10 of the most luxurious new safari properties

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.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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Botswana’s top 5 romantic retreats for 2018

There’s no doubt that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are the couple of the moment. The wedding planning is well underway, and the world’s media can’t get enough of it. But there’s something else about the golden couple that has peaked the public’s interest — their penchant for Botswana. Harry’s first visit came only two months after his mother died, but Meghan only enjoyed her debut trip when Harry whisked her away in August 2016. It was an elaborate third date, but the magical Botswanan backdrop proved itself to be the perfect place for the couple to enjoy five days of glamping under the stars, away from prying eyes. Ever since then, Botswana’s luxury safari camps have found themselves in the spotlight, so we’ve compiled a list of the five most romantic destinations, for those in search of the royal treatment in 2018.

Chief’s Camp

In the heart of the Moremi Game Reserve lies Chief’s Island, a 70 km long stretch of land famous for its high concentration of wildlife. Just a short flight from Maun airport, guests are treated to awe-inspiring views of the delta below before they even arrive at Chief’s Camp, one of four Sanctuary Retreats in Botswana. It re-opened in July 2016, boasting even bigger luxury rooms than before, each featuring private plunge pools and secluded pavilions from where guests can admire visiting wildlife in-between expertly guided game drives. The addition of the lavish Geoffrey Kent Luxury Suite gives those couples who seek total privacy the chance to unwind in a tranquil setting at the far end of the camp. The suite comes complete with a personal chef, waiter, housekeeper and game driver, making for the ultimate VIP experience. The warm, welcoming and genuine atmosphere created by the staff at Chief’s Camp, coupled with the impeccable service, ensures that each guest leaves the island feeling like royalty.

Little Mombo Camp

The completed refurbishment of another of the Okavango Delta’s safari lodges, Mombo Camp, will be revealed to the public at the end of January 2018. Each of the nine tented suites has been expanded to incorporate a new private decking area with plunge pool, overlooking the spectacular floodplains. In addition, every room boasts elegant furnishings that embrace both traditional and modern elements. Expect antique brass detailing, vintage leather and natural oak flooring, which combine to create a stylish and luxurious feel. Described as “the Rolls Royce of the Delta,” Mombo Camp is one of the top destinations in Botswana for those looking for a romantic break in the bush.

Chobe Under Canvas

Chobe National Park, in the north of Botswana, provides travellers with yet another fantastic opportunity to see a broad array of African wildlife. This back-to-basics style camp features safari tents with en-suite bathrooms set right in the heart of the action. Only the tent canvas separates guests from the roaming game animals, some of which stroll through the camp from time to time. This property offers a more rustic set up than some of its luxury counterparts, resulting in a truly authentic safari experience. With easy access to the Chobe River, guests are invited to take a boat safari in order to admire the animals by the water’s edge.

Jack’s Camp

The breathtaking Makgadikgadi Pan is home to one of Botswana’s most romantic safari lodges; Jack’s Camp. The property is located on the edge of the giant salt pan, the only remaining memory of what once was one of the world’s largest super lakes. Now, thousands of years later, the Makgadikgadi Pan presents itself as a top safari destination, thanks to the unique scenery and migratory action during the wet season (November to April). With a cup of tea in one hand, and a scone in the other, guests at Jack’s Camp have the opportunity to admire the wildlife meandering through the plains, from the comfort of the lodge deck. The property only has 10 luxury tents, ensuring that every visitor experiences the privacy and serenity that they’d expect of a truly romantic getaway in the African bush.

Belmond Savute Elephant Camp

Set to reopen in June 2018, the Savute Channel based hotel, Belmond Savute Elephant Camp, describes itself as a “captivating colonial retreat,” complete with four-poster beds in each tent. Guests can spend the days exploring Chobe National Park with an expert guide, before retiring to the hotel deck, where the safari doesn’t stop. While enjoying a refreshing sundowner, guests will be able to spot game meandering through the wilderness, before being called to dinner at the traditional Boma. Every night, the chef serves up sumptuous local dishes for guests as they sit beneath the starry night sky. Alternatively, enjoy a romantic meal on your own private deck, complete with a personal butler.

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Kenya’s top 5 camps for active travellers

Kenya is the original birthplace of the safari holiday and home to the likes of the Maasai Mara, Amboseli and Samburu, which offer some of the best Big Five game viewing in the whole of Africa. However, Kenya is not solely about game viewing! It has some of the continent’s best and most striking scenery, with a number of alternative ways to explore it other than through your standard game drives. Here are the top 5 camps in Kenya that focus on these alternative activities:

1. Borana Lodge

Borana Lodge is located in the Borana Conservancy, which borders the Lewa Plains and Ngare Ndare Forest. It was originally a working farm owned by the Dyer family, but having passed through three generations it now offers some of the best Big Five game viewing in Kenya, as well as some superb horse riding. The lodge owns 26 horses and is able to cater for all abilities. Riding is a great way to explore this stunning area, allowing you to get up close and personal to the likes of giraffe, hartebeest, impala and zebra! Other activities at Borana include mountain biking, visits to the community schools and swimming in the Ngare Ndare Forest.

2. Loisaba Star Beds

As its name suggests, Loisaba Star Beds offers a unique experience, sleeping under the stars in the Loisaba Conservancy in Northern Kenya. Any guest here sleeps in a four-poster bed cantilevered over a river with stunning views towards popular waterholes and the wide plains of Laikipia. If you can tear yourself away from this world-renowned resting place, you will be rewarded with a fine assortment of activities, including bush treks on camel, mountain biking down the conservancy’s escarpment, fishing in the rivers and dams, and exploring the region on foot with knowledgeable guides.

3. ol Donyo Lodge

Boasting vistas across the sprawling landscape all the way to Mount Kilimanjaro, ol Donyo is made for adventure and exploration. Wedged between Amboseli and Tsavo East National Park, the lodge offers early morning, afternoon and evening game drives, guided bushwalks, opportunities to learn about conservation in community out-reach programmes, the thrill of careering along trails on mountain bike, and watching the wildlife at close quarters from an open-air hide. ol Donyo is famous for its horse riding and has a stable 20 strong. Guests of all riding abilities are welcome, though beginners and rusty riders may well appreciate the lodge’s massage menu while keen and experienced riders try the overnight fly camp ride.

4. Mara Expedition Camp

Explorer style in nature and design, Mara Expedition Camp is ideal for escaping the crowds within Kenya’s infamous Maasai Mara. An intimate camp of just five tents, Mara Expedition is in a prime location for witnessing the wildebeest and zebra migration as well as for spotting the elusive leopard. In the company of first-rate guides, guests can head out in a 4×4 to explore the Mara. The camp’s vehicles are open-sided Land Cruises, perfect for budding photographers – guests can even borrow 50D Canons and wide angle lenses to ensure spectacular shots! To get a different perspective of the varied wildlife, you can also go on a hot air balloon ride – an absolute must.

5. Karisia Walking Safaris

This experience can be as luxurious or as basic as you wish. Travellers after a little extravagance may opt for the comfort of a luxury tent with plush mattress warmed by hot water bottles, while those favouring an authentic camping trip can try the AirBnC – air bed and camel. Whatever your preference, you will enjoy an exceptional walking adventure supported by Laikipia Maasai trackers and camels, with not a vehicle in sight. Traversing the sacred ground used for millennia by hunters, these walking safaris are based around the tall rocky outcrop of Nyasura, where guests can appreciate a deeper insight into Kenya’s animals and its people. Although the camels will do the heavy lifting (carrying the tents and equipment), this is still a moderately difficult adventure. Nevertheless, the Karisia walking safari is well worth the effort, as lion, leopard, hyena and elephant can be encountered on foot.

Julian Carter-Manning is a Co-founder and MD at Yellow Zebra Safaris.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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5 special stopovers in the Southern Cape, South Africa

If you are thinking about a travel holiday in a place that is far removed from crowds of tourists and long lines of sightseers, with luxury accommodation, breath-taking scenery and a surprise or two, the south-east of South Africa should be on your list for serious consideration.

Southern Cape, Umngazi, landscape

Umngazi Bungalows: gem of the Wild Coast

Rugged coastlines, dense indigenous forests, undulating hills, pristine beaches and abundant sunshine make the Wild Coast of the Transkei unique in the world.

Southern Cape, Umngazi resort

Umngazi Lodge lies on this rugged coastline, where the Umngazi River flows into the Indian Ocean. Comfortable thatched bungalows, sumptuous catering on the outdoor terrace, pretty living areas with fireplaces, and a world-class spa are signature facilities of this outstanding resort.

Southern Cape, Umngazi, lounge

Outdoor activities include playing tennis, swimming, fishing, boat trips on the river, dune surfing and hiking. On rainy days the library, games room, pool table, kid’s playroom and art corner will keep everyone entertained. The interesting history, mystical aura and natural beauty of Umngazi will make you return again and again.

Southern Cape, Umngazi pool

Port Elizabeth: the friendly city

The capital of the Eastern Cape Province is a beautiful seaside metropolis with the infrastructure and facilities of a modern city, but with the friendly laidback atmosphere of a rural village. The long coastline that borders the city and the moderate climate, make Port Elizabeth a tourist paradise all year round.

Southern Cape, PE, Boardwalk

Tourists will appreciate the good accommodation like Blue Lotus Guest House, nice restaurants and shops at The Boardwalk and beautiful blue flag beaches.

Southern Cape, PE, Blue Lotus Guest House

ADDO Rest Camp: the heart of the Addo Elephant Park

Over recent years, Addo Elephant Park has become one of the most popular wildlife resorts in Southern Africa. There are many elephants: big bulls, caring mothers and tiny babies, old ones and teenagers, peaceful ones and those who want to let you know Addo is theirs and you are just a guest in their world – unforgettable sightings!

Southern Cape, Nyathi, elephants

But, the Park is much more than just an elephant sanctuary – various buck species, picture-pretty zebras and many more wild animals happily share the plains and the bush in Addo.

Southern Cape, Addo Rest Camp, zebra

Hard-working dung beetles will amaze you with the size of the dung balls they can push – in reverse!

Southern Cape, Addo, dung beetle

The main rest camp has comfortable safari-style cabins, family houses with lovely views, a ground-level lookout, a shop and restaurant complex and a state-of-the-art information and exhibition centre.

Nyathi Rest Camp: out of this world

Recently a private deluxe rest camp with only nine top of the range en-suite chalets was opened. It is a place of astounding natural beauty.

Southern Cape, Nyathi, chalet

Each chalet has an outdoor splash pool and an unobstructed view over a large grassy plain framed by hills covered with dense bush and trees. Majestic kudus, ostriches and red hartebeest peacefully graze on the plain, while baboons and monkeys entertain guests with their tree-top manoeuvers. Driving to the camp we were surprized by a large maternal herd of elephant around us, and by two huge male lions sleeping metres form the road.

Relaxing on the terrace with a sundowner in hand, while watching the wild life on the plain and the moon rising over the horizon, and listening to the multitude of birds, is the safari experience of a lifetime.

Southern Cape, Nyathi, terrace

Cango Caves: labour of the ages

Oudtshoorn is a charming town in the vast arid Klein Karoo area of South Africa. It is known for its ostrich farms and an excellent museum that features the ostrich-feather boom era. One of the historical ostrich-houses, 141 High Street, is a stately Bed and Breakfast right in the centre of Oudtshoorn and 35 km from the main attraction of the area, the world renowned Cango Caves.

Southern Cape, Cango, B&B

Wandering through the illuminated chambers and halls of the 20-million-year-old network of limestone caves, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, you will be astounded by the staggering number of fascinating dripstone formations, ornate crystals, stalagmites and stalactites.

Southern Cape, Cango, stalagtites

Here you will experience uncountable ages of history unfolding before your eyes … it is beautiful, it is interesting, it is extraordinary!

Celine Renaud is Head of Sales for Leo Trippi.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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5 of Africa’s best eco-lodges

Africa boasts an incredible selection of stunning places to stay, from beach resorts on otherwise uninhabited islands to stylish boutique hotels in thriving cities. Eco-tourism is defined by The International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people”. This has motivated us to seek out Africa’s best eco-lodges.

The difference between an eco-lodge and an eco-hotel is largely one of context: eco-lodges tend to be in remote wildernesses, and it is arguably therefore even more important that they have minimal negative impact on the environment. Their eco-friendly credentials vary, but Africa’s best eco-lodges tend to use renewable energy (in particular solar power), conserve water, recycle waste, build positive relationships with the local community, and take a long-term, sustainable approach to business. Some lodges have sought internationally recognised green certificates and awards, but others are simply proud of pursuing eco-friendly best practice locally, and will talk to you with enthusiasm about what they do.

There are many inspiring eco-lodges across Africa, but here are 5 of our favourites.

Old Mondoro, Zambia

Family-owned Old Mondoro takes guests back to the bush in the Lower Zambezi National Park. It’s a small camp with a light footprint on the land, a green electricity system, and close partnerships with NGOs Conservation Lower Zambezi and Pack for a Purpose. Game drives are available in purpose-built vehicles, but guests are also encouraged to explore the park under their own steam, on foot or by canoe. There’s a 100% catch and release policy for anglers, and the pontoon boats use for river safaris are environmentally sensitive, too.

Kicheche Bush Camp, Kenya

The ultra low impact Kicheche Bush Camp has received a gold rating from Eco Tourism Kenya, something of which the staff are understandably proud. Each of the six tents has its own solar powered lighting system, guests are served fresh, organic produce from the kitchen garden, and the camp’s waste policy is based on the four Rs: reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle. The Kicheche Community Trust supports a local school and medical centre, and guests can visit these in Aitong Village.

Nsolo Bush Camp, Zambia

The four chalets at Nsolo seem to blend into the landscape: they’re constructed from sustainable timber, grass, and reeds, all of which are traditional local building materials. The shade of the evergreen trees keeps things cool, and solar panels provide all the camp’s power. Visitor numbers here are restricted so as not to worry the wildlife: in fact, the lion, leopard, and wild dog seem completely unfazed by visitors, so the viewing opportunities are spectacular.

Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique

Nkwichi is a slice of paradise on the shore of Lake Malawi. The lodge works closely with the local Nyanja community on development and conservation issues, ensuring that the pristine environment is protected for future generations to enjoy. All of the activities at the lodge are eco-friendly: you can canoe or sail in a dhow, paddle in the water, and snorkel to look at the tropical fish. In the evenings you will sit around the campfire on the beach, and gaze up at the stars.

Camp Kalahari, Botswana

Camp Kalahari is a tented camp, so its footprint is only temporary: there are no permanent structures here at all. There is no electricity — lighting at night is by lantern — and there are hot bucket showers to reduce water consumption. This may make the camp sound a little basic, but that’s part of its charm: you are going back in time to the earliest days of safaris. The focus here is on the wildlife, on walking and horseback riding across the breathtaking lunar landscapes of the Makgadikgadi Pans. You can also meet with the San bushmen who call this remote part of Botswana their home.

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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5 of the best luxury camps and lodges in Tanzania

With some of Africa’s biggest parks and reserves filled with all manner of game and birdlife, a rich Maasai culture, and landscapes that change from great bulky mountains to deep calderas and vast stretches of grassland, Tanzania is everything you’d imagine an African safari destination to be. But experiencing these things doesn’t have to mean compromising on accommodation. Luxury can be found amidst the wilderness of Selous Game Reserve, in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, and on the lip of the Ngorongoro Crater.

Namiri Plains, Serengeti National Park

Situated in central Serengeti, over an hour’s drive from any other camp, Namiri Plains offers a remote and intimate safari experience in a secluded area of the Serengeti. Between December and March it’s possible to see the Great Migration herds as the wildebeest have their young in the southeast of the Serengeti, and you can watch as calves take their first tentative steps. Hot on the heels of these grazing herds are predators such as lion, leopard and cheetah.

Namiri Plains, Serengeti National Park

The camp is located on what was, until fairly recently, a cheetah research base inaccessible to tourists for 20 years. Cheetah and lion populations therefore thrive here. You might also encounter leopard, buffalo, spotted hyena and, in rare instances, black rhino.

The camp’s eight canvas tents have far-reaching views over the plains, with sides that open out during the day. Each tent has an en suite bathroom with both indoor and outdoor showers, a king-sized bed, and a safe. There’s a family tent for up to four guests (children must be aged five and over to stay here), as well as a more luxurious honeymoon tent.

The communal mess tent is scattered with sofas and has a shaded outdoor seating area. From here, you can sit and watch animals coming to drink at the natural waterhole next to camp. Meanwhile, in the dining tent you can enjoy cooked or continental buffet breakfasts and three-course dinners.

Activities from the camp include twice-daily game drives in 4x4s (which come complete with mini fridges), guided walking safaris out in the bush (extra cost), and time spent with a local cheetah researcher to learn more about the area’s endangered cats. At an additional cost you can take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti, giving you bird’s-eye views of the wildlife in the early morning light.

Ruaha River Lodge, Ruaha National Park

The Ruaha River snakes its way through the rocky outcrops and dry grasslands of Ruaha National Park, in the heart of southern Tanzania. Green woodland thrives along its banks, and during the dry season in particular (June to December) its waters quench the thirst of lion, elephant, leopard, cheetah and hyena, among many other species.

Ruaha River Lodge, Ruaha National Park

Set around a kopje right beside the river, Ruaha River Lodge offers close-up views of these animals as they come to drink and cool off from the day’s heat. Its 24 stone-and-thatch chalets are dotted along the bank beneath tamarind trees, each with a veranda overlooking the water where private dinners can be arranged. Inside your chalet you’ll find a comfortable sitting area with exposed stone walls, twin or double beds and a large bathroom with heated shower.

The lodge has two communal bandas — one set by the river and another perched high on a kopje looking down over two sections of the river. Here you can enjoy breakfast, farmhouse-style dinners or sundowners as hippo splash in front of you, crocodiles laze on sandbanks, and lizards and rock dassies scuttle over the sun-baked rocks.

During the dry season (July to October), head out on a bush walk with the lodge’s guides, who have an intimate knowledge of the park and its wildlife. Ruaha lies in an area where the wildlife of the northern and southern hemispheres overlap, so there are huge numbers of bird species (at least 530) and of plants (around 1,400) which your guide can help you to identify when out on foot.

Meanwhile, game drives give you a chance to see the park’s larger wildlife — both predators and prey. Herds of zebra, kudu, roan, sable and eland antelope graze nervously under the watchful eye of wild dog, lion, cheetah and hyena. Giraffe drift by elegantly, and herds of elephant make their way to the water’s edge.

Africa Amini Life, West Kilimanjaro

Overlooked by the imposing outline of Mount Kilimanjaro and the volcanic cone of Mount Meru, Africa Amini Life’s Maasai Lodge was set up by Austrian-registered NGO Africa Amini Alama in its efforts to benefit Tanzania’s Maasai communities through responsible tourism. All of its staff are from local villages, and profits from your stay here are fed back into their communities.

Africa Amini life

As you arrive at the lodge, which is set on a hill surrounded by volcanic savannah plains, you’re greeted by Maasai men and women, who line up in their traditional clothing like a rainbow as they sing you a greeting.

You’re then shown to your hut. With clay walls, a thatched roof and a wooden door, it’s designed to resemble a traditional Maasai hut. But step inside and you’ll find custom-made wooden furniture brought to life by brightly patterned cushions and throws, embroidered animal skins, beaded dream catchers and woven rugs.

Unlike the huts lived in by the Maasai, yours will have windows that let in plenty of natural light to offset the dark walls. Separate compartments from the bedroom, sitting area and bathroom, and there’s an outdoor porch area with seating where you can take in views over the plains, which are dotted with small triangular hills.

These views can also be enjoyed from the lodge’s sauna, pool and massage area, as well as from seats that have been set out at secluded viewpoints high on the hill.

While you might be content to sit there and soak up the landscape, a stay here focuses on exploring Maasai culture. You can join a Maasai warrior guide for a nature walk, learning about the local plants and their various medicinal uses. Join in with a spear-throwing competition as competing Maasai warriors mock each other through song. And watch Maasai women perform traditional dances as the sun sets over the mountains.

Siwandu, Selous Game Reserve

Lion, leopard and wild dog compete for prey, black and white colobus monkeys rustle in the trees, and hippo cool off in the waters of the Rufiji River. This is southern Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve. Around four times the size of the Serengeti but seeing far fewer visitors, you can enjoy safaris here undisturbed.

Siwandu Private Camp, Selous Game Reserve

Set on the shores of Lake Nzerakera in the north of the reserve, Siwandu’s 13 canvas-and-thatch tents are positioned around two communal bomas. Each boma houses a dining room, lounge and bar area complete with decking, where you can sit with a drink in the evening and watch the landscape blush under the setting sun. Outside the bomas is a swimming pool surrounded by loungers.

Dinners can be enjoyed in the dining room, or the camp can set up private dining out in the bush. Traditional Swahili dishes are served alongside international fare, and you have the option to upgrade from a continental buffet breakfast to a cooked breakfast.

Elevated on wooden decks, the generously sized octagonal tents offer panoramic views over the lake — a popular drinking hole for game such as elephant and giraffe, which you can watch from your veranda. They come furnished with large beds, wardrobes and fans, as well as en suite bathrooms with solar-heated open-air showers.

Traditional game drives are offered from Siwandu, but there’s a particular emphasis here on alternative safari experiences. Guides can take those aged 16 or over out on leisurely bush walks, where you can track animals on foot and learn about flora and fauna you might otherwise overlook. There’s also the option to take boat trips along the river or out on the lake, where you might come face to face with a hippo, see basking crocodiles, spot malachite kingfishers sitting on low-hanging branches or watch weavers making nests in the banks.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Bordering the south of the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to the world’s largest unflooded caldera. Created when a huge volcano erupted and collapsed in on itself around 300 million years ago, the Ngorongoro Crater has a total area of 260 sq km (100 sq miles) and is 600 m (2,000 ft) deep. Its steep, rainforest-covered walls create a bowl-like sanctuary for more than 25,000 large animals, including lion, black rhino, Cape buffalo, hyena and hippo.

Set on the crater’s rim looking out over this vast natural wonder, the opulent Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is divided into three separate camps — North, South and Tree Camp — with a total of 30 rooms housed in individual thatched huts. Each camp has its own communal lodge with living and dining areas, adorned with chandeliers handmade by the Maasai, antique furniture and bronze statues. After your three-course meal, join other guests around the open fire pit to take in the star-studded sky.

The spacious rooms each feature a living room with open log fire, a king-sized bed, and an en suite bathroom. Silks, velvets and dark woods create a sense of luxury, yet step outside onto your private veranda and, using a good pair of binoculars, you can pick out individual animals living in the crater below.

For a closer look, join a game drive into the crater. Staying here means you can arrive before anyone else, with the journey taking just 20 minutes. Look out for predators on the prowl before the day heats up, or watch lion snoozing in the afternoon sun.

You can also explore the crater on foot with an experienced guide, who’ll show you how to track rhino and point out the many bird species. Visit during the green season (December to April) and you’re likely to see thousands of flamingos congregating around Lake Magadi, forming a vivid sea of pink.

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Short stay: Lantern & Larks glamping at Exton Park, Rutland, UK

On a large country estate in England’s smallest county lies a wonderfully secluded Lantern & Larks glamping site. On arrival, we were warmly greeted by June who showed us to our ‘tent’ located in a peaceful walled garden on the Exton Park estate. There’s no electricity, no WiFi and no mobile signal. To some this might sound terrifying, but I would urge you to give it a try and enjoy every moment of the experience.

No cars are permitted in the garden, so we transferred our luggage using the wheelbarrows provided.

These can also be used for collecting a free supply of logs for your woodburner and outdoor barbecue.

The walled garden must be a few acres in size and yet there are only six tents within this wide open space. The upshot of this is that everyone glamping here has their own privacy and space.

At the time of our visit, the grass has reached quite a height, further adding to guests’ privacy, with strategically-mowed pathways to allow easy access to each tent.

We stayed in a tent called Osprey – the furthest from the entrance to the garden, but also the nearest to the lake at the bottom of the garden, and arguably the most secluded of the six.

It overlooks the alke…

…where a couple of swans and their cygnets can be seen nesting or peacefully swimming around.

The accommodation had everything we needed. It was more like being in a self-catering cottage than being under canvas, complete with its own living space…

…dining area and kitchen.

Like all the other “tents” in the garden, Osprey sleeps up to 6 people in three bedrooms. The master bedroom has a king size bed.

There is also a twin-bedded room…

…and a room with a bunk bed.

Unlike camping, there’s no going outside to find a toilet or shower. Instead, with glamping at Exton Park, you have your own shower and toilet within your accommodation.

So there’s no getting up in the middle of the night, scrambling your way through the darkness outside in order to find a toilet block.

And there’s no cooking on a tiny camping stove, struggling in whatever weather you’re faced with at the time.

The property has its own woodburner which doubles up as an oven, and can even be used as a hob.

If the elements are in your favour, there’s an outdoor barbecue for each tent.

A great opportunity for the children to have fun with marshmallows!

The immediate outdoor space includes a decked area with deckchairs, and a separate picnic table.

Without electricity, WiFi and the usual trappings that we become all too accustomed to, glamping at Exton Park gives you an opportunity to look up from your screens, relax a little, and be at one with the outdoors. It’s a chance to focus on those little things that we all too often just don’t pay attention to, and share quality time with friends or family.

You don’t need to go far if you’ve forgotten something either (so no driving off-site just to grab a moment’s mobile signal!). A potting shed on the edge of the walled garden has been ideally converted into an honesty shop.

There you’ll find rechargeable lanterns which you can borrow, and a whole range of items that you can purchase – from provisions to kindling. There’s even a freezer where you can borrow frozen ‘hot water’ bottles to help keep your usual refrigerated items cool.

Should you wish to go off-site, you are very close to Rutland Water which happened to be the reason for our visit since our children were sailing there.

You can take a cruise on the lake, visit an aqua park or check out Bugtopia the Zoo, all of which are within a 10-minute drive.

A little further afield you have Grimsthorpe Castle Park & Gardens, Burghley House and the National Trust’s Woolsthorpe Manor but my advice would be to spend the majority of your time at the glamping site to truly enjoy the experience and solitude that comes with staying there. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Disclosure: Our stay was courtesy of Lantern & Larks.

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10 of the best star bed experiences in Africa


It’s time to experience the wilderness at its most exciting: laid bare beneath a canopy of stars. Whether you are out on safari in the plains, the delta, or the desert, nothing beats sleeping outside. You’ll be surrounded by the noises of nocturnal animals, and otherwise the world around you is completely still.

Star beds are designed so you can make the most of the great outdoors, whilst still being safe and comfortable. They vary from tensioned hammocks to four poster beds on wheels, covered by a mosquito net. A candle or lantern will provide your nightlight, and when you turn it out and lie back, every single star in the sky shines unforgettably bright.

Having travelled the length of Africa to seek out the most exceptional star bed experiences in the continent. Here are our favourite 10:

Samara Private Reserve, South Africa

The Samara Private Reserve covers 70,000 ha of malaria-free land in South Africa’s Great Karoo, home to Samara Karoo Lodge.

The star bed here is set atop a wooden platform, and you and your loved one will sleep in a bespoke four poster bed. You’ll arrive at dusk for a picnic dinner and drinks, and to watch the animals descend to the Milk River to drink. As night falls, you’ll be left alone to gaze at the stars (identifying them with the help of a selection of star books), then fall asleep, warm beneath the softest of mohair blankets.

Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa

Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve. Visitors can see black maned lion, desert black rhino, cheetah, wild dog, and playful meerkat. The lodge’s sleep-out deck, Malori, means “dreamer” in the local language. It’s thatched design is inspired by a weaver’s nest, and the partial roof will protect you from inclement weather. The bed rolls forwards into the open, however, so you can choose to look out at the stars, or to lie directly beneath them, as the feeling takes you. This is the epitome of barefoot luxury.

Sanctuary Baines Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Sanctuary Baines Camp is one of the smallest and most exclusive camps in the Okavango Delta, with only five suites, surrounded by papyrus beds. Each of the suites has a private deck, and your four poster bed can be wheeled outside for a night beneath the stars, cooled by the natural breeze. For an added treat, you can also bathe outside as there’s also a star bath on the deck. Lie and soak in the bubbles, lit only by lanterns, and listen to the rustling and roaring of the nocturnal creatures a stone’s through away in the trees.

Ruckomechi Camp, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Ruckomechi Camp at Mana Pools is known as the elephants’ favourite camp as they come right into the camp to eat pods from the albida trees. The star bed here is situated close to a well-frequented waterhole, and so in the morning you’ll be in for an early start. The birds will start singing at dawn in the surrounding acacia and mahogany trees, and once they’re awake, the elephant and other animals will quickly follow. Enjoy breakfast in bed soaking up the wonders of the Rift Valley, as the elephant serenade you with the sounds of the morning ablutions.

Abu Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Magnificent and wild, Abu Camp is within a pristine ecosystem. By day you’re encouraged to join the elephant herd, walking amongst them and learning about their behaviour. It’s an unforgettable experience. The night is no less exciting, however, as you can opt to leave your elegantly furnished safari tent behind to bathe and sleep beneath the stars. You’ll have a free-standing copper bathtub out on the deck, lit by lanterns and candelabra. It’s a place of absolutely peace where you’ll want to meditate, pray, or simply count the stars before drifting off into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills, Kenya

Ol Donyo Lodge neighbours Kenya’s Chyulu Hills National Park in a 275,000 acre reserve owned by the Maasai people. Mount Kilimanjaro looms on the horizon, and giant elephant still roam freely. The haunting call of the leopard cuts through the otherwise still night time air. Each room at the lodge has its own roof terrace, and it’s here that you can sleep out in style. Safe, private, and unbelievably beautiful, you might well find yourself wanting to sleep up here every night of your stay.

Loisaba Star Beds, Kenya

The Loisabia Conservancy is in the Laikipia region of Kenya, and it’s a place abundant with wildlife. It sits on the edge of Kenya’s most important elephant movement corridor, and as these are community-owned lands, you’ll also see local pasturalists moving through with their livestock flocks. The Loisaba Starbeds overlook the Kiboko Watehole, home to a family of hippo. Your gracious hosts here are Samburu and Laikipia Maasai Warriors. They lay on huge four poster beds, handcrafted and set upon raised wooden platforms. The accompanying bathrooms are equipped with beautiful brass fittings and running water, so all your creature comforts are there.

Nkwichi Lodge, Lake Malawi, Mozambique

David Livingston called Lake Malawi ‘The Lake of Stars’, so surely there can be no better place for stargazing. Nkwichi Lodge is a luxurious beach lodge, a leader in sustainable tourism, and, if we’re honest, it’s a little slice of paradise. Guests stay in intimate chalets and houses along one of Nkwichi’s eight private beaches. If you opt for the star bed, however, you’ll have a beach to yourself, or even your very own island! Beds can be set right on the lake shore, where the lapping of the waves on the sand will be your lullaby.

Wolwedans, Namibia

Wolwedans is a desert retreat in Namibia’s NabibRand Reserve. The desert camps have the breathtaking desert scenery as their backdrop. It’s a pristine, wild environment where you can see oryx and springbok, jackal, aardwolf, and 170 species of birds. Opt for the vast Mountain View Suite if you want to sleep out one night in the desert. Possible only in summer (otherwise it’d be too cold), the star bed is outside on your private verandah. You therefore have the majesty of the star filled sky before you, and the comforts of your suite just behind.

Kapama, South Luangwa, Zambia

Known as Africa’s Eden, the Kapama Private Game Reserve covers 13,000 ha of savannah and riverine forest. The peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains line the horizon. The Big Five are all found in the reserve, and so too are 40 other species of mammals. The Kapama star bed is wonderfully romantic. Your personal chef will serve you a five-course dinner in the wilderness, and you’ll dine in a ring of lantern light. You’ll then be left alone with only the star studded sky for company, the place entirely your own until dawn.

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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Luxury travel treats: DJI Mavic Pro drone, MiVue safety camera and more…


In this weeks edition of ‘luxury travel treats’, we have two fabulous gadgets in the form of arguably the best and most easily portable drone ever and one really useful – and easy-to-use car accessory.  Also included is ideal luggage for the watersports enthusiast and the perfect family tent for those occasional weekends in the outdoors.

DJI Mavic Pro

Portable yet powerful, the DJI Mavic Pro is your personal drone, ready to go with you everywhere. Despite its small size, it is incredibly powerful, helping you make every moment an aerial moment. In fact, its compact size hides a high degree of complexity that makes it one of DJI’s most sophisticated flying cameras ever, with 24 high-performance computing cores and an all-new transmission system with a range of up to 7 kilometres. It’s also equipped with 5 vision sensors and a 4K camera stabilized by a 3-axis mechanical gimbal.

DJI Mavic Pro

MiVue™ 688 from Mio™

The MiVue from Mio is your personal eyewitness on the road, with integrated GPS, lifetime safety camera alerts and a high quality Sony optic sensor for a superior view. With the new, stylish and lightweight MiVue 688 you’ll always have crisp clear proof of what really happened on the road. For your convenience, the dash cam will start recording when you start your car. The Full HD 1080 pixel camera records your journey, functioning as your personal eyewitness on the road. And thanks to the integrated Sony optic sensor, you’ll benefit from for optimal view and superior quality, especially in low light conditions. So, in case of an accident, you’ll always have clear recordings of what happened, but it’s also useful for simply keeping a record of where you’ve been and what you saw along the way.


Explorer Trolley from Helly Hansen

This duffel trolley from Helly Hansen features a waterproof fabric, making it the perfect luggage piece for many watersports enthusiasts. It also comes with hard-wearing, low-friction wheels, an extendable handle, compression straps, a name tag holder and internal pockets. It measures 57 cm long by 35 cm wide x 26cm deep.

HH Explorer Trolley

Rocky Mountain 5 Plus tent from Coleman

I know camping isn’t everyone’s idea of luxury but experiencing the outdoors can, in my opinion, be a luxury in itself, and the Rocky Mountain 5 Plus is a spacious, easy to pitch, family tunnel tent, offering you a comfortable home-from-home in the great outdoors. Featuring Coleman‘s revolutionary BlackOut Bedrooms, with 99% of daylight being blocked out from the bedroom you will be sure to get a great night’s sleep and not wake with the first light. The large living area is spacious enough to take a family table and chairs, it also features large PVC windows with covers, offering the ultimate balance of light and privacy. For easy access and exit the tent has an ingenious full-height door with a drop-down section providing a totally flat entrance, perfect for buggies, wheelchairs and to prevent family members from tripping on entry and exit. The impressive 4500mm hydrostatic head rating on the flysheet combined with the strong and waterproof PE groundsheet will ensure that you stay dry, whatever the weather, and the porch over the door gives shelter while you unzip your tent door.

Coleman tent

If you have a product you’d like to see featured in the ‘Luxury travel treats’ series on A Luxury Travel Blog, please contact us.

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