Renowned safari journalist and expert Lisa Grainger recommends her favourite African camps, from savannahs teeming with Big Five, to star-lit desert wildernesses.
Recommended place to stay:
Thanda Villa iZulu
KwaZulu Natal, South Africa|www.thandasafari.co.za|
Official star rating:
This uber-luxurious home of Swedish IT billionaire Dan Oloffson is like a five-star hotel – but in the bush. Some of the world’s biggest names have stayed here, so the staff are trained to the highest standards. It feels polished and professional, as well as friendly.
The five suites are super-comfy; the decor opulent but stylish, with private decks and bomas. There is nothing you could want for in these rooms; they are extraordinarily luxurious.
The food world-class. Plus, it has a big lawned garden and private pool for relaxing around. It’s rare to find a bush house with a big heated pool and Jacuzzi. It’s also one of the few safari camps with a proper spa and well-trained therapists who use plant-based Africology products.
This isn’t old-fashioned bush living; it’s a millionaire’s retreat. Formerly a cattle ranch, it feels more like a park than African wilderness. You don’t get that raw African feel that makes a safari so special. But for a gentle introduction to safaris, and for seeing all the game without compromising on luxury, it’s ideal.
Game and game viewing
The Big Five are all here, plus endangered wild dogs. The property offers walks and day and night drives to see them all.
This area of KwaZulu has an enormous variety of activities, from cultural villages, gem-stone mines, to turtle-tagging projects. Nearby beaches are wild, long and unspoilt – ideal for horse-riding and diving day trips.
Local community & conservation
Massive contributions are made, via Thanda charities such as the Thanda Foundation and Star For Life, to projects promoting conservation, community empowerment, education and health. The camp helped set up a Zulu cultural village, Vula Zulu, which channels proceeds back to local communities.
Taking the kids
All ages are welcome. Thanda has a top-notch kids programme: each child is given a Bugs ‘n’ Bucks pack, to help them become a junior ranger.
It’s an hour’s flight from Johannesburg to Richard’s Bay, then two hours’ drive, or a four-hour drive from Durban.
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Food & drink
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