Lodge, camp, tent, hut – rustic & basic? Where a tent has more in common with a marquee, a lodge with a fashionable club, and a camp with Park Lane, let us dismiss any link at all between luxury safari and jamboree.
We’re casting a judgemental eye over the safari retreats that brand themselves as luxury, let’s see exactly what they have to offer.
Sabi Sands Private Game Reserves near Kruger National Park
This famous South African reserve sits adjacent to the flagship Kruger National Park. It has earned its A-list safari status by offering unparalleled game-viewing possibilities that include the Big-5 combined with exclusive lodges and camps. Commonplace in these uber-luxurious accommodations are bespoke treehouses, private outdoor pools on decks overlooking watering-holes, floor-to-ceiling glass doors, outdoor soaking tubs, steam rooms, romantic hammocks and canopied 4-poster beds. Your lodge is likely to have a gym, spa and plush lounge with fireplace; activities on offer may include clay pigeon shooting, hot-air ballooning, helicopter tours and golf. With most of your catering onsite, you’ll be reassured to learn that cuisine is safari-fine-dining with selections from wine cellars that may well harbour limited single vineyard and exclusive release vintages – recognised by Diner’s Club. Your safari experience need not be devoid of refinement, plushness or five-star service, on the contrary these top lodges of privilege are elite residences with intimate attention that deliver the most indulgent of experiences! Take a look at The Sir Richard Branson-owned Ulusaba Safari Lodge, Singita Boulders Lodge, Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, Lion Sands River Lodge, Leopard Hills Lodge and Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge.
Following the Great Migration in Botswana
This spectacle draws serious wildlife enthusiasts like pilgrims to a shrine; you will want to witness this marvel at least once in your life. But in reality, having seen it once, you will arrive home, pinch yourself and return to check it was not a dream! The sheer numbers of animals travelling en-masse, their hooves collectively pounding the earth sending vibrations up through the soles of your feet cannot be captured on film or in words. This ‘event’ actually lasts for ten months of the year, beginning and ending in the Masai Mara in November. You will be able to catch it at several hotspots along the way, in the Serengeti National Park.
At &Beyond Chobe under Canvas, accommodation is often in semi-permanent camps but let us paint a better picture of this for you – a mobile safari tent in its own little plot of land, deck to the front, ensuite bathroom to the rear with hot water delivered on request. Your dining table will be in the open, candle-lit, with crisp white table-cloths, napkins and crystal glasses- not your average pitch and peg!
&Beyond luxury tents by the river at Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp come complete with deep soaking bathtubs, indoor and outdoor showers and private plunge pools, afternoon tea is particularly tempting here and perfectly timed between boat safaris down the river.
With only five luxury villas, Sanctuary Baines Camp neighbours the Moremi Game Reserve and sits on platforms above the Boro River. You will sleep in a 4-poster bed with your own private viewing deck and outdoor soaking tub from where you have every chance of spotting elephant and hippo. The camp is popular for its exclusivity and interaction with semi-habituated elephants – Jabu, Thembi and Morula – join them for a picnic!
In an enviable riverside location on Chief’s Island in the Moremi Game Reserve, Sanctuary Chief’s Camp features traditional bush pavilions with both indoor and outdoor showers and a private viewing deck overlooking the Okavango Delta floodplains. There is a relaxing spa here along with a delightful swimming pool and sundeck, shop and well-stocked library – semi-open with polished wooden floors and plush sofa seating. The ambience here is transformed by night with sensual lighting to accompany the shrill night sounds of the bush. This romantic, personal camp will calmly take you down waterways in Mokoros (dugout canoes), pointing out hippos, crocodiles and antelope as you go.
Yala National Park Sri Lanka - Chena Huts
The epitome of rustic luxury with the emphasis heavily on luxury side. This exclusive enclave of just 14 standalone ‘cabins’ with private pools stands on the beachfront, pretty much adjacent to the Yala National Park. Your large deck, shaded by overhanging thatch from your hut’s roof, provides you with relaxation space, a rural outlook and a refreshing private plunge pool. Surrounded by unblemished, wilderness, Chena Huts by Uga is just steps from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean’s striking, ruddy-boulder-dotted beach. Ruhuna National Park, or Yala as it is widely known, boasts 44 different resident mammal species and one of the highest leopard population densities in the world; this is in addition to over 215 resident and migrant species of birds. A massive draw to visitors is the proximity to the ocean giving you a refreshing blend of safari and beach – however with dolphin and whale-watching trips off the coast, you may find it hard to simply close your eyes!
If your idea of safari perfection is an area with transient camps or permanent lodges, we believe there are magical places that manage to bring thorough and thoughtful luxury to the table.