Here at Exsus, we believe that getting back to nature does not mean sacrificing on comfort. When it comes to the quintessential African safari, we want it all- fantastic sightings, fabulous food, stylish interiors and a holiday of a lifetime. Below we have selected a few of our favourite lodges, whether you are looking for an Out of Africa experience, a place to relax in, a secluded beach all to yourself or hair-raising animal encounters that’ll leave you reeling:
*Best for… Honeymooners
Though Kings Camp’s rooms are beautifully sophisticated and stylish with dark wood tones, beige drapings and plush furniture, it’s the honeymoons suites that blow us away. With an open plan lounge and bathroom, indoor and outdoor showers, and a private veranda with a large pool, you will have stunning views during the entirety of your stay. Though you’ll want to spend some time between the cooling waters of the plunge pool, the perfectly-placed sun loungers and the giant four-poster bed and hammock, the camp is located in Timbavati Game Reserve, which offers incredibly rare sightings of the striking white lion. With walking and game drive safaris aplenty, keep your eyes open for a glimpse of these unique cats!
*Best for… overall African safari
An island in the middle of the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve is a wildlife-mecca of epic proportions, boasting some of the largest concentrations of game in the region, including large lion prides, active leopards and hunting wild dog. Surrounded by the flood plains, elephants often swim across to the Belmond Khwai River Lodge and wild dogs use the camp’s enclosure to corner prey, meaning that the lodge provides serious luxury and serious wildlife.
As expected of a Belmond property, the meals are delicious and so to work off that holiday indulgence you can do a few laps in the pool or have a workout in the gym. If the midday heat gets a bit much, meet the kind beautician who gives a world-class massage or make like a cat and catch some sleep in the veranda hammock. Wake up to afternoon tea and biscuits before chasing down the Big Five and some exotically plumed birds. With nightly stories left on your bed and already-waiting-for-you cocktails, it’s the incredible service of the Khwai River Lodge that sets it apart from other lodges in Botswana, so take full advantage and enjoy your stay in the thatched and stilted luxury lodge.
*Best for… sleeping in the desert
Photographs of Wolwedans Dune Lodge don’t do it justice- with the deep rust coloured sands of the NamibDesert flush against the cream fabrics and sweeping muslin nets of the stilted chalets, this Namibian lodge is breath-taking. Your room is basically a four-poster king-sized bed on a raised platform with canvas walls that spend most of their time rolled up. With 360 degree views from your bed, there is no better way to watch the sun rise and set. Use your room’s wall as a natural television, and once the sun has had its time on stage, stay for the next act, as the stars start to come out. As the NamibDesert is one of the darkest places on the planet, you’ll be treated to special and unobstructed sightings of the Southern Cross, Orion’s Belt and galaxies 1,000 light years in diameter.
*Best for… seeing gorillas
Like a castle on top of the world, Virunga Lodge is built of stone and sits at the very edge of a great ridge in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. A haven of lush greenery tipped by atmospheric mists, most people come to this lodge for one thing and one thing only- to see gorillas. Perfectly situated in the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, stay in Virunga Lodge and you will have an exhilarating up close and personal experience of a lifetime as with six resident gorilla families, you might have to trek up to 7 hours to find them, but find them you surely will. After your long or possibly short hike, return to the lodge for its hearty and warming dinners and then sit by the roaring fire to snuggle up with a good book or share photos of your morning sightings. When the adrenaline of the day has left you, you’ll find your terracotta-tiled stone banda waiting for you with a canopied bed, scenic veranda and fall-asleep-as-soon-as-you-hit-them pillows.
*Best for… the beach
An absolute treasure, clammed by Ponta Mamoli beach and the lush greenery of Mozambique’s Matutuine District, White Pearl encapsulates barefoot bliss - everything is perfectly chic and boutique from the driftwood tables to the funky shell-like chairs. Gleaming as bright as the lodge’s contemporary white interiors, the beach cove is the ideal place for some rest and recuperation. Fan out a towel, lounge on the wooden decks or splash about the pool all the while keeping a look out on the horizon for the tell-tale sign of water spurting. With the warm waters teeming with whale sharks, humpback whales, technicoloured fish and inquisitive dolphins, tear yourself away from the tasty beach-bar cocktails and freshest of seafood dishes to go swimming, scuba diving or snorkelling with these underwater giants.
*Best for… water babies
For some romantic seclusion, the Manta Resort Pemba knows how to deliver. Imagine having your very own floating island slash wooden submarine and you might have an idea of what the spectacular Underwater Room is like, a three-storey suite that floats 250m offshore beside a coral reef. The submerged master bedroom has matchless views of the exotic marine life and you can climb a ladder to the Suite's top deck to catch the sun, watch the sunset and do some night-time stargazing. For water babies, this is a dream come true.
*Best for … old world charm
Like you’ve landed in the retro pages of a Hemingway novel, Cottars 1920s Safari Camp is a beacon for trendy travellers seeking antique luxury reminiscent of the golden era of safaris. Filled with authentic artefacts, the vast white tents are all en suite with superb views across Kenya’s iconic Masai Mara. Shaded by acacia trees, the lodge is located away from the crowds in the south east corner of the national park, providing a rare intimate safari feel. With resident prides of lion, 2.5 million thundering wildebeest and zebra, and excellent guides, grab your binoculars, your khaki shorts and your safari hat for a trip back in time to old era romance set in the golden plains of Kenya.