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Our favorite new African safari camps

We round up our favourite African safari camp openings for wildlife viewing with all the bells and whistles

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By Condé Nast Traveller Middle East | March 18, 2024 | Travel Leisure

An African safari is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that every traveller should have. To be among some of the world's most captivating wildlife and untouched landscapes on the planet, just a few feet away from leopards lounging on trees or gazelles gallivanting across the Lower Zambezi, is a feeling far unmatched by a cityscape. And with a host of new African safari camps, there isn't a better time to venture into the wilderness than now…

Wilderness Usawa Serengeti


Wilderness Usawa Serengeti

Given its presence across Africa, safari brand Wilderness has taken its time to arrive in the Serengeti, but last summer it made its move, partnering with local walking-safari pioneer and TV regular Jean Du Plessis. Solar-powered mobile camp Usawa is designed to leave no trace. It was joined late last year by a second camp and, in July, will become part of a trio, all three easy to disassemble and use at any of the nine walking zones scattered across 5,700 square miles of park. The concept? Seamless private on-foot access to the Great Migration, Africa’s 1,200-mile odyssey of life, death and rebirth. Days at Usawa are a timeless tapestry of wild species amid endless vistas – from lions, giraffes, elephants and hippos to the mega-herds of wildebeests, zebras and elands; and the crocodiles and hyenas who lie in wait. Du Plessis’s knowledge of the terrain curates a Serengeti seemingly devoid of other humans. The six tents were designed by glamping pioneer Luxury Frontiers (Camp Sarika by Amangiri, Nayara Tented Camp) and cater for 12 around a central tent where campfire dining unfurls below sprawling, star-strewn skies. From the tents to the acacia-thorn light fittings, handblown glassware and ebony furniture, everything has been commissioned locally. While the animal kingdom runs through the barks and shrieks of its nightly playlist, guests enjoy a prime selection of mainly South African wines paired with international and regional treats, including the moreish Zanzibari urojo, a coconut- and dhal-rich spiced stew. Andrew Harris


Price: from about R17 941.30 per person

North Island Okavango


North Island Okavango/ @africatailormade

If the name sounds familiar, that’s intentional. Similar to its Seychellois namesake, this retreat occupies its own island, is surrounded by wildlife and has all the starry qualities set to make it a dazzling success. Some of the team who worked on the lauded Indian Ocean launch more than two decades ago have since founded Natural Selection, the management company overseeing this, Botswana’s sexiest new lodge. Set in a community-owned concession on the edge of the Okavango Delta’s panhandle shared with only one other camp, North Island enjoys a degree of exclusivity – although game drives often meander into the neighbouring concession, where Natural Selection also manages Duke’s and Duke’s East. Wild dogs are among the top animal draws here, with several known active dens attracting the likes of BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit, which filmed a sequence for Planet Earth III in the delta area. Spearheading a new trend for micro-camps, the lodge has three suites (with a fourth to follow in March) that horseshoe around a lagoon, fanning from an open-front dining area and marble-topped help-yourself bar – an ideal gathering spot for multigenerational buyouts. Especially glorious at dusk, a decking area snakes into the lagoon, negating the need to head anywhere else for a sundowner, and there’s a well-equipped outdoor gym and hot tub. Shaded by ebony and jackalberry trees, the villas sit on elevated wooden platforms tickled by reeds, with plunge pools, outdoor showers and wraparound verandas perfect for watching elephants munch on fallen fruit. Sarah Marshall

True Travel offers three nights at North Island Okavango from R100 197.31 per person all-inclusive, with regional flights and transfers.

Onduli Ridge


Onduli Ridge/@jangwasafaris

If the Flintstones were transported to Namibia, this is where they’d live: among the giant boulders of Damaraland in one of the least populated areas of the second-least populated country on earth. The landscape – part dry desert grasslands, part Mars-like miles of stone – is spectacular: scattered with rocks of all morphologies and colours, from black basalt to shards of glittering granite, and dotted with huge boulders and stunted, hardy trees. Ultimate Safaris’ Onduli Ridge sits on a neck between two inselbergs, with views from the rooms at dawn and dusk over wide, flat plains and, in the distance, the purply peaks of the Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain range. Every room is spacious and set high up on a deck among the rocks. In some, the showerhead juts from a hunk of granite; in all, bathrooms are partly open to the hills and sky, and the bed can be wheeled onto the deck for stargazing. Ultimate Safaris is renowned for upskilling local workforces, and the cooks, trained from the community, turn out inventive and fresh food, from tapas lunches served on multilayered wooden platters to wood-fired pizzas cooked by the pool under the stars. Local attractions include the Unesco-protected Twyfelfontein rock-art sites, the Doros Crater, created by a meteorite, a petrified forest and strange geological formations such as the Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain. Plus, if you’re very lucky, desert-adapted elephants and wild-roaming rhinos. Lisa Grainger


Price: doubles from about R19 735.43 all-inclusive

Angama Amboseli


Angama Amboseli/@letsdiscovertravel

In a land where everything is big, the only option is to be bold. Africa’s tallest mountain and some of the continent’s last big tuskers set the scale for Angama’s new camp, close to Amboseli, one of Kenya’s prime national parks. Here, 10 canvas-roofed suites arc around the base of Kilimanjaro, with bedside views of the semi-dormant volcano rising from a magical fever tree forest. Taking up exclusive residence in the community-owned Kimana Sanctuary, the camp is set on an ancient elephant migratory route, protecting an area increasingly under threat from agriculture. Built in partnership with NGO Big Life Foundation, which leases the land from Maasai communities, Angama’s first project outside the Mara has its biggest conservation focus to date, and the best place to get a grip on the story is the mushroom-shaped observation tower. Sink into a rocking chair with a sundowner and watch elephant herds parade across swamps while lights twinkle below Kili – a reminder of the challenges cohabiting humans and wildlife face. Every design detail of the camp pays homage to the elephants who regularly pass through: exterior walls are made from dung and concrete, curved surfaces resemble their physical form and textured table mats mimic their coarse skin. A proposed new road will make Amboseli National Park accessible within 30 minutes, although there’s enough wilderness and wonder inside the sanctuary. Along with game drives and elephant tracking on foot, this is a place to rest and relax; a safe haven for four- and two-legged guests. Sarah Marshall

Africa Travel can arrange a three-night stay at Angama Amboseli from R131 330.29 per person all-inclusive, with international flights and transfers.

Fothergill Island


Fothergill Island/@fothergill_safari

Lake Kariba is like an inland sea in Zimbabwe: a 1.38-million-acre man-made lake bordering Zambia, fed by the Zambezi river and surrounded by spectacular conservation areas. Two wildlife lovers took over Fothergill Island, within the remote Matusadona National Park, in 2019, and transformed it into the lake’s smartest camp, reopening it in 2021. The five one-bedroom canvas-walled suites, two two-bedroom suites and one three-bedroom private retreat are more like mini villas than rooms, most with an outdoor sala, plunge pool, ponds and pretty gardens protected by electrified elephant-proof fences. A practised team of staff serve modern multicultural cuisine, serious international wines and sundowners around a starlit boma and in upscale safari-style living and dining tents, with views over the pool and lake. The real treats, though, are the activities on land and water: game drives with sunny, well-read guides to track lions, elephants and buffaloes; bush breakfasts on sandy river beds over which gem-coloured sunbirds flit; sunset trips into river gorges teeming with hippos and giant crocodiles; and catch-and-release fishing excursions to try to snag the lake’s famously ferocious tigerfish. For the restless there’s a gym, yoga deck and running track; for children, archery, swimming and wildlife excursions with guides who ooze enthusiasm for this special wild spot. Fothergill has a landing strip for charters, and smart speedboats for whizzing to Kariba airport. Lisa Grainger


Price: from about R14 113.82 per person

Loapi Tented Camp

South Africa

Loapi Tented Camp/

Loapi is the newest and smartest addition to Tswalu, South Africa’s largest privately owned reserve, in the arid Kalahari. The reserve has been a 25-year passion project for the South African Oppenheimer family, involving three high-end properties, as well as land restoration and conservation initiatives focusing on animals such as rhinos, pangolins and meerkats. Loapi is the most ambitious arrival yet: a collection of six sustainable standalone homes with private house managers, chefs, guides and trackers. Gapp Architects’ striking glass, steel and canvas houses, spaced at least 165 feet apart, are self-sufficient and can be dismantled and moved, leaving the land untouched. Inside, interiors by Cape Town’s Gregory Mellor are flecked with mohair tapestries, clay sculptures, carved wooden panels and textured umber and cream sofas. But it’s all just backdrop for the main view of golden grassy plains and rust earth that bleeds into distant mountains and a cloudless, electric-blue sky. Tswalu is not for the first-time safarigoer who wants to see the Big Five all in one day. But those searching for rare pangolins or aardvarks, black and white rhinos, wild dogs and cheetahs, may be rewarded. At night, guests eat alfresco – a private chef prepares bright butternut salads, droëwors and biltong, tapas treats or cauliflower soup next to a roaring fireplace – so as to stay in nature. It’s big and bold, and, without another soul to be seen, invites introspection. Mary Holland

Red Savannah offers six nights in South Africa from R107 464.80 per person all-inclusive, with four nights at Loapi Tented Camp, including international flights and transfers.

The original article can be found on Condé Nast Traveller Middle East.