Tanzania

Wilderness Usawa Serengeti a year on

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Wildlife

Grant Woodrow

6/28/2024

Safaris in Tanzania

As we approach our first anniversary of the launch of Wilderness Usawa, it seems fitting to reflect on Wilderness’ launch into Tanzania, and the success of our mobile operation in the Serengeti. 

 

When we first discussed the Usawa concept, our initial thoughts were to follow a traditional camp approach as we have throughout most of our African portfolio, but it soon became apparent that it needed to be mobile in design. We needed to offer maximum flexibility whilst retaining a high level of comfort for our guests. Also, a fundamental part of the design concept was keeping the footprint as light as possible while using local resources throughout the development and operational processes. To this end, we engaged with numerous local formal and informal businesses to produce most of the furniture, soft furnishings and décor we have in camp. We also implemented solar power and rechargeable lighting throughout.

The concept of a mobile camp in the Serengeti

Mobile tents and high levels of luxury are not traditionally synonymous, but we knew that if we got the fundamentals of Wilderness Usawa right, we would have a winning formula and a unique product. Every element of the camp design required careful thought, with so many moving parts, we needed to be as flexible as possible. Our intention was to create a series of camps that could be moved around the Serengeti with enough flexibility to stay within close proximity of the migration at all times. This has been achieved and as we complete our first full season of operation and once again move into the busy months in the northern Serengeti, our team can look back and take a deep breath.

 

I have had the privilege of visiting each Wilderness Usawa site and can appreciate the uniqueness of these camps. Based close to the action, but removed from the hustle and bustle of migration tourism traffic, their placement allows our guests to experience the migration at its best, but also to appreciate the diversity of the Serengeti away from this spectacle as well. This is important, as there is so much to see and experience in the area, whether by vehicle or on foot.  

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Walking safaris in the Serengeti

Walking has always been my favourite safari experience, and it is a focus of the experience we have created in Tanzania. The terrain is spectacular for walking, with an interesting mix of ecosystems, from open grass plains, to mixed bushveld with beautiful rocky outcrops interspersed through low rolling hills. I have to admit that you need to walk here with a heightened sense of awareness and keep a watchful eye out for dangerous game, but the professional guides add enormous value through their interpretation of the environment and everything you see, while keeping you out of harm’s way. I have spotted buffalo, elephant and lion on all of my walks, so be prepared to manage that adrenaline surge if you are lucky enough to see them. In fact, I have seen also these animals from the comfort of the camps as well.

 

 

 

Wildlife wonders at Wilderness Usawa

In Usawa the wildlife literally moves through camp, and because the tents are on the ground you are able to view so much from the safety of your room. I have experienced the migration passing through in the dead of night, watched lions playing with a camp lantern outside my tent, and heard hyena and leopard communicating regularly nearby. And that’s not to ignore the smaller creatures like the resident rock hyrax, dik-diks, and many species of birds that live around the camp. It really is the pure wildness of this experience that excites me.

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A challenging year builds hope for the future

As I reflect on the past year as a former guide and general wildlife enthusiast, Tanzania has excelled beyond expectation. We have learnt a great deal as well. Mobile safari operations are tough. As the seasons change, the conditions can get really difficult to strike and re-set up camps. In the past six-months, the influence of climate change has significantly influenced the weather conditions of the Serengeti ecosystem. It has been really wet and the team has been challenged on every level to deliver an exceptional product.  

 

We are greatly looking forward to the year ahead as we establish our business. We have growing support for Usawa and will enjoy a busy peak season ahead. We have also begun to engage with local communities through our successful Children in the Wilderness programmes. There is so much we can achieve on the impact front in all areas of our operation, including through the activities in the more urban areas of Arusha and Manyara. It is still early days in our business development in Tanzania, but the prospects and opportunities that lie ahead are really exciting.  

 

Thanks for your support and please come and visit us in the Serengeti!

TRAVEL+LEISURE’S IT LIST 2024

Best New Hotel

Wilderness Usawa Serengeti wins a Travel + Leisure It List award as one of the Best New Hotels in the World. Exceptional, dynamic, luxurious.​ This luxury mobile safari adventure promises an intimate, private way to experience Tanzania’s most famous safari destination.

Grant Woodrow

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wilderness Business COO Grant Woodrow

Grant is the Chief Business Development Officer at Wilderness, overseeing the company’s new Tanzanian operations. But his journey with Wilderness began back in 1996 as an Assistant Camp Manager at Wilderness Mombo in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. He then moved on to manage various other camps in both the Okavango Delta and Linyanti, before being appointed Managing Director of Wilderness Botswana in 2007, and in 2015, Wilderness Chief Operating Officer. He has played an instrumental role in developing a strong culture of training, service and hospitality, underscored by a passion for wildlife and the environment.

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