Did you know that safari means ‘long journey’ in Swahili? Well, you do now. A top contender on almost everyone’s bucket list – treetop lodges! elephants! – safaris in Africa are top of many a bucket list.
As for when to go? June to October is your best bet for a great safari season. And of course, you’ll want to stay somewhere just as beautiful as the scenery outdoors. Africa’s safari lodges conjure images of old-world glamour and are some of the most incredible hotels in the world.
With that in mind, we’ve narrowed it down to the very, very best safari lodges across the continent. These are the lodges that you’ll never forget.
How did Big 7 Travel choose the Top 100?
The “big seven” safari destinations in Africa are South Africa (for Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand Game Reserve), Tanzania (for Serengeti National Park and Ngorogoro Crater), Kenya (the Masai Mara), Botswana (the Okavango Delta) and Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Our round-up focuses on those most famous safari spots and some true hidden jewels.
The final list was compiled using reader feedback, user reviews, previous media coverage and contributions from our travel experts.
Best safari lodges in Africa for 2019:
This a rustic safari mountain lodge with beautiful traditional Ethiopian decor. Enjoy a champagne lunch at the high altitude lodge in between safari outings, where you will encounter leopards and hyenas.
Keep an eye out for some unique animals – it takes time to see a Simien wolf but with a little patience they can be found. Gelada (fearsome baboon!) can be seen from Simien Lodge.
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.
Stretch Ferreira Safaris is owned and run by Stretch Ferreira – a professional safari guide who has over 35 years of experience, and is known as a “living legend”. The camp is in a shaded grove on the banks of the Zambezi River, with seven East-African style tents.
Only 12 guests at a time are catered for in the camp, so you’ll get all the attention you could ever need. Plus, the entire camp is soft sand so you can walk barefoot all day if you like.
One of Namibia’s most luxurious camps, this intimate camp has only three spacious suites each with its own plunge pool, en-suite bathroom, “sala”, and outdoor shower. Views of the watering hole are amazing from the open deck.
Day and night wildlife-viewing drives, visiting hides overlooking waterholes, walks and rhino tracking with experienced guides can all be enjoyed.
This utterly charming camp is in the heart of an excellent game viewing area, with night drives in open 4×4 vehicles and bush walks just some of the great activities.
Despite a history of civil war and poaching, Chad has persevered with a conversation program, so elephant and lion populations have flourished. If you want a luxury stay in one of Africa’s best kept secrets, this is the lodge for you. But shh.
This award-winning private safari camp is in the famous ‘seventh’ natural wonder of the world, the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Owned and managed by the oldest established and continuing safari family in Africa, this is old world luxury at its best.
The camp has pretty family tents even have living rooms with fireplaces, and you can also have a ‘safari bath’ outdoors.
This area in the Okavango Delta has long been known as Splash due to the huge water crossings that had to be negotiated to access the camp area, and there’s now a brand spankin’ new safari lodge to experience.
Splash Camp has beautiful suites with private viewing decks, while the main lodge area has a plunge pool that you might just not want to leave.
With a maximum of 20 guests, Ruzizi Tented Lodge is an intimate retreat. Tents are spacious and set back from the lake shore, hidden among swaying palms.
Chill out by the large deck with a fire pit or swing in the hammock on your veranda. As for the safari park itself? Akagera has an inspiring conservation story as it is now home to lions and rhinos, and is the only Big Five park in the country.
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.
This intimate, safari styled lodge is set within a large private area with direct river access, large shady trees and wetland areas. Basically, it’s a haven for bathing elephants and rhinos.
Rooms are charming and raised on stilts, and staff will deliver you hot coffee to your door every morning to wake you up for your big day of adventure. Whether you spend it in Budongo Forest tracking wild Chimpanzees or in the swimming pool is up to you.
Little Kulala has eleven thatched “kulalas”, each with a private plunge pool and views of the huge Sossusvlei dunes. Adventure out on nature drives or take a balloon safari, which offers an awe-inspiring experience soaring above the desert.
Oh, did we mention that each villa has a rooftop Star Bed for romantic star gazing?
Beho Beho is a lovely family-owned lodge that’s more like a home than a camp.
The rooms here have it all: a Zanzibari day bed to while away the odd hour in the afternoon when it is too hot to go into the bush, a proper writing bureau (with post cards supplied), ‘Persian’ carpets and even a tripod mounted telescope for private game spotting.
This beautiful place is a bush home-from-home designed specifically with little children in mind, as well as being a great place for groups of friends. It’s the only private lodge in the Serengetti.
There’s a choice of two swimming pools, private chefs, babysitters (yes!) and family game activities aplenty. And a cute rooftop day bed.
Looking for a remote safari? Changa Safari Camp is a little slice of heaven, set in a remote and secluded part of the Matusadona National Park. It’s all about the tiny details here.
Outdoor bathtubs. A bar that has been fashioned around the hull of an old boat. And small sprinklers that may be turned on in front of the rooms, so you can watch the colourful birdlife darting in and out the spray.
Forest Buffalo and Elephant are common visitors to Mboko Camp, with spectacular star-gazing opportunities and lush rainforest. As for the rooms?
There’s just 10 cabins and two family cabins, so you’ll have peace and quiet. They’re right by the Lekoli River; each cabin has a deck with lounge chairs on which you can rest and listen to the river babbling past you.
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.
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.
Chilo Gorge has both private, luxury suites as well as stylish self-catering accommodation, ideal for guests who want a bit of independence. If you do feel like being social, the main lodge has a shaded swimming pool, a lounge, a library, a bar and dining room.
Best of all, the African wilderness is never far away. You can watch local elephants, hippos and crocodiles cooling off in the waters of the river from the viewing deck.
Duba Expedition Camp has just six exclusive tents, built on a wooded timbered island and connected to a rich wildlife area by an elaborate set of bridges. Sink into the luxury four poster beds after a day out in the bush and have dinner by the fire pit.
P.S. Its location is the base of many famous wildlife documentaries by National Geographic filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, thanks to its frequent wildlife sightings.
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.
Calling all romantics: this small and intimate camp has just five bush suites, with sunken bathtubs looking out onto your very own corner of Africa.
The suites are outstanding – brick walls and thatch roofs add an extra romantic vibe, while the main lodge has a tempting double plunge pool with a waterfall linking the two.
This tiny camp is about as far off the beaten track as it can get. Guided scenic drives, two to three hour walking safaris treading along the ancient hunting grounds of the bushmen and eBiking will happily fill your days.
Sundowners can be enjoyed from the top of a mountainous rock plateau – life doesn’t get any better than that.
Linkwasha is a luxurious camp with a refreshingly modern and sleek design. Choose from a combination of contemporary and classic safari-style in the camp’s eight luxury ensuite tents and one family tent, all of which overlook a popular waterhole.
You’ll be kept busy with safari activities, such as morning and evening game drives, interpretive walking safaris, birdwatching and cultural visits.
Sausage Tree Camp is a chic safari camp in the heart of Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park with a friendly “bush camp” vibe that combines with private butler service. Best of both worlds, basically.
Just some of the highlights? We love the unique open-air showers, a large deck with private plunge pool & lounge area and mini bar with leather sofas. Oh, and the wildlife, of course…
Elephant Pepper Camp is the perfect base from which to explore the wonders of the Mara. There’s over 450 bird species and both resident and transient populations of lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and giraffe.
In a nutshell, the plains are dense AF with game. Elegant tents have Indian Raj-style decor and savannah views.