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Travel bucket list ideas:

Last updated: 24 July, 2023

Few experiences in life can match the thrill of a safari – the great African beasts up close, in wild, untamed wilderness. Camps & Lodges range from simple camps with tents – for the ‘raw’ African experience – to luxury lodges with swimming pools, spas and fine dining for those that like their creature comforts.

But how to pick the right one? We asked the UK’s leading safari expert and journalist Lisa Grainger to recommend her favourites.

Editor: use the filters to find the one that suits your needs.

Table of Contents

Abu Camp

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Africa’s oldest elephant camp, Abu is also one of Botswana’s most expensive, thanks to its exclusive set-up – just six A-frame tents set high on wooden decks overlooking the Okavango Delta.

Abu regularly hosts presidents, royalty and Hollywood glitterati, who come for world-class food, wine and service alongside the game drives and unique elephant-backed safaris. Big Five: Yes.

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Ant’s Nest

Waterberg, South Africa

One of the most child-friendly camps in Africa: unpretentious, relaxed and ideal for first-timers safari-goers who want a slightly gentler experience.

This former bush happy is brilliant for kids, with a program of educational and entertaining activities that teaches them about the bush. Big Five: No rhino.

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Chiawa Camp

Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

One of the loveliest spots on the Zambezi, this is one of the best places in Africa to see game from the water: elephant, buffalo, hippo and dinosaur-sized crocodiles.

The surrounding national park also teems with game – day and night – and the birdlife is wonderful. Chiawa’s tents are among the most spacious, comfortable and luxurious in Africa, with glorious river views from both bed and bath. Big Five: No rhino.

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Chongwe River House

Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

A private safari house for groups and families, right on the banks of the Zambezi. There aren’t many other places in Africa where you can get quite so intimate with quite so many hippos – or see animals in the water at such close range.

There’s great night-viewing, too, when lions, hyenas and leopards can be spotted, alongside smaller creatures such as bush babies. Over 370 bird species are present here. Big Five: Yes.

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Earth Lodge

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Sabi Sands, adjoining the Kruger National Park, has some of South Africa’s best game – the Big Five, plus leopard and sometimes wild dog – and Earth Lodge is the most striking of the four lodges here.

The butler service, wine cellar and gourmet food make this a foodie destination camp, and there’s a spa for post-safari pampering. Big Five: Yes.

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Elewana Elsa’s Kopje

Meru National Park, Kenya

Set on a hill with timeless views over Meru National Park. Elsa’s is the only operational camp in the Meru, so it feels like a reserve of your own.

It’s where safari-lovers go for a rich dose of fine life, and fine creature-watching without crowds. Brilliant for kids, with special guiding and bushcraft lessons from Masai warriors. Big Five: Yes.

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Jack’s Camp

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Kalahari Desert, Botswana

Safaris at Jack’s, the most glamorous desert camp in Africa, are not about the Big Five, but the vast, extraordinary desert all around – experiences include tracking the enormous black-maned lion, sitting with meerkat, and desert quad-biking. Big Five: No.

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Jao Camp

Okavango Delta, Botswana

A luxurious camp in a 60,000-hectare private concession in the northwest of the Okavango Delta. Game is excellent, and water activities are the draw here, with safaris by traditional mokoro and speedboat, as well as onshore at Hunda Island, where game comes to graze.

There’s a full spa, a gym, two pools, very good food and wine, and a great program of bush activities for kids – including tracking and fishing. Big Five: Yes.

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Kicheche Mara Camp

Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

This private conservancy offers Masai Mara game viewing – including the wildebeest migration – without the crowds.

Prolific game, good food and guiding, plus unique extras such as balloon trips and Maasai village tours – make this an exceptional, traditional tented safari experience at a good-value price. Big Five: No rhino.

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Lamai Serengeti

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

A stylish, understated camp overlooking the northern Serengeti National Park. From July to October the great migration pours through the grassland that surrounds Lamai, a magnificent sight.

The Big Five are regularly spotted on game drives, and leopards and lions often roam the site (hence the presence of Maasai guards with huge spears). Big Five: Yes.

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Little Vumbura

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Set on an island in a pretty part of the Okavango Delta, surrounded by beautiful trees and peaceful water channels, Vumbura never feels crowded (other than with elephant and buffalo).

The food is home-made and fresh, staff are charming and the wildlife viewing is exceptional. Big Five: Yes.

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Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya

Set on an escarpment above 60,000 acres of Kenyan bush, Loisaba Conservancy is a true wilderness. The Big Five are here, although they’re not as easily seen as in the Maasai Mara.

This is a true wilderness where you can indulge the soul by stargazing and spa pampering, but also up your heart rate on bike rides, camel treks, canoe trips and bush walks. Big Five: Yes.

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Sabi Sabi Reserve, Mpumalanga, South Africa

South Africa’s most famous luxury camp, Londolozi is home to five gorgeous and distinctive lodges, all on the banks of the Sand River. Interiors are among the chicest in Africa.

Bordering the Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands is known for its Big Five sightings, especially leopards. Big Five: Yes.

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Luangwa Safari House

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

A four-bedroom bush house ideal for groups or families who want to see Zambian wildlife while staying in style and privacy. Completely open to the environment, it overlooks a waterhole in an area that is often dry – so animals love this spot.

Night noises are often glorious, from elephants smashing trees to hyenas cackling under the moonlight. Big Five: No rhino.

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Mombo Camp

Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Botswana

An intimate, luxury and isolated bush-based camp, offering unrivalled big-game sightings in the Okavango Delta.

Sightings of the Big Five are common, as well as occasional cheetahs and wild dogs; the camp operates morning and afternoon game drives to see it all. Game at this nine-suite camp is so prolific that walkways are raised, so animals can walk beneath undisturbed. Big Five: Yes.

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Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

A unique blend of sumptuous stately home, Baroque style and African chic designed for sheer indulgence. This, and immaculate service, earn Crater Lodge a place amongst the world’s most luxurious safari camps.

What makes this camp most special is its unrivalled location – perched on the rim of Tanzania’s remarkable Ngorongoro Crater, and affording knock-out, uninterrupted views from all of its suites to the crater floor 600m below.

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Nkwali Camp

South Luangwa National Park , Zambia

Nkwali’s six comfortable, rustic rooms, have stunning views over the Luangwa River, with fantastic wildlife including leopards, lions and elephants.

While this affordable camp does have little treats – a swimming pool, riverside bar, and meals served in the bush – you’re here for the experience rather than the creature comforts. Big Five: No rhino.

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Old Mondoro Camp

Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

One of the best family-run camps in Zambia. With just four tents, this reed and canvas camp is incredibly intimate – and set right on the Zambezi River, which is surrounded by seriously wild game from big cats to hulking elephants – that regularly hang out between (very thin-walled) rooms.

This is untouched Africa; you feel the wilderness, being so close to big beasts – it’s not for anyone who’d be worried about creatures watching them in the bath. Big Five: Yes.

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Phinda Homestead

Phinda Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Sleeping up to eight, this designer villa feels like stepping into a glossy magazine, in the middle of the African bush. The Big Seven is here, but you’re also close to the coast for beach excursions to see whales and whale sharks.

There’s a brilliant activity program for kids. It’s perfect for group and family private safaris. Big Five: Yes.

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Phinda Rock Lodge

Phinda Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

A small, intimate luxury. The Big Seven is here, but you’re also close to the coast for beach excursions to see whales and whale sharks.

There’s a first-rate activity program for kids. Wildlife is prolific – it’s ideal for a first safari, to see all the game. Big Five: Yes.

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Pom Pom Camp

Okavango Delta, Botswana

On a private concession in the heart of the Okavango Delta, bordering the Moremi Game Reserve, this charming camp offers a full Delta experience – at half the price of many others. Big game can be sparse though – for the Big Five you need to go to nearby Moremi – but the wildlife is diverse.

Activities include day and night drives, bush walks, mokoro (canoe) trips and bream fishing. Big Five: Yes.

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Royal Malewane

Thornybush Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa

A six-suite, opulent game lodge in a private game reserve outside the western Kruger National Park. this is for those who want to see the Big Five while staying in extreme luxury.

The food is gourmet, wine lists are extensive and the guides renowned – and the spa is one of the best anywhere in the bush. Big Five: Yes.

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Sand Rivers Selous

Nyerere National Park, Tanzania

This rustic but stylish camp is about experiencing real, pristine wilderness – heading out on foot to smell, feel and really discover Africa at its most raw.

This is true bush life – the landscapes are unspoilt and vast, with a smattering of game to be found. Big Five: No rhino.

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Sarara Camp

Samburu, Kenya

Originally set up to incentivise local people to put aside land for wildlife – for their own benefit. Today Sarara has 850,000 acres, across which elephants and leopards roam.

Guests participate in walks, drives, mountain climbs and, best of all, trips to the Singing Wells, where Samburu call their cattle to the water by singing to them. Big game is sparse though – you come for an authentic experience of the real Africa. Big Five: No.

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Sausage Tree Camp

Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

A pretty Bedouin-style luxury camp in the heart of the game-rich Zambezi National Park. Sausage Tree is known for its excellent guiding, as well as water- and land-based safari activities.

All the big creatures are here, except for rhino that have been poached out. Occasionally, guests can spot leopard and the charismatic wild dog. Big Five: No rhino.

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Selous Impala Camp

Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

This highly affordable camp is simple, but its basics are good: excellent, fresh food, and super-friendly staff.

It offers frequent sightings of lions, buffalos, elephants and giraffes, as well as particularly good birdlife. It’s an inexpensive, relaxed spot for game-lovers who are happy to forego luxuries. Big Five: Yes, but rhino very rare.

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Singita Boulders Lodge

Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Set on the banks of the Sand River, where many animals come to drink, Boulders Lodge is excellent for first-time safari goers who want to see the Big Five, whilst contributing to wildlife protection.

Food and wine are both excellent, service is slick, and guiding is very good indeed. Big Five: Yes.

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Singita Pamushana Lodge

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Zimbabwe

By far the most luxurious bush lodge in Zimbabwe. With just 2 camps in 130,000 acres, it feels really wild, its kopjes and grasslands teeming with game, thanks to incredible anti-poaching and conservation efforts.

As well as having treats such as a big games room, a pool with incredible views, and delightfully eclectic African interiors, the camp has an enthusiastic staff – and world-class game guides. Big Five: Yes.

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Singita Sabora Tented Camp

Grumeti Reserve, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Set in the Singita Grumeti reserve bordering the world-famous Serengeti National Park; game is prolific, including the Big Five, and the Great Migration passes by in July and August. Sabora is one of only five lodges in the reserve – meaning all the game without the crowds.

It’s the most glamorous, luxurious tented safari camp in Tanzania, great for simple, elegant romance. Only kids over 10 are allowed.

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Singita Sasakwa

Grumeti Private Reserve, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The private, 350,000-hectare Singita Grumeti reserve borders the world-famous Serengeti National Park; game is prolific, thanks to incredible anti-poaching and conservation efforts, and the Great Migration passes by in July and August.

This elegant, contemporary lodge, situated on a hill with spectacular views, has 10 lavish, spacious and private cottages for groups and families. The Hillside Suite is a spectacularly private villa for two. Big Five: Yes.

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Sirikoi Lodge

Lewa Conservancy, Kenya

This elegant, intimate camp is blessed with prolific game. In mere days you might see it all – the Big Five, including both kinds of rhino, cheetah and leopard. Lewa is known as one of Africa’s key reserves for the preservation of both black and white rhino (regularly seen).

The variety of activities is a special bonus – from Masaai village visits to fly-camping, and unusual biplane, helicopter, camel and horseback safaris. Sirikoi can arrange overnight quad biking excursions, where you sleep in camp beds with mosquito nets underneath the starry sky.

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Somalisa Camp

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

A comfortable, affordable bush camp in a Big Five area. The 400 bird species and 100 animal species here include the endangered roan antelope and white rhino, and there are more than 30,000 elephant in this park – and guides are trained to walk (in safe proximity) to them, to enable guests to watch them up-close.

Kids are welcomed and there are special activities for them. Big Five: Yes.

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Tarkuni, Southern Kalahari, South Africa

Southern Kalahari, South Africa

A stylish retreat surrounded by miles of arid savannah sands and golden grass; in the area are desert rhinos, black-maned desert lions, cheetahs and meerkats (some habituated, so children can get up close).

Families will love the elegant, spacious house, child-friendly staff and the Junior Ranger programme that teaches children about the animals and ecosystem. Big Five: No elephant.

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Thanda Villa iZulu

KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Villa iZulu feels like a five-star hotel, transported into the South African savannah, with five stylish suites and world class-food. Wild dogs were introduced into Thanda, as were the Big Five.

The property offers walks and day and night drives. Big Five: Yes.

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Tongabezi Lodge

Livingstone, Southern Province, Zambia

A luxury lodge of spacious, thatched cottages on the banks of the mighty Zambezi camp. A brilliant range of inclusive activities including fishing, boating and visits to Victoria Falls.

The nearby elephant camp offers elephant-back safaris, too. Big Five: Yes.

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