The thought of going on safari often invokes rugged accommodation and a penchant for dangerous adventure. Think Hemingway’s tales of hunting and sleeping under the stars. But going on safari doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort. These luxury safaris provide rooms nicer than most city-center hotels, with much better views. Whirlpools, champagne, and helipads pair perfectly with starlit nights and cheetah sightings. You’ll get intimate views of wildlife with personal guides in a serene setting.
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9 Cottars 1920s Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya
Nestled on the outskirts of the Masai Mara, Cottars 1920s Camp was actually established in the 1990s, but is decorated with beautiful antiques reminiscent of a more vintage era. The camp’s 10 tents, sprawled across the 6,000 acre private conservancy, all have in suite bathrooms and private fireplaces. Cottar’s guides are experts on the bush, and will ensure your safety while also showing you an incredible amount of wildlife. A gorgeous pool and spa area are perfect for relaxing after a day in the sun, and the fine dining tent serves rejuvenating cocktails and elegant dinners. For an Out of Africa experience, look no further.
8 Birds of Paradise, Shompole, Kenya
This private conservation near the border of Tanzania is a haven for bird lovers. Situated on Lake Natron, one of the only remaining flamingo-breeding habitats in the world, it is the best place in Africa to gaze on these and other birds. The lodge contains six bedrooms, and there are two private houses as well, all with staggeringly beautiful views of the volcanic hills of the Great Rift Valley. The eco-resort provides a luxury experience, while also giving back to the local community.
7 Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania
The only permanent lodge within this national park, Lake Manyara blends luxury with childhood fantasies. Guests stay in stilted tree houses, resting in ancient mahogany trees. These are nothing like your childhood treehouses though. Instead, these magnificent perches come with massive bathtubs, plush furniture, and dramatic views. You’ll be welcomed back after a day outdoors with cold towels and gin and tonics, and your bath is sprinkled nightly with rose petals. The nearby Maji Moto hot springs make it a truly romantic safari destination.
6 Four Seasons Safari Lodge, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Four Seasons brings its grandeur to the outback, complete with 77 rooms, 12 suites with plunge pools, and five villas. You’ll get all the luxury of a Four Seasons stay, with the beauty of Serengeti National Park out your window. Your concierge will organize personalized safari services, but if you can’t bear to leave the comfort of your room, you can always watch the wildlife from the hotel’s most popular television channel – a live stream of a local watering hole. Relax at the spa, gaze out at flamingos and giraffes from the infinity pool, and dine in the gourmet restaurant.
5 Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Retreat, Western Cape, South Africa
At Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Retreat, you’re the star. Guests get a personal chef, a private pool, private library, and personal ranger to show you around the reserve. If you’re not satisfied with your own pool, head to the spa for an even larger swimming area, health bar, gym, and crystal steam room. Wildlife highlights include the Cape Mountain Zebra, which is endangered, and an array of birds. The gardens are spectacular, and the staff do everything they can to make sure you feel as though you’re in paradise. The only bad thing about Bushmans Kloof is that you can’t stay forever.
4 Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
Would you expect anything less than complete opulence from Nicky Oppenheimer, chief of De Beers diamonds? Tswalu Kalahari is modeled after a traditional Tswana village, and conservation is a top priority. The park’s vision is ‘to restore the Kalahari to itself,’ so 30 guests are allowed on the reserve at a time, making it feel like you're alone on the 100,000 hectares. Yet, for being modeled after a village, the accommodations are much higher-end. Guests are housed in beautiful, enormous tents with fireplaces and private decks, and are paired with their own ranger.
3 Khwai River Lodge, Moremi Wildlife Reserve, Botswana
Belmond is known around the world as the go-to company for indulgence in travel, and their Khwai River Lodge is no exception. Each luxury wooden tent comes with a large deck, complete with a heated splash pool and panoramic views. The Victorian bathroom with copper details takes you back to a more refined era, and the traditional dinners are delicious. Moremi Reserve is also the first wildlife area that wasn’t set apart by colonial powers, but by tribal people, so you get a taste of authentic lifestyle, while still living in luxury. Animals move freely, making Khwai River Lodge a wildlife haven and a perfect place to witness seasonal migration. It even has its own airstrip, should flying into the nearest city be too exhausting.
2 Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Zimbabwe
The Victoria Falls Rain Forest is teeming with elephants, impalas, and kudu, and its baobab trees, endless lilies, and acacia are unbelievably lovely. The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge sits in the center of it all, providing a quiet respite from your African adventure. The rooms are brightly colored, all with local fabrics, and the balconies provide views of the Zambezi National Park. Guests can dine on local and international dishes, while gazing over the watering hole and watching traditional dance performances. Victoria Falls Safaria Lodge has consistently been voted the best safari lodge in Zimbabwe by a number of publications, and currently holds a spot on Conde Nast’s Gold List.
1 Sabyino Silverback Lodge, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
For those more interested in gorillas than big cats, Rwanda is the place to be. Tourism has been slow in the country since the 1994 genocide, but is slowly picking up, and the untouched countryside has plenty to offer. Settled into the slopes of Sabyinyo, one the park’s inactive volcanoes, the Silverback Lodge provides high-end lodging in an area of refuge for the endangered mountain gorilla. The luxury lodge’s attentive staff, excellent dining, and deluxe rooms are matched by the lush views of volcanic hills. Gorilla experts take guests on hikes through the hills, where gorilla sightings, an intimate experience that can't be matched in a zoo, are guaranteed.
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