By Jo Austin – February 2018 – 5 minute read
Luxury lodges throughout Africa are pushing the luxury bar ever higher, with conservation and responsible tourism projects now as integral as exceptional comfort and attention to detail and knowledgeable guides and trackers completing the luxury experience.
Six of the best
A guided walking adventure: A three-night safari in Namibia with Huab Under Canvas/Ultimate Safaris includes rhino tracking and campfire dinners
Twenty years at the top: Victoria Falls Safari Lodge has been a leading icon of Zimbabwe’s tourism industry for over 20 years. It’s the perfect base for visiting the falls, which are just four kilometres down the road
Junior rangers: Take the kids on safari at Governors’ Camp in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve and make the most of Early Bird rates on bookings made before June 30 2018
For the family: Machaba Safaris will open the family-friendly Verney’s Camp in May, on a 10,000-hectares private concession in Hwange Game Park, Zimbabwe.
Eco-friendly: Belmond’s Savute Elephant Lodge in Northern Botswana promises to use the best sustainable building practices during its redesign. The new lodge will open on July 1, with its very own luxury spa
Going upmarket: Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park is the chosen location for the development of Great Plains Conservation’s first high-end camps to be built in the country
Raising the bar
The variety of luxury lodges out there is enormous: there may seem few similarities between Kaya Mawa on Lake Malawi, Ant’s Nest in South Africa and Tongabezi in Zambia but all three are family-owned and, in their own unique ways, offer a very personal service with a strong emphasis on conservation and the community.
These decadent homes in the bush provide features like four-poster beds, outdoor rain showers, private plunge pools, in-room massages and much more.
Of course, wildlife remains the main draw for the majority of visitors – and not just the Big Five mammals. For example, mountain gorillas are also on many bucket lists as a ‘must-see experience’.
There are thought to be under 800 mountain gorillas remaining, with Uganda and Rwanda the places to see them. They have survived in Uganda largely due to conservation efforts, which first started in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1993.
Refurbished Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp is a favourite with primate and nature enthusiasts. The eight-tented camp in the rainforest has experienced guides who trek with a maximum of eight visitors to each gorilla family group. To boost visitor numbers, gorilla-watching permits in Uganda have been frozen at $600 in 2018.
However, last year the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) doubled the gorilla permit cost from $750 to $1500pp – for just one hour of watching the primates in Volcanoes National Park.
One&Only’s luxury Nyungwe House in Rwanda is set in an unrivalled location on the edge of Africa’s largest mountain rainforest and is a haven for primates. Singita is synonymous with luxury but also sees itself as a guardian of a million acres of pristine land and has a 100-year vision to build sustainable revenue streams to fund the preservation of Africa’s wilderness.
Operating 12 award-winning lodges, Singita is extending its conservation footprint to Rwanda where it will open Kwitonda Lodge in late 2019 on the edge of Volcanoes National Park.
What the experts say
“Botswana is developing further as a luxury destination. Many camps and lodges have or are in the process of upgrading their properties, with the goal of providing the most luxurious surroundings in some of the most game-rich areas in Africa.
“With a developing trend towards family safari holidays in Botswana, many upgrades have also included room arrangements which allow for families to be accommodated together mindful of ensuring the safety of children while still providing parents with luxury and personal space.”
DAWN WILSON, BOTSWANA TOURISM ORGANISATION
Lodges: Sanctuary Retreats’ new luxury Kichakani Serengeti Camp is a collection of 10 portable tents. Guests follow the migrations of wildebeest and zebra across the Serengeti plains of Tanzania. Tent butlers and bucket showers are included.
In Botswana, Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp is set in a private concession in the Okavango Delta of Botswana shared only with Sanctuary Baines’ Camp. Due to relaunch in April this year, the reimagined Stanley’s will feature 10 brand-new luxury canvas tents – each of which has been significantly enlarged with its own deck, with views over the dramatic floodplains. The luxury extras will include a compact gym box with yoga equipment.
In Zambia, another Sanctuary camp, the 12-lodge Sussi & Chuma, set on a bend of the Zambezi river twelve kilometres from Victoria Falls, will relaunch in April. The lodge’s 12 Sussi treehouses, linked by elevated wooden walkways, are all being remodelled, with more emphasis on privacy. The luxurious touches include freestanding baths, a fully-stocked minibar and gym boxes for in-room workouts.
Chitabe Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswan, is to be rebuilt in the first five months of 2018.
The luxury Mombo experience in the Delta reopens in February following a rebuild of both Mombo and Little Mombo camps. In the Qorokwe Concession in the south east of the Delta, Wilderness will open an eight-tented camp designed to create as little eco-footprint as possible.
Singita’s Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe is undergoing a transformation to be able to offer eight suites with private pool and a private-use five- bedroom villa overlooking the Malilangwe Dam. It should be open by June. Malawi was been named Number three in Rough Guides’ list of top countries to visit in 2018.
A new Robin Pope Safaris property, Kuthengo Camp in Liwonde National Park, is set to open in April 2018. Bumi Hills in Zimbabwe has reopened under the African Bush Camps banner. With panoramic views of Lake Kariba, the lodge promises to offer a luxury safari experience.
Trade news: A new dedicated Africa Travel Trade show is planned for the summer. Experience Africa by ATTA will run over three days from June 25 to June 27, at London’s Canary Wharf CCT.
Where to book it
Expert Africa’s Bustard Guided Safari, a top-end 11-night trip to northern Tanzania, visits the Serengeti, Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, accompanied by professional guides. Prices start from £9,077pp including flights and land arrangements.
Abercrombie & Kent’s tailor-made eleven-night Classic Botswana itinerary starts at Victoria Falls and explores Chobe National Park and the Okavango, priced from £5,695pp, including flights.