The days of a luxury vacation being restricted to 5-star hotels in bustling metropolises are long past, as are authentic safari holidays to Africa merely translating to mosquito-ridden campsites and uncomfortable sleeping bags. Out in the middle of the bushveld and in the far reaches of Africa's savannah, if you thought that an authentic safari meant roughing it, think again. Authentic destination safaris and luxury are two terms becoming synonymous with one another.
Award-winning South African travel company, Rhino Africa Safaris, gives readers an inside look at their ten favorite luxury lodges promising an authentic destination safari to the continent that doesn’t skimp on 5-star amenities.
Londolozi Private Granite Suites, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, South Africa
This is Londolozi’s private little hideaway, offering space, light, and peace. The private granite suites open out onto decks boasting private plunge pools and overlooking the Sand River. The level of luxury and exclusivity found here defies the very notion of a safari lodge, unsurprising considering its affiliation with Relais & Châteaux and its membership in an already remarkable portfolio of safari accommodation. Not to mention its decidedly beguiling location in a Big 5 reserve that is also known for its prolific leopard sightings.
The Royal Livingstone Hotel, Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zambia
Positioned on the banks of the Zambezi River, a stone’s throw from Victoria Falls, The Royal Livingstone Hotel offers pure unadulterated romance and an experience reminiscent of a bygone era. Named after the intrepid explorer, Dr David Livingstone, the hotel’s rooms are tastefully decorated and pay tribute to its heritage with Victorian accents throughout. The dining room plates up dishes that are a combination of old-world savoir-faire and contemporary palates while traditional high teas take place daily.
Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa
Embracing one of the largest waterholes in the northern Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge aims to astonish and delight with Afro-chic decor, delicate fusion cuisine and world-class Big-5 game-viewing. A sensory delight in every respect, daily activities include Big 5 encounters while traversing an area of 5,500ha to acquaint guests with the denizens of the African bush. With only seven suites, each boasting a private deck and plunge pool overlooking the waterhole, an intimate and personal experience is guaranteed.
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
Located right on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, with magnificent views over the wildlife-speckled caldera, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge could not enjoy a better setting. Not to be outdone by the striking scenery, the lodge boasts architecture as remarkable as its location with a structural style conjuring up images of a traditional Maasai mud-and-stick homestead and an interior evoking an elegant baroque chateau. Descend into the crater on safari and end it off with a lavish crater-floor banquet before retreating back to the lodge and your spacious suite.
Singita Boulders Lodge, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Raise a glass to Africa’s best bush cellar: Singita Boulders Lodge is a masterpiece built amongst the rocky geometry of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Singita is known for its unprecedented level of excellence, from the game-viewing experiences of the Sabi Sand Private Reserve to its carefully blended contemporary African design. The lodge’s suites are glass-fronted with spectacular views of the Sand River and a private plunge pool adorning each wooden deck overlooking the riverbed. Visitors are welcome to their own little piece of Africa.
Vumbura Plains Camp, Moremi Region, Botswana
On a private concession in the northern reaches of the Okavango Delta, this biodiverse wildlife hotspot will feel all your own. The camp’s suites sit on raised platforms beneath a dense canopy of indigenous trees while its decor is light and airy with a Scandinavian touch. Take to the water on the silent glide of a traditional mokoro or on a nippy Delta boat for spectacular scenery, bird-watching and game-viewing. Expect a serene and intimate encounter in this fascinating pocket of Africa.
Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa
Built on the banks of the Sabie River with magnificent views of this perennial waterway, Lion Sands Ivory Lodge has been family-owned-and-run since 1933. ‘Luxurious’ just doesn’t cut it when describing the glass-fronted suites dotted along the river, each one of them with sweeping views of the bush and beyond. The river running through Lion Sands attracts herds of wildlife to its banks – particularly Africa’s majestic Big 5. Couple this natural abundance with the vast knowledge of the lodge's senior ecologists, rangers, and trackers,and you start to understand why Lion Sands is considered one of the ultimate safari experiences within the Greater Kruger Area.
Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namib Desert, Namibia
With the surrounding desert stretching out towards the infinite mirror-like horizon, &Beyond’s Sossusvlei Desert Lodge offers a special kind of getaway. Forget about the world beyond the vast expanses of sand and enjoy exciting scenic desert drives, nature walks, star-gazing, or simply relaxing in the comfort of your stone and glass villa. Spend days on quad-biking excursions and hot-air balloon rides, and your evenings enjoying unparalleled insight into the constellations above with the resident astronomer of the lodge’s observatory.
Singita Pamushana Lodge, Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Zimbabwe
A rare find, Singita Pamushana Lodge seamlessly combines its phenomenal location and eco-conscious ethos. Set beneath a canopy of trees, the lodge has a magical ambience, with mesmerising views of the valley and lake in Malilangwe - a reserve abuzz with birds and wildlife. Made up of luxury suites for couples and families, along with a 5-bedroom Villa, first-class amenities are found throughout while décor consists of vibrant colours and traditional Zimbabwean furniture paying homage to the Shangaan people.
Chobe Game Lodge, Chobe National Park, Botswana
While the main draw cards at Chobe Game Lodge may be its position on the banks of the Chobe River and its accolade as the only permanent accommodation inside Chobe National Park, it's real appeal lies in the combination of its location and its offerings. An elevated boardwalk showcasing the river, surrounding islands and floodplains connects the lodge’s rooms filled with original African carvings and handcrafted Rhodesian-teak furniture.
Written by Melanie Du Toit
Read more posts by Melanie Du Toit