From Out of Africa-style romance in Kenya to elephant-watching in Malawi, here are the top wildest packages.
Prices are per person per night, based on double occupancy, and include food, drinks, taxes, park fees, guiding and game activities, unless stated. Note that they are for guidance only — packages with tour operators that include flights and transport will be more economical.
1 Best for the wildebeest migration
Lamai Serengeti, Tanzania
From July to October, the northern Serengeti bears witness to about 2 million animals storming their way to the Maasai Mara. When the rowdy guests have gone (along with the tourists), peace resumes and resident wildlife comes into its own, with predators and plains game easily spotted around the pretty granite kopjes and rivers. Nomad’s Lamai Serengeti (nomad-tanzania.com) is perfectly situated for the best of both these worlds. Built among the rocks, its 12 suites are light and airy in shades of cream and calico, and with the relaxing lounges, dining area and swimming pool, afford spectacular views across the Mara River.
Details From £627pp per night with Expert Africa (expertafrica.com)
2 Best for riding
Ant’s Hill, the Waterberg, South Africa
With more than 90 horses ranging from thoroughbreds to kids’ ponies, Ant’s Hill offers safaris in the saddle for all levels, whether you’re a first-timer or keen to canter across the plains. On a private reserve in the Waterberg region, it has no lions or elephants but plenty of plains game, giraffes and even rhino. Being on horseback means you can get surprisingly close to the wildlife. Ant’s Hill’s (waterberg.net) cottages are individually designed with African touches and the family-friendly thatched lodge has fabulous views across the gorge.
Details From £285pp a night, reduced rates for children, with Bushbaby Travel (bushbaby.travel)
3 Best for families
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp, Laikipia, Kenya
Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a rare find: it truly embraces children, teaching them about cool conservation in an immersive and inspiring way. In east Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary, youngsters over the age of six can track collared lions with researchers, watch chimpanzees during their noisy feeding frenzy, play hide-and-seek with anti-poaching sniffer dogs and even feed Sudan, the world’s last male Northern White rhino. The laid-back, family-friendly Ol Pejeta Bush Camp (asiliaafrica.com) has no age limit for children. Its six simply furnished but comfortable en suite tents have private gardens overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro river. Maasai staff will teach children to throw spears and shoot with bows and arrows.
Details US$400-$550pp per night, children under 3 are free, those aged 3-4 pay 30 per cent of the adult rate, with 5-18 at half the adult rate, travelling with Yellow Zebra Safaris (yellowzebrasafaris.com). Conservancy activities cost $40 per adult, $20 per child over 6, and include lion tracking, visits to the endangered species enclosure, anti-poaching dog demonstrations, and a trip to the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
4 Best for gorillas
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda
Observing rare mountain gorillas in the rainforest is the ultimate wildlife encounter. You’re normally permitted just one hour with these enigmatic apes. But at Bwindi you can now spend an entire morning helping to habituate gorillas as they become familiar with seeing different people. You’ll need to be fit — these two groups are more active than those that see tourists daily and might well run you ragged on the hillsides. Recover in Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge (wildplacesafrica.com), Uganda’s highest lodge at 2,100m, with personal butlers, a masseuse and a great feel-good factor through its community involvement. The seven beautiful cottages feature artwork from some of Uganda’s most renowned artists.
Details $395-$610pp per night, excluding transfers and activities, with Natural World Safaris (naturalworldsafaris.com). Gorilla habituation permits cost $1500pp; gorilla tracking permits cost $600pp
5 Best off the beaten track
Meno a Kwena, Botswana
Meno a Kwena lies near the remote Makgadikgadi Pans National Park between the Okavango Delta and the arid expanse of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Rarely visited, the region is incredibly rewarding for those who venture here, with a little-known migration of about 20,000 zebra, mesmerising landscapes of endless salt pans, fascinating walks with bushmen revealing their life in the wilderness, and desert wildlife that includes cute meerkats. Meno (menoakwena.com) is a quirky camp with nine colourful en suite tents, a swimming pool, a floating hide and bags of character. Overlooking the Boteti River, it’s a fabulous spot for stargazing, for sunsets and for watching wildlife as the animals gather in the dry season.
Details $403-$690pp per night with Expert Africa (expertafrica.com)
6 Best for guiding
Serian Mara, Mara North Conservancy, Kenya
Nothing contributes more to a successful safari than a knowledgeable, personable guide who can effortlessly reveal the secrets of the African bush. Serian allows guests to join its award-winning guides as they brush up on their skills during their annual Pyramids of Life courses, which cover everything from fauna and flora to ancient bushlore and astronomy. One of just 11 camps in the 320sq km Mara North Conservancy bordering the Maasai Mara Reserve, Serian (serian.com) is a beautiful, unpretentious camp with five spacious and elegant tents that each have hardwood flooring, thatched roofs and views across the valley.
Details $620pp per night (there is a five-night minimum stay during the Pyramids of Life course in March, also available from Serian’s Serengeti camp) with Aardvark Safaris (aardvarksafaris.co.uk)
7 Best for design
The Highlands, Ngorongoro, Tanzania
Ngorongoro Crater is spectacular, with about 30,000 animals including the big five — elephants, buffalo, lions, leopards and rhinos — wandering around the dramatic caldera. Most lodges are around the crater rim, which makes it a crowded location in summer months. But Asilia Africa’s camp The Highlands (asiliaafrica.com), which opened in August, is breaking new ground. Far from other lodges, it lies high on Olmoti Volcano’s slopes just north of Ngorongoro. The eight suites are unusual and innovative geodesic domes inspired by Maasai bomas (homes), with wood-burning stoves warming up chilly evenings and panoramic windows that reveal views out to the Serengeti. With easy access to Ngorongoro, the trip also offers hikes around the Olmoti and Elmakaai Craters.
Details $430-895pp per night with Steppes Travel (steppestravel.co.uk)
8 Best for the great outdoors
Jozibanini, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Jozibanini (imvelosafarilodges.com) is a truly remote camp in the southwest corner of Hwange National Park, perfect for savouring that wilderness spirit. Its beauty lies in its simplicity, with just three en suite tents raised on wooden decking and sheltered under camelthorn trees. There’s no mess tent: you dine under stars as the campfire crackles away near by. With the bed rolled out on to your deck, you can sleep under the stars too. Watch the wildlife close up from a well-camouflaged hide by Jozibanini Pan, walk through the woodlands or go mountain-biking along old elephant trails. There’ll be no one else around — the nearest neighbours are a four-hour drive away.
Details $310pp per night for a minimum of two nights and two people travelling with Zambezi Safari & Travel Company (zambezi.com)
9 Best for nostalgia
Angama Mara, Maasai Mara, Kenya
If you long for Out of Africa romance and nostalgia, head to Angama Mara: the film was shot on the site of this elegant new lodge. About 300m up on the Rift Valley escarpment, its 30 tented suites are split between two camps with seemingly endless panoramas of the Maasai Mara. Each camp has a vast open-plan guest area in contemporary style, decks for dining and chilling, and a shared gym, infinity pool and shop. Stay in South Camp if you want to gaze out from the Out of Africa kopje where Robert Redford and Meryl Streep posed for the film’s famous poster.
Details From $850pp per night, excluding park fees, with Aardvark Safaris (aardvarksafaris.co.uk)
10 Best for elephants
Mvuu Lodge, Liwonde National Park, Malawi
Malawi isn’t well-known as a safari destination, but that’s about to change with conservation organisation African Parks now running three reserves in the country. Liwonde made headlines this summer when Prince Harry helped out on elephant translocations. Follow in his footsteps by staying at Mvuu Lodge (cawsmw.com), a charming place with a thatched lounge and dining room raised above a game-rich lagoon, and eight en suite tents in rustic safari-chic style. Boat trips along the beautiful Shire River are superb for watching elephants slurping from the riverbank and for spotting myriad birdlife. Alternatively, take an early morning nature walk or track black rhinos with researchers.
Details $365-$445pp per night, excluding 1 per cent Tourism Levy, road transfers, and drinks, with Cox & Kings (coxandkings.co.uk)
11 Best for wild adventure
Mboko Camp, Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Congo
Congo-Brazzaville, often confused with its volatile neighbour the Democratic Republic of Congo, is rarely visited. But the rainforests and savannas of Odzala-Kokoua National Park are crying out to be explored. Mboko Camp does adventure with style, offering kayaking, boat trips, walking and even fat-biking around the park. You might encounter majestic Western Lowland gorillas, forest elephants, forest buffalo, hyena, antelopes such as the stripy sitatunga and the beautifully named bongo, myriad monkey species, and chimpanzees. Then share Odzala’s secrets sipping excellent French wines at Mboko’s chic bar and lounge. Mboko (odzala.com) has 12 en suite rooms in calming neutral shades overlooking a flower-strewn savannah frequently visited by elephants.
Details $650pp per night with Tailor Made Africa (tailormadeafrica.com)
12 Best for chimps
Greystoke Mahale, Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania
Remote Mahale is a magical place of verdant mountains dropping down to the sandy shores of turquoise Lake Tanganyika. Its beauty alone would merit a visit, but these hills are also home to about 1,000 chimpanzees. Having been researched since the 1960s, they’re relaxed and easy to see on chimp tracking hikes. Mahale is also home to hippos, smaller forest animals, birds and fabulously bright butterflies. The Greystoke Mahale (nomad-tanzania.com) lies on a beach of powder-white sand and offers deep-water swimming, fishing, kayaking, and sundowner cruises on a dhow, along with chimp tracking and forest walks. The six wood and thatched rooms are stylishly rustic, built from local materials that include old fishing dhows.
Details From £720pp per night, with Safari Consultants (safari-consultants.com)
13 Best for local communities
Somalisa, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
African Bush Camps’s (africanbushcamps.com) award-winning Somalisa was rebuilt last year. Its seven beautiful tents exude elegant luxury, with colourful fabrics, wood-burning stoves and copper slipper baths. The relaxing lounge and dining areas are brimming with African artefacts and the nearby plunge pool lies next to a waterhole that elephants regularly visit, happily ignoring the guests. African Bush Camps’ Foundation works closely with local communities, contributing to primary schools and scholarships and helping women’s groups on income-generating initiatives, including jewellery-making, sowing and chicken breeding. Using sport to build community spirit, they run the lively Heroes Day Soccer Tournament and the Dete 10km Run, which welcomes guests as participants.
Details $420-$684pp per night, excluding transfers, with Tailor Made Africa (tailormadeafrica.com)
14 Best on a budget
Camp Figtree, Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa
A big five destination, Addo Elephant National Park, as its name suggests, is renowned for its population of pachyderms – it has the highest density of elephants in the world. Camp Figtree (campfigtree.com) lies just outside the park, in a private concession overlooking the Zuurberg Mountains. A former colonial farmhouse, it has decor that pays homage to its history, staying true to 1920s style. It is also extremely good value, with options ranging from tented suites to rooms in the farmhouse, including a family suite that sleeps six. Guided tours are available from the lodge to Addo and guests can also take sunset walks or bush picnics in the private reserve.
Details From £60 B&B or £85 half board per person per night excluding activities with Expert Africa (expertafrica.com)
15 Best for wildlife on your doorstep
Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
On the former hunting grounds of Chief Moremi, this luxurious camp in Moremi Game Reserve is in one of the best wildlife areas in Botswana, if not Africa. Tree-climbing lions, rare wild dogs and leopards are often seen, impalas and other antelopes graze on the floodplains in front of camp and elephants have been known to wander right up to the lounge deck. They clearly have good taste. After a massive makeover, Chief (sanctuaryretreats.com) now has 12 capacious safari-chic pavilions in neutral tones, with private dining and plunge pools on their terraces and another pool overlooking the floodplain, a cool gym and spa, and a welcoming new bar, dining area and library.
Details From £947pp for a one-night stay, or £805pp per night for a three-four night stay with Safari Consultants (safari-consultants.com)
16 Best for undiscovered Africa
Ikuka Safari Camp, Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
A vast wilderness spanning 22,000 sq km, Tanzania’s largest park is home to one tenth of the continent’s lions, east Africa’s largest population of elephants, rare packs of wild dog and more than 500 species of birds. But with only a handful of lodges, it sees very few visitors. This is about to change with new investment in the area, including a new luxury camp, Ikuka (ikukasafaricamp.com), which opened in the summer. The owner-run camp has six gorgeous tented suites open to the elements and full of natural hues and materials, all lying on the Mwagusi escarpment overlooking the Ruaha Valley. The lounge and dining area has fabulous views.
Details From $450pp per night, excluding park fees, with Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com)
17 Best for walking
Mwaleshi, North Luangwa National Park, Zambia
North Luangwa is smaller, wilder and more remote than its better-known big sister South Luangwa, where walking safaris originated in the 1960s under the leadership of renowned conservationist Norman Carr. As you stroll (it’s never a hectic pace), your senses go into overdrive — you see, smell, hear and touch so much more than you do on a game drive. Simple and rustic but very comfortable, Mwaleshi Camp is what walking in the bush is all about, oozing that exhilarating “back-to-nature” feel on the banks of the Mwaleshi River. The camp’s four reed and thatched chalets are rebuilt every year, with open-air en suite bathrooms and bright locally designed fabrics.
Details From £590pp per night with Natural World Safaris (naturalworldsafaris.com)
18 Best for wildlife conservation
Okonjima Bush Camp, Central Highlands, Namibia
This private reserve is home to the Africat Foundation, a sanctuary for rescued cheetahs, leopards and wild dogs. With guides using telemetry devices, leopards can be tracked from vehicles, and cheetahs, wild dogs and hyenas can be tracked on foot. Seeing these beguiling beasts close up is thrilling, allowing superb opportunities for budding wildlife photographers. Okonjima works closely with local farmers, helping them to cope with predators on their lands and educating youngsters on conservation. Renovated last year, Okonjima Bush Camp (okonjima.com) has eight luxury chalets and a honeymoon suite built of stone, canvas and glass with thatched roofs. The dining room serves fabulous meals and excellent South African wines.
Details From £310pp per night with Steppes Travel (steppestravel.co.uk)
19 Best for luxury
Singita Lebombo, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Lebombo Lodge (singita.com) lies in the mountains above N’wantetsi River, within Singita’s private area in Kruger National Park. It reopened in July after an extensive refurbishment and its 17 elegant suites are made of glass and wood with neutral shades to reflect its natural environment. With wellness very much to the fore, the lodge has a gym and spa, a 25m lap pool, mountain bikes and even running guides. Dining is fresh and healthy too, overseen by chef of the moment Liam Tomlin, from Chef’s Warehouse in Cape Town. There is abundant wildlife, including the big five and the well-known mountain pride of lions.
Details From $1,568pp per night with Cox & Kings (coxandkings.co.uk)
20 Best for desert elephants
Mowani Mountain Camp, Twyfelfontein, Namibia
In shades of vivid ochre, rust and gold, Namibia’s deserts are staggeringly beautiful. And they’re far from empty, with wildlife including springboks, jackals and oryx surviving in their harsh, arid environment. However, the rare desert-adapted elephants are the stars here and game drives to see them are unmissable, as are trips to see Twyfelfontein’s extraordinary ancient rock art. Mowani (mowani.com) has 15 suites scattered around the boulders, their russet tones and thatched roofs blending perfectly with their surroundings. There’s an elegant main lodge, a welcome swimming pool with views across the wilderness, and the sundowner spot is simply unforgettable.
Details From £140pp per night dinner, bed and breakfast with Zambezi Safari and Travel Company (zambezi.com). Activities such as elephant and dune drives, trips to Twyfelfontein and forest walks are extra.