here as possible so as not to block your view of the wilderness unfurling below.

Tanzania isn’t short of incredible guides, but Kichaka is home to one of the very best. Andrew ‘Moli’ Molinaro, the camp’s owner, has a talent for bringing even the most seemingly mundane things to life on his walking tours. While you might simply zip straight past a termite mound in search of something greater, he’ll pause awhile to effuse about the intricacies of these elaborate ecosystems, reeling you in with his infectious enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge.

Of course, he’ll also help you learn all about the big animals, too, as he crouches down to reveal their tracks and other hints that they’ve not long passed through, painting a vivid picture of their movements through the park. Later in the day, you’ll be able to get a closer look from the safety of your 4x4. Elephant, giraffe, Cape buffalo, lion, and cheetah can all be found in this quiet section of Ruaha if you know where to look — and Moli certainly does.

Kichaka Frontier Camp
Kichaka Zumbua Camp

Ikuka Safari Camp, Ruaha National Park

A lantern-lit infinity pool overlooking the Mwagusi river, rolltop bathtubs for indulgent post-safari relaxation, and white-quartz finishes sourced from the escarpment upon which the camp sits — Ikuka certainly offers a decadent safari experience.

That said, I do think it’s worth stripping back some of the indulgences for a night’s sleep in the camp’s Rock House, a simple mesh tent wedged between two towering rocks with endless views of the plains below. Here, you can fall asleep under the stars to the lullaby of animal calls after a private candle-lit dinner on the wooden veranda.

During your stay at Ikuka, you’ll embark on daily safari drives around Ruaha in search of all the animals on your wish list — and some you may have never heard of before. You might stop to watch a pride of lion flopped beneath a tamarind tree, a bat-eared fox bolting through the grass, or a pack of wild dogs traipsing convoy-style in search of food.

What makes Ikuka particularly special is the small, personal touches each member of staff provides, from the hand-written message and personalized water bottle you receive on arrival to the cheery greeting that welcomes you home after every drive. And I don’t use that term flippantly, because you’re truly made to feel like part of the family during your stay.

Ikuka Safari Camp
Ikuka Safari Camp

Greystoke Camp, Mahale National Park

It’s not often that you get to stay on a white-sand beach while on safari in Africa, but at Greystoke Camp you can. That said, this isn’t a traditional safari because instead of going in search of the Big Five on the plains, you’ll spend your days tracking chimps in the jungle.

Sandwiched between the forest-clad Mahale Mountains and the still waters of Lake Tanganyika, Greystoke feels entirely distinct from the rest of the safari camps you’ll stay at in Tanzania. It’s more sheltered, engulfed by a tangle of trees, and the only way to reach it is by boat — there are no cars for miles.

The six bandas (Swahili for ‘hut’) are fairly basic, with worn wooden features hewn from reclaimed dhows (traditional boats). They all open out onto the lake for peaceful mornings and star-adorned evenings. It’s not luxury in the traditional sense of the word, but it is undoubtedly a privilege to be one of just a handful of people in this remote corner of the park.

The main attraction here is chimpanzee tracking, and the guides in Mahale do it so well. Due to decades of research into these ultra intelligent apes, Greystoke’s guides can trace their lineage back to the 1970s and know many of the chimps on an individual level.

It can take a lot of effort to find them, but it’s worth the potentially tricky hike when you eventually do. I remember watching two chimps meticulously grooming each other, bathed in a shaft of light piercing through the trees and unperturbed by my presence as I stood in awe just a short distance away.

Greystoke Camp
Greystoke Camp

Luxury island escape in Fanjove Private Island

A tiny sliver of an island in the Songo Songo Archipelago, Fanjove is by far the most luxurious place to wrap up an action-packed safari in Tanzania. With just ten oceanfront villas on the entire island, you’ll experience the same whisper-quiet seclusion of the savanna on its palm-sprinkled sands

Each of Fanjove Private Island’s thatched villas opens out at the front so you can fall asleep to the rhythmic melody of the lapping waves and swaying palms. Then, in the morning, you can step out into the open-air shower, sheltered by a rustic chunky-stone wall, to fully embrace island life in your own isolated bubble of bliss.

While here, you can also float in coral-studded waters, dine at the island’s refurbished lighthouse restaurant, and enjoy a sundowner or two from a traditional wooden dhow boat. If you need just one more safari-esque experience before you head home, I suggest taking a boat trip out to spot the resident spinner and bottlenose dolphins.

Fanjove Island Lodge
Fanjove Island Lodge

Plan your luxury vacation to Tanzania

Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They're just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.

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