This year Africa has experienced a real boom in high-end safari properties, with extraordinary new lodges and camps opening across the continent. We have already checked out some of the most exciting openings so they can share their firsthand observations and opinions with you. Below you’ll find 10 of our favourites.
Sable Alley, Botswana
Built around a lagoon close to the world famous Moremi Game Reserve is an intimate safari camp with just 12 tents, two of which are large enough for families. Game wander right up to the watering hole so you’ll have a close-up view of hippo, elephant, and buffalo. Game drives take place day and night, and on the latter you are able to see shy nocturnal animals. Another attraction of Sable Alley is the mokoro safaris. Mokoro are traditional carved canoes, and paddling along the waterways you get a very different perspective on the river and the birdlife living along it.
King Lewanika Lodge, Zambia
Zambia’s most exclusive camp has been several years in the making, and its opening is a cause for great excitement. It is the only permanent camp in the Liuwa Plains National Park, one of the oldest conservation parks in Africa, and it is no exaggeration to say it is a photographer’s dream. The camp has been designed by the same specialist architects behind North Island in the Seychelles. The furnishings are inspired by the early days of East African safaris, with leather, cotton, canvas, and other natural materials featuring prominently in the design. Liuwa Plains has the second biggest wildebeest migration in Africa, a growing cheetah population, and a famed lion pride.
Saruni Rhino, Kenya
Sighting rhino in the wild is one of the most sought-after safari experiences in Africa, but achieving it was very, very rare. Now, finally, you can stay at Saruni Rhino and track black rhino in the 350,000-hectare Sera Conservancy. There are just two bandas (open-sided cottages), so staying here is an intimate affair. Take your breakfast on the dry river bed, visit the the recently opened Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, learn the bush skills, folklore, and ancient wisdom needed to survive in one of Kenya’s richest wildlife regions, and enjoy a starlit dinner beneath the vast African skies.
One Nature Nyaruswiga, Tanzania
The plains in this stunning part of Tanzania are completely untouched by tourism. Tents open out onto the open savannah, their roofs supported by slightly fragrant African eucalyptus wood. There’s a permanent water hole by the camp which attracts the game, and you can explore the region and spot wildlife not only by 4×4 but also from the air on a balloon safari or scenic flight. Attractions include watching the Mara River migration crossing, walking on the shifting sands of the Olduvai Gorge, and marvelling at the natural wonder which is the Ngorongoro crater.
Somalisa Expeditions, Zimbabwe
It’s time to have an authentic safari experience in Hwange National Park, a place known as the “Land of the Giants” on account of its big elephant herds. Somalisa Expeditions have erected six elegantly furnished Serengeti-style tents, each with an en suite bathroom. The communal area includes a lounge and dining area on raised decking, and this overlooks a small pool where elephant come to drink. Staying here you’ll have countless up-close encounters with elephant but also see kudu, zebra, and sable antelope, gemsbok, roan antelope, buffalo, and giraffe.
Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
Bisate Lodge is our #1 choice for gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park. It lies within the natural amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, with dramatic views of the peaks of the Bisoke volcanoes. The national park is home to golden monkey, side-striped jackal, buffalo, elephant, and 178 species of birds. But the stars of the show are the 12 habituated groups of mountain gorilla, which you can visit on foot with expert trackers.
Three Rivers Lodge, Zambia
Tents at the Three Rivers Lodge area spread out beneath the shade of the sausage trees, looking out at the Luangwa River or across the game-rich lagoon. Hippo saunter up onto the white beach to drink and bathe; and there are elephant, waterbuck, roan antelope, lion, and leopard, too. This area of the Luangwa Valley is one of the few places where you can see African wild dog in the wild. Spotting one is a cause for great excitement. The camp is eco-friendly — all lighting is solar-powered — and you can dine or sleep out beneath the stars.
Nimali Central Serengeti, Tanzania
For the most luxurious tented safari camp in the Serengeti, choose Nimali Central. Days start with early morning balloon rides across the plains, and Champagne breakfast in the bush. On a game drive you can expect to see elephant, giraffe, cheetah, eland, lion, and leopard, and when you return to camp you can relax with a swim in the pool or perhaps an indulgent spa treatment. Solar torches light the camp by night, creating a romantic atmosphere, so much so in fact that we anticipate Nimali Central will become one of our most popular choices for intimate destination weddings and honeymoons.
Roho Ya Selous, Tanzania
Nothing beats being a spectator at the great migration in the Selous Game Reserve. The scale of herds, and the opportunity to see the buffalo up close, will take your breath away. But there’s plenty more wildlife to see: the big five are all present, and there’s a substantial population of big cats, wild dog, and hippo. As a guest at Roho Ya Selous you sit atop a hill for optimal views of the surrounding landscape. The eight canvas tents are set far apart to maximise privacy, and have a special air cooling system so you can sleep comfortably even on the hottest of nights.
Gomoti Plains, Botswana
The Gomoti Plains is known for its large concentrations of wildlife, including its large population of African wild dog. The whole camp, which is raised on wooden decks decorated in a classic safari style, is comprised of 10 luxury safari tents, two of which are family units. Game drives take place in the morning, afternoon, and evening, and there are also possibilities for nature walks and canoeing in the shallower waters of the Okavango. Excursions to the delta’s islands are particularly fun and give you the chance to spot some of the region’s shyer creatures, as well as plenty of waterbirds.
All of the new properties we’ve discussed in this blog have very limited space due to their small size. If you want to be amongst the first guests to experience them, especially at a peak time such as Christmas or during the seasonal migration, you should start to plan your trip now!
Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive. Africa Exclusive has been creating the finest tailor-made safaris since 1990, specialising in luxurious accommodation in beautiful remote places.