From Kenya to South Africa, the 10 best safari holidays in Africa as chosen by safari expert Brian Jackman
Africa changes you forever, and to go on safari is to experience the greatest outdoor adventure holiday of them all. To live for a while in the sun and the wind, looking for lions on the boundless savannahs or watching the spectacle of the wildebeest migration is all you need for the lure of the wild to take hold. The effect is almost like a madness – despite having been on almost 100 safaris I find that, even now, I can’t tear my eyes away from Africa’s vast horizons.
Discerning travellers yet to go on a safari holiday should know it is possible to do so without sacrificing an ounce of comfort, staying in luxury safari camps and lodges whose facilities are the equal of any world-class city hotel, and whose romantic locations are second to none. From South Africa to Kenya, Botswana and beyond, below are my pick of the best luxury safaris in Africa.
Best for ultimate luxury: Segera Retreats, Kenya
A true retreat if ever there was one, this sumptuous new Wilderness Safaris property is set in an idyllic 60,000-acre wildlife sanctuary on Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau with six deluxe villas all facing Mt Kenya. Although just a lion’s roar north of the equator the altitude guarantees a blissful climate, whether game driving across the savannah or sleeping out under the stars in your own private swing bed. Every Segera Retreats villa has a sundeck with an open-air Jacuzzi and the main lodge welcomes you to make the most of its spa facilities, steam bath, salt-water pool and gym. There’s a choice of three dining areas and the food is sublime, with gourmet meals conjured up using Segera’s own free-range beef and home-grown vegetables. What else to do? Admire Africa’s largest private art collection, which includes exclusive photographs by Michael Poliza; practise yoga at sunset; drive across the savannah if you wish in a convertible 1976 Rolls Royce Corniche; or take to the air like Streep and Redford in a yellow biplane – the original 1929-model Gipsy Moth featured in Out of Africa.
Scott Dunn offers seven nights all-inclusive at Segera Retreats from £7,025 per person, including flights and transfers.
Best for beach and bush: Zambia and Malawi
Africa doesn’t come any wilder than Zambia’s South Luangwa national park. This is the country’s finest big-game stronghold, renowned for its leopards, lions and elephants. Track them in style from Chinzombo, the flagship camp of Norman Carr Safaris. Set on the banks of the Luangwa River, it is the ultimate in safari-chic, designed by the same architectural team that created North Island Lodge in the Seychelles, where Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge honeymooned in 2011. Afterwards, where better to wash off the dust than in Lake Malawi? Its clear blue waters are home to 1,000 species of tropical fish. Pumulani is a luxury beach lodge owned and run by Robin Pope Safaris, with ten air-conditioned villas and a sailing dhow for sunset cruises. Local wildlife includes bushbuck, spot-necked otters and more than 300 bird species including Verreaux’s eagles
Expert Africa offers five nights at Chinzombo and four nights at Pumulani from £4,677 per person, including flights, transfers, activities and park fees.
Best for a family safari: The Ant’s Nest, South Africa
Situated on a private game reserve in the malaria-free Waterberg highlands, this gracious old colonial homestead and its six luxurious en-suite guest rooms are ideal for a family safari. The atmosphere is relaxed and homely, and children will love the heated 15m outdoor pool. Other activities include bush walks, horse riding and game drives in search of white rhinos, leopards and sable antelopes.
Safari Consultants offer seven nights full board at the Ant’s Nest, from £8,560 based on a family of four travelling together. The price includes flights.
Best for seeing big cats: Masai Mara, Kenya
Big cat enthusiasts rave about the Masai Mara national reserve and its adjoining private conservancies. Cheetahs and lions roam the plains, waiting for the migrating wildebeest, and leopards pose in its riverside fig trees. In fact, the animals are so associated with this region that the BBC chose the Mara for their Big Cat Diary TV series. Follow the prides fromMara Plains, Wilderness Safaris’ flagship camp in the Mara North Conservancy. Then, still in lion country, immerse yourself in the colonial-style splendour of Cottars 1920 Camp, whose zebra-skins and Persian rugs, silver candlesticks and cut-glass goblets create the perfect setting for fine dining in the bush.
Bailey Robinson offers a full-board Masai Mara safari staying three nights at Mara Plains and four nights at Cottar’s. Including flights, it costs from £4,675 per person.
Best for scenic setting: Singita Grumeti, Tanzania
Singita Grumeti is the classiest piece of wildlife real estate on the planet: a private 350,000-acre big game stronghold adjoining the Serengeti. At its best in June when the wildebeest migration is passing through, but sensational at all times with its classic Serengeti landscapes of flat-topped thorn trees and wide grass oceans. Divide your stay between the unashamedly palatial Singita Sasakwa Lodgeand Sabora, a Hemingway-style tented camp on the plains below.
Through Rainbow Tours, a fully inclusive safari at Singita Grumeti Reserve, with three-nights each in Singita Sasakwa Lodge and Sabora Tented Camp and business-class flights, costs from £7,575 per person.
Best for exclusivity: Serengeti mobile safari, Tanzania
[pull_quote_left]Singita Grumeti is the classiest piece of wildlife real estate on the planet: a private 350,000-acre big game stronghold adjoining the Serengeti[/pull_quote_left]
Sleeping under canvas on a mobile camping safari is the most exclusive way to enjoy life in the African bush. It also gives you the greatest flexibility to plan each day as you wish, and A&K’s mobile camps are renowned for their style and comfort. Think walk-in tents with en-suite bathrooms, hot showers, morning tea brought by your personal attendant and superb camp cuisine. For the holiday of a lifetime, combine this Serengeti sleep-out with a stay at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. Sometimes called the Masai Versailles, it is one of the most architecturally spectacular lodges in Africa with a setting to match: it stands on the rim of Ngorongoro’s lost-world caldera.
Abercrombie & Kent offers a four-night mobile safari and three nights at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, all-inclusive. It costs from £6,290 per person, including flights.
Best for adventure: Namibian heli-safari
What could be more invigorating than to spend three weeks zooming across Africa by helicopter? This is a journey that lifts off in East Africa and ends with a fortnight’s exploration of Namibia’s dramatic Skeleton Coast, from Swakopmund city and the desert landscapes of the Namib Naukluft national park to Africa’s remotest getaway – Serra Cafema camp on the Angolan border. In between you will sample some of Namibia’s most exclusive desert retreats, including three nights at Wolwedans Private Camp in the NamibRand reserve, and two nights at Little Kulala to marvel at the giant red dunes of Sossusvlei. Big game viewing in Etosha national park is also included.
[quote_box_right]At Abu’s Camp, guests can travel across this game-rich landscape on the broad back of an elephant[/quote_box_right]
Journeys by Design offers this all-inclusive helicopter safari start with prices starting from £40,606 per person in a group of four sharing one helicopter.
Best for a romantic setting: Jack’s Camp and Mombo
Jack’s Camp is Botswana at its best: an oasis of good living in a palm grove on the shimmering edges of the Makgadikgadi saltpans. “Out here,” says Ralph Bousfield, its enigmatic owner, “there is still room to breathe and count the stars.” Equally luxurious and especially popular with couples on honeymoon, is Mombo Camp, but there all similarity ends. Mombo is hidden in the lush green depths of the Okavango, among the big cats that have made it the predator capital of the Delta.
Audley offers a nine-day, fully inclusive safari to Botswana including three nights each at Jack’s Camp and Mombo from £8,295 per person sharing. The price includes guides, flights and transfers.
Best for a Big Five safari: Royal Malewane, South Africa
South Africa is renowned for its up-market safari lodges, but Royal Malewane is the leader of the pack. Set in the private Thornybush reserve within the Kruger national park it offers superlative Big Five game viewing. Elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo, lion and the elusive leopard – all are resident here. Enjoy the thrill of looking for them in state-of-the-art vehicles designed for keen photographers, accompanied by some of Africa’s top guides and trackers. As for the lodge itself, colonial decor runs riot everywhere and luxury knows no bounds. A maximum of 20 guests are pampered in air-conditioned suites with outdoor pools, thatched gazebos and canopied king-size beds.
Steppes Travel offers a nine-day fully inclusive South African safari with seven nights at Royal Malewane, from £7,595 per person including flights.
Best for a unique experience: Elephant back safari, Botswana
In the watery heart of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Abu’s Campimpresses with its clutch of just six stylishly furnished “Afro-Bedouin” guest tents and excellent cuisine but its real selling point is its unique safari: guests here can travel across this game-rich landscape on the broad back of an elephant. There is something almost spiritual about being accepted into the company of elephants. To ride with them, lounging three metres above the ground in a padded howdah, is an experience to treasure forever. I have been privileged to have stayed at Abu’s Camp on two separate occasions and it remains the most unforgettable safari I have ever done.
[pull_quote_center]The Ultimate Travel Company offers a fully inclusive week in the Okavango, combining a four-night elephant safari at Abu’s Camp with three nights’ game viewing at Vumbura Plains. It costs from £11,752 per person, including flights.[/pull_quote_center]
creadit – www.telegraph.co.uk