10 Safari Camps to Visit Before You Die

May 31, 2018  By: Gretchen

We’ve spent countless nights in Africa enjoying its magic, hospitality and beautiful accommodations. We’re often asked about which our favorite camps are, which is a really hard question. But after much discussion and debate, we have managed to come up with a list of ’10 safari camps to visit before you die!’ These are in no particular order – we couldn’t take things that far – and to keep the number to 10, we had to leave off some truly amazing places like Sandibe, Mala Mala, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and more. What we present to you here are some of the very top camps in Africa in terms of luxury, food and service, but also for excellent location, proximity to great game viewing, and uniqueness.

We invite you to explore the list and see which safari camp you’d like to visit!

Photo courtesy Alex Walker's Serian

Alex Walker’s Serian – the Original Safari Camp – Mara North, Kenya

Alex Walker’s camps are most renowned for the incredible caliber of their guides. Their award-winning team has some of East Africa’s best guides, including several amazing female guides, once a rarity, but a growing trend with the support of safari camps like Serian.

The camp’s location is also key – the camp lies in the private Mara North Conservancy – so the feeling of having your own personal piece of Africa is a luxury that the camp offers in spades. The game viewing in the conservancy is spectacular, and with the incredible guides and low density of visitors, walking safaris are also a special way to discover the magic of the African bush.

Photo courtesy Nomad Tanzania

Greystoke Mahale Camp – Mahale National Park, Tanzania

Set on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in remote Western Tanzania, Greystoke Mahale Camp is something out of a daydream. With Robinson Crusoe-style bandas tucked into the edge of the forest line with views out to the crystalline water, it’s a place where visitors can drop off the edge of the map. Once you arrive to this safari camp, you might never want to leave.

With water lapping at your toes and towering mountains at your back, the setting is beyond idyllic. You can spend days lazing on the beach, snorkeling, cruising the lake’s waters on a traditional dhow or hiking to waterfalls and icy rock pools. The ultimate activity at Greystoke is chimp trekking. Just a stone’s throw from where Jane Goodall performed her ground-breaking research at Gombe, we consider Mahale Mountains National Park the ultimate place to trek chimpanzees in the whole of Africa. A visit here combined with the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda or Uganda would be a primate-lovers dream!

Photo courtesy Wilderness Safaris

Serra Cafema – Kunene, Namibia

Speaking of dropping off the edge of the map, Serra Cafema in Namibia’s extremely remote Kunene region is our other ‘really get away from it all’ location. Set on the banks of the Kunene River near the Angolan border, this safari camp offers a kind of solitude rarely encountered in our ever-busy world. The spectacular scenery and vastness of the surroundings invite contemplation and relaxation.

Visitors can quad bike (ATV) through nearby dunes, cruise along the river looking for birds and crocodiles, enjoy nature drives and walks in the valley, gaze at a sky teeming with stars, or visit a local Himba settlement. The Himba are one of the last truly nomadic people on the planet, and visiting a village is an unforgettable cultural experience.

Photo courtesy Singita

Singita Boulders, Sabi Sand, South Africa

Singita Boulders Lodge ticks all our boxes for a South African safari camp. With its dense concentration of wildlife, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is one of the best places in Africa to get a look at the Big 5, and Singita Boulders is smack in the middle of the action. Seeing and learning about the wildlife with a good guide makes all the difference in the visitor experience, and Singita Boulders takes top marks on guiding as well. It doesn’t hurt that the lodge itself is gorgeous, the food amazing and the service impeccable.

Photo courtesy Wilderness Safaris

Bisate Lodge, Musanze, Rwanda

This new lodge near Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda has been turning heads since before it opened. Bisate’s construction injected hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy and created jobs for the local community. Lucky guests enjoy views of the Virunga Massif, as well as exclusivity (only 6 rooms!), incredible service and delectable meals. We think it’s the best base for gorilla trekking in Rwanda, hands down. But it’s booking up a year in advance, so get planning now if you’re thinking of visiting!

Photo courtesy Asilia Africa

Sayari Camp, Serengeti, Tanzania

This safari camp is a firm staff favorite. It’s the best location to have a chance to witness a river crossing of the great migration, a wish list item for most wildlife enthusiasts. Sayari is situated on the more remote, unspoiled plains of the Northern Serengeti and has easy access to the Mara River and multiple river crossing points in the Serengeti National Park. In addition to game drives, guests at Sayari Camp can enjoy walking safaris, bush meals, community visits and hot air balloon rides (additional cost).

Mombo

Mombo Camp, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Botswana

For some of the finest game viewing in Botswana, we unreservedly recommend Mombo Camp, located on the top concession on the best island, Chief’s Island, in the heart of the Okavango Delta. It is known as the “place of plenty”, highlighted by the massive concentrations of plains game and predators that can be seen. These include all the big cats, and lion sightings are frequent. You can also have the chance to see leopard and cheetah, spotted hyena, large herds of buffalo, elephant, white rhino, giraffe, blue wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra and much more. Birdlife is prolific around Mombo as well. It is quite possibly one of the most luxurious camps on the entire continent, and its recent rebuild has elevated that luxury even further.

Photo courtesy AAC traveler Gail Laviola

Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa

Situated in the largest private game reserve in South Africa, Tswalu Kalahari offers an exclusive experience in a unique ecosystem. Just 10 private vehicles are allowed to explore over 270,000 acres at any given time, and guests might get to see lesser known and found animals such as brown hyena, aardwolf, pangolin and porcupine, along with wild dog and black-maned lions. Visiting with habituated meerkats is another highlight of a visit to Tswalu. And did we mention private vehicles? You will be allocated your own game drive vehicle, guide and tracker so that you can enjoy a completely flexible itinerary. Accommodations include sumptuous suites, a private villa and a starlit sleep out deck.

Photo courtesy Bushcamp Company

Chindeni Bushcamp, South Lwangwa, Zambia

Zambia is the birthplace of the walking safari, and our favorite base to explore South Luangwa National Park is from the intimate, 4-tent Chindeni Bushcamp. South Luangwa feels completely wild and exploring it on foot with highly qualified guides is a huge thrill. Seeing wildlife on foot is totally different to observing game from a vehicle and is something safari enthusiasts should experience! The concentration of animals along the Luangwa River is among the highest in Africa. The park also allows night drives, which gives guests greater chances of spotting the park’s leopards and other nocturnal species.

Photo courtesy Somalisa

Somalisa Camp, Hwange, Zimbabwe

Hwange takes the award for best elephant viewing in Africa. With 40,000+ elephants, visitors are virtually guaranteed some very special pachyderm sightings. Somalisa Safari Camp is the perfect spot to be in the midst of Hwange’s excellent overall game viewing. The design and furnishings are elegant, thoughtful and beautiful, with the sounds, sights and smells of the bush just outside of each screened tent! It’s also a great choice for a walking safari in Hwange – a brilliant way to experience this unique park.

Are these camps on your 'must visit' list? Think we missed one? Let us know!

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