The Best Luxury Safari Lodges in Africa
Published on: September 5th, 2017
Last modified: July 27th, 2023
Long gone are the days when a safari had to mean roughing it in the wilds. If you're pointing the compass to Africa, here are our picks of the best luxury safari lodges in each region. From opulent hotels to private reserves and classic tented camps, these are our experts' ultimate favourite places to stay when checking off the Big Five and more.
Tswalu offers a totally different style of safari in South Africa, located in the largest private reserve in the country. The Kalahari Desert provides a burnt-orange, vast setting for some of Africa’s rarest wildlife. Following wild dogs on a hunt was a particularly memorable experience for our travel designers, who drove alongside them as they chased down their prey.
Staying at Tswalu feels like being in a David Attenborough documentary. You can track the great, black-maned Kalahari lions or the elusive pangolin, and spend time with the habituated meerkat colonies. The reserve is also naturally malaria free, making it a great place to travel with children.
They have a huge selection of South African wine to go with the perfect food that comes from kitchen that also houses the Singita Chef school. It’s remote, the landscape is wild, and the guides are brilliant. What more can we say?
Tengile River Lodge
Tengile River Lodge sits in the legendary grounds of The Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Nine secluded suites, each with panoramic views, a lounge, dining area, bar, large deck and pool – all this right on the banks of the Sand River.
While sustainable safari camps and lodges are nothing new in the region, Tengile goes above and beyond. It is not only built using environmentally friendly materials but solar power systems have also been installed to cut down on the amount of electricity used.
Paying tribute to the splendour of its setting, the lodge is designed to ensure guests can take in magnificent river views from every corner. Each suite comes with a spectacular private deck to base yourself and observe the iconic wildlife of the region from the very moment you wake up. Later during the day, you can pick a spot at one of the multiple sitting areas around the lodge and see herds of elephants congregate in the riverbed across the landscape.
And when you’re not out exploring the surroundings, birdwatching or yet on another safari game drive, there’s the spa to relax with a therapeutic massage – our travel designers call it ‘a sublime way to end the day’.
Angama Mara is a very exciting addition to the classic tented camps in Kenya, offering a high level of luxury, with lots of thoughtful extras in the rooms. The location on a hilltop overlooking the plains is breathtaking and unbeatable. Another big draw here is the spot where Meryl Streep & Robert Redford had that iconic photo taken, used to promote the film Out of Africa. Nowadays guests can enjoy a gourmet picnic in this exact location, and create their own romantic memories.
Add to this an organic garden where lunches can be enjoyed, the Maasai beading workshop (take any garment and let the Maasai ladies customise it with flair), the spa pavilion with the most well equipped gym of any lodge in Kenya, a beautiful pool with plenty of sun loungers. All of that gives you a luxurious safari resort perfect for even the most discerning guests.
If anyone understands how visitors to Africa can have a positive impact on their travels, it’s Jochen Zeitz, philanthropist and founder of the Zeitz Foundation which aims to support creative and innovative sustainable projects. At the foothills of Mount Kenya, he has established the Segera Retreat – an unusual and elegant safari stay that sits right in the heart of Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau.
Segera offers eight eco-conscious timber thatched villas and three homes, of which our favourite is the NAY PALAD Bird Nest. Like its name suggests, it resembles a bird nest – all the more wonderful for being made entirely of raw materials, including actual tree branches which have been woven into a nest by local community members.
There’s no shortage of possibilities at Segera Retreat. You’ve got splendid views of Mount Kenya right from the lodge. You’ve got hearty farm-to-table meals from the local vegetable garden. Not to mention the Rasul steam tower & Spa where their ultimate goal is to make you feel like you’re floating on a cloud.
Other possibilities include helicopter excursions to Mount Kenya, or charter a light plane for a picnic somewhere in the wild.
The Grumeti is a great addition to the Serengeti area. Situated on a hill that is close to the local communities hearts, a well-timed visit to Sasakwa will give the ultimate bird’s eye view of the passing migratory herds on the plains below.
A visit here is a perfect combination of an award-winning luxury lodge and the wild and raw experience of seeing the Great Migration. It is a perfect place to end a safari and enjoy 6-star luxury, while knowing that your stay is benefiting the local communities and wildlife.
Big on design and even bigger in views, Mombo is one that raises the bar for safari stays. It is often referred to as the ‘Mother of all camps’, thanks to its remarkable game viewing experience coupled with the service and luxury of the lodge. Plush tents equipped with a private plunge-pool and set right in the middle of the world-renowned Okavango Delta serve as perfect vantage points.
Of course, the best thing to do when in the region is an early morning game drive alongside their top-tier guides, in pursuit of Africa’s rare species, perhaps a pangolin or honey badger. In addition to traditional game drives, guests can experience cultural immersion in a ‘boma evening’ of local folk song and dance.
Mombo Camp is also a conservation leader. The camp is committed to conservation, with much of the power provided by a solar farm and a portion of your rates going towards their preservation projects.
Fresh off a complete renovation in 2017, Duba Plains is one of the best safari experiences you can have in Africa. With just five tented rooms, each with your own private butler and chef, you’ll spend your time here seeped in luxury. The game drives at Duba Plains are unforgettable, as the land is rich with diverse wildlife, and you’ll have a great chance of seeing some fascinating interactions with lions and buffalo.
Our favourite part of Duba Plains is that it sits on land leased from local communities, who receive revenue directly and make up 80% of the lodge’s staff. Plus, it works hard to leave the lightest environmental footprint they can.
Dumatau and Little Dumatau
The staggering beauty of DumaTau and nearby Little DumaTau is a clear representation of Botswana’s uniqueness. With uninterrupted views over the Osprey Lagoon, and a fantastic vantage point from which to watch the herds of elephants, both camps are perfectly located for making the most of your stay in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve. The location is a magnet for animals who often wander peacefully through the camp.
Ideal for guests on the lookout for an unspoiled stay in the wild, this is where adventure and luxury collide. Both DumaTau and Little DumaTau offer suites that are equipped with a private plunge pool mere steps from the wildlife corridors. For a much-needed injection of wellness in your stay, visit the on-site Osprey Retreat for a few hours of indulgent relaxation.
Easy access to the Linyanti floodplain as well as the Savuti Channel means countless opportunities to spot the iconic Kalahari elephants. Besides, the marshes and forests are also home to roan and sable antelopes, hippos, crocodiles, wild dogs, to list a few. Predator action is also good year round.
While day and night game drives are popular among guests, they propose a long list of activities. You can explore on nature walks or board the motorboats or the river barge (depending on water levels).
Hoanib Desert Camp
This is a camp that captures the vast space and endless horizons of Namibia perfectly. The baked earth and specially adapted fauna and flora contribute to make this camp as unique as lodges in Southern Africa can get. It is also one of the only camps with rare desert elephants as your neighbours.
If luck strikes, you may also witness the critically endangered desert lions of Namibia. To confuse the senses even more, you can traverse a few dunes and dip your toes into the icy Atlantic Ocean.
Guarded by the mighty peaks of Volcanoes National Park on one side, rural hills and Afro-alpine forests on the other – Bisate Lodge is one of Africa’s most talked-about camps. Not only because the high density of mountain gorillas to be seen at close quarters is fact, but it is also incredibly characterful in design.
Resembling giant bird nests, the lodge is designed in the traditions of Rwandan royalty. Choosing Bisate Lodge opens up a choice of six opulent en-suite Forest Villas that embody Rwanda’s rich culture. The villas are primely positioned on the edge of Volcanoes National Park on the north-western border, one of the most thrilling safari destinations in Africa.
Offerings at Bisate Lodge include visits to Dian Fossey’s research camp and grave, or you can meet the community on guided village walks, plant a tree as part of the Bisate’s reforestation project, yet perhaps tag along with the chef to the local market to buy ingredients.
One&Only Nyungwe House
In Rwanda, the utterly charming One&Only Nyungwe House is set amid the leaves of its very own tea plantation, surrounded by ancient rainforest. There are 22 elegant rooms and suites, all equipped with open fireplaces.
As you enjoy an à la carte brunch on your private deck, nearby forest views give a taste of what’s to come before you head into the mighty Nyungwe National Park. With the wide diversity of animal species in the surroundings – from chimpanzees to rare Mangabey monkeys – and the waters of Lake Kivu nearby, this is a hard-to-beat natural retreat.
For a serious reset post-exploring, you’ll find the One&Only Spa, where you can cocoon in the heart of a working tea farm and soak up the healing energy of the nearby forest. Come dinner time, mouth-watering, organic, garden-to-plate dishes are served at the communal dining space.
Magashi Camp lies in the north-eastern section of the Akagera National Park and all of its six luxury tents overlook Lake Rwanyakazinga. The stay draws attention from the scene in Rwanda with it’s intimate and relaxed atmosphere. It is the ideal spot to escape to after experiencing the bustle of Kigali or after a vigorous gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park.
Between game drives to the nearby savannahs or birdwatching walks with the knowledgeable guides, you’ll find the best spot here to be the fire pit at the communal deck (although many claim that the pool would tie for the win). When not enjoying the solitude of their airy tent, guests are invited to relax in the luxurious lounge, or enjoy a meal in the dining and bar area.
In the middle of the Malilangwe Trust and perched on top of a hill overlooking the vast expanse of Southern Zimbabwe, this lodge truly captures the spirit of Zimbabwe. Offering the highest standards of luxury and providing incredible sightings throughout the huge reserve, the experience at Pamushana is truly unique.
The colours and decor are true to the Zimbabwean spirit and reflect positivity and resilience. Pamushana also does some amazing community work with an aim to have a lasting positive impact on the local economy, mainly through education and food security programmes.
Matetsi River Lodge
Set just a little upstream from Victoria Falls on an exclusive stretch of the Zambezi River, Matetsi River Lodge is a wonderful safari lodge in a riverside private game reserve. Activities include horseback safaris, game walks, and evening sundowners on the Zambezi – all of which are must-tries.
And if you want complete privacy, you can always book the River House – an exclusive use 4-bedroomed villa with a dedicated guide, chef and butler. It’s the ultimate way to safari in style.
One of the more contemporary and deluxe lodges in South Luangwa, Chinzombo offers signature Zambian walking safaris, fabulous game drives on the private reserve, and inspiring views from the rooms. It is chic, remote and as comfortable as safari lodges can get in Southern Africa.
King Lewanika Lodge
If exclusivity is your idea of luxury, this new lodge (run entirely on solar power) is the only one in the vast Liuwa Plains National Park, which guarantees amazing safaris without the crowds. 2.5 hours from the nearest air strip, you’ll feel the remoteness of the lodge from the second you step off the plane. It’s a must-see for seasoned safari-goers looking for some off the beaten path luxury.