How To Take a Bucket Shower

Bucket Shower Mobile Tented Camp, Serengeti
••• Bucket Shower Mobile Tented Camp, Serengeti. © Anouk Zijlma

If you have opted for a safari where your tented or mobile camp offers something called a "bucket shower", congratulations! Bucket showers are environmentally friendly and save precious water, without you suffering through any discomfort. Here are some tips that will help you figure out how to make the most of your warm water, and still manage to wash off all the safari dust.

A bucket shower on safari is common in tented camps that put the environment at a premium. If you are following the great migration in a mobile camp, bucket showers offer a little hot water luxury that is otherwise unavailable at more basic campsites. In most cases you'll still enjoy a private shower stall with a shower head, and enough warm water to wash your hair, your body and even use conditioner.

How Does a Bucket Shower Work?

A bucket shower in most safari camps in Africa will utilize a waterproof bag or bucket which is attached to a pole with a pully and rope. The bucket and pole is outside your tent, and will fill up a cistern or lead directly to a pipe and a shower head that is inside a private bathing tent (often en suite in the more luxury camps). The bucket is lowered to the ground, filled with a couple gallons of hot water, and then hoisted up to the shower head level. You can control the flow of your shower with an on/off faucet usually attached close to the shower head.

When Can You Take a Bucket Shower?

The camp manager or staff will need about 5 minutes notice in general to get your hot water ready. It's best to take a daily shower after your last game drive, because you'll only get dusty again if you take one before that time. You'll generally hear the staff fill up your shower, or they'll give you a shout "shower ready".

How Much Water is There in a Bucket Shower?

A bucket shower will usually give you 10-15 liters, or about 5 US gallons. If there are two of you using the same bucket, you'll have to be quite quick about your shower (see tips below on making the shower last longer). If you are traveling solo, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the hot water.

Handy Tips to Improve Your Bucket Shower Experience

  • Always switch off your water while you shampoo or soap
  • If you can, let the water out slowly, and not at full stream, it will last much longer.
  • Water is scarce, try not to take more than one shower a day.
  • If you find yourself getting cold with the water off, take a day time shower instead.
  • The hot water is delivered to your bucket shower at the right temperature (you can't add cold) so don't wait too long to use it once it is delivered, or it will cool down.
  • Always remember to switch the faucet/tap to "off" at the end of your shower, even with no water left, because otherwise your next load of hot water will simply pour straight out.
  • Don't drink the shower water.
  • Ask if the camp recycles any water you don't use. Some camps do this. If the camp does not recycle the unused water, then let it run out, or your next shower will be much cooler as the hot water mixes in with the cold left behind. Also, if water is scarce, elephants and other animals may drink your leftover water and are likely to destroy your shower.