By Lila Battis
July 08, 2020
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Courtesy of Singita

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

If there’s one type of bucket-list vacation that will need no embellishment, it’s a safari trip. For those who love wild places, there’s nothing comparable to seeing nature free from human intervention — elephants wandering through camp, hyenas sniffing the tires of your Land Rover, lions napping in the dust of a dry riverbed at midday, unbothered by your camera clicking furiously just yards away. Training your eye to spot a leopard tail hanging from a distant tree, or to distinguish a hippo track from an elephant footprint, gives you a connection with the natural world that you can’t get digitally. It’s a truly transformative experience, one made even better by choosing the right lodge — like the ones T+L readers have chosen as 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 were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

The T+L readers who weighed in know that luxury is all in the details: a hot water bottle and coffee just the way you like it makes a crack-of-dawn wake-up call feel pleasurable, and a guide who’s intimately familiar with every inch of the terrain can help you spot wildlife without a herd of other vehicles crowding the view. This year’s winners represent destinations both established (the Serengeti, the Masai Mara) and emerging (Rwanda’s gorilla treks are still relatively new, yet have taken off in recent years). Yet each has something special to recommend it.

Safari-goers from lodges across the Mara make the bumpy middle-of-the-night drive to Governor’s Camp (No. 8), in part to bask in its renowned sunrise balloon rides. No. 9, andBeyond’s dreamy Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, sits on the caldera rim, so you can be the first ones into the crater in the morning and the last out at night — and the camp’s lush grounds are a magnet for zebras, which will graze unperturbed as you walk mere feet away. Gibb’s Farm (No. 7) captures a kind of relaxed, understated luxury that feels livable — as one reader wrote, “If you want to feel like you are in Africa, but also in the most gorgeous hotel in Napa, and everything is sustainable, thoughtful, and lovely, this place is for you.” Angama Mara (No. 10) is the very site on which many scenes from Out of Africa were filmed, making it the ideal spot for Dinesen superfans (Robert Redford not included).

From homey, family-friendly spots (like No. 7 Gibb’s Farm) to ultra-romantic honeymoon destinations (No. 2 Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti is a standout), this list of the best African safari lodges has it all. Read on to see all the rankings and learn about this year’s No. 1, Singita Kruger National Park.

1. Singita Kruger National Park, South Africa

Courtesy of Singita

Score: 98.25

More information: singita.com

Singita Kruger has an edge over other Kruger camps: it’s really two properties in one, each with a distinct audience, aesthetic, and environment, so that you can get two trips in one. The seven-suite Singita Sweni, the newer of the two properties, is nestled among the trees on a riverbank, where you can glimpse crocodiles wallowing in the shallows and the big cats coming to lap at the water’s edge. Higher up on the ridgeline, Singita Lebombo is open and airy, with a sun-drenched parcel of land and 13 suites that feature decks with hanging beds should you care to sleep under the stars. Both properties share unfettered access to Singita’s 33,000-acre private concession, a thicketed patch of Kruger ecosystem where you’ll round a bend and find yourself face-to-face with a tower of giraffes gorging themselves on acacias. Sundowners of G&Ts and Singita’s house-made biltong cap off the day, but don’t fill up on snacks — both properties have fantastic dining programs thanks to Singita’s own cooking school, a highly competitive program that trains promising local students for culinary careers at the company’s lodges and around the world.

2. Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Courtesy of Four Seasons

Score: 97.82

More information: fourseasons.com

3. Lion Sands Game Reserve, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa

Courtesy of Lion Sands Game Reserve

Score: 96.24

More information: lionsands.com

4. (tie) Bisate Lodge, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Courtesy of Wilderness Safaris

Score: 96.00

More information: wilderness-safaris.com

4. (tie) Singita Sabi Sand, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa

Courtesy of Singita

Score: 96.00

More information: singita.com

6. andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge, Kruger National Park Area, South Africa

Courtesy of andBeyond

Score: 95.67

More information: andbeyond.com

7. Gibb’s Farm, Karatu, Tanzania

Courtesy of Gibb's Farm

Score: 95.43

More information: gibbsfarm.com

8. Governors’ Camp, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Courtesy of Governors' Camp

Score: 94.67

More information: governorscamp.com

9. andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

Courtesy of andBeyond

Score: 93.50

More information: andbeyond.com

10. Angama Mara, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Courtesy of Angama Mara

Score: 93.33

More information: angama.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.