With a raft of exciting new safari camps and lodges poised to open, there’s no better time to explore Africa’s diverse and mesmerising landscapes.
Wilderness Safaris’ new Bisate Lodge, situated within the natural amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, recently opened offering travellers unprecedented access to the mountain gorillas of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. A glamorous gorilla ‘education centre’, the lodge combines insight into one of Africa’s most endangered species, amidst luxurious confines inspired by a royal residence. After hikes into the park, soak in the power of nearby Mount Bisoke from the private deck of your spacious hillside suite; each of the six Nicholas Plewman Architects-designed suites feature interiors by designer Caline Williams-Wynn and Teta Isibo, including thatched roofs, cowhide rugs and emerald green chandeliers made from recycled glass.
The new Jabali Ridge camp by Asilia Africa will open on a rocky kopje in southern Tanzania’s 150,000sqkm Ruaha National Park this September. Offering a spectacular wildlife encounter across an area the size of New Jersey but with very few visitors, guests will have access to large populations of African elephant, as well as lions, leopards, and buffalo living in close proximity to the camp. They’ll also have the chance to see rare sable antelopes and roan antelopes during both day and night game drives. When guests return from excursions, they can commune with nature in one of eight timber louvre-wrapped suites, with their staggering panoramic views, or in the camp’s infinity pool, which is surrounded by abundant vegetation and granite boulders. Families can book the stunning Jabali Ridge Private House, a three-bedroom stand-alone villa with its own swimming pool and game vehicles.
Another new camp for both southern Tanzania and Asilia Africa, Roho ya Selous offers an unforgettable take on the contemporary safari experience thanks to some of the highest numbers of African wild dogs on the continent. Located at the heart of the Selous Game Reserve, the new camp boasts just eight hilltop tented suites (including one family suite), each featuring hot water showers and flushing toilets, cool breeze systems, and wildlife sketches inspired by big-game hunter Frederick Selous. Try catch-and-release fishing, guided walking safaris, and night drives in search of resident leopards.
The recently opened Natural Selection’s Sable Alley (formerly Banoka Bush Camp) is a refined new safari camp at the heart of Botswana’s 178,000-hectare Khwai Private Reserve. The perfect wildlife enclave from which to spy herds of elephants, as well as lions, buffalo, wild dogs, leopards and of course sable antelope, Sable Alley borders on both the Moremi Game Reserve and the Chobe National Park in the country’s north. The new camp features 12 tented suites raised on expansive decks, each with king-sized or twin-single beds, flush toilets, and solar powered outdoor showers. Enjoy views of the Khwai River and watch resident hippos from bed through large mesh windows before departing on conventional 4x4 game drives or mokoro safaris using a traditional dugout canoe in search of leopard, spikey porcupines and fearless honey badgers.
Reopening in September after a fire destroyed the previous property, andBeyond Phinda Homestead in South Africa is part of a 28,555-hectare conservation that boasts several world-class game lodges, each nestled within their own unique ecosystem. With interiors by designer Fox Browne, who was tasked with restoring the acclaimed original retreat, Phinda Homestead will have the feel of a contemporary private bush home, complete with raw materials, subtly retro furnishings, and locally-sourced art, including Zulu basketwork and Nguni hides. Beyond the homestead’s four spacious, minimalist guest rooms are elegantly-appointed bathrooms featuring marble basins shaped like Zulu water pots, while the villa also boasts an intimate gym and massage room, a rim-flow swimming pool, a herb garden, and a spacious deck with island bar. The Homestead’s tariff includes twice-daily game drives, a Zulu village tour, seasonal night turtle drives, and options for black rhino tracking on foot, or scuba and ocean safaris.
Situated in Zambia’s Liuwa Plain National Park, one of Africa’s oldest game reserves, the remote King Lewanika Lodge (formerly Liuwa Plains) is a new permanent safari lodge that’s ideal for serenity-seekers. Built and operated by Norman Carr Safaris, and dubbed Zambia’s most exclusive camp, and the only permanent camp in the park, King Lewanika accommodates just 15 guests and will be especially popular with photographers looking to capture mesmerising landscapes and wildlife encounters. Search for the famous Liuwa lions on a night game drive; witness Africa’s second largest wildebeest migration; or explore the waterways by canoe for the ultimate sunset. Afterwards, sit back in one of six luxurious tented-canopy villas, including a two-bedroom family haven, take in the sweeping vistas of Munde stream, popular with the region’s 300 bird species.
Feel the magnificence of Victoria Falls at the eco-friendly Thorntree River Lodge, a new addition to Zambia’s Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. With permanent African-style tented roofs, the environmentally-sustainable lodge’s eight twin rooms and two-family suites have indoor and outdoor bathrooms as well as private plunge pools to help ease the heat of the afternoon. During the cooler hours of the day, visit the mighty Victoria Falls, scout for rhinos during walking and driving safaris, or take to the Zambezi River in the lodge’s own yacht. As evening approaches, savour authentic local cuisine at the lodge’s open-air dining room, take a dip under the stars in the camp’s infinity pool, or hear African folklore over cocktails in the sunken boma lounge.
Located in the seldom-visited northwest of Botswana, with views across the mighty Kalahari, The Lodge at Feline Fields offers a raft of unique Bushman encounters for travellers that like to combine their wildlife with touches of culture. Boasting just six suites – three tented and three with private pools – each guest room features a king-sized bed, minibar, air conditioning, television, an ensuite bathroom with massage shower, and an outdoor ‘star bath’. Encounter elephants, gemsboks and rare wild dogs during guided walking safaris; alternatively, the adventurous can cycle through the Kalahari Desert or explore the ancient Gcwihaba Caves, one of Botswana’s most remote destinations.
Wilderness Safaris will reopen its acclaimed Serra Cafema Camp in northwest Namibia in June. Undoubtedly one of the most remote camps in southern Africa, Serra Cafema overlooks the Kunene River in the Hartmann's Valley and is being rebuilt at the same site. The new Serra Cafema Camp will be 100 percent solar powered and built with an extremely light eco-footprint to ensure minimal impact on its pristine desert location. At the same time the emphasis will still be on celebrating the local Himba culture, one of the last true nomadic peoples on the planet. The new camp will comprise just eight riverside villas, each designed to blend into the picturesque surroundings, and will offer a host of unique experiences, from rare opportunity to meet members of the Himba people, to fascinating nature drives or guided quad bike eco-excursion through the fragile dunes. Boating on the Kunene River in search of crocodiles and waterbirds will also be available, water levels permitting.
Scheduled to open in May, Natural Selections’ Hoanib Valley Camp is located in the remote and wild Kaokoland region of northwest Namibia. A joint venture between Natural Selections, local communities and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Africa’s foremost giraffe conservation organisation, the new camp, situated in the Sesfontein Community Conservancy, sits on the banks of the Obias River and overlooks the ephemeral Hoanib River, a favourite foraging area for the region’s unique desert-adapted elephants. From the camp guests can track elusive desert adapted lion, elephant and black rhino, enjoy cultural experiences, and discover more about the desert-adapted giraffe before returning to one of the camp’s six tented suites, which feature large decks, locally-produced weave work, and ensuite bathrooms.
Established by conservationists and National Geographic filmmakers Beverly and Dereck Joubert, Duba Plains has been the base for the couple’s Great Plains Conservation since its opening. Located on a 31,000-hectare private concession, the camp has now been completely rebuilt, with five suites and a two-bedroom Duba Plains Suite, each of which takes its inspiration from the safari camps of the 1920s, replete with copper bathtubs, Persian rugs, antique furniture, crystal decanters in the minibar, and four-poster beds. The region is best known for its lion prides, which were captured in the Jouberts’ documentary The Last Lions, but there’s also hippo and leopards, red lechwe and resident elephants, with each day in the bush finishing with the customary sunset cocktails. Because no one said you had to rough it.
A new camp for Wilderness Safaris’s Classic Camp collection, Qorokwe is situated in a private 180-hectare concession that bordered the Moremi Gane Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. With its nine tented suites, including a family tent with private plunge pool, Qorokwe is completely solar powered, meaning you can feel good about the environment as you explore on day and night game drives as well as boating and mokoro experiences. The region is famous for its diversity, both in wildlife and in landscapes, with seasonal and permanently flooded plains, winding channels, and acacia woodlands, home to lions, spotted hyaena, leopards, wild dogs, cheetah, elephants and buffalo. Architect Joy Brasler and interior designer Michelle Throssell have ensured the camp blends in with this unique setting, using bleached timbers, organic lines, and natural hues. After a long day under the African sun return to the camp’s infinity pool, or dine of locally-sourced produce in the intimate dining room.
Also look out for...
Located in the foothills of Rawanda’s Virunga Volcano Range, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest is scheduled to open later this year, also as a haven for gorilla seekers. Featuring luxurious accommodation and sublime interiors, the property will also boast a signature restaurant and spa, which will take its cues from the local culture and landscapes.
Located 150 kilometres away from the Gorilla’s Nest, Nyungwe House has joined the One&Only family as a partner hotel and will be rebranded as a One&Only retreat after an extensive renovation in early 2018. Offering access to the 101,000-hectare Nyungwe National Park, home to black-and-white colobus monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, and more than 275 bird species, the intimate camp will feature modern resort-style suites and villas, each with private decks and fireplaces.
Wilderness Safaris will also reopen its flagship Botswana camps Mombo and Little Mombo this year after a major overhaul. Both lodges will be solar powered to preserve the pristine environment of Chief’s Island but will be more luxurious than ever, with tented suites featuring vaulted canopies, day beds, private decks and plunge pools.
The Maasai Mara’s Sanctuary Olonana camp will relaunch in June with 14 new glass-fronted suites, each boasting king-sized beds, ensuites with bathtubs, and private decks. Three suites will benefit from an additional bedroom making them perfect for families, while the main lodge will enjoy new al fresco dining areas and a boma firepit, ensuring it stays top of the list of Kenyan camps.