Jonathan and Sophie check out Asilia’s Oliver’s Camp in the underrated Tarangire National Park
Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby
We’d never seen so many elephant in one place before. Driving through the parched woodland of Tarangire National Park (the rains had yet to arrive), we suddenly descended to The Swamp, a strip of bright, bright green – so green we thought we might be hallucinating. And there they were – more than 250 ellies feeding in the swamp. And only 20 mins later, we arrived at Oliver’s.
Oliver’s Camp rates as one of our favourite lodges in Africa. And we’ve been to many. Where do we start?
Location. Tarangire is a fantastic park, not just for its vast herds of elephant. During the dry season, game from the surrounding ecosystem congregate in numbers almost unrivaled outside the Great Migration. Oliver’s has its own special place, tucked away far from other lodges. Tarangire sees only a fraction of the visitor numbers of Serengeti and Ngorongoro, allowing you to enjoy some of the best game viewing in Africa in relative peace.
Vibe. This is a crucial part of a safari experience – a safari lodge is not merely a hotel in the bush (although some can feel that way). It’s a place to learn, socialize and share life-changing experiences. Managers Justin and Jackie manage this with ease, bringing guests together to form a relaxed environment where everyone can be themselves, while maintaining the standards of luxury expected by guests.
Tents. With mesh on three sides, a wooden verandah overlooking the bush and outdoor shower, the tents strike just the right balance between luxury, and allowing you to feel close to nature. When a lion roars outside your tent, you’ll smell it as well as hear it and that’s a good thing.
Guides. Here Oliver’s scores maximum points, with heavy-weights such as Zimbabwean trained Lewis and Blessed being among the best walking guides available in East Africa. And Tarangire offers probably the best walking safaris in East Africa, with regular close encounters with elephant, buffalo and lion. If you prefer safaris of the pulse-racing kind, this is your place.
Around the camp fire that night, we chat to Lewis about his nine years of training as a guide in Zimbabwe, at a time when you had to shoot several elephants before being considered even remotely competent as a guide. We join a family from Nairobi for a hearty communal dinner and it’s late when we retire to our tent, almost tripping over some fresh buffalo dung outside our tent. Where’s Lewis when you need him?
Above the sound of lions roaring that night, the gentle cough of a leopard. Jackie had peered out of their tent in the dead of night to see it lapping from the bird bath, metres away. Oliver’s has plenty of night action and every morning Justin checks his infra-red camera set up outside. Once he caught a leopard taking a nocturnal stroll through the dining area!
Put it all together and Oliver’s has all the ingredients of a classic, and ranks high on our all-time list. Oliver’s is usually visited with a guide and driver from Arusha as part of a tour of the northern Tanzanian parks, but fly-ins are also possible.
Good for: Intimate feel, getting close to nature and some of the best walking safaris in Africa
Not so good for: if you’re scared of animals around your tent at night. But then maybe Africa’s not for you
Our Verdict: Almost guaranteed great sightings and a great experience, we recommend Oliver’s highly