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Luxury African Safaris & Tours

Are you dreaming of a luxury African safari? Picture the scene. The sun is sinking slowly into savannah grasses and the sky is tinged with pink and red streaks. You’re sitting atop a granite rock boulder that’s warm to the touch. A man hands you a gin and tonic and points towards a small group of trees. As if on cue, a pair of lionesses stroll out of hiding. It’s the ultimate African safari fantasy and one that every African safari-goer dreams of living. But just how do you go about organizing an upmarket luxury safari tour? Well, it’s easier than you might think.

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6 Questions About Luxury Safari Tours


6 Questions About Luxury Safari Tours

Answered by Stuart Butler

Which African countries have the best choice of luxury trips?

“Eastern and southern Africa are saturated with luxury top-end safari lodges and camps. Most countries in the region, except for Burundi and South Sudan, offer safaris and top-end accommodation to equal the Hollywood African dream. However, if we had to pick the countries that truly set the standard for a luxury African safari, it would have to be Botswana, Namibia and Kenya. These countries offer a number of luxurious, leading-edge and conservation-minded safari camps. As well, there’s a whole array of top-end safari companies offering exciting, and perhaps even life-altering, safari experiences. Not far behind these three countries in the luxury stakes come South Africa, Tanzania and Rwanda.”


What is and is not included in a luxury African safari?

“Almost everything is included in a luxury safari package. Depending on the exact tour that you opt for, you can expect to have two safaris a day as part of your package. There are also other activities on offer, such as walking safaris and boat safaris, where available. All accommodation fees, park entry fees, meals and most alcoholic drinks will be included. What isn’t included in your safari price varies depending on the type of safari and the package you’ve opted for. You might have to pay for transfers between camps and parks. However, in very top-end safaris these are often included as well. You’ll certainly have to pay extra for any internal flights from your airport of arrival to your chosen parks and camps. Visas and airport hotels are also rarely included in the overall package.”


What are the differences between a luxury and budget safari?

“Don’t be surprised to see safaris costing around US$1,000 a night. A luxury African safari can be eye-wateringly expensive. But if you can afford it, even for just a couple of days, you won’t regret it. A top-end luxury safari is simply the best safari holiday experience you can ever hope to have. You’ll have the best wildlife guides in the business, best accommodation, best vehicles and best food and drink. More than that, you’ll also likely be making a positive and considerable contribution to conservation. Many top-end companies invest a significant percentage of their income into conservation and community development projects. In countries such as Kenya, Botswana and Namibia these safari companies are often leasing land from local communities. They manage that land for the benefit of wildlife. This is called a conservancy. This costs a massive amount of money. You paying to stay at a camp located in one of these wildlife conservancies contributes to the preservation of that land. On a budget safari you get the basics but no extras and no frills. You’ll be camping or staying at budget safari lodges, often outside the parks. The accommodation is simple, and if you’ve booked through a good operator, clean and comfortable. Check out what’s included, so you are clear about any extras you will need to pay for. On game drives, there will probably be more people per vehicle, which can feel crowded. Make an inquiry about the maximum number of people per vehicle.”


What type of vehicles can I expect?

“All top-end luxury safari camps and lodges use the best-quality safari jeeps. These are highly customized long-wheel-base 4x4s. They will have extra suspension, which gives a fairly smooth ride over even the bumpiest roads. Most will be open-sided and have raised seats. This ensures every safari-goer has a superb view of the animals no matter which side of the vehicle they are on. Those open sides also provide some up-close encounters with curious big cats! Most of the vehicles will have cool boxes filled with drinks, power sockets for charging camera batteries and camera support bases built into the vehicles. The quality of the driver and guide is as important as the quality of the vehicle. On a luxury safari, your driver and guides will be highly trained and have superb wildlife knowledge. Equally, they will be accomplished hosts. You can expect them to always switch off the vehicle engine when you want to see an animal. They will always try and position the vehicle so that you have the best viewing angle of the wildlife. During a safari the best guides will turn and face you when they talk, so that you can hear them clearly.”


What kind of accommodation can I expect?

“Some of the top-end safari camps and lodges are among the most exclusive places to stay on Earth. The best camps and lodges will have only a handful of rooms or tents. Six to eight are the norm. This provides exclusivity. Most have a safari-chic look and feel, with high-quality antique arts and crafts, subtle design and, often, a strong colonial style. Don’t expect mod-cons, gyms, spas and so on, though some do offer massages. Quite a few accommodations have small infinity pools, or even private plunge pools. All will offer sundowner drinks and snacks by a firepit, gourmet meals and beautiful settings and views. There’ll also be service that’s second to none.”


What should I consider when choosing a luxury African safari?

“Essentially, you need to think about when you want to go and what you want to see. There are some other things worth considering in order to make your trip that little bit more special. Exactly what sort of accommodation are you after? Some camps are high on the luxury scale, with tents that have in-floor lighting, brass bath taps and a striking design. This can feel a little isolated from the environment. Other camps are relatively down-to-earth and simple but have much more of an authentic bush atmosphere. The other thing to consider is how exclusive you want to go. Will you pay a premium to have a safari vehicle and guide all to yourself? Or are you happy to share with some other camp guests? You can’t really go wrong when booking a top-end, luxury safari. The tour operator will work with you to create a seamless and near-perfect safari experience. Staff at the lodges, safari guides, drivers and camp staff will do all they can to give you the most personalized and memorable safari possible.”