Sanctuary Swala: Peace in the Tanzania Wilderness

I awake just in time for sunrise, rub my eyes and remind myself where I am: Tanzania. I grab my camera and go out to my wrap-around deck, which sits right in the middle of the savanna. An orange glow is low on the horizon shining through the acacia trees. Monkeys and guinea fowl run around in front of me. I hear only nature – rustling in the bushes and the sounds of birds awakening all around me. I grab the yoga mat that is stocked inside my tent and do 20 minutes of chatarangas and sun salutations. Lovely French press coffee is brought right to me on a tray and I sit in wonder.


Sanctuary Swala
is about a four-hour drive from Arusha—the first two hours are paved, while the rest is on a dirt road through Tarangire National Park. It’s the first “hotel” at which I’ve stayed where on the way there, I pass zebras, giraffes, and lions.


Upon arrival, an attendant escorts me to my “permanent tent”. One of twelve canvas pavilions, each tent has a bleached hardwood floor, a canvas ceiling with ceiling fan, upholstered chairs in a sitting area, fluffy white duvets on comfy beds, a full en-suite bathroom complete with modern cement slab vanity, double sinks, and an indoor and outdoor shower. There is a wooden deck surrounding the tent and you can sit on your front “porch” and watch zebras and elephants walk right on by. It’s surreal. If this is glamping, I am hooked.


It is hot and dusty in Tanzania, so admittedly one of my favorite things is the complimentary laundry service. There’s nothing like clean clothes for the light packer. One interesting caveat, since they have an all male staff, they do not wash women’s underwear, but do give you detergent in your room so you can hand wash your delicates.

And just in case of any emergency, each tent is equipped with a handheld radio.


At night, I am told to give out a sort of “bat signal.” I simply shine the flashlight that I find charging in my tent up toward the treetops and an askaris (night watchman) comes over and escorts me to the dining room. Seem unnecessary? You have to remember we are just living on the grounds of a national park. There is no fence between us and the wild beasts, just the door of the tent, so at night it’s in our best interest to be careful and still be escorted on the lighted pathways.


Each day at camp, you can join a safari drive, take an early walking safari at dawn, or even go jogging with one of the staff just outside of the park at a local “football” field.

“Feeling adventurous?” asks Chris, the property manager. “Want to go for a little walk in the evening?”

“Sure!” I exclaim without even thinking.


We meet at 5:15pm in the open-air lounge and I sign some “you could die” waivers and get the briefing about safe distances between us and the animals and when we might have to freeze or flee. Oh yeah. This is not just a “walk in the park.” A hike in Tanzania is much different than a hike in any park I’ve ever been to. This is the bush. When on safari we are not allowed to get out of the car. But now we are walking away from our lodge—away from any vehicle or shelter—and are literally just on our own out in the wild with 15,000 pound African elephants (the largest land mammals on earth), dangerous buffalo (they are very unpredictable and kill more people in Africa than any other animal) and lions. The big difference? We are escorted by a park ranger carrying an AK-47 and Chris leads the way also carrying a rifle. Of course, I don’t want to die, but I also really don’t want to put any animal in danger. I started having doubts before we even set out. Why should I risk the life of an animal just so I could get closer? That’s the last reason I came to Tanzania. For better or worse, we only see the elephants that were already at the campsite watering hole (therefore distracted with their bathing and cooling off) and some waterbuck. The most dangerous thing we happen upon are some big termite mounds and huge piles of elephant dung.


Sanctuary Swala sits in a remote corner of Tarangire National Park. While it is one of the least visited in Tanzania, it is also teeming with wildlife—massive herds of elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo, wildebeests, zebras, and lions abound. The park is situated in and around Masai tribe country, which makes for a great introduction to the diverse people and landscape of this amazing country.


Sanctuary Swala is run with the philosophy of “luxury, naturally.” This gives you a great combination of a comfortable stay, with a more natural kind of luxury in a place with a very strong commitment to conservation and responsible tourism. The camp has been built with high eco-standards and is said to have a particularly low carbon footprint. Power is run by generator, which is turned off part of the day, and then there is some low battery charged power. The location was chosen to be close to wildlife without causing any harm or distress. Wastewater is carefully managed and they do not use locally made charcoal as it promotes deforestation, instead they use briquettes, which are made locally from agricultural waste for cooking and heating water. Only biodegradable cleaning products are used and waste is sorted and transported to the city of Arusha for recycling. I also really like that, unlike most other properties I’d stayed at so far, they provide water in glass bottles which they refill everyday instead of using plastic water bottles.


Since it’s a small place, dining at Sanctuary Swala is an intimate affair. The fixed menu rotates every six days and one day each week they have a communal barbecue around the campfire. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner are included and meals are served on the main dining deck, which is lifted on stilts around an enormous, ancient baobab tree. Breakfast is served before the morning game activity. Lunch can be enjoyed back in camp or picnic baskets can be arranged for guests going out on safari. As evening sets in, there are drinks and canapés around the campfire followed by a three course dinner. And to top it off, there is even an unexpected pizza oven. To be honest, after several days of safari, I loved my time just sitting still in the camp—watching the animals from the lounge and my deck on the edge of the wilderness of Tanzania.

Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world. She documents her (mis)adventures on her blog, You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Glamping Gone Overland

The word “safari” conjures images of adventurous sun-drenched days on the African savanna followed by warm evenings spent telling tall tales over fine food and wine by torchlight. It’s the original glamping, and a safari at its imagined best is an expedition that advances to a new location each evening, making the journey and destination one. Today the discerning glamper can take advantage of this style of travel in Africa and beyond, all part of a growing trend commonly referred to as overlanding.

Ciquibul Forest BZE

One company that offers the overlanding travel experience is No Limit Expeditions. Operated by James and Angela Brown of Colorado (now based in Guatemala), No Limit offers several exotic glamping expeditions that employ the classic safari vehicle, the Land Rover Defender, taking glampers to far flung destinations otherwise unreachable, and spare no effort in providing all the trappings of glamorous camping.


Expeditions typically begin in a luxury lodge (such as one of Coppola’s fine Central American resorts like La Lancha, Blancaneaux, or Turtle Inn), then take clients deep into the jungle on trips such as “Rainforests & Ruins,” where No Limit sets the scene at a gloriously secluded Maya ruin, where travelers imbibe on exquisite wines and dine on gourmet victuals. James is both a trained chef and sommelier, and after clients enjoy their feast amid the ruins, they may play the role of raconteur while enjoying a hand rolled cigar (personally blended by James himself). “It’s fantastic to sit in the jungle drinking this really nice aged rum while smoking a premium hand rolled cigar,” Angela relates. When slumber calls, travelers retire to a South African safari tent replete with the comforts afforded a British nobleman gone far afield.

Campmore tent

The Browns have seen their business expand with the outfitting of additional Land Rovers, and the addition of Lesotho-native Graham Jackson as a guide.  They’ve branched out to include new destinations (Baja California and Expedition Africa), and a new excursion to stretch the imagination of the glamper- an amazing island-hopping sailing voyage, “Rainforest and Reef,” blending land and sea exploration. “Glamping goes with our travel philosophy,” says Angela. “We like to go to these far, out of the way places, but we want to be able to do it in a nice style. Not roughing it- we want to bring the finer aspects with us along the journey.”

Deck @ La Lancha 2

Its expedition companies like this that get you to places that you could otherwise not reach, and treat you like royalty when you get there. Having an amazing Maya ruin or Caribbean island all to yourself? Now that’s adventure and luxury. Now that’s glamping.

PHOTO CREDITS: All photos courtesy of Ben Edmonson except  “Deck @ La Lancha” photo, courtesy Kerry Devine.

Severin Safari Camp

Sometimes you just need to getaway to a safari camp in Kenya. Severin Safari Camp is an easy recommendation to give. It doesn’t get more authentic or close than Severin. Guests of Severin experience a unique combination of adventure, recreation and wellness. Few people have seen the dazzling display of colors that you get while watching the sun set near Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Severin Safari Camp is hidden in the remote Kitani Wildlife area of Tsavo West National Park overlooking Mt. Kilimanjaro. The eco-friendly luxury camp offers a unique combination of adventure, wellness and relaxation for the sophisticated traveler who loves romantic pampering and unique wildlife experiences. The camp is unfenced to allow wildlife to crossover to the waterholes. No need to worry though, Masai warriors guard the ground 24-hours per day and escorts accompany guests to and from their tents. Experiences of being so close to nature like this are a rare treasure in our modern world. And, safari camps definitely fit into the glamping style of traveling.


6ad7ea2f5b97acf2dd1aa18ff8169561 Photo: Severin Safari Camp website

Severin Safari Camp has an elegant natural design. The tents and suites feature handmade wooden furniture in a traditional African style. The camp is perfectly integrated; the lounge and restaurant area is open and provides a wonderful panoramic view. Severin’s octagonal tents come fully equipped with running hot and cold water, shower, toilet, comfy beds, and private terrace.

In addition to tents, the Kitani Lodge is located in nearby and offers 8 Bandas for self-caterers. The Bandas are equipped with kitchenette, own bathrooms and beds. The mosquito nets give you a feeling of the authentic Africa. From the covered patio guests have a direct view on their private campfire from where they can watch the passing animals. A large variety of wild animals seek the floodlit waterhole at night providing amazing wildlife viewing experiences.

SPhoto: Severin Safari Camp website

Tsavo National Park is recognized as the third largest national park in the world and rich with great herds of elephants, giraffes, zebras and impalas. The park’s 22,000 square kilometers offer a lot to explore on game drives. The camp is very sensitive to preserving the ecosystem and ensures that the camp does nothing to interrupt the fragile system. Solar cells and strict waste management systems top the list of Severin’s efforts.

In rugged safari vehicles driven by Severin’s experienced guides guests see the “real Africa.” The drives take guests closer to wildlife than most have ever been. The panoramic views from the vehicles are breathtaking. The animals are surprisingly active after the sun sets. Night drives equipped with spotlights illuminate the secrets of the African wilderness. Severin’s Masai guide will even take you around on foot for a unique experience.

c92c9ec1a11a5ec3996e785c28a3633cPhoto: Severin Safari Camp website

Severin is informal and it is recommended that you pack for comfort. Don’t forget the sunscreen, binoculars, and sunglasses. Occasionally Tsavo can get cold at night and the early morning, so be sure to pack a light waterproof jacket.

Learn more about Severin Safari Camp and start planning your glamping vacation!