Food Options in a Safari
What to expect in your plate while on a safari
Game parks are typically far-flung from farmers’ markets and grocery stores. In fact, they are mostly a charter flight away. However, this doesn’t stop chefs from whipping up delish food for the guests. Most lodges partner with the local community for dairy, vegetable and seasonal ingredients supply. In general, you can expect familiar food with occasional local touches.
Very few safari lodges offer a la carte dining. Most offer buffet-style dining, generous platters of homemade snacks, some luscious treats during tea time and/or three-course dinners. Some lodges also have set menus.
Here are the usual food selections in a safari:WE ACCOMMODATE ALL DIETARY REQUIREMENTS
We offer vegan, vegetarian, regular and gluten-free food as well. For other dietary requirements, simply tell us in advance. We are happy to work out something and happy to keep your tummy happy.
● Breakfast or brunch: You can expect anything from omelets to quiches with a variety of salads. Continental breakfast is also typically served with toast, sausage, pastries, charcuterie, cold meat, coffee, and tea. Cereals, fruits, bread, eggs, and cheese are also very common.
● Lunch: More often than not, lunches are served picnic style in the middle of your game drive. Sometimes, guides/drivers also take you back to the lodge or camp for a hearty meal before going on an afternoon or sundowner game drive. Food is usually composed of sandwiches and fruits.
● High tea: Before setting off to your late afternoon game drive, afternoon snacks — or bitings, as it is usually called in East Africa — will be provided. Freshly roasted peanuts or cashews, cakes, sandwiches, biscuits, quiches, and tarts are the usuals.
● Sundowners: On your final game drive of the day, you will be enjoying alcoholic beverages (think wine and beer) with snacks such as nuts, dried fruits, and savories as you watch the sunset across the wildlife-ridden fields.
● Dinner: Prepared at the lodge or camp, dinner is usually served in three courses: soup, mains, and pudding. Butternut soup, vegetable curry, and fruit pudding is a very common combo, but of course, there will be a variety during your stay ranging from meat, fish and pasta dishes served with assorted vegetables and sauces.
● Drinks: For the drinks, it could be anything from water to coffee and tea to wine and beer. Filtered water is typically available but in the event that it’s not, the camp or lodge will either tell you in advance or provide water for you to drink each day.
As a general rule of the thumb, the level of sophistication and the number of options available depends on the lodge’s distance from suppliers. It has been said that “The more remote the lodge, the simpler the menu, and the closer it is to the city center or towns, the more sophisticated the menu.” This can be really be expected but this doesn’t mean you can underestimate the culinary powers of the safari lodge chefs. As a matter of fact, you can be surprised. People with special diets don’t have to worry as well.
Hats off to the camp chefs
Did you know that camp chefs have very difficult tasks? Aside from the fact that they have to provide a variety of meals that must suit different palates, they also have to whip these up using ingredients that are most likely from suppliers or stores that far away from the camp or lodge. They also ensure that all these ingredients remain fresh and untouched by cheeky animals like monkeys and elephants who are known to rid kitchen gardens at camps. Cold produce is also made sure that they are not spoiled. Really, these camp chefs deserve some love. Plus, they are trained in cooking different international cuisines (Asian, European, Mediterranean, etc). Despite all the hitches and hurdles, they are still able to whip up exceptional plates.
Ask and you shall receive
You’ll be surprised how accommodating African safari camps and lodges can be, if you just give a little warning that there will be a vegetarian or vegan or pescatarian in the house. As you may know, most lodges and camps are far from suppliers. Hence, it is of utmost importance that you tell them or your tour operator well in advance about any dietary preferences you may have.
Here are some tips on how to plan a safari if you have special diet preferences:
Tip #1: Communicate. This is a very, VERY important thing.
Tip #2: Mind the surcharge. Obtaining special items just for you may entail a small surcharge.
Tip #3: Bring your own snacks, if possible. Try to check if you can bring in some snacks you usually have for your diet. It is important to mind custom rules and regulations, as well as some governments, do not allow entry of foreign agricultural produce.
Tip #4: Book with lodges that do not only offer set meals. Chances are, they don’t offer plant-based dishes and/or are fixed on their set meals. But, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some lodges still move the ends of the earth to cater to their guest’s wishes and/or needs.
Tip #5: Consider going to places that are famous to Indian travelers. Places like Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Mauritius have large numbers of Indian guests meaning chefs are more familiar to cooking plant-based cuisines.
True, African safaris aren’t particularly known for its culinary delights. But this is mainly because of its ultra-amazing wildlife experience which is the focal point of any travel. The fact that it is not considered a destination for foodies is an absolute heartbreak especially for those in the know. Africa, after all, is not just home to some of the world’s most phenomenal settings for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner or even snacks, it is also — although maybe quite secretly — a host to some of the richest, most diverse and most mouthwatering gastronomic experiences. So don’t worry so much about going hungry when in a safari. Again, all you need to do is to let your lodge or tour operator know and things will be taken care of.
You can learn more about food and safaris with these best tours that we offer for all types of guests!
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Also published on Medium.