Safari on a budget

Safari on a budget

It wasn't until the sun set on my first night in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park that I really understood my place in the food chain.

I was standing outside my tent, which was set up in a small clearing, when I heard a deep, guttural roar off in the distance.

"Lion," said my guide, a sharp-eyed 43-year-old named Ziggy Msangi, as he scanned the nearby brush.

While he couldn't spot the great cat, he did offer some advice for the coming night.

"Don't walk far," he said. "If you need to go to the bathroom, go right outside your tent."

"Okay," I said, looking at the assemblage of canvas and aluminium. "But even if I'm inside, will I be safe from a lion?"

Ziggy glanced out into the darkness.

"Yes, yes, no problem," he said before turning to me. "Just remember: Don't go far."

That's something Ziggy would say several times during our trip across the Serengeti, a vast plain in northern Tanzania that is home to more than two million animals, including several species that would happily make a meal out of a slow, mostly hairless biped.

The Serengeti is arguably Africa's top safari destination and trips here can cost a small fortune, with even mid-range lodges charging upwards of US$400 (S$547) a person a night.

But if you are willing to rough it out a little, you can soak in the savannah for a fraction of that.

The key? Book what operators call a mobile safari. You will shuttle across the Serengeti - and several neighbouring parks - in a 4x4, sleep in camping tents and eat simple meals with other travellers.

It is a stripped-down experience, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

The landscape here is so stunning, the game so plentiful that you won't miss the white linens and hot-tub chardonnays peddled by the top-end lodges.

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