Never been on a safari? Don’t know your Serengeti from your South Africa, or a game drive from a gorilla trek?
Here we offer the best options for solos, families, honeymooners and more.
The Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa has the infamous Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo)
South Africa gets luxury operator Bailey Robinson’s family-safari nod thanks to its many excellent malaria-free private game reserves. The finest is Madikwe, where the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo) are accompanied by a solitary lodge, Morukuru. Here exclusive-use houses are ideal for different-size groups, with ultra-friendly staff who can arrange child-friendly activities around the safari itinerary, such as fishing or whale-watching at a sister ocean lodge.
Book in: Eight nights’ all-inclusive across the two lodges costs from £6,295pp for families in the school holidays, including flights and transfers (baileyrobinson.com).
The secret to a successful multi-generational safari? Camps with enough distraction to keep everyone happy. Two such are run by Sanctuary Retreats in Botswana. Both Chief’s Camp – with private-pool pavilions amid the Okavango Delta waterworld – and the bush-set Chobe Chilwero lay on wildlife-themed junior treasure hunts, plus game drives, spa treatments, canoe rides, fishing expeditions and sunset cruises for older guests.
Book in: Six nights’ full-board across both lodges for four adults and two children costs from £5,800pp, including flights, transfers and safaris (rainbowtours.co.uk).
Solos typically spend most game drives and meal times with other guests. But the travel in between can be lonely, and lodges expensive for those travelling alone.
A better option, if you don’t mind sharing spacious tents, is joining a group tour. Acacia Africa has trips for up to 12 people combining Victoria Falls and Kruger, South Africa’s premier national park, with sun-kissed Mozambican beaches and a rhino-specialist Zimbabwean reserve. The tours depart monthly from April to November.
Book in: Fourteen nights’ full-board costs from £1,715pp including transfers, activities and park fees, without flights (acacia-africa.com).
Sparser crowds and shorter journeys than on Serengeti trips render Tanzania’s ‘Southern Circuit’ ideal for newlyweds, as does its proximity to paradise-like shores.
Timbuktu Travel proposes a three-centre trip fusing Fanjove Private Island – a white-sand idyll offering boat cruises and snorkelling – with a riverside safari lodge in the underrated Selous Game Reserve and, to round things off, time at a new luxury Zanzibar resort.
Book in: Nine nights’ full-board from £4,000pp, including transfers, activities and park fees, without flights (timbuktutravel.com)
FORGET THE JEEPS
Walking safaris are possible in some African parks, with Zambia’s South Luangwa and Zimbabwe’s Hwange the best. Trekking is the norm when it comes to seeing gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda (pictured)
Could bouncing around in a jeep make you queasy? Fear not: alternatives await. Walking safaris are possible in some African parks, with Zambia’s South Luangwa and Zimbabwe’s Hwange the best. Trekking is the norm when it comes to seeing gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda.
You can horseride and cycle through reserves in South Africa or sail on the Zambezi Queen cruiser past animal-crowded banks in Botswana (try expertafrica.com).
Most glamorous is an airborne safari for groups of four over Kenya’s parks, pairing private-plane rides with a hot-air balloon trip.
Book in: Seven nights’ full-board costs from £4,500pp, including safari activities, sightseeing flights and a hot-air balloon ride (scenicairsafaris.com).
Ready to scratch that bucket-list safari itch? Knockout wildlife – the Big Five plus cheetah, hippo, giraffe and zebra – direct flights and the place’s familiarity with first-time visitors means it has to be Kenya. Expert Africa suggests combining the Laikipia and Maasai Mara – of Big Cat Diary fame – areas.
Book in: Eight nights’ full-board costs from £5,469pp, including flights, transfers, park fees and activities (expertafrica.com).
LAP OF LUXURY
Mid-range safari camps are luxurious, affording space and attention from staff. You’ll pay more, however, for such extras as pools, power showers or personal guides.
Specialists include Audley and Abercrombie & Kent, whose latest itinerary starts in the Serengeti amid a large private reserve – enjoy your own plunge pool, plus spa and gym access – before moving on to Zanzibar for a castaway-style week at all-inclusive Mnemba Island beach resort.
Book in: Eleven nights’ full-board costs from £15,950pp, including flights, car and plane transfers and safaris (abercrombiekent.co.uk).
BEST ON A BUDGET
African safaris are, typically, expensive. But it is possible to economise if you avoid pricey private-plane transfers and choose Kenya or South Africa. Particularly well-priced is a trip combining the latter’s Addo Elephant Park and Amakhala Private Game Reserve, where stone-and-thatch suites and all the main animal players await.
Book in: From £2,105pp including flights, transfers, three nights’ B&B and two game drives in Addo, and three nights’ full-board and twice-daily game drives at Amakhala (africatravel.com).
In Zambia, the Luxury Safari Company’s itineraries also include bungee jumps, a zip-wire, and rafting and canoeing options
You needn’t spend every hour squinting into the bush: the Luxury Safari Company’s itineraries often partner wildlife-watching with spa courses, wine touring, or historical day trips.
In Zambia, meanwhile, guests can enjoy an adrenaline rush. Just up the canyon-lined Zambezi River from Victoria Falls – the world’s largest waterfall, and the Zimbabwean border – are bungee jumps, a zip-wire, and rafting and canoeing options.
Book in: Seven nights’ all-inclusive – four on safari in the South Luangwa, three at Victoria Falls – costs from £6,100pp including flights, transfers, safaris, canoeing and zip-line ride (theluxurysafaricompany.com).
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT?
So you’ve seen the Big Five but want to experience the latest safari offering, or somewhere more adventurous? Then, just like Prince Harry, make for underrated Malawi. Here you’ll find fewer tourists, upscale, new colonial-style camps like Kuthengo, the beautiful Liwonde and the more wooded Majete – where non-profit African Parks have revived animal numbers and mostly erased poaching. You’ll also find snorkelling and dhow cruises on epic Lake Malawi.
Book in: Nine nights’ full-board combining Liwonde, Majete and Lake Malawi costs from £4,200pp, including flights, transfers, safaris and watersports (aardvarksafaris.com).
FANTASTIC FOR FOODIES
Understandably, given the absence of mains electricity, cuisine at camp can be mediocre; more often, though, it is terrific. Alongside Kenya’s Mara Plains and Botswana’s new Tuludi camp, Expert Africa’s favourite for food is Omaanda, a luxury lodge beside the Kalahari Desert in Namibia, where chef Annalie Maes brings Gallic flair.
Book in: Seven nights’ full-board – pairing Omaanda with Sossusvlei’s sand dunes – costs from £4,360pp including flights, transfers and activities (expertafrica.com).
High life: One of the impressive tree houses at Lion Sands, a private game reserve fringing Kruger National Park
With canvas, stone and wood, most safari tents involve glamping of a kind. Guests of the lodges at Lion Sands – a private game reserve fringing Kruger National Park – can choose to spend one night sleeping out in a tree house, with three to select from. Two are partly open-air, with netted beds, and the other glass-walled; all boast isolation and incredible views.
Book in: Seven nights’ B&B costs from £3,980pp, including flights, full-board at Lion Sands, four nights in Durban, transfers and safaris (bestofsouthafricatravel.com).
The safari norm is for private transfers between camps, usually with likeable drivers happy to shoot the breeze. But it’s also possible to ferry yourself around. Best for self-drive trips is Namibia, thanks to its excellent roads and safety – with the mind-blowing scenery a bonus. Safari Drive has a two-week, camping-based trip passing huge sand dunes and eerie, empty Skeleton Coast reaches en route to game-viewing in Etosha National Park.
Book in: Fourteen nights’ self-catering costs from £2,490pp including 4×4 car hire, camping equipment and a starter food pack (safaridrive.com).
With many animals – including leopard, hyena and rhino – active chiefly at night, nocturnal drives offer a chance to see more.
If permitted by reserves, they usually involve you travelling alongside torch-wielding rangers blessed with an uncanny ability to separate beast from blackness at 20mph.
Safari sage Jules Croucher nominates Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park (also brilliant for walking safaris) as the optimum place, thanks to its large leopard population and exclusive access only for safari-company guests.
Book in: Seven nights’ all-inclusive across two camps costs from £4,209pp, including flights and transfers (travelwithjules.co.uk).
OUT OF AFRICA
Go wild: Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan has not only been receiving consistently good Bengal tiger sightings, but it’s easy to access and combines well in itineraries with desert forts and Udaipur’s lake palace (stock image)
To see tigers, you’ll need to head to Asia, with India the best bet.
With overall numbers rising by 33 per cent, according to a recent census, country expert Greaves say that the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan has not only been receiving consistently good Bengal tiger sightings, but it’s easy to access and combines well in itineraries with desert forts and Udaipur’s lake palace. Allocate three nights to Ranthambore, and your chances of a spot become very good.
Book in: Ten nights’ B&B costs from £3,660pp including all flights and transfers (mostly private), game drives, excursions and ten other meals (greavesindia.co.uk).