During the pandemic, we had plenty of time to reminisce about our favorite safaris and really examine which safari experiences are the best fit for different kinds of travelers. With 25 years of experience, we’ve personally visited all of these top recommendations below, and we’re confident you’ll find the seed for your perfect safari.
Top Premier Luxury Safari
Pamushana – Malilangwe – Zimbabwe
There are so many wonderful safari camps that offer truly luxurious experiences in beautifully remote areas, but we had to pick one. We had to pick one that consistently delivers the highest levels of hospitality, dining and guiding in a spectacular wilderness that you can have all to yourself.
Singita has set the standard for safari luxury at their camps and lodges, but, behind the breathtaking design and attention to detail, Singita’s conservation footprint is just as impressive. No where is that better experienced than in remote southeastern Zimbabwe in the Malilangwe Reserve, 130,000 acres of untouched wilderness teeming with wildlife.
Pamushana is the pinnacle of a luxury with a style that celebrates the essence of being on safari: surrounded by nature and well taken care of with time for reflection and rejuvenation.
- Remote and exclusive private reserve with no other lodges
- Exquisite service with the highest caliber of guiding and conservation ethos
- Spectacular unique landscape with rocky hilltops, forests, gorges and lake views
- Variety of activities: rock art, game drives, boating, walks, good rhino sightings
Top Classic Luxury Safari
Duba Explorers – Okavango – Botswana
The best safaris focus on wildlife and guiding, but a classic luxury safari has to have a sense of timelessness and a little flair. There is a certain way that explorers, guides and naturalists have lived in the bush, and Duba Explorers embraces guests with true under-canvas luxury, an exceptional team and memorable bush dining experiences.
The location, in the heart of a private concession in the Okavango Delta, can’t be beat, and there’s a focus on appreciating the environment in style. The furnishings feel personal, completely unique and carefully selected. Even though the camp is tented and relatively lightweight, you can sink into the deep leather chairs and feel that you have everything you need and nothing more.
- Quintessential Okavango Delta experience
- Varied game-rich habitats: forested island, floodplain, grasslands
- Well rounded activities: game drives, boat, mekoro, walks
- Top quality guest experience in camp, dining and on activities
Top Value Safari
Mobile Camping – Okavango – Botswana
Safaris at the lower end of the budget spectrum can be tricky. To keep costs down, they have to make compromises, but there are some priorities we can’t overlook. The Wilderness Dawning mobile camping safaris in the Okavango Delta strike a perfect balance of excellent guiding in world-class wildlife habitats with a homey, comfortable camping experience.
If you’re watching your budget and can only go on one safari, we want to focus on value. Over 20 years, we’ve trusted Wilderness Dawning to deliver a consistently impressive, albeit rustic, safari experience with a lot of bang for your buck. This is a true journey with simple tents and cots, campfire cooking, great veteran guides and a couple hundred miles of pristine wilderness.
- Nostalgic old-fashioned overland safari
- All about the guide, wildlife and nature; no distractions
- Affordable access to prime, pristine wilderness
- Pairs with Victoria Falls and other extensions
Top Active Adventure Safari
For many travelers, the most memorable time on safari isn’t about big game, it’s about getting out of the vehicle and literally getting in touch with the bush. It is thrilling to feel immersed in an ecosystem that is buzzing with life while an expert guide shows you details that can only be appreciated on foot. Walking safaris come in many shapes and sizes, and we had to settle for two very different options.
- Immersed in the outdoors but with all the comforts
- Appreciation for landscape and complexity of ecosystems
- Top quality interpretive guiding
- Thrilling contrast to vehicle-based wildlife viewing
South Luangwa – Zambia
In South Luangwa, known as the birthplace of the walking safari, we love point-to-point itineraries where you can hike between permanent camps in the remote southern sector of the park. Games drives or walks are available while at the camp, but moving between the camps on foot is a special way to experience this dynamic and game-rich valley.
Lewa Conservancy – Kenya
In Kenya, there are a number of walking safaris especially in the rugged Northern Rangelands, but our favorite is a multi-night, camel-supported fly-camping experience on Lewa Conservancy. Known for its large population of black & white rhino, Lewa offers dramatic high-country scenery, and your personal team of Masai guides know all the best sunset spots.
Top Community-based Conservation Safari
Sarara – Namunyak Conservancy – Kenya
So many safari camps and lodges do great conservation and community development work, but Sarara feels like a camp that has grown out of a cause. It is a lovely bush camp with a dramatic setting on a private community-run conservancy. The guides are community elders and expert naturalists who can introduce you to timeless traditions as well as cutting-edge conservation.
Reteti, on the neighboring conservancy, is the only community-managed elephant sanctuary in Africa, and the whole area is a cross-roads, literally and figuratively. Members of different tribes representing a patchwork of conservancies work alongside each other, collaborating with researchers and demonstrating a new model for sustainable ecotourism.
- Menagerie of rescued animals in camp, favorite for children
- Remote and spectacular scenery perfect for hiking
- Relaxed cultural exchanges: ladies beadworking and singing wells
- Reteti Elephant Sanctuary visits
Top Family Safari
Lamai – Serengeti – Tanzania
All families are different, but most families are looking for some of the same things for their safari. Flexibility, privacy and variety are key to keeping everybody comfortable, engaged and happy. We’ve seen an amazing increase in family safari accommodations, but our all time favorite sits on a rocky outcrop with views over miles and miles of the endless Serengeti.
Lamai Serengeti feels like the ultimate wilderness adventure fort in a prime region of the Serengeti with important kid friendly amenities like a fun, thoughtful staff, a pool, private verandas, a natural rock lookout deck and lots of areas for exploration. It’s about the ultimate wildlife experience with a fun place to call home.
- Spectacular Kopje setting with views of Serengeti
- Classic East Africa wildlife viewing
- Family oriented guides and camp staff
- Variety of lodge activities and spaces to explore
Top Multi-Generational Family Safari
Somalisa Acacia – Hwange – Zimbabwe
The key to planning multi-generational family safaris is finding a core experience that everyone can share while leaving room for other interests or destinations. Somalisa Acacia in Hwange National Park is a perfect setting for a multi-generational family safari, as a stand-alone camp or part of a longer circuit. It’s easy to access being a short flight or drive from Victoria Falls, and it combines well with Cape Town, Mozambique beaches or other safari destinations in Zimbabwe, the Okavango Delta or Sabi Sands.
The camp itself is stunning, with a dramatic unique design and regular visits from elephant herds who drink from the pool, and the neighboring sister camps offer space and variety for larger family groups. It’s the staff that really makes this camp a great fit. Young camp managers and hosts are enthusiastic to make you feel at home, and you’ll find veteran guides who can show you traditional bushcraft skills and tell captivating stargazing stories.
- Flexible room configurations, luxury in camp experience
- Casual and friendly staff, and family oriented guides
- Something for grandparents, parents and kids
- Convenient hub location for separate extensions
Top Remote Safari
Shipwreck Lodge – Skeleton Coast – Namibia
Shipwreck-shaped cabins jut out of endless dunes where the world’s oldest desert meets the cold Benguela winds of the Atlantic Ocean. Namibia’s Skeleton Coast is known for its extremes, the harshness of the desert and the beauty of solitary landscapes filled with history.
It’s a land of contrasts which is embodied by this quirky lodge that invites you to explore one of the most stark and inhospitable places on the planet. Game drives and walks explore dry riverbeds in search of the rare desert-adapted flora and fauna that survive in these harsh conditions. There’s quad biking and sand-boarding in the dunes, beachcombing turns up whale bones and century-old artifacts, and your guides share endless stories of shipwrecks, diamond mines and geologic time etched into this impossibly remote slice of African wilderness.
- Ultimate traveler bragging rights
- Unique and dramatic, sand dunes with fog
- Extraordinary desert-adapted wildlife and plants
- 4×4 and quad bike excursions, walking, beachcombing, ship-wrecking
Top Green Season Safari
Serian “The Original” – Mara North – Kenya
There is no better place to be than the Mara during the Green Season months of April and May. It’s truly paradise. The storm clouds over the escarpment are fantastic, and the wildlife seems to rejoice in the afternoon showers. Serian Original captures a freshness of the Masai Mara. It’s one of the most picturesque sites, right on the Mara River, and there always seems to be a breeze, sumptuous food and plenty of time to linger.
Set in the private Mara North Conservancy, the name Serian means peaceful and serene, and, even though you’re in one of the best known wildlife sanctuaries in the world, you have it all to yourself. The camp provides a private vehicle for every booking, the guides are talented and enthusiastic, and you can walk the grounds, sleep in a treehouse and play with Wifi, the resident good dog.
Serian Original is a great destination all year, but during the Green Season when the Mara is reborn, it feels like the perfect retreat for rejuvenation.
- Secret season with few guests in the Mara
- Excellent year-round resident wildlife
- Long stay to enjoy walking and treehouse sleepout
- Fresh local food and wonderfully warm hosting
Top Photographic Safari
Mashatu – Tuli Block – Botswana
Mashatu is a rare safari lodge that could find itself in almost any best-of category. The landscape is singularly impressive, there’s lots of different activities and the wildlife doesn’t disappoint. As a private reserve, Mashatu offers tons of flexibility, and it is a huge landscape that rewards a longer stay.
Mashatu really shines for the photographer. There are sweeping vistas overlooking remarkable topography, unbelievable baobabs and a perfect quality of light that seems impossible to find anywhere else. On top of biking, hiking and horseback riding, the photographic hides offer something truly spectacular: a perfect protected hiding spot at ground level on the edge of an active waterhole shared by a wide variety of wildlife.
- Multiple productive photo hides
- Excellent photographic vehicles and tutors on site
- High rate of “predator action” and kills
- Great density of wildlife with some unique species