Welcome to our Top Ten Safaris of 2020. Our “little black book” of the best destinations in Africa, and we are very excited about the 2020 list. There are so many incredible lodges, camps and resorts across Africa it is always difficult to narrow it down to just 10…but hey, someone has to do it. This year we are excited to have 4 lodges that didn’t exist this time last year (at least not in their current form) and each one brings a new dimension to safaris in their area. Although many of these lodges set the bar when it comes to luxury, our list is more about the experience you will get than just the thread-count of the linen!
1. Jamala Madikwe, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa
Where do you even start with something that is about as close to perfection as you can get? This is why Jamala Madikwe is the only property to feature on our Top Ten list every year since we started.
Located in South Africa’s malaria free Madikwe Game Reserve, there are 5 luxurious suites with private decks and plunge pools that look out onto an open stretch of bush leading to a very active waterhole. The waterhole is so active that “sofa safaris” and “pool safaris” have become a real thing. Just sit back in a comfy sofa and watch the wildlife action come right to you. In summer if it gets a bit hot, cool off in the large deck pool and still not miss a thing (of course deck gin tastings just add to the pleasure!).
If you do manage to tear yourself away from your suite, the sofa or the pool, twice daily safaris in open vehicles venture into the Big Five reserve with highly qualified guides. The lodge’s legendary service extends beyond the confines of the lodge itself to the safaris, with some of the most amazing guides you will find anywhere.
We also cannot end without mentioning the food, although simply terming it food seems rather cruel, given the gastronomic delights that await by celebrated chef Nico Verster – you don’t win the 2019 Safari Awards “Best Safari Cuisine in South Africa” by chance!
We could go on and on about this lodge, but we think you should just visit Jamala Madikwe yourself! See more at http://bit.ly/JamalaMadikwe or maybe be enticed by our Southern Luxury Tour for the best of Southern Africa http://bit.ly/SouthernLuxury
2. Mashatu Euphorbia, Northern Tuli Game Reserve, Botswana.
We admit, we are sticking our necks out a little here. Never before have we featured a lodge that has not yet opened on our list, but we are just so excited about this lodge we had to include it. Mashatu has featured before on our Top Ten list, but with the opening of Euphorbia they are really upping the ante and we cannot wait until the 1st of June 2020.
This will be a true luxury lodge in one of the most underrated (in our humble opinion) corners of Botswana.
The 8 villas that make up Mashatu Euphorbia are perched high on a sheer cliff offering incredible views out over the beautiful landscape of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Each villa will feature all the luxuries you would expect from a world class luxury lodge, even going so far as to have two toilets, one normal and one being a “loo with a view” out onto the wilderness! Of course, private plunge pools and expansive decks come as standard, so you never miss a moment of life in the African bush!
While the villas will enchant you, this is a safari lodge and the real action is outside, and Mashatu boasts some impressive statistics. It is regarded as having the best predator viewing in the whole of Botswana (leopards seen on 151 days out of 153 between July and November 2019), as well as the largest free roaming herd of elephants on private land in Africa. Add to this some 92% rain free days on average over the last 22 years, the options of profession photographic equipment hire and lessons, horse-back safaris and even mountain bike safaris, what more could you possible want? Given the fantastic weather at Mashatu it combines brilliantly with Cape Town’s peak summer season – check out our itinerary combining the two here http://bit.ly/CapeTownMashatu – and upgrade your stay at Mashatu to Euphorbia for a truly epic experience!
3. Takwela Camp, North Luangwa, Zambia.
If you are looking to escape it all and spend time in one of the most remote areas of pristine wilderness in Africa, then your search is over. 2019 was the first season for Takwela Camp in the North Luangwa National Park in Zambia, and wow, what an amazing experience it is. In 2020 the camp will double in size to 4 rooms!! This is exclusivity at its best, all run expertly by the wonderful team at Remote Africa Safaris who are true icons in the Zambian safari industry.
The North Luangwa National Park has long been known as the “walking safari park”, with only 2 other camps in the entire 4,636 square kilometres of park and both only offering walking safaris. Enter Takwela, the first camp in the park to offer vehicle safaris as a standard activity, meaning, for the first time, guests at the camp can explore more of the park than ever before. As if that wasn’t enough, the camp boasts an impressive 50km of virtually private river frontage which is a magnet for animals, especially as the safari seasons wears on.
Each of the 4 en-suite chalets is constructed by local labour, using locally sourced materials where possible and the camp is 100% solar powered. The result is a very low environmental footprint as well as providing crucial community upliftment, which in turn helps protect this precious wildlife resource, it really is win-win-win.
Only open from 15 June – 31 October 2020, Takwela Camp is not a “luxury” camp in the traditional sense, here the luxury comes from exclusivity, incredible guiding and awesome wildlife experiences. Read more about this amazing gem here http://bit.ly/Takwela
4. Onguma Tree Top Camp, Etosha area, Namibia
There was a lot of debate among the Safari In Style team about whether or not Onguma Tree Top Camp should make the top 10, fortunately sense prevailed. You may wonder why there was a debate….well, because it is so difficult to get availability, especially in peak safari season. This is a great little camp, and we think is that it is the perfect property to take on an exclusive use basis, but because so many people take it on exclusive use, it gets booked out fast!
Located on the 34,000 hectare Onguma Nature Reserve bordering the Etosha National Park in Namibia. The whole of the camp is built on raised stilted platforms scattered amongst the tree tops. Each room as well as the central communal area offer views over a very active water hole that attracts everything from migrating birds to resident lions.
The rooms are often described as “rustic”, with canvas walls, thatched roofs and outside showers, but don’t let this detract from the experience. The simplicity is by design, the idea is to be open to the bush beyond. Most guests end up sleeping with the whole front of their rooms open to bush, letting the magical sounds of the African night fill their dreams.
This is also the only property on our Top Ten for 2020 where you can opt to self-drive for all your activities, but most guests choose to relax and enjoy the option of having the camp’s great guides show you the wonders of the Etosha National Park and the Onguma Nature Reserve.
Why not experience Onguma Tree Top Camp for yourself as part of our popular Namibia self-drive itinerary http://bit.ly/NamibiaAtYourSpeed
5. Vumbura Plains, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Vumbura Plains is only the second camp to ever make a return feature on our Top Ten List, so you know it must be good! The camp combines luxurious accommodation with the chance to explore one of nature’s greatest miracles, the Okavango Delta. Every year as the Okavango River floods it creates one of the largest inland deltas on the planet, spreading out over vast areas of the arid greater Kalahari, bringing life giving water and attracting an abundance of wildlife.
14 sumptuous rooms complete with large decks and private plunge pools look out onto the floodplains beyond. With a year-round source of water, wildlife is abundant at Vumbura Plains, and there is no shortage of ways to view them.
All year 4×4 safaris get you into the thick of things, while for more than half the year you can explore the channels and waterways of the Okavango by boat or mokoro (traditional dugout canoe), or even take to the skies in a hot air balloon for the ultimate delta experience (seasonal and weather dependent).
As if that isn’t enough, it all comes with the Wilderness Safaris commitment to conserving Africa’s wildlife and uplifting local communities, so your stay really is a win-win for all.
6. Sanctuary Swala, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania.
Tanzania is an undisputed heavyweight in the safari world, who hasn’t dreamt of the rolling savannah of the Serengeti or the majesty of the Ngorongoro Crater, but there is so much more besides. One of the lesser known of the northern parks is one of our favourites, the Tarangire National Park, with its undulating landscape dotted with baobabs and home to the largest herds of elephants in the region.
Sanctuary Swala Camp is tucked away into a quiet corner of the park. There are just 12 gorgeous “pavilions” exquisitely furnished with indoor and outside showers and expansive decks overlooking pure wilderness. Elephants are often seen wandering through the camp, and many a night you will drift off to the sounds of lions calling out.
Safaris take place in open safari vehicles with excellent local guides, and unusually for Tanzanian National Parks there is the option to do exciting night drives. We love Tarangire all year round, but undoubtedly those looking for amazing wildlife volumes should visit between June and October. See more about this great camp at http://bit.ly/Swala
7. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namib Desert, Namibia.
Completely rebuilt in 2019, Sossusvlei Desert Lodge has set a new level of luxury for those wanting to visit the wonders of Sossusvlei and the ancient Namib Desert.
10 exquisite suites and one Star Suite are strung out in a line allowing each one to offer breath-taking views over the Namib desert while remaining completely private. Every suite is beautifully appointed and offers a star-viewing skylight above the bed, uninterrupted views of the beyond and private plunge pool in which to cool down (not to mention the in room freezer complete with ice-cream!!). The rooms are powered by solar power and each feature innovative designs to minimise the need for power and state of the art water conservation, helping make this one of the most environmentally efficient lodges in the desert.
The towering dunes of Sossusvlei and the eerie beauty of Deadvlei are the main attractions, but Sossusvlei Desert Lodge offers so much more to keep you busy. Try quad-bike or ebike excursions through the desert, desert game viewing and even its own observatory with in-house professional astronomer to help you make the most of the crystal clear night skies. Be warned, you won’t want to leave.
8. Puku Ridge, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Another new lodge, redefining luxury, is Puku Ridge in the amazing South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. Breaking from the tradition of classic bush camp style accommodation, Puku Ridge offers something completely new.
Set overlooking a very active floodplain are 8 luxury safari “tents”. The term tent is used very lightly, as these are more hybrid “tent-private villas”, leaving guests wanting for nothing. Every one boasts large bedrooms, with air-conditioning, large indoor and outdoor lounges, private pools and a tower room with shaded day bed, that is set up at night as a star bed for those wishing to sleep with nothing more than a mosquito net between them and the incredible African night sky.
Legendary guiding in one of Africa’s most renowned national parks compliments the sumptuous accommodation to make for a truly unforgettable safari. Although often you will not even need to leave the camp to witness Africa’s big game which abounds on the plains in front of the camp, and in the dry season is drawn to the camps own waterhole with ground level hide for up-close viewing.
9. Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
There are few places more famous for getting close to Africa’s big game than South Africa’s Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, nor are there many places in Africa more renowned for luxury accommodation and Lion Sands Ivory Lodge offers both in abundance!
The 8 villas (each one covering a huge 173m²/1862ft²) and one 2-bedroom Fish Eagle Villa all face out onto the Sabie River which attracts animals throughout the year, with sightings of members of the Big 5 from your bed commonplace. These incredible villas blend sleek modern style and ultimate bush chic with ease. They are a bit like the home you wish you had away from home.
The safari activities don’t disappoint either, with some of the best chances of viewing the Big Five anywhere in Africa, all led by the highest level of guides with an intimate knowledge of the bush.
If exquisite accommodation, gourmet cuisine and outstanding safaris were not enough, you can also book sleep-outs in arguably the best tree houses in the…erm…sky, with nothing but the stars above and wild African savannah below.
AND…from 01 February – 31 March 2020, subject to availability, pay for 2 nights and get your 3rd night FREE – but don’t snooze, contact us today!
10. Grootbos Forest Lodge, Walker Bay, South Africa
Safaris in Africa don’t always mean scanning the savannah, sometimes the deep blue is just as rewarding. We can think of no where better than Grootbos Forest Lodge for a different kind of safari, let’s call it a “seafari”. What’s more, it’s less than a 3 hour scenic drive from bustling Cape Town.
This is the epitome of what eco-tourism should be, delivering an unforgettable experience for every guest, protecting a delicate and threatened environment and uplifting an entire community in the process.
The 16 suites at Grootbos Forest Lodge prove that “eco” doesn’t mean any compromise on luxury. These beautiful suites are nestled in ancient milkwood forests, with commanding views out to Walker Bay. The bay itself is renowned for some of the best whale watching opportunities in the world, and from July to November guided beach walks often allow guests to view whales right from the beach. Optional boat based excursion also offer the allure of getting up close and personal with great white sharks!
For the land lovers there are no shortage of excursions exploring one of the richest floral kingdoms in the world.
We defy you to stay at Grootbos and not coming away feeling happy, and even a little smug.
See more about this great lodge here http://bit.ly/GrootbosFL
We hope that our 2020 Top Ten Safaris has got you excited to plan your next African adventure.
As always we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below, and let us know your personal favourites from across the continent or places that are on your bucket list!