In Serengeti, Women Are Making History at the First All-female-run Safari Camp
Over the roar of lions and a symphony of Serengeti birds rises an effervescent song carrying the voices of the women of Asilia Africa's Dunia Camp. This first-of-its-kind, all-female-run safari camp beckons with laughter and courage of Tanzanian women. They have traded a traditional life, leaving their homes for months at a time to work in the dangerous bush, be independent, support their families, and provide an exceptional experience for guests. Opening in 2016 with an all-female staff, and closing briefly during the pandemic, Dunia has triumphantly returned to hosting guests.
Set in the woodlands of central Serengeti, the eight-unit luxury safari camp — complete with four-poster beds, lavish bathrooms, in-room Wi-Fi, and gourmet food — employs only women, from the chefs and guides to the managers and housekeepers. Some are mothers and wives, while others are young and single. Most importantly, they are fearless. Working in the bush isn't easy, but the Dunia Angels, as they call themselves, make it seem effortless. They are equipped with a steadfast determination and a sisterhood that bonds them in the African wilderness. And they want other women to follow suit and guests to have a distinct safari experience.
Braving the Wild
Central Serengeti is famous for its rhino, leopard, lion, and wildebeest sightings. At Dunia and similar semi-permanent camps, the fear of encountering wild animals is always present; structures are situated within the national park without fences, each guest tent surrounded by long savanna grasses. But the women of Dunia see the beauty, rather than the danger. "It's breathtaking, being so close to nature and the animals," says Doris Moshi, a 26-year-old who started out as a trainee and became a waitress at Dunia this year. "Everybody is dying to be here and I feel lucky."
Doris, like the rest of the staff, works eight weeks straight and gets two weeks off to visit family. She uses this time away to encourage other women to work in the bush. "I go out and tell them that you get to see wild animals and mingle with guests from different countries. You learn many things."
Forming a Sisterhood
Females in the safari industry face many challenges. Chief among them is feeling homesick, says Siyaeli (Elly) Moshi, manager of Dunia. "We are remote, of course. Everything is far away from everyone. Most of us are mothers. We leave our kids at home and miss our families," she says. Since she's not alone in feeling this way, the women of Dunia formed a sisterhood, and she considers them her second family. "We share so much and we have fun together. We are really, really close. We make it happen as a team," says Siyaeli.
Doris (no relation), agrees. "We are sisters, we are relatives. We are the only people we mingle with. If I am in any trouble, or in any need, they are the ones first attending to me."
The strong bond they share and their joy of working in the Serengeti is obvious. From the moment guests arrive to the last wave of tutaonana baadaye ("goodbye for now" in Swahili), they become part of the Dunia family. The women join in song and dance to celebrate the comings and goings, milestones, and life itself around the evening fire, at the dinner table, and by the entrance. There's a spring in their step and a sense of pride that comes with being accepted and rewarded for their contributions, and one can't help but feel elated to witness it.
Providing a World-class Safari Experience
Serengeti National Park is one of the most remarkable, wildlife-rich places on Earth. On game drives, Dunia visitors can witness everything from the Great Migration to lions, hippos, elephants, and a plethora of stunning birds in the scenic Moru Kopjes and Seronera regions. For an unforgettable Serengeti safari, it's important to have a knowledgeable and passionate guide.
In the past, being a guide was considered a man's job because of the work involved: long hours, navigating muddy roads, changing tires, and protecting guests in the event of wild encounters. But Grace Matemba is just 26 years old and already considered one of the top guides of Asilia Africa. "A good guide needs to be confident, compassionate, patient, and knowledgeable," says Matemba, with a beaming smile and eyes scanning the tree canopies for a hanging leopard tail.
There are currently only an estimated 20 female guides in the country. Thanks to companies like Asilia Africa, women are empowered to not only take on jobs as waitresses, guides, chefs, and managers, but also to excel in them.
Before coming to work at Dunia, Matemba recalls not even being able to drive her own vehicle during her freelancing days. "When I got to Asilia, as they like to empower women, they taught me everything: how to jack up a car, how to change a tire, and how to handle anything that we may come across. I go by myself now," she says.
A Worry-free Vacation
Even before your vehicle arrives at Dunia, you can hear and see the entire staff dancing and drumming to their welcome song, "Jambo Jambo." This jubilant melody invites guests to have a hakuna matata experience, with no worries during their stay. The camp itself, set in a tranquil corner of the Serengeti amid an open woodland, affords expansive views of the bush. Each spacious tent includes a bathroom with a hot shower, in-room Wi-Fi, a safe, desk, and luxurious bed. Plus, it comes with a large veranda to take in the views.
Guests can experience two game drives, or a full-day drive, in the endless plains daily. A gourmet breakfast and lunch are available at the camp or in the bush. In the evenings before dinner, everyone congregates by the campfire for drinks and "bush TV." The entertainment is the roaring fire, impressive sunset, and vivacious singing and dancing of the Dunia women.
Asilia is taking precautions to keep everyone safe and worry-free during the COVID-19 pandemic, with improved hygiene protocols and extra care at the camps. Staff members get tested prior to returning to the camps after their time off. There is a dedicated team working with each guest to limit interactions and meals are offered separately.
Choosing the Right Safari Company and Tour Operator
Founded in 2004, Asilia Africa is a Tanzania-based company with 95% of staff from the African continent. It operates eco-friendly, solar-powered camps and lodges in Kenya and Tanzania. The concept of the all-female camp came to fruition in an effort to help women feel more confident and comfortable living in the bush, miles from home for months at a time. The company provides upward mobility and opportunities for all of its employees. When you book a safari with Asilia, rest assured that your money is being put to good use.
Asilia partners with tour operators, rather than booking guests directly. Guests can choose from a conscious operator, like Alluring Africa, to plan their entire safari and other activities like fly camping, hot-air balloon rides, and stays at additional camps. The tour operator also assists with arranging COVID-19 testing to move between countries, and provides a comprehensive list of the forms needed to travel seamlessly.
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