May 20, 2009

Just when it seemed that African safari camps had maxed out in the luxury department, three more over-the-top lodges have opened. Set along the Boro River in Botswana's Okavango Delta, Abercrombie & Kent's intimate Baines' Camp (800/554-7094; www.abercrombiekent.com; doubles from $780, all-inclusive) has five elevated, balconied suites, each with a mobile four-poster bed meant to be wheeled outside for starlit slumbering. During the day, guests can walk the grounds with the camp's trio of adopted elephants. • CC Africa's Madikwe Safari Lodge (888/882-3742; www.ccafrica.com; doubles from $850, all-inclusive) occupies a corner of the 190,000-acre malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa. The 16 suites, spread through three camps, highlight design guru Chris Browne's simple touch with natural stonework and tree-trunk frames. • The conservation company's other addition, Zuka Lodge (entire lodge $2,537, all-inclusive), at Phinda, sits in 8,600 previously inaccessible acres in the private game reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It's made up of just four thatched bush cottages, which are furnished with cowhide rugs and have verandas that overlook an active water hole.
—Peter Hyman

andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge

For families or other groups on safari, you can’t do much better than andBeyond’s outpost in the Phinda Private Game Reserve, a four-hour drive from Johannesburg. There are just four thatched bush cottages, which must be rented all together. Each has a cowhide rug and a wide deck that overlooks an active water hole, with lush valleys and thickly wooded hills just beyond. Plan the day’s activities with your private ranger over breakfast, choosing from an eclectic menu, which includes canoeing on the Mzinene River, white-rhino tracking, rhino-darting, and game drives in your private 4 x 4 vehicle.

Madikwe Safari Lodge

When Madikwe Game Reserve was established in 1991, the 185,000 acres were virtually bereft of wildlife. Today, after rigorous conservation efforts, the preserve teems with elephants, leopards, and giraffes—and the 20-suite Madikwe Safari Lodge is right in the middle of it all. The intimate three-camp complex highlights design guru Chris Browne’s pared-down aesthetic with natural stonework and tree-trunk frames. The thatched-roof stone huts have private plunge pools; dinner is served in the communal open-air boma or on your candlelit private deck. The nightly ritual: glasses of iced mampoer, a traditional Afrikaner eau-de-vie, at sundown by the Marico River.

Sanctuary Baines' Camp

Set along the Boro River in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Sanctuary Retreat's intimate eco-lodge is built from plaster, burlap, and 150,000 aluminum cans collected from the local community. Five elevated, balconied suites are connected by suspension bridges; each has a mobile, mosquito net–draped four-poster bed that can be wheeled outside for starlit slumbering. The camp is located in the southern section of the famous Moremi Game Reserve (the “predator capital of Africa”) and offers a plethora of creative ways to view big game: paddling the Boro River in a mokoro (dugout canoe), walking the grounds with the camp’s trio of adopted elephants, or even scouting wildlife from a helicopter.

You May Like