East Africa Safaris

Building That “All-In” Safari. An Interview with East Africa Safari Ventures 

Since 2001, East Africa Safari Ventures have been helping clients shape their perfect African adventure. We spoke with co-founder Gillian Charleson, who set up the business with husband Joe in 2001, about how important the extra touches are to the overall experience of a safari. 

Even after forty years’ worth of safari and hospitality, Gillian and Joe are still involved in every aspect of their tours. Working with up to thirty team members they oversee operations of their business and their exclusive tented camps across East Africa, and Joe leads the safaris himself. 

“We make a good team,” Gillian explains, “Joe grew up camping in the wilderness and is one of the top safari guides in East Africa. In comparison, my background comes from working with some of the finest hotels and resorts in South Africa before I made my way to Tanzania in 1995. I definitely fell in love with East Africa and its way of life and the importance that the people place on shared experiences and being good hosts.” 

Soon after she and Joe met, East Africa Safari Ventures was established and are now one of the few Safari Operators keeping alive the tradition of luxury mobile camping safaris. These, old style tours offer a completely unique and engrossing experience based on the quintessential golden age of safaris. 

Over the years, their camps have evolved to include more modern comforts, however they have gone to great lengths to ensure they remain an authentic safari experience. One that provides guests with all they need in a safari camp, yet stripped of unnecessary barriers to an intimate, exclusive wilderness experience.

“…into  the beautfiful remoteness and serenity of Africa, the way it should be seen,” Gillian Charleson.


While the client’s preferences and budget largely determine the length of the safaris, Gillian really does recommend a minimum of 10-14 nights. There is a lot to see and as for the vast majority of clients, trips like this are once in a lifetime and you don’t want to leave anything out. Two weeks gives the chance to start the safari in one of the cities, to set the tone.  Whether this is in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda or Rwanda it’s a great start to the adventure and is usually followed with a minimum of three nights in between two and four other destinations.

Gillian explains that one of their most unique factors is that they’re not looking to give the guest’s a generic Africa experience. They want to create a genuinely one-of-a-kind tailored adventure that includes wildlife, places and people, that will  foster enduring memories. 

“Our customised and privately guided safaris explore East Africa and offer a mix of luxury camps, lodges and unique experiences,” she says, “We are constantly discovering new destinations that will take you off the beaten track and away from the crowds allowing you to enjoy the beautiful remoteness and serenity of Africa, the way it should be seen.”

…all properties are reviewed and vetted to ensure that they meet their particular standards…


Prior to mapping out a safari, Gillian and Joe go to great lengths to understand what it is that gets a client excited. Special interests, can make a safari all that better and so guests are encouraged to explore their passions. Photography, bird watching, hiking, quad biking along river beds, scenic helicopter flights, bouldering, white water rafting, cultural and historic tours and searching for specific species… these are just some of the items on the available menu.  Discover Our Once in a Lifetime Experiences – East Africa Safari Venture

“We only use fully equipped 4×4 safari vehicles,” Gillian says, “Open sides or roof hatched they make for the best game viewing and each one comes with a fridge or coolerbox to provide water, soft drinks, snacks and chow. If we’re stopping for breakfast or lunch, a private location in the shade of a tree is usually set up with a meal with chairs and picnic blankets. This is Africa, there are many options.”

What makes a safari truly outstanding, in Gillian’s book, is a highly qualified guide. Whether it’s tracking stealthy predators or identifying unusual birds, the experience and engaging approach of a guide makes all the difference. If desired by the group, the same East Africa Safari Ventures guide stays with guests throughout their trip, so they have a real opportunity to get to know them and get a real taste for the location.


Client’s tastes and needs differ, so properties are recommended as appropriate. However, Gillian admits that their preference is boutique tented camps and lodges which can also be taken on an exclusive basis for larger groups. 

They review and vet each of the properties to ensure that they meet their particular standards of ‘luxury in the bush’ without losing the excitement of being in the wild. And, there is an impressive range available, from classic bush camps steeped in vintage ambience to intimate, contemporary, luxury safari lodges and secluded beachfront retreats. 

“Our own exclusive tented camps can be part of any itinerary,” Gillian says, “Assuming this is suitable for the group. Our mobile camps can be set up as a destination during the safari between the stays at the permanent camps and lodges. And this does provide the opportunity for some spectacular after-tour leisure chilling and watching the scenery.” 


Conservation is at the forefront of East Africa Safari Ventures’ philosophy, which can be summarised to: “We must work with and help local communities and their environments.”

So, in addition to supporting communities via their safaris, they are proudly associated with a number of conservation and education projects throughout Kenya, all of which are at the forefront of environmental change and raising conservation awareness.

  • Kenya Education Fund
  • David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
  • Kenya Wildlife Fund
  • Nest Children’s Home

“Our guests contribute financially to these projects when they book a safari with us,” Gillian reveals, “Guests are also given the opportunity to visit these projects so that they can see first-hand the work that they are doing and can also donate directly to them.”



All guidelines as laid out by WHO and the Kenyan Government are followed from the time of a guest’s arrival at the airport, their transfers and within the accommodation. Temperatures are checked at the airport and at every destination, hand washing, and hand sanitizing is available, masks are to be worn by staff and guests and social distancing is maintained. 


In 2021 there are a lot of things to be excited about so get your calendars out and get ready to witness one of the biggest events in East Africa! 

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The Leleshwa Seasonal Camp  will be in place annually in the Ol Derekesi Conservancy on the edge of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. This places it in an ideal location for the annual Wildebeest Migration, the largest migration of its kind in the world. 

Then, the Osero Camp, offers the best opportunity to see the Serengeti in Tanzania. Opening in June 2021, Osero’s time is split between two private campsites that have been carefully chosen to provide the best of this wilderness, right from the veranda of the tent. Osero will accommodate a single family or group of up to 16 guests in 7 luxury, custom-made safari tents.  

From June to October, the camp is nestled amongst rocky kopjes (outcroppings) a short drive from the main crossing points of the Mara River in the northern Serengeti. In this area, guests can watch the herds build up as they edge closer to the riverbanks before finally taking the plunge and swimming to the opposite bank. This is a scene that has to be seen in real time to truly appreciate. 


From December to March, Osero Camp is in the forest edge bordering the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti, close to Lake Ndutu. Here, in the shadow of the Ngorongoro highlands, guests can witness the massing of herds as we enter the calving season of the migration, where close to 500,000 young wildebeest are born each year.


Custom Safari: $600-900 pppn

Luxury Mobile Camp: Privately Guided $1,250 pppn

Leleshwa Seasonal Camp: $800 pppn

TELEPHONE NUMBER: +254 722 315159

EMAIL: safari@eastafricasafariventures.com

WEBSITE: www.eastafricasafariventures.com