Looking for Africa’s best luxury safari lodges? There aren’t many travel experiences that come close to spending time in the African bush, spotting wildlife on safari. And if you’re looking for luxurious lodges and super-indulgent places from which to take it all in for a night or two, you could do a lot worse than check yourself into one of the luxury safari lodges below.
There is no shortage of luxury safari lodges on offer across Africa, so we’ve asked travel bloggers from around the world to help us out, and nominate their favourite luxury safari lodges in East and Southern Africa. The below list is made up of travel blogger nominations, plus lodges we’ve stayed at ourselves and can vouch for as providing ultimate safari luxury.
So read on below for our collection of the 25 most indulgent luxury safari lodges across the continent:
Nottens Bush Camp
Sabi Sands, South Africa
If you are looking for a really special stay during your safari in South Africa, you should consider Nottens Bush Camp in Sabi Sand Reserve.
The lodge has, unlike many others, no fence and no electricity so you are really staying in the bush (in one of the nine exclusive, private suites). A guard brings you to your room after dark and we experienced why they do so. One night we almost stumbled over a hyena on our way to our room. We were so shocked and happy that we had a guard with us. Another night my parents woke up and heard a strange noise in front of their room. They got out of bed to take a look and there was an elephant eating the plants that stood on their porch.
From your room in African style, you are overlooking an open area with a waterhole, so sit on your porch and enjoy the panoramic views and the wildlife passing by. You will see zebra, elephants, antelopes, and many other animals pass by.
Nottens Bush Camp is one of the original game lodges in South Africa and is known for its highly experienced rangers. and the area is great for spotting leopards.
This family-owned lodge goes the extra mile. After our first safari, we entered our room. All the candles and lanterns were burning, the bathtub was filled, rose leaves everywhere and a bottle of South African Vonkelwijn (champagne) was waiting for us.
In the evening all the guests are sitting at a big table to share the most thrilling stories about their safari.
They organize two game drives a day. One at 05.30 in the morning and one at 15.30 in the afternoon. In between those safaris you can relax beside the pool or enjoy a massage at the Nature Spa.
Phinda Mountain Lodge
Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa
Phinda Game Reserve, in KwaZulu Natal, is home to some of the most beautiful, luxurious lodges in Africa. The best by far is Mountain Lodge. As the name says, this is located in such a way to afford beautiful views across the bushveld to panoramic mountains.
The lodge is blissfully isolated on top of a hill. Once there, you will walk to the common areas where you will find the dining area, where a decadent breakfast and lunch, as well as afternoon tea are offered every day. So much care is taken in the selection of the ingredients that you even have a choice of several types of coffee and roasts. The common area is also where the bar is located, with a seating area directly facing the mountains, for incredible views.
On the way to your room you will find the beautiful pool and the spa, perfect for a relaxing afternoon – before you drive away on one of the game drives.
Rooms are incredibly comfortable, with large beds with a pillow menu; a sitting area with a fridge and all sorts of drinks and snacks; a deck with a plunge pool – a favorite of local wildlife which is free to roam the grounds (it is not uncommon to spot nyalas and at times even elephants drinking from the pool!), and a very spacious bathroom with a large shower and a Victorian-style bathtub.
At Phinda Mountain Lodge you will feel welcome, pampered and you will be able to fully relax while enjoying nature and the unique wildlife of this part of the country.
Singita Sweni Lodge
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Contributed by sustainable travel bloggers Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel
Located in Kruger National Park, Singita Sweni Lodge epitomizes the definition of a lux eco-safari stay. The lodge is located on 33,000 acres of exclusive concession land on the banks of the Sweni River. This meant that hippos, crocs, elephants, and other wildlife can often be spotted meandering past the lodge.
Singita Sweni Lodge offers an intimate setting far away from the crowds associated with Kruger National Park. There are only seven large luxurious suites on-site and each one is designed to bring the outdoors in. They have large floor to ceiling windows, big wooden decks, and modern decor with natural elements incorporated into the design.
For us, one of the highlights of staying at Singita Sweni was their strong focus on sustainability. They have an ethos of “touching the earth lightly” and their efforts were visible in every element of our stay. All meals are crafted with seasonal produce and sourced from local suppliers. Plus, Singita Sweni Lodge is involved in a number of conservation and social initiatives in the community. One such project was the creation of their solar power plant. Its implementation has meant the lodge can save close to 1,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
Of course, we also loved the morning and afternoon game drives. We had many wonderful sightings of lions, giraffes, zebras, elephants, buffalos, hippos, waterbucks, and other antelopes. Plus we came across the most unique sighting of them all – a unique white lion, spotted only in this part of Kruger National Park!
If you are looking into a safari in Africa we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Singita Sweni Lodge for an eco-lux experience. It’s a truly one of a kind destination.
Zebra Hills Safari Lodge
Manyoni Private Game Reserve
Zebra Hills is nestled in the private game reserve of Manyoni in Zululand, and is a sure shot delight for wildlife enthusiasts. Being part of a private reserve gives the lodge owners and guides a lot of flexibility in terms of game watching and safari hours. This is one of the highlights, alongside the spectacular zebra themed decor in the bedrooms, common areas, bar, and dining room.
The perks of living in a private reserve are aplenty, but my favorite bit was enjoying traditional braai in the evenings whilst you wait for the lions to come for a refreshing sip of water in the adjoining water hole.
This is the only place where I have watched lions on foot. Yes, that’s right. The waterhole is just across the swimming pool/barbeque area and if you stay put, it is easy to spot a few thirsty beasts loitering around to quench their thirst.
With no restrictions on safari hours, the night safaris offered umpteen nocturnal sightings with our top game sightings of the day being three cheetah cubs on a kill followed by a charging black rhino. Such sightings are a dream for true wildlife lovers and Zebra Hills, with its ultra-luxury sleeps and skilled naturalists, made our dream vacation come true.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
Big 5 destination Kwandwe Private Game Reserve covers 54,000 acres of private wilderness area. The reserve includes 30 kilometers of the Great Fish River, meaning a diverse landscape and varied wildlife sightings.
The reserve has some great family-friendly safari options offering child-focused wildlife activities such as making plaster casts of animal footprints and visits to animal orphanages, to help make your safari more meaningful. It is one of the best places to go on safari in South Africa with kids.
Accommodation at Kwandwe: There are four properties in the reserve with 22 beds in total, meaning not too many other people or safari trucks around when you’re doing your game drives. Melton Manor and Uplands Homestead are exclusive-use lodges for families or small groups. Find prices & book >>
Samara Private Game Reserve
Set among wildlife-rich rivers, mountains, and open plains, luxury private game reserve Samara offers guests some of the most breath-taking landscapes in South Africa.
Home to a very successful cheetah regeneration program, the reserve gives a good chance of spotting these beautiful cats, alongside the big 5 and large herds of eland.
Accommodation at Samara: Samara offers two exclusive onsite lodges – the Karoo Lodge and Manor House. Find prices & book >>
Amakhala Game Reserve
The Amakhala Game Reserve is an 18,000-acre joint conservation effort where a former farming area has been rewilded. Wildlife likely to be encountered on game drives in the reserve includes the big five, as well as cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and plenty of antelope species.
Accommodation options: There are 10 owner-managed properties across the reserve, ranging from restored country homes to tented camps, ensuring there’s something for everyone. An all-inclusive safari experience and a range of wildlife-focused activities are offered at each property. Find prices & book >>
Kariega Game Reserve
Kariega is a family-owned and run big five reserve incorporating 10,000 hectares of pristine African wilderness and two large rivers – the Kariega and the Bushmans rivers – giving access to the sea. The reserve offers abundant game viewing, and in addition to the big 5, game to spot at Kariega includes hippo, hyena, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, eland, kudu, waterbuck and a variety of other antelope, as well as a myriad of bird species.
Kariega is a particularly family-friendly game lodge offering a daily children’s programme at the Kids on Safari center.
Accommodation at Kariega Game Reserve: The reserve offers five safari lodges at a variety of price points, though all are at the high end, with quality and service to match. Find prices & book >>
Shamwari Game Reserve
Big five reserve Shamwari prides itself on being both friendly (the name means “my friend” in Shona), and child-friendly. Childminding services are available on request, along with a host of kid-specific activities to keep them occupied – including the conservation focussed ‘Kids on Safari’ program. What’s particularly nice (and somewhat unusual) about Shamwari for young families is that children from four upwards are permitted on game drives. Just a 2 hour drive from Port Elizabeth, Shamwari is easily accessible.
Accommodation options: Shamwari has seven lodges and one explorer camp, each with a distinct vibe. From exclusive tranquillity, effortless family enjoyment, or the back-to-nature appeal of a luxury tented camp. Find prices & book >>
Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve
Tswalu Kalahari is the largest privately owned game reserve in South Africa – 100,000 hectares located in the Southern Kalahari, close to the Botswana border. Although the reserve is huge, visitor numbers are kept to just 30 at a time, with all guests enjoying a private guided experience to optimise their time there. Aside from the excellent game drives, activities include horse riding, habituated meerkat colony walks, sleep-outs under the stars, and black rhino walking safaris. Children of all ages are welcome, and for families, Tswalu makes for a truly unique and memorable (malaria-free!) safari experience.
Accommodation options: Accommodation is luxurious with a choice of two lodges, the secluded Tarkuni (a private home with 5 suites), and The Motse (a spacious lodge with nine suites). Find prices & book >>
Madikwe Game Reserve
Located on the Botswana border a 3.5-hour drive from Johannesburg, Madikwe is a wild and remote reserve that’s home to the big five, and is famous for its thriving population of wild dog, as well as gemsbok, springbok, zebra, giraffe and over 340 species of birds.
Accommodation options: The reserve has a large selection of camps and lodges, including the lovely Jaci’s Lodges, Mateya Safari Lodge, Madikwe Safari Lodge, and Little Madikwe Hills. Find prices & book >>
The Ant Collection
Two family-owned and operated lodges – Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill – located in their own spectacular private game reserve. The reserve is a real haven for animals (over 40 species) and people looking for a wonderful, malaria-free safari. As well as game drives, there’s horse riding, elephant safaris, and swimming available, amongst other activities.
Accommodation options: The Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill offer very family-friendly, luxurious accommodation that is intimate and homely. Find prices & book >>
Entabeni Safari Conservancy
Entabeni means ‘place of the mountain’, a private reserve spread over five ecosystems including wetlands, grass plains, craggy escarpments, and cliffs. Large animals such as elephants and rhinos are plentiful, along with leopards, cheetahs, and buffalo.
There’s a choice of activities other than game drives to keep you entertained, such as bush walks, sunset lake cruises, horse riding, and helicopter air safaris. Children are welcomed but must be six or over to join a game drive.
Accommodation options: Lodging includes Lakeside Lodge on the shores of Lake Entabeni and Wildside Safari Camp. Find prices & book >>
Leobo Private Reserve
Leobo Private Reserve is encompassed by rugged rocks, mountains, bushveld savannah, rivers, gorges, and an abundance of wildlife, and is one of only a handful of sole-use private reserves in Africa – allowing guests full access to the entire estate and all its facilities. Teeming with plains game, as well as hippo, there’s also a wide array of activities for all ages including paintballing, quad bikes, shooting, fishing, and more.
Accommodation options: The lodge has luxury 9 chalets with views over the Palala valley – and a stunning swimming pool built into the side of the mountain. It’s fully staffed and rented exclusively, so is perfect for families or groups of friends. Find prices & book >>
Mabalingwe Nature Reserve
Main Mabalingwe lodge at sunsetThe Mabalingwe biome, made up of 8,500 hectares of bushveld, provides wonderful game-viewing opportunities year-round. The reserve is very family-friendly, and the rolling grasslands make game-viewing a breeze. Home to the big five, and also hippo, giraffe, hyena, and sable, the reserve has a variety of family and child-friendly activities to go alongside their day and night game drives.
Accommodation options: There are many types of accommodation available including chalets, campsites, and bush lodges. Find prices & book >>
Welgevonden Game Reserve & Marakele National Park
Adjoining areas Welgevonden Game Reserve and Marakele National Park are in the process of removing their fences to allow the game to roam in a larger area. Both parks are home to the big five, as well as 30 more mammal species and over 250 species of birds. Marakele is more for intrepid safari-goers than luxury safari seekers – you’ll definitely need your own four-wheel-drive car, whilst Welgevonden as a private game reserve has a focus on high-end luxury.
Accommodation options: Are plentiful and varied inside the reserve, with a host of luxurious and extremely hospitable lodges and camps to choose from. Find prices & book >>
That’s your lot for luxury safari lodges in South Africa. Have you stayed at one of these lodges, or know of any others that should be on the list? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.