Safaris are back, baby!

This was once an experience that went hand in hand with wealthy octogenarians and binoculars. Now, it’s been amped up.

Africa is often thought of as the final frontier for those who have been to Southeast Asia as backpackers or already hopped on and off trains around Europe in our youth, leaving a trail of debauchery in our wake.

But this continent is different. A safari is different. It's a considered journey and rightly so. It evokes a sense of wonder, awe and appreciation for all the reasons we travel in the first place.

But when you go, it's important that you boil it right down to the best bets: from an epic, elevated pool where you can cool off while watching game, to being up-close with a tribe, and the most magic of sundowner spots.

To make things easy for your next visit, we’ve compiled the ultimate in African safari experiences:

QUIRKIEST SAFARI STAY

KRUGER SHALATI, Kruger National Park, South Africa

QUIRKIEST SAFARI STAY

Kruger Shalati, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Floating in a serene swimming pool, on a train, PARKED on a bridge, as wild crocodiles and hippopotamus roam below: this is Kruger Shalati in a nutshell.

From the 1920s until 1976, trains ran across the Selati Bridge above Sabie River, travelling from Port Elizabeth to Mozambique and back. The line lay disused for many years but has recently been converted into the legitimately one-of-a-kind accommodation that it is now: seriously, nothing like this exists anywhere else in the world.

MOST EPIC SAFARI BED

Khwai Skybed, Moremi National Park, Botswana

Safari from your bed — this is something we can totally get around.

You won’t have slept anywhere like the Khwai Skybed. As well as being lofted five metres into the sky (as the name suggests) you’re also deep in a game reserve in Botswana, perched above a busy waterhole in Moremi National Park.

Wake up as the sun rises in the morning, and spot lion, leopard, eland, zebra and more – all from under the sheets.

BEST SUNDOWNER SPot

Sala’s Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya

BEST SUNDOWNER SPot

Sala’s Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya

The sundowner tradition on safari started as a way to protect against malaria.

They’re still just as important now, even if you haven’t seen a mozzy in days.

The rolling hills of the Masai Marai is the best spot for this. Beer, champagne or gin, that classic red African sun setting over rivers and grassy plains as giraffes and elephants amble past, Africa’s heart beating contently in front of you – it doesn’t get much better than that.

BEST SELF-DRIVE SAFARI

Etosha National Park & Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Strap yourself into the driver's seat and do as Fleetwood Mac would do (go your own way) in Namibia.

Self-drive safaris are becoming more popular and for obvious reasons; it gives you the freedom to go where you want, whenever you want. The expansive plains of Namibia are perfect for this. Get into a 4x4 and discover the gems in Etosha National Park, where arid landscapes produce a unique selection of wildlife to spot.

When you’re done spotting wild game, do as the Village People would do (go west) and explore the extraordinary Sossusvlei dunes and ‘end of the earth’ vibes of the Skeleton Coast to complete the ultimate African road trip.

EPIC WALKING SAFARI

HadzaBE tribe, LAKE Eyasi, Tanzania

EPIC WALKING SAFARI

Hadza tribe, Eyasi, Tanzania

Hunting for Bushmeat (often monkeys), collecting honey from wild hives… calling the four-day immersion experience with the Hadza people in Tanzania a ‘walking safari’ doesn’t quite tell the full story.

Sure, you do hoof it on foot to find some amazing wildlife in the area near Lake Eyasi, but it is the interaction with the Hadza that is the most epic part about this. Be one of them and help catch lunch, and feel what it would be like to live in a way that is completely different to your life.

Not for the faint hearted, game hunts can cover up to 10km.

BUCKET-LIST BATHTUB

(WITH A VIEW)

Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

A great bathtub is probably not at the forefront of your safari planning, nor does anyone want to see photos of you in the tub when you get back and show photos of your trip on slide night.

But it’s a growing trend in lodges these days to have a belter of a tub on the property. And when you think about it, it makes sense – imagine having an elephant or giraffe stroll by while you’re taking it easy in the rub-a-dub?

Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve has the absolute king of these, secluded amongst some large boulders and facing out to bush. While absolutely starkers, chill out with a champagne or a beer with only Africa’s best wildlife strolling by for company.

Another worthy contender would be the tub get lost relaxed in at Ahaspokuna Eco Camp in Sri Lanka for issue three of our digital magazine. Image credit: Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve by Seasons in Africa.

BEST SAFARI LODGE POOL

Phinda Rock Lodge, Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

BEST SAFARI LODGE POOL

Phinda Rock Lodge, Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Phinda Rock Lodge is set dramatically on a cliff face, in the breathtakingly stunning Zululand region of northern KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. And if that were the only sentence we wrote about this place, that would be enough for this section.

But it's really the Lodge’s six private suites and their turquoise-blue plunge pools that steal the show. Each seemingly dissolves into the endless green horizon, with views of the Phinda Private Game Reserve and unparalleled intimacy for you and your loved one.

BEST SAFARI DESERT POOL

Zannier Hotels Sonop, Sonop Farm, Namibia

BEST SAFARI DESERT POOL

Zannier Hotels Sonop, Namibia

Pools are important in Africa. Almost mandatory for a Safari these days.

But they’re especially important in an African desert and this one in the Namibian desert is hard to go past.

Scrap that. This pool is elite. There are no competitors.

While the lodge here has 10 luxury tented suites, somehow spectacularly constructed on granite boulders, the desert infinity pool here is the centrepiece. Offering uninterrupted views, sunrise to midnight dips and even classic movies on a custom-built big screen.

BEST SAFARI TREEHOUSE

Chisa Busanga, Kafue National Park, Zambia

BEST SAFARI TREEHOUSE

Chisa Busanga, Zambia

This corner of Kafue National Park in Zambia is famous for its lion sightings, so it's just as well that all the accommodation at Chisa Busanga Camp is built on stilts.

With just four cocoon-like rooms, the nests have been designed to resemble the endemic weaver birds’ nests that can be found in the surrounding trees around Chisa Busanga.

Take flight each morning for a spectacular view across the Kafue plains or head back to the common areas for a dip (and a drink) in the Camp’s plunge pool.

While the lodge here has 10 luxury tented suites, somehow spectacularly constructed on granite boulders, the desert infinity pool here is the centrepiece. Offering uninterrupted views, sunrise to midnight dips and even classic movies on a custom-built big screen.

BEST Open Ocean Safari

Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Forget Zanzibar in Tanzania, this is Africa’s newest island paradise. The Quirimbas islands in Mozambique are stunning and there’s no better way to rip the lid off both the underwater adventures here and the rich colonial history than by traditional wooden dhow.

On this safari with an ocean twist, you’ll first spend three nights in a meticulously restored colonial lodge on the former Portuguese island outpost of Ibo before heading for the high seas for the real adventure.

Across four nights on a mobile safari dhow, you will sail into crystal clear waters and safari under the waves with expert guides helping you on your daily snorkel.

Your guides will also set up camp under palm trees on the remote Matemo Island and return you to Ibo where you can finish your trip exploring the ruins of what was a once thriving Portuguese colony off the coast of Mozambique.

UNMISSABLE DESERT CYCLING SAFARI

Namib Desert, Namibia

UNMISSABLE DESERT CYCLING SAFARI

Namib Desert, Namibia

First there was mountain biking, but then some African genius decided that some of the biggest sand dunes in the world were also worth riding as well. But hear us out, this one is pretty epic.

Introducing the Fat Biking Safari, which is an eight-night guesthouse and camping experience through the Namib Desert on specially designed bikes built for specifically tackling sand.

There’s no denying that this adventure is tough and is for experienced riders only. Some days you’ll spend up to eight hours in the saddle, but you’ll also get a fully catered experience with endless starry nights. Expect to see oryx and jackals for this once in a lifetime safari.

DISCREET PHOTOGRAPHY HIDE

Jaci’s Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

It would be enough to say that Jaci’s Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve is a must-visit in its own right on your next safari to the Rainbow Nation.

But Jaci’s Lodge is also home to one of the best game photography experiences on the planet. Their underground terrapin hide is literally the best hiding spot. Semi-submerged in a natural watering hole, wild animals are completely unaware you are just metres away with your finger on the shutter.

The hide is accessible 24/7 through an underwater tunnel and comes fully equipped with state-of-the-art photography equipment. The Lodge also offers some of the best photographic courses in the continent, so you know exactly what to do when a herd of elephants get so close to the hide, you can actually count their eyelashes.

THRILL SEEKER SAFARI

Masai Mara, Kenya

THRILL SEEKER SAFARI

Masai Mara, Kenya

The Masai Mara is often one of the first safari experiences for new visitors to Africa. But just next door you’ll find the Greater Mara Conservancies in south west Kenya which also OVERLAP into the Serengeti plains of Tanzania. This hidden (and often overlooked) golden savannah in Kenya features wide open grasslands that make for the perfect backdrop for this unique horseback safari.

Gallop your way into some of the most untouched areas of the Mara’s private concessions over nine days where you'll camp each night and encounter wildebeest, zebra and even the local Maasai people.

Instead of the noise of a roaring 4WD engine, this journey on horseback can provide the best (and most natural) way to encounter game in this unforgettable corner of Kenya.

SAFARI FROM THE AIR

Cape Town, South Africa

AFRICA FROM THE AIR

Cape Town, South Africa

The stunning Cape Town backdrop is definitely best viewed from the air, and without any doors on your mode of transport.

Strap yourself in for an unforgettable and exhilarating helicopter ride over the Atlantic seaboard or Table Mountain on the only privately owned Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter - nicknamed ‘Huey’ - in the world.

This meticulously restored machine was designed specifically for combat and low level flying and actually did two tours of Vietnam, so you can channel your favourite character from Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now.

Fly The Huey also offers guests the opportunity to book a white-knuckled ‘Combat Mission’ which involves low-level flying skimming the waves along the beaches of Big Bay and Melkbos.

BEST SAFARI ROOM

Nanyukie Lodge, Serengeti, Tanzania

Technically, you’re sleeping in a tent at Nanyukie Lodge in the Serengeti. This may well be the biggest undersell in Africa.

The camps at Nanyukie are probably nicer than where you usually sleep. A large, church-style pyramid tent is filled with stylish furniture, the room leading out to a hardwood deck from which you can see the wonders of the Serengeti, be it wildlife or that red sun setting in the distance.

And did we mention the private swimming pool? Oh yeh, there’s one of those for most rooms as well.

BEST CULTURAL INTERACTION

‡Kohmani San, Kalahari Desert, South Africa

A Bushman Safari in the Kalahari Desert is not your usual kind of safari.

As well as spotting wildlife, get a first-hand, as close as possible glimpse into the life of the ‡Kohmani San, living among this group who have been based in the desert for 20,000 years.

This is for the more intrepid travellers; in a remote, sandy outpost in South Africa’s Northern Cape, learn how to hunt with a bow and arrow, go on an exhilarating four-wheel drive trip over the desert’s red dunes, and witness a trance dance - a powerful, state-altering healing dance.

CREME-DE-LA-CREME

SAFARI EXPERIENCE

Xigera Safari Lodge, Moremi Game Reserve, BOTSWANA

CREM-DE-LA-CREME

Moremi Game Reserve, BOTSWANA

Xigera Safari Lodge really is CREAM OF THE CROP when it comes to safaris.

The lodge’s Baobab Treehouse is a combination of indigenous Croton trees and steel designed in the shape of a Baobab tree, soaring ten metres into the sky and giving three levels of panoramic views over floodplains where all sorts of wildlife are known to graze, and where the stars above are like a cinema in the middle of a bush.

The lodge itself is based within Botswana's legendary Okavango Delta, with land, water and helicopter safaris available to you. Images: Xigera Safari Lodge

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

Get subscribed and get inspired. For FREE!