The Top 10 Safari Lodges in Africa
This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
The Western idea of Africa as a vast unknowable expanse of wilderness — rather than a living, breathing place with as much diversity and unique regionality as any other continent — has endured with stubborn longevity. Perhaps quintessential images like silverbacks in a lush mountain forest, giraffes and acacia trees silhouetted against a savannah sunset, and herds of elephants in the floodplains along a winding river stick with travelers because they are so unlike the nature scenes of the U.S., where centuries of human interference have left little trace of true wilderness or of the animals that once roamed freely.
Africa's rarefied natural spaces have compelled generations of adventurers to seek them out — and the hospitality world has kept pace. Today's safari-goers have little more to worry about than checking off the Big Five and whether to order red or white with dinner. And for the ultimate in service, comfort, and indulgence, they can't go wrong with the places that T+L readers voted onto this year's list of the best safari lodges in Africa.
Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels (including safari lodges) were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city hotel, resort, or safari lodge based on their locations and amenities.
The spots on the list are brimming with opulent touches and spectacular scenery. At No. 4 Angama Mara, in Kenya's Masai Mara, two 15-tent camps dot the edge of an escarpment about 300 yards above the game reserve. The views of the Great Rift Valley are so cinematic it's tempting to stay on property and just gawk at the scenery. Don't miss a visit to the on-site craft workshop, where Masai women teach guests the techniques and meaning behind their beading traditions, or the photography studio, where you can test out pro gear and polish up your safari snapshots with cutting-edge photo-editing software.
At No. 6 Singita Grumeti, in Tanzania, the lodging options offer something for every style: crystal chandeliers and gilded frames at Sasakwa Lodge, rattan chairs and campaign tables at Sabora Tented Camp, and breezy furnishings and basketry-inspired light fixtures at Faru Faru Lodge, among others. In South Africa, andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge (No. 9) has 20 cottages that blend light details — wide-slate bathroom floors, ceramic stools, pale patterned loveseats, high thatched ceilings — with the gravitas of deep-hued wood furnishings, muted flat-weave rugs, and antique-inspired wildlife illustrations. Overall, it feels grounded and traditional, but never stuffy. The property is situated on Ngala Private Game Reserve, which — thanks to the success of andBeyond's conservation work — is now part of Kruger National Park.
Many of the properties on this list held an emotional resonance for our readers, one that lingered long after returning home. Of the Bushcamp Company's Mfuwe Lodge, in Zambia, which came in No. 8, one reader wrote, "I dream about Mfuwe, the people, and the sounds of the animals at night. The experience I had was beyond everything I imagined." Another put it simply: "You truly connect with raw life." A reader who spent time at No. 5 Gibb's Farm, in Tanzania, called it "the most magical place I've ever stayed!" And at Sasaab, in Kenya, the property's do-good efforts made a mark just as much as the luxe environment: "Sasaab's culture is fabulous," a reader wrote of the No. 10 property, adding that "the hotel has an innate sustainable ethos."
But the best safari lodge in Africa, the Richard Branson–owned Mahali Mzuri, brings together every element readers expect in their experience, then amplifies it all tenfold. Read on to find out why it's so beloved and which other lodges join it on this year's list.
1. Mahali Mzuri, Masai Mara, Kenya
The 12-suite Mahali Mzuri sits on the edge of a lush bowl, and there's not a bad seat in the house: over breakfast, you can watch monkeys scrabble in the trees and grass; from the pool you'll spot giraffes wandering through to snack on the acacias; sitting on your private terrace you may catch a glimpse of a cat stopping to drink from the rocky stream that runs through. And the property's location is ideal for maximizing both wildlife spotting and privacy. It's set within the private, 33,000-acre Olare Motorogi Conservancy, which is part of the Masai Mara ecosystem but beyond the bounds of the national park. That means all the richness of big game, but no other cars in sight—you can get within feet of a lion pride and have the moment all to yourself, with no jockeying for position or tuning out the chatter of other safari-goers. "Mahali Mzuri is the best luxurious camp to visit on the African continent," declared one reader; "just perfect," wrote another. The team is small and familial, with the kind of warm, relaxed — yet flawless — service that gives guests the easy sense of being among friends; the guides are among the best in the business, many having worked at the property for years to develop intimate knowledge of the land and its wildlife. One reader put it best: "The hospitality at Mahali Mzuri resembles its name," he wrote, noting the translation of the Swahili: "the Beautiful Place."
More information: virginlimitededition.com
2. Savute Elephant Lodge, a Belmond Safari, Chobe National Park, Botswana
More information: belmond.com
3. andBeyond Phinda Vlei Lodge, Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa
More information: andbeyond.com
4. Angama Mara, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
More information: angama.com
5. Gibb's Farm, Karatu, Tanzania
More information: gibbsfarm.com
6. Singita Grumeti, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
More information: singita.com
7. Khwai River Lodge, a Belmond Safari, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
More information: belmond.com
8. The Bushcamp Company's Mfuwe Lodge, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
More information: bushcampcompany.com
9. (tie) andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge, Kruger National Park Area, South Africa
More information: andbeyond.com
9. (tie) Sasaab, Samburu, Kenya
More information: thesafaricollection.com
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021.