Rising to the dawn chorus of the African bush or spotting lion in the wild, is on the bucket list of many an animal lover. Africa is a magical travel destination. It is filled with exotic sights and cultures. But with so many luxury safari options to choose from, where do you start?
Top African Safari Destinations and Eco-Friendly Lodges
Kruger National Park, South Africa
The Kruger National Park is located in the north of South Africa. It boasts over 140 large mammal species which is the most in Africa. There are over 500 bird species, with in excess of 240 resident species. This abundance of wildlife has resulted in the Kruger Park attracting more yearly visitors than any other reserve.
The Big 5
The most popular attraction is of course “The Big 5.” The Big 5 consists of lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and the notoriously shy leopard. You will almost surely spot the first four. However, it is more rare to see a leopard, unless you know where to go.
Sabi Sabi Reserve
The Private Sabi Sabi Reserve borders Kruger Park and is Africa’s most luxurious safari destination. It is also the home to dense concentrations of leopard. This reserve is sculpted into a slope of the earth. It’s almost invisible in the landscape. Here lies Africa’s most environmentally-sensitive lodge, The Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge. The Earth Lodge consists of 13 ultra-luxurious suites each featuring individually designed furniture, private plunge pool, en-suite glass fronted bathroom and indoor and outdoor showers. The natural elements of the lodge create a sense of calm and a setting for restoring the spirit in the wild.
During a stay at Sabi Sabi, you’ll depart for twice-daily game viewing, either in an open top vehicle or on foot, accompanied by an armed and knowledgeable game ranger.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit Kruger Park is from late July to early October when the temperatures are cooler, but not as cold as the winter months. The vegetation is less dense this time of year. The animals are more active during the day, resulting in better game viewing opportunities.
Selinda Reserve, Botswana
The 130,000 hectare Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana is home to the Zarafa Camp. Wildlife can roam freely. Additionally, conservation and eco-tourism are the central focus.
Zarafa Camp is setup in a way that has minimal impact on the incredible surrounding wilderness. The Camp makes use of a revolutionary “solar farm” consisting of 150 solar panels that produce enough electricity to handle all the camp’s electrical needs each day.
In addition, they used only recycled woods and canvas to the construct the camp. A “bio gas” plant recycles waste into usable cooking gas. Drinking water at Zarafa Camp is treated through a UV filtration system allowing the Camp to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles. The result is one of the greenest camps in Africa.
Zarafa Camp is also Botswana’s first and only Relais & Chateaux property.
The Slenda Reserve lies at the crossroads of Botswana’s most prolific wildlife areas with abundant year-round animals. Popular species in the area include leopard, lion, elephant, zebra and giraffe. You can also see less popular wildlife, including cheetah, sable, roan and African wild dog.
Nearby, explore the Zibadianja Lagoon. Here you will enjoy excellent birding opportunities with Black egret and African skimmer. The lagoon is also home to hippo and the mighty African elephant.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit Botswana is from May to September during the dry season, when you can view large concentrations of animals at the many water holes in the region.
Maasai Mara Reserve, Kenya
The Maasai Mara (known locally as the Mara) region of Kenya is one of the richest wild ecosystems in the world. It comprises in excess of 375,000 hectares.
Across the world, people know The Mara for its large populations of Masai lions, Kenyan cheetahs and African leopards. It is also the setting of the annual migration of more than 2 millions animals. This includes over 1.5 million wildebeest from the Serengeti each year, between July to October.
Mara Plains Camp
Located within in this spectacular reserve is the Mara Plains Camp by the Great Plains Conservation group.
They designed Mara Plains without using any cement. This is an effort to minimize the impact on the surrounding environment. This makes it possible to remove the camp completely without leaving a trace.
They built the Mara Plains camp structures on decks that are raised. This limits the covered surface area and provides a low-impact safari operation. They source water from the local Loita Spring. It is filtered and 100% chemical free. Solar energy powers the electricity used throughout the camp.
The design of Mara Plains is understated with quiet class. Planners carefully designed it to highlight the magnificent nature which surrounds it. The ancient Swahili heritage is reflected in the large wooden doors with accents of deep red and purple to honour the great Maasai chiefs who lived there for millennia.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit the Maasai Mara is from August to November, but this may vary depending on the seasonal rainfalls.
The costs of visiting the different camps and lodges depend on the location and time of year you wish to travel, and the level of accommodation required. To get more ideas see the African Safari Home Packages, which include tours for South and East Africa. African Safari Home can also give you insider’s information on the best deals available and when is the best time to travel. They have more than 20 years luxury safari planning experience and the most competitive rates in the industry.
Other popular destinations featured include:
- Cape Town in South Africa
- Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe
- The ever-popular Serengeti in Tanzania
While costs may vary greatly, you can expect to pay around $500 per person sharing nightly, for a four star African safari. It is approximately $1,000 per person nightly for a five star experience. These rates can be as much as $4,000 per person nightly at the premium five star lodges of the Sabi Sabi.
Rates for both four and five star options typically include all meals and local drinks. Prices do not include international airfare. Check in advance to see if the lodges welcome children under 12 years old.