On safari: What we look for in luxury lodges, tented camps and mobile safari expeditions
The very best safari lodges and tented camps provide guests with a home-away-from-home in a new and wild country. Our favourites tend to be small and owner-run, with the very best resident guides and, of course, in the most awe-inspiring locations.
Our African Experts, Claire, Millie, Cara, Hamish and founder Henrietta Loyd have stayed and even worked at the best safari lodges and camps. Through the personal friendships that they have developed with the owners, we can always make sure that your trip exceeds expectations, with those little touches that make a big difference.
Below we have mapped out some of the things we look for in a luxury lodge, a tented camp and a mobile safari expedition to demonstrate how we decide what is exactly right for you.
WHAT WE LOOK FOR IN A LUXURY LODGE
For first-timers and families who want all the mod-cons, great facilities and a diverse range of activities, lodges are usually the best choice. We choose lodges that are deeply rooted and connected to their surroundings, ones that are steeped in the culture, but for those that want it they can also have gyms, wifi and even spas. As well as the luxury afforded by permanent structures, rooms also offer a level of privacy and space not always possible with tented camps and mobile safaris.
Londolozi, which has five luxury lodges positioned along the best stretches of the Sabi River, is one the best properties in South Africa. Owned and run by our old friends the Vartys’, what makes it so special is the relaxed, family feel that runs throughout the entire operation, a testament to how hands on and welcoming the family is. A real home away from home, guests feel totally comfortable wandering in and out of the kitchen and curling up with a good book in the stylish sitting rooms. The guiding is also superb, and if we can’t have Dave Varty himself take you out, then he will ensure that his finest guides are available to cazenove+loyd clients. Guiding is Dave’s passion, and he demands the same from the guides he employs and trains. There is a vast range of activities on offer and a real focus on photography, with specially modified vehicles designed to help guests take incredible wildlife shots. We can also arrange a day’s photography tuition so that clients can return with even more fantastic images.
The stunning Singita lodges in the Grumeti Reserve, Tanzania are also hard to beat. On a visit last year, Destination Expert Cara was particularly impressed by the modern Faru Faru lodge, with its stylish design and huge sliding windows, which can be opened at the touch of a button from your bed to let that African sunlight flood in. At the top of the hill close to Faru Faru, is Sasakwa Lodge which has a more old-school glamour vibe. At Singita Grumeti, guests are also provided with a personal staff member who will look after you throughout your stay, making sure your favourite tipple is available out in the bush and that every possible want and need is met.
WHAT WE LOOK FOR IN A TENTED CAMP
Tented camps suit clients who long for that vintage safari experience. The camps we choose for our clients tend to be slightly more remote, with that romantic rustic feel.
Botswana is well known for its stunning tented camps, such as Jack’s Camp and San Camp. Staying at Jack’s transports you back to the ‘Golden Age’ of safari, with its splendid old-world interiors, impeccable service, and traditional English afternoon tea. Only a short drive away, San Camp is the ultimate honeymoon destination, with its billowing white tents looking out over the Makgadikgadi Pans. It feels relaxed, yet incredibly exclusive with only 6 tents which have four-poster beds and paraffin lanterns. Wonderfully there is no electricity, which makes the stargazing even more otherworldly. Owner Ralph Bousfield set up Jack’s around the same time that Henrietta Loyd started cazenove+loyd and we can attest for the incredible attention to detail and care he has always put into the camp, consistently sourcing the finest antique furniture in addition to family heirlooms to create the perfect timeless retreat in the middle of the desert.
For clients with children searching for something a little closer to the raw safaris of the past, we love Footsteps and their Young Explorers programme in Botswana, with its bucket showers and simple, but still very comfortable accommodation. The activities for children are extremely well thought-out with everything from animal tracking to mokoro canoe trips to bush craft (making jewellery and weaving baskets out of leaves) and learning how to cook typical bush cuisine on offer. Whatever their interests, children and teenagers will leave inspired.
Our favourite tented camps are always in unbeatable locations: that is the point of being under canvas. Cottar’s Camp for instance lies in the popular Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, but is far from any other tourists, located on its own private concession close to the Tanzanian border. Run by Calvin Cottar, a 5th generation Kenyan who inherited the business from his father, safari is in the blood of all involved with the camp and it runs on a passion for the area and its wildlife and people. Cottar’s prides itself upon its incredibly charismatic guides: the camp has the highest number of professional level guides within one camp in the whole of Kenya. We can even organise for Calvin himself to be your private guide. He will charm you with his unrivalled insight into the area and the animals and his passion for the area he has always called home.
WHAT WE LOOK FOR IN MOBILE SAFARIS
For something raw and wild, a mobile safari expedition is unbeatable. An obvious advantage of this style of safari is that the location of your camp is chosen depending on when and where the wildlife is most dense, and it allows access to some of the more remote parts of the reserves away from other visitors, where permanent structures are not permitted.
On the best mobile safaris, such as Legendary Serengeti Mobile Camp which moves around Northern Tanzania in pursuit of seasonal game movements, no one has ever previously stepped foot where you are staying. Your guide will open up this incredible area for you, as they are able to be spontaneous, fluid and quick-thinking. Don’t be surprised if you are having breakfast and suddenly hurried to the vehicle as there has been a leopard sighting a mile away. Moments later and you will be face to face with the magnificent predator.
Through the complete absence of other human life, it feels like a completely raw experience, although this is not to say that it is a back-to-basics camping. The best camps feel almost theatrical in their brilliance. Proper beds, dressing tables, china plates, a well-stocked bar and even a small library, and all produced from a few vehicles. You’ll even find Marmite and other home comforts the next day at breakfast. To have this level of service, while also being able to hear a hyena laugh through your tent wall is truly special.
Robin Pope Walking Safaris pioneered expeditions on foot in Zambia, exploring the more remote areas of the South Luangwa National Park, which has a varied terrain and shy game. A very exclusive experience, with just six guests and one guide, it is perfect for families wanting to travel privately or for solo travellers looking to travel with a small group. This is an old school, stripped back way of doing a safari, with simple tents, comfortable camp beds and lanterns lit at night. Destination Expert Millie even spent a few years working for Robin Pope so can offer clients a real insight into this unique experience and the area she still has a special passion for.
All of these lodges and camps have been visited numerous times and are loved by our Destination Experts, but this is by no means a prescriptive list. When deciding the best places for our clients to stay, the only consideration is their wants and needs. Start planning your trip of a lifetime today.
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