Intrigued about the the best safaris in South Africa? There’s something about the classic romance of sleeping under the stars combined with the thrill of seeing exotic wildlife that makes a safari stay one of the most unique holidays you’ll ever have.
A top contender on almost everyone’s bucket list – treetop lodges! elephants! – some of the best safari lodges are in South Africa. We’ve scoured the region for the most luxurious safari stays in Sabi Sands, Kruger National Park and beyond. Here’s the lodges you’ll never want to leave…
Best safaris in South Africa 2019
You’ll find this between the Hoedspruit and Acornhoek on the western edge of Kruger National Park. You’ll get to see some amazing big game here, but you’ll also be doing it in serious luxury. Each suite has an ensuite bedroom, private sitting room and game viewing deck with private plunge pool, with some overlooking a well-used watering hole.
Tough competition, but hands down the best safari lodge in South Africa.
Here, everything is included – from your champagne of choice stocked in the maxibar to unique dining under the stars. Guests staying at Ivory Lodge can also spend a night or two in a luxury treehouse.
The Kingston Treehouse is built on boulders, across a small drawbridge, with lanterns to light the way. The pictures speak for themselves…
The perfect place to come with a family or small group of friends if you’re experiencing a safari for the first time. Each of the glass-wrapped villas has its own outside deck area, a full-sized heated pool and loungers, and the larger camp size at River Lodge makes it extra lively.
Londolozi is situated on the Sand River, in the heart of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve within the famous Greater Kruger National Park.
Each of the five camps here have a uniquely different vibe, yet all are beautiful. Londolozi’s Private Granite Suites feature outdoor bathtubs where you can watch elephants play in the river. A sunset river bar and sunken cocktail lounge are suspended high above the Sand River for even more views.
Rock formations frame the horizon at this unique lodge with outdoor star suites. Outside in the middle of a Nature Reserve at night, you are by no means roughing it – rooms come with with a proper queen-size bed, cozy bedding, a natural rock pool and a “star bath”!
You won’t spot big game here, but there’s antelope and ostrich and plenty of activities.
Hoyo Hoyo is one of the best places in the whole park to see elephants, with the amazing beasts even coming up to the swimming pool to try sip a sneaky drink. Suites are designed in traditional Tsonga style and have private decks looking out over the bush.
A high-end safari lodge that is simply picture perfect.
Lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and black rhino make up Africa’s Big 5, and you can spot all of these majestic animals on a safari with Royal Malewane. There’s a luxury spa with Dermologica treatments and courtyard pool.
As well as suites, a private villa comes with a chef, housekeeper, butler, private safari vehicle, ranger and tracker.
Ulusaba is Sir Richard Branson’s private game reserve in South Africa and it has the best view of all lodges in Sabi Sand – it’s perched high on a hilltop. Stay at the Rock Lodge or the Safari Lodge, which has cross swing bridges between the lovely tree house style rooms.
When not out exploring the bush, you can relax a little at the swimming pool, the spa or discover the wine cellar.
Ngala Safari Lodge is on a Big Five private game reserve that shares unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park. The sparkling pool is often visited by elephants while the lodge’s boma creates a dramatic setting for fire-lit dinners.
Guests also have a complimentary pair of Swarovski Optik binoculars to use during their stay – fancy.
Sabi Sabi’s award winning luxury game lodge has a historic railway theme with outdoor bathtubs and a draped four-poster bed looking out onto your private terrace which has a private plunge pool.
Spot the Big 5 on an open top safari ride to follow the animals on and off-road or choose a walking safari to immerse yourself in the land.
Yet another beautiful lodge by the Singita group, their Sweni Lodge lies right beside the Sweni River, so expect close up sightings of many animals. All suites have outdoor showers that overlook the river, and outdoor day beds where you can spend a night under the stars.
Plus, there’s a huge variety of things to do here, from game safaris to community cooking classes.
Dramatically set into a cliff face overlooking spectacular Leopard Rock, suites have private plunge pools that have views of the deep valley below. Three suites also have al fresco showers in the leafy growth, so you’ll feel like you’re bathing in your own private waterfall.
Keep busy during the day with Game Safaris, Zulu village tours; Night turtle drives (seasonal); Scuba and Ocean Safaris; Black rhino tracking on foot or Bush Walks.
Can you imagine sipping tea on the veranda of a stately colonial manor house while watching a herd of elephants stroll by? Gorah is the only camp in the middle of the famous Addo Elephant National Park, home to the densest population of elephants on earth.
The 11 tented suites are luxurious and spacious, with vibes of the golden era of safari in the early 1900s.
Highlights of this lodge include a roof terrace and wine studio (a multi-level retreat which boasts a library, multi-media room, wine studio and rooftop viewing area), an interactive kitchen, an espresso bar and help-yourself deli, and a 25-metre lap pool.
The private villa at the lodge has its own boma and is fully staffed; ideal for a group of friends or family.
26 rooms are split across five very individual and distinct safari lodges and villas on this private reserve of 22,000 hectares of pristine wilderness, giving it one of the highest land to guest ratios in South Africa.
Stay in an elegant fishing lodge, modern villa or historical farmhouse. All are utterly beautiful.
Owner-managed and run, this is an intimate safari lodge where the smallest details are considered. The colonial-style villas are outstanding. Each one has open fireplaces, individual rim-flow pools and salas, expansive wooden decks and private outdoor showers.
The lounge lap pool looks out over the reserve’s private watering hole.
Mala Mala is one of the largest private Big 5 game reserves in South Africa and was the first game reserve to change from hunting safaris to photographic safaris. Rattray’s camp has a library containing rare African books and magnificent works of art.
The rangers are experts in conservation and you’ll even get to enjoy a G&T sundowner while out in the Land Rover. Bliss.
Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, with over 110,000 hectares of grasslands and mountains. The Motse camp has just reopened after a renovation and is better than ever.
Rooms are built of desert sand, local stone, rich red clay and traditional Kalahari thatch. There’s also a heated swimming pool and a walk-in wine cellar stocked with fine South African wines.
Garonga Safari Camp and Little Garonga are luxury camps, with beautiful rooms that have huge draped beds, indoor and outdoor showers, and a hammock. There’s also the “Sleep Out”, a viewing deck with a four-poster bed where you can have dinner under the stars, and spend the night alone in the bush.
Rhino Sands offers a fantastic bespoke safari stay; with a maximum of only eight guests in camp at any time. Each of the tent suites are in a private patch of forest, with a stunning view of the river below where animals drink.
Not only is it super stylish, the lodge is also eco-friendly and runs off solar energy. You’ll also enjoy the biodynamic wines and seasonal menus.
Makakatana Bay Lodge is the only private lodge within this UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the few natural wonders left on earth. As well a big game spotting, you can watch rhino as you cruise along the lake or take a beach safari to the Indian Ocean.
The main lodge has a wonderful collection of private art and a bush pool on the edge of the lake.
These luxury safari tents are perched high on thatched platforms at “tree top” level and are joined by raised walkways. Tree Tops Safari Lodge also has a large lounge and open-air dining deck with a view over a small waterhole.
This is a sole-use safari villa for families or groups that’s the ultimate private safari getaway. The lodge comes with swimming pool, a dedicated ranger and tracker team, as well as a private safari vehicle and your own chef.
You can also have in-room massage treatments and fully customise your safari schedule to get the most out of your stay. You won’t want to leave.
Privately owned and with a passion for conservation, this boutique lodge has views over the Milk River Valley and Sneeuberg Mountain Range. It’s a real oasis in the countryside, with four-poster beds and lots to do.
You can stay in three historic and beautifully restored Cape Dutch houses or two luxurious safari tents. Each manor has its own swimming pool and fireside dining.
As part of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux collection, there’s three private houses to choose from here. Each villa operates on exclusive use only, so this means no other guests, private safaris, personal staff and complete freedom.
The romantic River House has an infinity pool and an al fresco dining garden – making this bush home a true haven. You can also enjoy bush breakfasts, pizza picnics, candle-lit dinners, and riverside barbeques.