Safari Adventures: Kipepeo Tented Camps

If you’ve read past page 5 in BECAUSE OF KHALID, you know that the tented camp in Tanzania, Africa, where Chris and his parents live and work is called Kipepeo Tented Camps. A tented camp is different than a hotel/motel in many ways. Most tented camps are located in remote regions where the wild animals can roam through the property. There are no walls to keep them out. Maasai warriors who work as security guards at night keep track of potential dangers, but for the most part, the animals go about their lives. Humans are, after all, visitors in their habitats, not the other way around. The number one rule of staying in a tented camp is no leaving the tent after dusk. You aren’t allowed to leave the tent too early in the morning either and must wait for the morning bell to signal the all clear.

Two of the three tented camps that we stayed at during our time in the Serengeti had the tent structures perched up on stilts. It was like sleeping in a tree house bedroom, with mesh screens walls and a bathroom attached. There were 2 guests to a tent and since my sons were 11 years old, they were too young to sleep in a tent without an adult. Twin B and I stayed in one tent while Twin A and his dad stayed in a tent down the path from us.

The other tented camp we stayed at had canvas-walled tents firmly planted on cement slabs. The room was large enough for 2 full-sized beds and an attached bathroom. The first night in that safari camp, I woke up to the sounds of a giraffe nibbling acacia leaves above my tent. His late-night snacking shook the top of the tent as he chewed off the leaves. I may have freaked out a little because I didn’t know what the shaking was. It was pitch black. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. There was no phone to call the front desk. Twin B wouldn’t wake up. The next morning, I reported the incident and was informed of who my late night visitor was. I hoped to see him the following night, but twiga (that’s giraffe in Swahili) was a no show.

Because my story is fictional, I needed to invent a name for my tented camps. The real life places we stayed at had names that reflected the local animals and land formations that the properties were located on.  I wanted a Swahili word that I could both spell and pronounce. I also wanted an animal that was universally recognizable. Since there are over 1,500 different kinds of butterflies in Tanzania, Africa, kipepeo (that’s butterfly in Swahili) seemed like a good fit.

“The narrow dusty path led [Chris] past all fifteen tents on stilts that made up Kipepeo Tented Camps. The trail then took a turn to the right and wound around a ridge overlooking the grasslands and forest beyond. For as far as Chris could see, the endless plains were awash with green. It was hard for him to grasp just how big and wide and seemingly empty the Serengeti was. Besides the elevated tents and wooden sheds sprinkled around their camp, there were no other buildings in sight. There were no gas stations, no grocery stores, and pretty much no people. There were plenty of animals, though. And they all roamed free.”