This One Time at Bush Camp

Bush Camping in Africa

Spiders. Mosquitoes. Scorpions. Snakes.

These are all words I heard after telling people we booked a 56-day camping trip in Africa.

Obviously I hoped to avoid seeing any of these little creatures, but I knew if I acted scared enough, Matt would take care of them. 🙂 However, what really scared me and the two words I feared most: BUSH CAMP.

Bush camping in Africa means no showers, no toilets and no electricity. This was part of the deal and I knew I could handle the no electricity, but no showers or toilets? No way.

I laughably (now) put myself in the mindset that maybe we would get lucky and not have to bush camp after all. My hope was that we would show up and the tour leader would say he found a camp site. OR, maybe the tour leader disliked the idea of bush camping as much as me. OR, maybe the company only bush camped if there was an emergency and we couldn’t get to a camp site.

No such luck. I was way off.

Alun (tour leader) informed me that he loved bush camping and we would have plenty of chances to experience it on the trip. AND, we would be starting our bush camping out with a bang – TWO IN A ROW! All I heard was, ‘no access to showers and toilets for 50-60 hours.’

Bush Camping with Oasis Overland

Tanzania Bush Camp

We left beautiful Zanzibar early in the morning and made our way to middle of nowhere Tanzania for our first of two consecutive bush camps. It was hot as hell, everyone was sweaty and dirty from the dusty drive, and we were staring at another 48 hours until a shower. Awesome.

After arriving at “camp”, we were briefed on bush camp basics: keep your tents close to the truck, collect more firewood than you need, throw your toilet paper in the fire and don’t forget the shovel.

The shovel?

That’s right. I am going to be digging my own toilet. I also have to grab the shovel from the truck in plain view of everyone. I’ve known these people for less than two weeks, but it’s already time for my business to be their business. I definitely wasn’t ready for it. I was still trying to figure out how to pee on the side of the road without peeing on my foot.

Bush Camping in Tanzania

Finding a flat spot is key

We weren’t off to a great start. Bush camp number one was full of ants, number two was full of flies, and both were quite boring. As a group, we didn’t purchase any ice, so there weren’t even cold drinks. Bed time couldn’t come fast enough each night.

Cooking in Bush Camp

Matt and his cook group prepping for dinner, while people in the background look on in boredom.

As the trip went on, I became more confident in my camping skills, but I still didn’t want to bush camp. We went several glorious weeks without bush camping and even the normal campsites continued to improve. We were generally greeted with warm showers at the end of the day and there were plenty of toilets. Then Alun broke the news…we had two bush camps coming up in row.

As you can imagine, I wasn’t thrilled to hear the news. Then we pulled up for night number one in Namibia and my jaw dropped.

Bush Camping in Namibia

Nothingness as far as the eye can see – Namibia is amazing!

We were literally in the middle of the nowhere and it was beautiful.

Bush Camp in Namibia

The perfect bush camp location

Bush Camp Selfie in Nambia

Proof we were actually there and didn’t just steal photos from the internet

This was probably my favorite night of the whole overland trip. Neither Matt or I were on cook group, so we were free to wander around and enjoy a relaxed evening.

We (the group) also learned our lesson and stocked up on ice and drinks. After putting our tent up, we grabbed a couple camping stools and cold beers and watched the beautiful sunset. Most people went to bed, but we stayed up late to watch the stars light up the black sky as well. It was a view we’ll never forget.

Spitzkoppe Bush Camp in Nambia

Spitzkoppe Bush Camping

We were not disappointed in our next bush camp either, as we camped right near Spitzkoppe mountain in Namibia. Back-to-back amazing bush camps, who would have thought!

Matt was on cook group this night, but it wasn’t all bad as he was able to cook up some oryx steaks. Alun helped coordinate it as a surprise for the group and everyone seemed to be happy with the results. The steaks ended up being Matt’s favorite meal during the trip, so it really was a great night.

Camping near Spitzkoppe in Namibia

Peaceful and serene

In the end, my feelings on bush camping are mixed. I loved and hated different aspects of it, but it really came down to location. Basically, if there is a site worth seeing I’m all for it and will happily grab the shovel. However, if a camp site is close, take me there!

ALANA’S TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL BUSH CAMP

  • Bring toilet paper (A lot, just in case.)
  • Stock up on baby wipes (Not only can these clean your hands and your bum, but you can take a full on bath. And they make adult wipes, so be sure to buy those when available.)
  • Face wipes (These tend to get the grime off a bit better than regular wipes.)
  • ICE (If your tour leader tells you to stock up on ice, do it. Sometimes the only thing to do at bush camp is crack open a beer and stare at each other. If the beer is ice cold, it is so much more satisfying.)
  • Beer, wine, cider or the hard stuff (Just buy it.)
  • Reading material (You’ve sat in a truck all day together. There just isn’t anything else to talk about. If you have a book you can park your stool under a tree and get your read on. Otherwise, you’ll be staring silently at the fire or each other. In that case, again, I hope you brought ice and beer.)
  • A positive attitude (How many people can say they bush camped in the Africa? Even if you’d rather be taking a shower, step back and take in the moment. You’re experiencing something pretty damn cool.)

And all this is coming from me, Princess Alana. At least that’s what our driver, Mick, called me 🙂

Have you bush camped before? Do you have anything to add to my tips? 

READ MORE: Overlanding in Africa: How much will it cost you?

About Alana

Alana is one-half of Great Big Globe. She loves animals, the Wisconsin Badgers, exploring new countries and chasing the sun.

4 comments

  1. Hey Princess Alana! You did a good job! The discomfort clearly paid off and I’ll know in future that adult wipes exist and can be obtained and beer really can save you Hehe!

  2. Oh the shovel! I’m so proud of you, Alana 🙂 Send your future kids to Manito-wish and they will be set to camp anywhere too!

  3. Fun story :-). Looks like you got to see some amazing scenery on your bush camping experience.

    • Hi Janice and George- the scenery was incredible and now I know that I am capable of camping almost anywhere!

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