The best safari lodges, according to Travel + Leisure readers, go beyond the traditional game drive with a wide range of cultural experiences.
For Travel + Leisure readers, the best safari lodges in Africa aren’t necessarily traditional safari properties — though plenty of those did make this list. Take, for example, Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge — a luxurious base for tracking mountain gorillas in the cloud forest of Rwanda. It seems that this once-in-a-lifetime experience elevated guests’ memories beyond those of Big Five safaris: the word amazing appears repeatedly in Bisate reviews.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels (including safari lodges) were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city hotel, resort, or safari lodge based on their locations and amenities.
This year’s World’s Best list reveals a growing interest in nontraditional safaris. In addition to Bisate at the top spot, there’s another Rwandan lodge, One&Only Nyungwe House (No. 3), where the highlights are tracking chimpanzees, bird-watching, and visiting a tea plantation. “A gorgeous property in an incredible location,” said one voter. And there’s a second gorilla-tracking property on the list: Bwindi Lodge (No. 10), in Uganda. “How special to stay at Bwindi Lodge,” wrote one guest, “and be so well cared for when setting out to see the magnificent gorillas.”
At No. 2, Gibb’s Farm is “the most unique lodge of any kind in East Africa,” claimed one reader. Overlooking Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, a protected area known for its incredible density of wildlife, the 17-cottage property offers activities around its coffee plantation and gardens, as well as bush walks from the property and wildlife drives in the crater. One guest loved that it was “fun for adults and kids.” It’s “an incredibly beautiful hotel,” said another. “The food was amazing, and I loved the farm-to-table philosophy.”
Classic safaris are still well represented, with guests favoring wildlife-rich areas such as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya, and the South African Kruger National Park. As well as wildlife sightings and luxurious rooms, it was the people who made an impact on T+L readers. Of andBeyond Bateleur Camp (No. 6), in Kenya’s Masai Mara, one reader said that “the guides are truly spectacular,” while another described “warm, welcoming service.”
On the edge of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Bisate Lodge has six stylish and cozy villas, each overlooking the surrounding villages, forests, and misty mountain peaks. The main activity there is trekking into the national park to spend some time watching the mountain gorillas, but there are also opportunities to see golden monkeys, go hiking in the mountains, or visit the grave of renowned primatologist Dian Fossey. The staff are “amazing,” said one reader, who added the food was “delicious,” especially the homegrown vegetables. Another fan said staying at Bisate was “the absolute best…experience we have ever had. The food, service, and rooms were beyond amazing.”