Skip to Content
Safaris & Customized Travel
Safaris by Experience
View All Safaris
North Africa
Central Africa
View All Destinations

Our Pick of 20 Intriguing Lodges & Camps for 2020

September 30, 2019 East Africa Bush Tails

For the Africa Adventure Company’s 2020 Safari Planner, we made a list of 20 Intriguing Lodges & Camps for 2020! The accommodations included in this list are equally divided between East and Southern Africa, and possess at least one of the following attributes: they’re brand-new, newly renovated, or just simply offer a stellar or novel luxury safari experience that we wish to highlight!

If you find a lodge or camp on this list particularly intriguing, we’d advise you to click on the accommodation’s Featured Itinerary link. Also, be on the lookout for links to past AAC Staff Trip Blog Posts that highlight certain destinations and/or accommodations.

East Africa

1) Mara Nyika

Naboisho Conservancy, Kenya

A view of Mara Nyika‘s common area and outdoor deck

Featured Itinerary: 10-Day Kenya Exclusive Locations

Mara Nyika is located in the Naboisho Conservancy, which is adjacent to the Maasai Mara. AAC likes this camp’s safari experience for three reasons.

First, because it is not located in a national park, guests are able to go on night game drives and guided walking safaris. Consider booking a balloon safari, too! Second, it also located in a far less crowded are than the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Third, as it is located within the Naboisho Conservancy, Mara Nyika directly partners with the local Maasai population to ensure better environmental and socio-economic sustainability. If desired, community visits may be arranged.

In terms of a classic safari experience, Mara Nyika‘s tents are among the best

Situated under a canopy of trees, Mara Nyika‘s common area and the individual canvas, platformed tents are interconnected by suspended walkways. Guests will feel like they’re walking among the treetops. The camp opened in August – AAC will be keeping a close eye on it!

2) Sasaab

Samburu Reserve, Kenya

Consider trying a camel excursion while at Sasaab – no prior experience required!

Featured Itinerary: 11-Day Conservation Luxury Flying Safari to Kenya

Located faraway from the throngs of visitors lining the Maasai Mara Game Reserve’s roads, Samburu National Reserve is a hidden gem” says Alison Nolting! The landscape is arid and rugged, but possesses a truly remarkable beauty. It is primarily inhabited by the Samburu people, who feature prominently as staff and guides at Sasaab; village visits may also be arranged.

For wildlife enthusiasts, Samburu National Reserve features reticulated giraffe, Grey’s zebra, gerenuk and Beisa oryx – species you can’t find in southern Kenya! Another wildlife attraction is the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, whose aim is to rescue orphaned or abandoned elephant calves and then reintroduce them to the wild.

Alison Nolting
Each of the 9 Moroccan-styled tents at Sasaab features a plunge pool and verandah

Besides traditional game drives, guests can participate in a myriad of activities, including the Samburu village visit, camel rides, hikes to Sundowner Rock’s viewpoint, and fly-camping. Kid specific activities include learning how to make a traditional bow and arrow from a Samburu guide. For wellness seekers, consider a visit to their superb SpaSaab.

A 3-time client of ours, who visited Sasaab earlier in August, glowingly praised his experience there, saying the following:

The lodge and adjoining tents are large and beautifully appointed… The large patio off our tent had a beautiful view of the river and its own plunge pool. It seemed like were there alone. A perfect place to relax and decompress… All the food was delicious, beautifully prepared and presented. It was the best we’ve had on safari.

Ray Arvay

3) Lemala Nanyukie

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

One of Lemala Nanyukie‘s permanent tents

Featured Itinerary: 12-Day Best of Tanzania Premier Drive/Fly Safari

Lemala Nanyukie is located in the Seronera region of the Serengeti, an atypically uncrowded part of the national park. The Seronera region is also known for its “kopjes,” unique rock outcrops made famous in the “Lion King” movie. There’s a very good chance you’ll spot a lion perching up in a kopje for an afternoon doze! If you want to see the Great Migration, it passes by Lemala Nanyukie from April to June and again from November to January.

Lemala Nanyukie features 15 tents, each with a lounge area, private plunge pool, and deck with incredible views of the Serengeti. Separate indoor and outdoor dining areas give guests flexibility in how they’d like to dine.

The common area and bonfire at Lemala Nanyukie

Two of Mark Nolting’s clients who recently visited Lemala Nanyukie had this to say about their time there:

We knew that we went quite high end on the accommodations when we booked Lemala Nanyukie. The facilities and views of the plains were awesome, the level of service blew us away, and the food’s surprising variety and high quality far exceeded our expectations. We coincidentally had a chance to hang out with the executive chef of all the Lemala camps over a campfire one night. Safe to say, Lemala Nanyukie didn’t disappoint!

– Gary & Lydia Kris

For more information about Lemala Nanyukie, check out Kyle Witten’s and Szilvia Hegyi’s blog post from their Kenya and Tanzania trip from January: Kyle Witten and Sziliva Hegyi Visiting Tanzania and Kenya

4) Entamanu Ngorongoro Camp

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

Entamanu Ngorongoro Camp’s elevated tents offer views of the crater and the Serengeti

Featured Itinerary: 14-Day Tanzania Family Widlife and Wilderness Safari

A relative newcomer at the world-renowned Ngorongoro Crater, Entamanu Ngorongoro Camp offers a traditional tented-camp experience where lodges is more common. Located on the northwestern part of the crater rim, it features fantastic sunrise views of the crater and sunset views of the Serengeti plains.

One of Elena Theodosiou’s clients had the following to say about his family’s experience at Entamanu Ngorongoro:

We loved the Entamanu Camp for its family-style dining, where we were able to meet travelers from all over the world and share our safari experiences with them. The views of the crater from the camp were incredible and we saw a large variety of wildlife on our drive to and from camp.

– Andres Dones

A Maasai-accompanied Highland walk along the crater rim while at Entamanu Ngorongoro

Activities include game drives, Highland walks, and a visit to nearby Maasai village. Ian Flores (one of AAC’s safari consultants) says that because of Entamanu‘s relationship with the local Maasai village, the cultural experience is more authentic for the Ngorongoro vicinity.

For multi-generational family groups that desire an additional degree of privacy, Entamanu Private has just opened. The ambiance, decor and excellent service are just as they are in Entamanu Ngorongoro. Guests staying there must book the entire camp – 4 minimum, 12 maximum.

5) Camp Zebra

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

At Camp Zebra, you can see the Great Migration – from the comfort of your tent’s verandah!

Featured Itinerary: 14-Day Tanzania Family Widlife and Wilderness Safari

Camp Zebra is the only seasonal mobile tented camp of all the accommodations in this list! Its location is dependent on the Great Migration. Camp Zebra is located in the northern Serengeti from June to November, then in the south from December to March.

Kollin Buchholz (an AAC consultant) had a multi-generational family visit Camp Zebra back in March. They had this to say about her time there:

We loved the location and the experience of a mobile camp. The food was delicious, staff courteous and thoughtful… and the bucket showers! Fun! We were in the heart of the Great Migration and experienced seeing a newborn wildebeest calf just minutes-old wobble to her legs and walk with her mamma.

– Meyers Family

Camp Zebra brings the fun of camping, and the creature comforts of home!

Most activities are focused on game viewing by vehicle, however, guests may also go on walking safaris and visit the local Maasai or Hadza. Depending on the camp’s location, hot air balloon rides can also be arranged; speak with your safari consultant to arrange these experiences in advance!

6) Ngare Serian

Mara North Conservancy, Kenya

One of Ngare Serian‘s four luxurious elevated tents

Featured Itinerary: 14-Day Best of Tanzania and Kenya Migration Safari

Within the Mara North Conservancy (adjacent to the Maasai Mara National Reserve) lies Ngare Serian. This intimate camp has only four elevated tents, each decorated with colonial style furnishings. Ngare Serian is optimally located to experience the wonders of the Great Migration from July until October. Furthermore, it’s also a great year-round spot to see the Big Five.

AAC likes this camp for same reasons it likes Mara Nyika: more activities and a less crowded game viewing experience than in the Maasai Mara Reserve.

Ngare Serian is accessible only by this bridge – adds an element of adventure!

But don’t just take our word – 2 clients of Szilvia Hegyi were effusive in their praise of Ngare Serian after visiting in August:

We could have easily spent a week at Ngare Serian. It was our absolute favorite of the trip! Our guide was fantastic, and our wildlife sightings were splendid: we saw 4 river crossing and a cheetah kill. Great camp staff, especially the resident photographer – his advice definitely helped improve our photos. Lastly, we’ve been on two safaris before, but Ngare Serian had the best food we’ve ever had on safari.

– David & Sara Fleisig

7) Namiri Plains

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The main area of the recently rebuilt Namiri Plains

Featured Itinerary: 8-Day Serengeti Flying Safari – SPECIAL

Located in the pristine eastern portion of the Serengeti, Namiri Plains is situated in arguably one of the best place in Africa to see cheetah – an animal that has become increasingly difficult to spot on safari. This area was formerly research-only, but has recently been opened to a restricted amount of tourists.

But there are plenty of other predators (especially lions) and wildlife to see here. After all, Namiri translates from Swahili as “big cat.” October through May is when the Great Migration is in the area. But because there is a source of permanent nearby, Namiri Plains offers excellent year-round game viewing.

One of Kyle Witten’s most seasoned safari-goers remarked about Namiri Plains’ game viewing exclusivity when he visited in August:

To make it even more special, Namiri Plains was far away from any other camp. So on the afternoon that we found the cheetah cub and the subsequent two days we went to see them again, we never saw another vehicle the whole time – we were all alone with them 🙂

— Chris Swindal

Namiri Plains‘ picturesque poolside area – decompressing hammocks included!

Oh, we almost forgot to mention the camp itself! Recently rebuilt and refurbished, Namiri Plains‘ 10 tented suites have both spacious interiors and private decks – alfresco bath tub included. The camp also constructed a great pool with a view of the floodplains and a spa.

8) Magashi Camp

Akagera National Park, Rwanda

Two of Magashi Camp‘s tents overlooking Akagera National Park’s Lake Rwanyakazinga

AAC suggests adding Magashi Camp as an extension to any of our Rwanda itineraries, including the 8-Day Rwanda Chimp and Gorilla Explorer Safari.

Contrary to popular opinion, Rwanda is not just a gorilla-trekking destination – for those looking for the classic safari experience, the savanna and rolling hills of Akagera National Park is an intriguing, up-and-coming option. Thanks to a decades-long African Parks restoration project, the park is now teeming with plains game (including the rare sitatunga), elephants, hyena, several reintroduced black rhinos and lions, and a sizable leopard population.

Read more about Akagera by reading Miles Nolting’s blog post from his January trip: Remarkable Rwanda and Incredible Ethiopia by Miles Nolting.

The relaxing lounge at Magashi Camp

Another big reason to visit Akagera is the recently opened Magashi Camp. The common area and the six spacious tents of this luxury camp all overlook Lake Rwanyakazinga and are deftly decorated with traditional Rwandan art and tapestries.

Since Magashi Camp is located within a private concession inside Akagera National Park, there is both greater exclusivity and breadth of activities for guests. Besides morning and night game drives, guests can also go on boat rides, fishing, and guided walking safaris.

9) Singita Kwitonda

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Singita Kwitonda, with Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes in the background

Featured Itinerary: 8-Day Rwanda Chimp and Gorilla Explorer Safari

But just because there’s more to do in Rwanda than to go gorilla-trekking doesn’t mean AAC isn’t a big fan of the experience! Beautiful year-round weather, comparatively flatter terrain than at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (Uganda), other primate species (e.g. Golden Monkeys) and a bevy of high-end lodges are all big reasons to consider Volcanoes National Park.

To learn more about the Volcanoes National Park experience, read Miles Nolting’s Trip Report blog post: Remarkable Rwanda and Incredible Ethiopia by Miles Nolting.

As the Singita name indicates, Singita Kwitonda‘s suites are stunning

Speaking of high-end accommodations, allow us to introduce you to the latest one in Volcanoes National Park: Singita Kwitonda. The lodge’s 8 suites and 1 villa were all built with floor-to-ceiling windows and private plunge pools. A series of volcanic rock pathways connects the suites to the lodge’s common area. The common area is composed the lava rock walls, woven ceilings and terracotta brickwork – creating a captivating atmosphere of understated luxury.

10) Zuri

Zanzibar, Tanzania

A stay at Zuri is a great way to recuperate after some game driving

AAC suggests adding Zuri as a Tanzanian extension, like the 12-Day Migration Safari to Tanzania.

Zuri is the only accommodation in AAC’s 20 Intriguing Lodges & Camps for 2020 that does not offer the customary safari experience. But we find it intriguing for two reasons: 1) Nearby Stone Town is an almost fantastical composite of Arabic and Swahili culture and architecture; 2) Zanzibar is one of the best places in Africa to lounge poolside or to snorkel.

The luxurious interior of one of Zuri‘s bungalows

Zuri is a newly-opened beach resort with an assortment of bungalows, suites and villas. Each is decorated with locally sourced furniture and decor, while nearly all of them offer picturesque Indian Ocean views. Water enthusiasts will enjoy the white sand beach, water sports center, infinity pool and scuba diving center. Foodies will enjoy the European, African and Indian cuisine – dining on the beach is an option!

Map of East Africa

This map is very high resolution, so you can zoom in!
Mara Nyika: Naboisho, Kenya; Sasaab: Samburu, Kenya; Lemala Nanyukie: Serengeti, Tanzania; Entamanu Ngorongoro: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania; Ngare Serian: Mara North, Kenya; Namiri Plains: Serengeti, Tanzania; Magashi Camp: Akagera, Rwanda; Singita Kwitonda: Volcanoes, Rwanda; Zuri: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Southern Africa

11) Serra Cafema

Kunene, Namibia

The outdoor deck of Serra Cafema‘s outdoor deck, overlooking the Kunene River

AAC suggests adding Serra Cafema as an extension to any of our Namibia itineraries, including the 12-Day Bespoke Wings Over Namibia – NEW!

A major reason people go on safari to Namibia is to explore its epic and expansive landscapes. Thanks to the recent construction of Serra Cafema, this rugged region of Kunene in Namibia’s far north is now available for the luxury safari-goer.

Nevertheless, Kunene is not your traditional safari destination. Though some desert-adapted animals reside in the region, the main draw is two-fold: 1) explore the area’s other-worldly, soul-nourishing landscape (whether on foot, boat, or by quad-bike) and 2) visit the nomadic Himba tribe. The latter offers arguably the best cultural experience of all the 20 Lodges & Camps AAC picked for 2020.

Serra Cafema can arrange both quad-biking and cultural visits with the nomadic Himba tribe

Contrary to the arid ruggedness that predominates most of the Kunene region, the eight elevated, canvas-and-thatched chalets at Serra Cafema are situated underneath shady trees along the Kunene River. The common area has lovely shaded seating areas and a swimming pool to decompress after a busy, active day of exploration.

To learn more about Kunene and Serra Cafema, read about Szilvia Hegyi’s May visit: Szilvia Hegyi in Namibia. She said the following about her experience there:

I had a wonderful time at Serra Cafema, one of the most remote areas I have ever visited. I really enjoyed the quad biking adventure going over the dunes and the diverse terrain including a tectonic mountain range (a geologist’s dream!). Visiting the Himba tribe and learning about their daily life was very interesting! I also enjoyed a fantastic sunrise over the dunes where our little group was the only people as far as the eye could see, very humbling experience!

– Szilvia Hegyi

12) Kwara Camp

Okavango Delta, Botswana

View of one of Kwara Camp‘s newly renovated elevated tents

Featured Itinerary: 16-Day Zambia and Botswana Flying Safari

One of the biggest obstacles to go on an Okavango Delta safari is price. Thanks to Kwara Camp‘s recent reopening, a luxury safari experience is within reach for more guests!

For those keen on water activities, Kwara Camp‘s reopening is even more exciting. Because of decreasing water levels in most parts of the Delta, there’s no guarantee that visitors will be able to participate in some or even any of the customary water activities.

Fortunately, the northern part (where Kwara Camp is located) still retains good water levels. However, most of the camps in the area are premier-level. Thus, AAC believes that Kwara Camp is your best bet for a luxury safari experience that is both affordable and where water activities are available.

The very comfortable interior of Kwara Camp‘s luxury tents

Water activities include motor boat cruises and traditional mokoro rides, are available year-round. On motor boat cruises, guests can simply relax and enjoy a sundowner, fish, birdwatch, or game view. Non-aquatic activities include morning and night game drives and guided walks.

Elena Theodosiou and Szilvia Hegyi have the following to say about Kwara Camp and the Kwara Concession it’s located in:

The Kwara Concession is nicely located on the border of the Moremi Reserve. It is a very productive area, during our stay there we have had many big cat sightings. The camp offers water activities all year around! The newly designed Kwara Camp is a great addition as another luxury offering with each of the nine elevated, luxury tents overlooking the lagoon. They put only 4 people on each vehicle – another plus!

– Elena Theodosiou & Szilvia Hegyi

Note: guests must be at least 18 years old, and must stay for at least three nights. For families travelling with children, AAC suggests a nearby alternative: Splash Camp. Read about this camp in AAC’s 6 Family-Friendly Destinations blog post.

13) Jao Camp

Okavango Delta, Botswana

The newly renovated Jao Camp‘s bar and dining area showcase the camp’s novel architecture

Featured Itinerary: 11-Day Premier Wing Safari to Botswana

If money is no object, than AAC highly suggests you consider the newly rebuilt Jao Camp in the Jao Concession – home to Botswana’s highest concentration of lions. This premier camp’s canvas-and-thatch rooms are very eco-friendly. Yet, they still feature many luxurious amenities to be expected for a premier-level camp, like indoor-outdoor showers, a large bath tub, and a large outdoor deck – perfect for an afternoon siesta, or a quick swim within the private plunge pool.

Guests also have the option to book one of the two 2-bedroom villas – private vehicle, guide, chef and butler inclusive. For the wellness-oriented safari-goer, Jao Camp features a superb spa.

The luxury experience at Jao Camp extends beyond the camp itself – enjoy mimosas with you feet in the floodplains!

But according to AAC Consultant Kyle Witten, Jao Camp‘s redesign and renovation stands out:

Jao Camp’s architecture pushes the boundaries of what a safari camp and lodge can look like. At the very least, it is something new and refreshing; at most, its a complete rethinking of luxury and architecture.

– Kyle Witten (AAC Consultant)

As mentioned earlier about Kwara Camp, most parts of the Okavango Delta do not have high enough water levels to guarantee all the customary water activities. In the western part of the Okavango Delta (where Jao Camp is located), many camps are no longer able to offer some or all of the customary water activities. Thankfully, that’s not the case at Jao Camp: guests can still go on mokoro trips and boat cruises. Other Activities at Jao Camp include day and night game drives,and sleep-outs at a star bed.

14) Sossusvlei Desert Lodge

Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia

Exterior view of the common area at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge

Featured Itinerary: 10-Day Namibia Spectacular

Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is located in Africa’s only International Dark Sky Reserve. In other words, the night sky will leave you speechless. But, wait there’s more! The lodge has a state-of-the-art telescope, and a resident, professional astronomer to serenade you with tales of the night sky. AAC undoubtedly believes that Sossusvlei Desert Lodge has the best night sky experience of any of our 20 Intriguing Lodges & Camps for 2020.

By October, Sossusvlei Desert Lodge will complete its 1.5-year renovation. The lodge’s stone-and-glass suites and common areas were already magnificent. But based off the renderings, it will somehow become even more spectacular! I just wish I could’ve seen the renovations complete when I was in Namibia back in May!

— Szilvia Hegyi (AAC Consultant)

A night at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge will leave you speechless

There are plenty of other, non-astronomical activities available at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge. The lodge has a dedicated WILDChild Programme, and there are numerous activities adults can do. Ian Flores, our adventure-safari expert, talks about what sort of activities guests can partake in:

When you visit Sossusvlei you want to drive to see Dead Vlei and the gigantic Big Daddy sand dune in the early-morning light. From there, its up to you: you can go on a nature walk, ride a “fatbike,” or drive quad-bikes through the surreal environment. Or for an unparalleled aerial view, go on a hot-air balloon ride. There’s an active and adventurous activity suitable for everyone! One of the reasons why Namibia is a favorite destination of mine is the scenery – it’s truly unlike anywhere else on Earth.

– Ian Flores (AAC Consultant)

15) Shumba

Kafue National Park, Zambia

An aerial view of Shumba‘s common area that overlooks the Busanga Plains

Featured Itinerary: 14-Day Wilds of Zambia – NEW!

Most safari-goers overlook Kafue National Park when considering visiting Zambia. But Kafue has several advantages over Zambia’s more popular destinations: 1) annual visitor numbers are tiny in comparison to other Zambian national parks; 2) Kafue is the only national park in Zambia that offers hot-air ballooning; 3) Kafue’s Busanga Plains are unlike anything in Southern Africa – the closest comparison would be the plains of the Serengeti and Maasai Mara in East Africa – and offers some of the region’s best big cat sightings and the most species of antelope of any park in all of Africa.

The spacious, classic interior of one of the tents at Shumba

Located in the prime wildlife area of Busanga Plains (the area with the highest concentration of wildlife in Kafue), Shumba features six luxurious safari tents on raised platforms with views of the surrounding plains. However, Terry Ellis, a repeat AAC client who visited Shumba in July, said the reason she liked the camp so much was the fact that it wasn’t “over-the-top.” For safari goers Meals are served either in an indoor dining room or the open-air boma.

To learn more about Kafue’s Busanga Plains and Shumba, read Mark and Miles Nolting’s blog post from their July trip: Mark & Miles Nolting: Zimbabwe & Zambia July 2019.

16) Thorntree River Lodge

Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, Zambia

The guest experience at Thorntree River Lodge revolves around the mighty Zambezi River it overlooks

Featured Itinerary: 12-Day Classic Safari to Zambia

Of all the numerous lodges upriver from Livingstone, Thorntree River Lodge is the most upscale, thanks to a major renovation. Each of the 10 spacious suites contain indoor-outdoor bathrooms, private plunge pools and verandas. The suites are connected by expansive, elevated decking with the common area, which features an airy lounge with open dining area, wine cellar, gym and spa, sunken boma, and an infinity pool. Another appealing aspect of Thorntree River Lodge is its location: it’s far enough from the bustle of Livingstone town and the Falls, but close enough that day trips and activities beyond the lodge are very easy to arrange.

Each of Thorntree’s suites features a secluded veranda and plunge pool

Available activities include visits to Victoria Falls, cultural village visits, sunset river cruises, fishing trips, tours of Livingstone town and museum, game drives in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (reintroduced white rhinos are the highlight), brunch or high tea on Livingstone Island, elephant interaction, a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, horse-riding excursions, and a Lunar Rainbow tour.

For the thrill-seekers out there, consider a whitewater rafting trip or, as Miles Nolting did back in July, bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge.

17) Vundu Camp

Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

The Nolting Family canoeing along the Zambezi River, with Vundu Camp in the background

Featured Itinerary: 12-Day Group ‘Eyes on Elephant’ Safari to Zimbabwe

If your top priority for your next safari is to maximize the breadth and depth of your game viewing experience, Vundu Camp should be high on your list. This is especially true if you consider yourself a thrill-seeker: from walking up to bull elephants and wild dogs, to canoeing along the Zambezi river. Daily plans can change at a moment’s notice: you and your guide might be canoeing along when all of a sudden he spots a bull elephant on the riverbank. Instead of just continuing along with continuing on to your scheduled bush lunch, he instructs you to disembark and follow it on foot – Don’t worry, you’ll still have lunch!

Read about Mark and Miles Nolting’s Trip to Mana Pools in July to see if you fit the mold.

The interior of one of Vundu Camp‘s spacious tents

The main reason that Vundu Camp is able to offer this level of experience is the quality of their private guides, but specifically, the guide-owner of the camp: Nick Murray. Not only does AAC consider him to be one of the top guides in Africa, he is also one of the continent’s top conservationists for both elephants and wild dogs. It’s why Mark and Miles were able to participate in not one, but five elephant collarings during their July trip. Read about Bushlife Conservancy, founded and directed by Nick, in AAC’s recurring blog post: Vundu Camp, Mana Pools.

Vundu Camp common area and 8 canvas-and-thatch tents are “no-frills.” Because the camp is family owned and operated, the atmosphere is much more laid-back and “home-like.” Unless a guest requests otherwise, all dining at the camp’s common area is done at a communal table. For safari-goers that want an even more authentic bush experience, consider Little Vundu: its 5 canvas tents feature en-suite, open-air bathrooms.

18) MalaMala Rattray’s

MalaMala Game Reserve, South Africa

MalaMala Rattray‘s suave outdoor deck and pool area

Featured Itinerary: 11-Day South Africa Luxury Safari and Cape Getaway

For those searching for the classical “into Africa” safari experience, look no further than MalaMala Game Reserve’s MalaMala Rattray’s Camp. Located between Sabi Sands Reserve and Kruger National Park, the reserve’s main appeal is that its nearly a guarantee that you will see the Big Five. To ensure an even more exclusive experience, their is a maximum of 4 guests per vehicle.

The MalaMala Rattray’s Camp itself comprises eight comfortable suites, each with their own private plunge pool, secluded veranda and outdoor dining area. The camp’s main building contains a viewing deck, an expansive library, a gym, sauna, an attractive bar area that showcases the area’s illustrious safari history, and a well-stocked wine cellar.

A member of the Big 5 sitting in the Sand River in front of MalaMala Rattray‘s common area

The MalaMala brand, which also includes MalaMala Main Camp and Sable Camp, have been AAC favorites for years. The main reason is reasonable pricing. For clients who prioritize experiencing Sabi Sands’ quality game-viewing instead of decadence, MalaMala Rattray’s Camp is the way to go.

But don’t think you’ll be sacrificing comfort: as numerous of our past clients have indicated, there is nothing unluxurious about MalaMala. A client of Mark Nolting’s had this to say after visiting the camp in July:

The MalaMala Reserve was absolutely fantastic.  Our guide, Marko, I assumed was “hand picked” by Mark Nolting, as he clearly was the best guide at the reserve… Let me say, he a a true professional guide, tracker, etc..”he could find a needle in a haystack”.  We saw the Big Five… and so much more.  Eight leopards with babies, ostrich, rhinos,  etc. Staff at MalaMala was fantastic too.. Bruce/Amy and everyone there… The food was delicious, service fantastic, rooms gorgeous… Just a great experience!

– Linda Olsson

19) Tswalu Motse

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa

A newly refurbished interior of one of The Motse‘s suites

Featured Itinerary: 15-Day Diamond Skies Safari to South Africa

You’d be excused if you have not heard of either Tswalu Motse or the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve that it’s located in. Allow us to provide an introduction. After a new renovation, Tswalu Motse is a sight to behold. The nine spacious suites feature a lounge area with fireplace, private deck with a sun/star-bed, and an indoor/outdoor shower. The common area is decorated with traditional fabrics and artisanal pieces, a photographic studio, and a pool terrace with a heated swimming pool.

As a private reserve, Tswalu Kalahari offers night game drives and walking safaris. But it also offers a bevy of unique activities that aren’t offered many other places: guests can horseback ride, visit the Bushmen rock engravings at Mokwalo, and schedule a night out on the Malori star bed – a breathtaking way to see the heavens! The reserve is also known for several uncommon mammals, including pangolins, aardvarks, meerkats, sable antelope, black rhino, white rhino, and wild dogs.

Tswalu Motse‘s aesthetic deftly complements Tswalu Kalahari Reserve unique landscape

Two of Szilvia Hegyi’s clients, who had already been to Tswalu Motse twice, had this to say about their third trip there:

This was our third trip to Tswalu Motse and we still love the Tswalu Kalahari. We had Nelson as our guide (2nd time) and Ben as our tracker (3rd time). We were touched when Ben postponed his leave so he could be our tracker for the week. The sightings were great including eight rhinos at one place. The one thing about being at Tswalu is when we ask to see an animal Nelson and Ben never disappoint, we always see what we ask for. The remodel was very nice!

– Barbara & Jay Berkowitz

For more information about both the camp and game viewing experience, check out Elena’s blog post from her trip to Tswalu in September: Elena Theodosiou Trip Report: South Africa September 2019.

20) Hwange Bush Camp

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Interior of one of Hwange Bush Camp‘s tents

AAC suggests booking Hwange Bush Camp during a visit to Hwange National Park. A great itinerary for this would be the 12-Day Legends of Zimbabwe Safari.

Hwange Bush Camp is the only camp operating in Hwange National Park’s remote northern region, which offers a very-exclusive guest experience. Most of Hwange is dominated by the Kalahari Sands; in contrast, the area surrounding Hwange Bush Camp is composed primarily of scattered, open grasslands interspersed with hilly outcrops and natural springs. Another big difference between this area and elsewhere in Hwange is that the northern part of Hwange is a designtated Intenstive Protection (IPZ) for black rhino.

The common area of Hwange Bush Camp is decorated with an old world charm

Hwange Bush Camp operates on a seasonal basis (May – November). The six canvas tents feature en suite bathrooms, while the common area contains a lounge, bar and dining room. All are tastefully decorated with an endearing “old world” charm. Activities include game drives and walking safaris.

Another appealing factor for Hwange Bush Camp is its guide-owner: Dave Carson. Besides his reputation as one of the top professional guides in Zimbabwe, AAC’s clients have repeatedly cited his contagious joy and passion for guiding and tracking. Furthermore, he’s one of the few guides who can approach the area’s black rhino on foot!

Map of Southern Africa

This is a high-resolution map, so you can zoom in!
Serra Cafema: Kunene, Namibia Kwara Camp: Okavango Delta, Botswana Jao Camp: Okavango Delta, Botswana Sossusvlei Desert Lodge: Namib-Naukluft, Namibia Shumba: Kafue, Zambia Thorntree River Lodge: Mosi-oa-Tunya, Zambia Vundu Camp: Mana Pools, Zimbabwe MalaMala Rattray’s: Sabi Sands, South Africa Tswalu Motse: Tswalu, South Africa Hwange Bush Camp: Hwange, Zimbabwe