Little Oliver’s Camp
2 nights 3 days
So my first stop upon landing in Tanzania was Arusha and shortly thereafter the Arusha Coffee Lodge which was outstanding and set the bar pretty high.
I am ultimately headed north through Tanzania ending in the Masa Mara in Kenya. Next stop after Arusha was Little Oliver’s Camp, part of the Asilia Africa company. Asilia has 9 luxury camps in Tanzania and Kenya.
As I mentioned, via Planet Africa Safaris, I have a dedicated vehicle(4×4) and guide, Jackson, for the first four nights of this trip that delivered and picked me up from the Coffee Lodge. We left Arusha and headed to Tarangire Park which is well known for the large elephant herds and no disappointment as within 20 mins in the park we were surrounded by a herd of elephants that arrived at a water hole.
The drive from Arusha to the park entrance was about 2 hours with a stop for lunch along the way. There was so much to see along the way so the time passed by rather fast. The coffee lodge packed a box lunch which is pretty standard. The box lunch included small chicken kabob, pasta salad, bread, green salad, sweets and wine.
The roads in Tanzania are very bumpy in spots. Jackson joked that its considered an ‘African Massage’ as you are bumped around a bit but then some roads are fairly new. There is a lot of road construction underway everywhere. Side note here…..I hear and see that folks save a safari for retirement and let me just say that I really hope that those folks have a lot of stamina and energy in retirement because a safari is not a typical “vacation”. I actually consider a safari as more of an adventure and I think that’s why it appeals to me so much. I plan on leaving the cruise vacation for retirement.
The drive was an adventure as we passed by villages and local markets and got a glimpse of daily life for the local folks. Women toting water on their heads, flat plains as far as you could see, cattle and goat herds led by Maasai, trucks and vans filled to the rims with locals headed to the weekend markets and lots and lots of bomas and very dusty roads. Depending on how sensitive you are, a mask and eye drops are in order as dust kicks up from everywhere.
Little Oliver’s Camp (not to be confused with its sister camp down the road Oliver’s Camp) is located in the Tarangire Park within Tanzania in the far southeastern region. At arrival the camp was only about 3 months old and Asilia Africa had not updated the website with pictures and a proper overview but check here for the sister camp which is very similar. Not sure what’s taking them so long but I thought it a little odd not being able to get a full view online or from my agent that booked the camp and this made me anxious. Also, all of the press about the camp online was months old so what gives Asilia??
I already did my own research and identified all the camps I wanted to visit which were all with Asilia but when I contacted them they said I could not book with them directly and directed to their preferred tour operator, Planet Africa Safaris, so that’s what I did.
I go on safari for many reasons and these trips tend to be very expensive ( at least for me as I work for a living) so I want all the bells and whistles please. For instance, normally when you arrive at a safari camp and come within sight of the entrance area/drive way, staff members are already there awaiting your arrival with a cool refreshment, face towel and smile. Well, this was a missed opportunity for Little Oliver’s and a bit of a let down because when we pulled up there was no one to greet us….Yes I agree no biggie but…. Let me mention that I am not sure if my guy Jackson was responsible for the radio heads up or not but this is how it went down…. Let me give you an example, you know how you go to an NBA game and you buy your snacks, find your seat and waiting for the game to start and they turn down the lights and shoot off the fireworks and the announcer comes on the speaker and the light show starts then the DJ spins the music and the players roll in and everybody is screaming and getting pumped up…..yep I can take it or leave it but I’ve been with dudes who are like….”hurry up before we miss the opening line up” and I am like…. its not even part of the game, but its part of the experience and they look forward to it. For me its kinda like that, I want the entire experience and look forward to it. Anyway… I think mid-way down the path we were met by a staff member.
The camp manager and I made or greetings there in the main lodge then I headed to the room to take a look before sitting down for lunch. I was in tent 2 and if you are headed to Little Oliver’s you may want to request this tent as the view from the deck was outstanding….you can see how that whole greeting non greeting thing started to drift from my memory.
Little Oliver’s has only 5 permanent tents, I think about half the size of Oliver’s Camp. One is suited for a family and set alone on one side of the main lodge while the others are on your left. This is considered very small and intimate since you usually have no more than 10-12 people in this camp at one time. Initially this was a concern before arrival but I think it actually proved to be something that was very nice. Initial concern was with feeling isolated.
Tent – #2
The tent blew me away. Surrounded by screens and wood to give you an outstanding view of the area down below the site within the Tarangire Park. There are no locks on the doors, one power outlet, indoor and outdoor shower, don’t think they had a hair dryer but very warm luxurious and rustic feeling…everything you need.
t was interesting not having locks on the doors which immediately put me in the right mindset. I mean, when have you ever checked into a hotel without a key AND security lock inside?? Its considered a ‘permanent tented camp’ because the base is a raised permanent base with all screen or canvas walls (no solid walls). The bed faces the deck which overlooks the area below and mountains in the distance so I left the shades up and at night in the bed with the lights out you could see the stars, listen to the wildlife and fall asleep.
It’s not unusual for animals to roam close to the tents at night. On the first night I didn’t hear anything but the second night you could hear lions which did sound very close. I know if you have not been in this situation you begin to think it seems crazy to be in a canvas structure surrounded by lions but some how it works, I don’t think I heard of anyone in Africa on Safari getting attacked by lions in their tents….but it does get your attention though….giggle.
There are no fences at all anywhere in the park or camp. The animals are free to roam where ever they please and yes that means that means that sometimes you may walk or look out of your room to see an elephant just passing by. Note you are not allowed to walk alone around the camp without an escort for safety.
Since my main purpose was to view game I didn’t get the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the tent. I wanted to spend more time perched on the deck relaxing. Between the drives, walks, socializing at happy hour by the fire and meals it left little time for anything else. It was very peaceful at the camp and especially in the room because the only thing you can hear are the sounds of the animals everywhere and the breeze moving through the bush surrounding the tent. You could not see the other tents nor hear any conversations so this is why I selected this location as my favorite accommodation out of all 3 Asilia properties on this trip. I’ll mention that I was told that the tents had doors to the bathroom area but this is not the case. And this goes for the Naboisho Asilia property as well.Ladies, I know this sounds like a possible nightmare but somehow its a very small ‘inconvenience’ at least it was for me but I guess if I were on the trip with a new boyfriend….well maybe its kinda…you know what I mean. My personal opinion was that the lack of lighting at night was a little frustrating if you wanted to see something in a brighter light but conservation in these areas is extremely important. For example it was impossible to use my tweezers to clean my eyebrows but on the other hand the lighting was very romantic (giggle).
The room was always well attended and very clean. Yes, most camps do your laundry. As you can imagine, what a treat to have your clothes returned the next day all clean and folded. In addition to being a treat it serves to allow travelers to pack lighter. No phone just walkie talkie, horn and flashlight (never had to use the horn). The beds are very comfortable and the mattresses are firm and I love firm mattresses so no problem for me – but no hot water bottles at night ;-(. The configuration of the tent was from left to right as opposed to front to back so when you entered you had everything in one glance. The position of the tent also allowed you to see the sunset (perfect) so you got that golden glow within the room and the outdoor deck is the length of the tent with cushioned lounge chairs. Again, conservation is a big deal in East Africa so water is heated via solar panels so if you use all the hot water the night before and want to take a shower before the early game drive the next morning the water may be a bit chilly but this is common for most safari camps.
There are two managers at this camp, one was on vacation while the other one, Alex was working. There was a rotating relief manager during my stay. The staff have this rotating process where they work for 2 months then off for 2 weeks. That’s when the rotating manager arrives and she rotates between the camps for Asilia.
In addition to managing the camp , Alex also leads safari game walks.
Outside of the other vacationing manager, there are no women working at Little Oliver’s. I think there are at least 15 working at one time at the camp and they perform everything from laundry, which is included, as well as the Chef, servers and house keeping – all men!
On the second day, we decided to go on a safari walk with Alex instead of a morning game drive. There were only 2 of us plus Alex and one other guy who brought up the rear. Both carried rifles for safety. They drove us away from the camp and dropped us off then we walked through the bush back to camp which was about a 2 hour hike. It was exciting to make our way on foot instead of via 4×4. Of course this gave us the opportunity to get up close and personal to everything. We had a small close call with a heard of Cape Buffalo and plenty of bird spotting as well. Binoculars are a must for this activity as you need a keen eye to spot everything with their help. I had the opportunity to examine all kinds of tracks, plants and compare different animal poop. Believe it or not that was actually very interesting. I highly recommend doing a hike if possible.
Asilia staff that made my visit memorable where Alex our walking guide and co-manager and Nelson who took care of me while in the main tent area. As I mentioned, Alex serves as a co-manager and safari guide but what the managers also do is provide conversation and company during your time in the main areas. Alex did this very well as during meals the manager and guides dine with everyone and add to the atmosphere and conversation. This may sound easy enough but it is actually very challenging having to master skills to entertain guests from all over the world so they have to be able understand various cultures and customs while not being too overbearing or obtrusive. Alex was able to make everyone feel very comfortable and had a down to earth personality which I appreciated.
Now, I’ve been a few places in this world and I found it very interesting and impressive that in the middle of the bush I was able to receive such outstanding, warm, appropriate and down to earth support from Nelson. In part because he was so young. What a special person, very impressive and I am very grateful for the experience. I am still giggling from his antics. Well done! Unfortunately I did not get a photo of Nelson.
Let me also mention that everyone at this camp did an outstanding job of making my stay memorable and I can honestly say I have nothing negative to say about the staff, food or tent at this camp!!
I will say that the staff at this camp is almost a tie with the staff at Sayari Camp. I think Sayari stands out a bit more because they had twice as much staff so more opportunities for stars.
Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to meet the chef at this camp because I wanted to say thank you. The food was very good. Breakfast was pretty standard, fruit, juices, coffee/tea, eggs to order, meat and toast, all very good. Lunch and dinner were also very good. Lunch and dinners at this camp were all served at the main lodge area communal style although you could opt for a more private setting. Again, meals consisted of Chicken, pork or beef, pastas veggies and lentils, also spirits and wine are also included with your stay. Everything was well prepared to order, fresh and delicious!
Before dinner it was very nice to head down to the path to enjoy drinks at the bar fireside sharing conversations about the day and staring up at the stars before heading up to dinner. This was actually done best here at this camp as well. Note, ask Alex to point out the constellations.
Everyone gathered to give us a very warm sendoff. I wouldn’t really offer up any particular recommendations to change any aspect of my stay here as each camp and company has their own signature stamp that they aim to achieve. Recommending a change would be like trying to make it into something different and the remedy for that is to just pick a different camp that offers what you may prefer. For me, Little Oliver’s delivered on what they advertised as well as what should be expected and so this is why I was very happy with my stay.