12 of Southern Africa’s Most Exclusive Luxury Safari Lodges
Southern Africa is blessed with some of the finest luxury lodges in Africa, which makes choosing a list like this fun, but also somewhat tricky.
Searching for Southern Africa’s best safari lodges
After decades of exploring this region, seeing some properties blossom, others wilt and others so unusual as to completely shake things up, we have come to understand what makes a lodge stand out from the rest. At Scintilla, we look for the out-of-this-world safari lodges in Africa – places with a strong connection to nature, the ability to create lasting memories with loved ones and those exceptional properties that offer truly extraordinary ‘must-do’ experiences in remarkable locations. We understand that the story of the place is as important as the aesthetics, which is why we also always keep an eye out for properties run by owners or safari icons that make travelling in Southern Africa such a memorable and potentially life-changing experience.
Cheetah Plains is the ultimate safari escape for a family gathering or a safari sojourn with friends. This uber-stylish lodge bagged a spot on the 2021 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards and is worth the splurge! Each of the 3 palatial villas accommodates a maximum of eight guests per house and features a formal lounge, living and dining room area, expansive swimming pool deck, entertainment lounge, wine gallery, curated art collection and a chef’s kitchen.
Lion Sands Ivory Lodge
Dubbed as ‘one of the best hotels in the world’ by Tatler Magazine, Lion Sands Ivory Lodge sits on the banks of the Sabi River in Kruger National Park and boasts one of the continent’s most unique lodge designs. With strong elements of ivory and wildlife on your riverbed doorstep, it’s no wonder they receive the acclaim they do.
Jamala has the important bases covered – a Big 5 reserve, incredible service and luxury, elegant decor, breathtaking villas – but it’s the owner-managers and industry-leading guides that really set it apart and help to create an unforgettable safari experience. The term “Sofa Safari” goes together with the Jamala experience and there are very few places in Africa where you can sit and watch wild elephants play at a waterhole 20 meters in front of you.
Morukuru Family, Madikwe
Three exclusive-use houses (Owners House, River House and Farm House) make up the Morukuru Family at Madikwe. Morukuru has developed a ‘Morukuru Freedom Concept’, whereby guests can slip away from schedules and instead, do ‘whatever you want, whenever you want’ creating your unique, unforgettable holiday. Set your own pace and customise your stay with your own complement of staff, including a chef, butler, hostess, babysitter (if required), housekeepers and a private safari guide and tracker – making Morukuru the perfect selection for a family safari.
Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge & Ecca Lodge
Located regally atop the banks of the Great Fish River in the Eastern Cape, the impressive Kwandwe lodges have been designed to showcase the endless landscape in which it is set. The impressive Great Fish River Lodge offers nine suites with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, ensuite bathrooms, and outdoor showers. Overlooking a valley, trendy Ecca Lodge is an intimate escape with only six suites that lead out onto expansive wooden viewing decks, private plunge pools and outdoor showers. Yet it’s while exploring this bewildering landscape – on game drives, nature walks or walking safaris tracking rhino, elephant and buffalo – that you experience the best the reserve has to offer.
80 artists and craftsmen from across Africa came together to produce this living gallery in the remote Moremi Game Reserve. It includes furniture sculpted on-site from fallen trees, bespoke crockery collections by some of the continent’s edgiest ceramicists and a triple-storey, off-grid treehouse with an open-air rooftop bed nearly 30ft up that doubles as a monumental baobab sculpture. Xigera is sustainable, sophisticated and brought exuberantly to life by its family of staff.
It’s safe to say that there’s no other camp in the world like Jack’s. The location is sensational: walk across the lunar-like landscape with the Bushmen, quad-bike out onto salt pans so vast you can see the curvature of the earth or explore wildlife with head guide Super Sande, who has been with Jack’s since its inception. There’s an adventurous spirit infused in every detail and moment at Jack’s, and that’s why we love going back.
Matetsi Victoria Falls
Offering a unique combination of rich wildlife viewing and scenic Victoria Falls experiences, two beautiful accommodation options are offered at Matetsi Victoria Falls – River Lodge and River House. Matetsi is all about ‘Life on the River’, as conceptualised by their Zimbabwean architectural designer, which is best shown in the custom works by local artisans. So what can one do? Well, there are twice-daily game drives, walking safaris, birdwatching, canoeing, boat excursions and fishing. And don’t forget about the bush sundowners or the glorious helicopter flight over the thundering Victoria Falls.
Thorntree River Lodge
Yes, Thorntree is set in Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park and yes, it graces the banks of Zambia’s glorious Zambezi River. So it might be surprising to hear that what really sets it apart is the way it celebrates the spirit of community. After a refreshing sundowner drink, while watching an exquisite African sunset, you’ll spend your evening sharing stories of your safari around the fire and slink back into your chair and think there’s no place you’d rather be.
Conde Nast have called Tongabezi one of the top 20 Hotels in the World, yet they started out as tents with bucket showers. Winner of awards, capturer of hearts, Tongabezi leans into the tranquility of its hidden location on the banks of the Zambezi River. Just 12km upstream of Victoria Falls, their joyous team will welcome you to a selection of houses and cottages.
Zannier Hotels Sonop
Namib may mean ‘an area where there is nothing’, but Sonop certainly is something – something special. The main lodge and 10 guest tents are set amid a 100ft-high pile of boulders and connected by curving boardwalks and stairs. The landscape of alien sand flats and rocky hills, the celebrated vista of starry skies, the hot-air-balloon breakfast safari and the electric biking with nature guides, all combine to create an escape into profound simplicity.
Hoanib Valley Camp
Deep in north-western Namibia, Kaokoland is a tangle of towering mountains, sand dunes, and huge expanses of desert, scattered with unique wildlife and nomadic Himba settlements. Hoanib Valley Camp is found in this remote environment, where the camp is an elegant, intimate affair that immerses you into the wilds of the desert. We are in awe of the stark contrast between the unforgiving landscape, and the delicate ‘hand-made’ décor and finishes, reflecting the traditional skills and ancient techniques of local artisans, artists and craftsmen.
Plan Your Luxury Safari
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We’re based in Southern Africa and have first-hand knowledge of the experiences that await our travellers.
All the experiences and destinations we recommend support their communities and environment.
Our goal is to connect curious-minded travellers to the essence of the place they’re visiting.
We specialise in showing our travellers how to discover unique, locally-infused experiences.
Our bespoke journeys feature stylish, owner-run properties in exceptional locations.
Our consultants are widely travelled and vastly experienced, with expert knowledge of Southern Africa.