When I started looking at a safari in Tanzania I didn’t really give the accommodation much thought. I spent so much time thinking about the game reserve, would I be able to see all the animals I hoped? And coming from Zanzibar I was also trying to make all of the logistics for the trip work that I just didn’t give a thought about the accommodation until we actually booked the trip. Safari isn’t a cheap experience so I just agreed to the accommodation that came with the cheapest package. When we arrived at Lake Manze Camp this meant I had zero expectations and was pleasantly surprised.
Lake Manze Camp is accessed by the Swiandu airstrip which you can get to with charter flights from Dar es Salaam with Costal Aviation. Once at the airstrip it is around a 45 minute drive to the camp and during this time you will be able to spot several animals and get a feel for the landscape. The camp itself is set right on the edge of the lake and is fully open to all animals of the Selous Game Reserve. This means at any moment you could find a lion, hippo or elephant outside of your room but the actual chance of this happening is obviously slim. Well for the lion part anyway.
From the minute we arrived at camp I was blown away by the place. I’d stayed on safari before in South Africa and the camp was nothing like this. We were greeted by the camp managers Shaun and Mili and just made to feel so welcome despite only staying one night. They talked us through everything we could possibly need to know and gave us time to relax and chill before rushing us off on a game drive. Although let’s be honest that’s all we wanted to do!
Due to the timings of the flights we arrived right in time for lunch and were served a delicious selection of food (they’d prepared me something special that was gluten free). Our dining area was under an open ‘mess tent’ that wasn’t actually a tent but I don’t know how else to describe it. From all directions you could see out into the bush and it seemed to be common to see impalas or monkeys roaming around. This area was also home to the bar, electronic charging station, tea and coffee. I could have sat here for hours and just enjoyed the view but there was more to come.
Our Safari Tent
When we were shown to our bed for the night I was blown away. First a Masaai askaris had to guide us to our tent to make sure we were safe from the wild animals free to roam. That alone seemed exotic but the inside of our tent was nothing like I’ve ever stayed in, even beating a glamping yurt in Scotland. We had a little decking area outside with a table a chairs and then inside the tent was the bedroom before exiting at the back to an outdoor bathroom.
I’m not even sure my words can do justice to how amazing the inside of our tent was. It wasn’t mega luxury but it certainly felt like it to us. There was a double bed set up in the middle with a sideboard behind containing all the essentials for sleeping in the middle of a game reserve. This included a whistle for emergencies, candles, torches, bug spray and drinking water. There was also a chest for locking away values and a material wardrobe for unpacking. The floor was covered with hessian rugs and the whole way round the tent had mess windows which could be zipped up at night.
The bathroom was just as impressive. The canopy from the tent extended over the sink area but both the toilet and shower were pretty much out in the open. Of course they were covered around the side, that would just be ridiculous otherwise. Showering out in the open is just one of the best feelings and thankfully there was a solar panel to get a little warm water from. Using the toilet during the rain storm was maybe less practical. Everything was rather soggy after including the toilet paper.
When we first arrived at the camp Shaun had said to us, couples sit opposite at dinner and we’ll all be together. I initially thought this sounded annoying and that I wasn’t too fussed about sitting with everyone else for dinner. Fast forward a few hours and I loved the dinner set up. The gorgeous table spread looked like something from Pinterest and sitting next to someone I didn’t know was actually a really nice experience. I’m not normally one for small talk but it was easy to get talking to everyone and having your partner opposite meant you weren’t totally alone. Typically I didn’t take any photos because it was dark, but above you can see the breakfast setup.
The food at camp was sensational. We had a three course meal and each course had been altered slightly to ensure it was gluten free for me. If I remember correctly we had soup to start, vegetables, chicken and rice for main and fruit for dessert. Washed down with some of my favorite South African Chein Blanc I was pretty content after that meal. The whole thing was eaten under candle light while listening to the sounds of the animals around us.
Sleeping at Lake Manze
When it was time for bed we were again walked back to our tent by a Masaai as it was strictly forbidden to walk anywhere without on in the dark. Before we went to sleep we’d been warned about the animals we could expect to see or hear at night but were safe in the knowledge we’d be protected in our tent. I kinda just assumed we wouldn’t see any but we left the tent windows unrolled anyway.
I was totally wrong. After a thunderstorm before we went to bed the trees and surrounding area were not the quietest place but it was easy to put this down to the rain. However, when I woke in the night to what sounded like an animal foraging in the ground I thought it was worth a look. After a few minutes of peering into the dark through the mesh tent window I realised I could see the outline of an animal outside. At first I thought it was an elephant but in the end we decided it was a hippo, who then disturbed us a few more times in the night.
I’ve written up a full post about the game drives we took in Selous Game Reserve but I just wanted to mention how brilliant the driver and guides were from Lake Manze Camp. Both of them knew their way expertly around the game reserve and had so many strategies to help spot things that were going on. They were genuinely there to make sure you had the best time you could and to show you as many animals as possible. I think they were possibly more disappointed than use at not seeing a lion.
Our experience at Lake Manze Camp was brilliant from start to finish. We were treated so well by all members of staff and during our game drives we had a car to ourselves which felt so private and thoughtful. The accommodation was genuinely incredible and I would love to have stayed for more than one night.