Africa is brimming with luxurious new and revamped safari lodges and suites. From relaxing retreats to design-focused dens, Abra Dunsby rounds up the options.
andBeyond Tengile River Lodge, South Africa
Conservation-led travel company andBeyond opened Tengile River Lodge in December, a collection of nine vast guest suites featuring 180-degree views of the Sand river, set within Sabi Sands Game Reserve.
Much of the material used to build the lodges has been repurposed, local designers have devised the decor, and the roofs are covered in sand so when viewed from overhead, the site has minimal impact on the area.
Wildlife fans can see: Lions, elephants and wild dogs have all been spotted right outside the lodge. On game drives, guests can also see zebras, white rhinos, wildebeest, giraffes, hyenas and hippos, to name a few.
What other activities can clients enjoy? Bush walks, local community visits, specialist photography lessons and cooking classes.
Best time to visit for wildlife: All year round, but the optimum time is between March and October.
Top tip: andBeyond recommends clients use the complimentary Swarovski Optik binoculars, which will be provided in all guest suites from June for game drives.
Book it: Mahlatini Luxury Travel offers a four-night stay at Tengile River Camp from £5,500pp based on two sharing on an all-inclusive basis, including flights, road transfers and scheduled camp activities.
Sanctuary Olonana, Kenya
Sanctuary Retreats’ flagship property recently had a facelift and now includes 14 floor-to-ceiling glass-sided suites, providing panoramic views of the Mara river and its wildlife.
What else is new? The Geoffrey Kent Suite opened on March 18. It’s a secluded luxury lodge with two en-suite bedrooms, each with freestanding bathtubs, an additional connecting bedroom for children, wrap around private decking area and infinity pool overlooking the river. The lodge also comes with its own private chef and housekeeper.
Wildlife fans can see: The famous “Big Five” game animals, as well as many species of antelope and birds. There’s also a resident breeding pod of hippopotamus in the Mara river right by the lodge.
Best time to visit for wildlife: If your clients are keen to experience the epic, annual migration of the wildebeest, tell them to visit from July to September.
Top tip: “It’s ‘only’ the wildebeest that migrate. The Big Five game (and the rest of the animal kingdom) can be viewed all year, with exceptional longer-stay value in April to May and November to mid-December,” advises Renette Hartridge, UK director of sales at Sanctuary Retreats.
What other activities can clients enjoy? Treatments at the Africology riverside spa, Masai cultural village visits, scenic hot air balloon rides and lantern-lit riverside bush dinners under the African stars.
Book it: Prices for a four-night stay at the Geoffrey Kent suite (sleeps up to four) start from £3,519 per night on selected dates, including private game drive vehicle and guide, private chef, a waiter and housekeeper, all meals and drinks, plus transfers. Flights and park fees excluded.
The Nest at Sossus, Namibia
Renowned architect Porky Hefer’s unique design is inspired by the nest of the sociable weaver bird, with round windows and a thatched roof. The artwork is another standout feature – the heads by South African sculptor Angus Taylor were created on site using locally sourced materials. Everyone from a private chef to a naturalist guide is on hand to appeal to clients’ interests here.
How close is the wildlife? The lodge is more about the serene desert location, scenery and proximity to Namibia’s dunes than the wildlife – so anything spotted is a bonus. Wildlife including oryx, springbok, zebras, giraffes and hyenas all live in the reserve, however.
What other activities can clients enjoy? Hot air balloon trips over the Sossusvlei Dunes, guided nature walks and dune safaris or picnics at the desert pools. Mountain biking and scenic flights can also be arranged in advance.
Top tip: On stays of three nights, a hot air balloon trip is included (subject to weather conditions and dates).
Book it: Prices start from £1,170pppn based on six sharing, including all meals, local drinks, activities, private chef, villa host, private guide and vehicle.
One&Only Nyungwe House, Rwanda
This recently opened property is situated in Gisakura, a working tea plantation, on the edge of Nyungwe national park, with an ethos rooted in the local community and supporting local people. The luxury suites are modern in design with traditional African touches, each overlooking the vast terrain with private decks and fireplaces.
Wildlife fans can see: The Nyungwe forest is thought to be one of the oldest in Africa, with incredible diversity including more than 13 different species of primates – including chimpanzees, which clients can see on organised treks – and 75 different species of mammal. More than 275 species of bird can also be spotted, including giant hornbills and red-breasted sparrowhawks.
What other activities can clients enjoy? A range of outdoor pursuits, from stargazing to canopy treetop walks. They can take numerous hiking trails of varying difficulties, with other options including jungle boot camp workouts, helicopter rides, spear-throwing and archery lessons, an introduction to the African kitchen garden or insight into the secrets of African tea.
Best time to visit for wildlife? Between the short dry season (mid-December to early February), or during the long dry season (June to September).
Top tip: Guests wanting to give back to the local community can get involved in Umuganda: Community Participation, a nationwide programme where citizens devote the last Saturday morning of every month to community work. Projects include developing infrastructure and environmental protection, providing a unique, hands-on way to get to know local people.
Book it: Abercrombie & Kent offers a three-night stay from £3,995pp based on two sharing, including flights and private transfers. Price based on travel from November 1 to December 14.
Camp Moremi, Botswana
Located in the Moremi Game Reserve, this classic camp was refurbished last year and comprises 12 tents, with a maximum of 24 guests. Game viewing here can be done both by motorised boat and on game drives, allowing for a unique combination. Dating back to 1983, the camp was one of the first in Botswana to offer photographic safaris due to the abundant wildlife.
What other activities can clients enjoy? Stargazing, lazing by the pool, bird-watching and exploring the Xakanaxa Lagoon and surrounding channels by motorboat.
Wildlife fans can see: Lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, zebra, wildebeest, hippo, crocodiles, antelopes and abundant birdlife.
Best time to visit for wildlife: Botswana’s summer months are best for bird-watching (October to March), while the dry winter months are best for game viewing (June to September).
Top tip: Pack lightly. They won’t need many clothes, as laundry service is included in the price of a stay.
Book it: A six-night Botswana holiday including Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe Game Reserve and Okavango Delta starts from £4,360pp including flights, accommodation, meals and game drives.