By Sara Clemence
July 08, 2020
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Kelly Lecceardone/Courtesy of Rothschild Safaris

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.

For many travelers, a safari is a bucket-list experience — a trip they fantasize about, save up for, and, in many cases, use to mark a wedding or milestone birthday.

T+L readers want their dream trips to be, well, dreamy, so they have high standards when sharing their opinions on the world’s best safari outfitters. While these experts can’t control the weather or the wildlife, they can pair you with the most keen-eyed and knowledgeable guides to ensure that you have the optimal viewing experiences. They can choose the lodges that best suit your needs, tastes, and budget — and then take it up a notch by arranging for special surprise experiences and indulgences.

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. Readers rated tour operators and safari outfitters based on their staff and guides, itineraries and destinations, activities, accommodations, food, and overall value.

The top-ranked safari companies have a few things in common: they tend to be small but well-connected, and their staffers get to know clients intimately so they can plan trips that will delight at every stage. In the case of this year’s No. 2, Roar Africa, specifics are key. “They take the time to understand what your goals are and to ensure that your experience is all that you dreamed of and more,” said one reader.

Roar’s CEO and founder, Deborah Calmeyer, hasn’t just traveled extensively in Africa; she grew up there — as did the heads of several other safari companies on the list. Sunit Sanghrajka of Alluring Africa (No. 4) was raised in Kenya, where Elizabeth Gordon, cofounder of Extraordinary Journeys (No. 7), was born. They bring to their work a deep connection to and understanding of the continent and its challenges and wonders. “Africa can be intimidating but Deb and her team make it so easy to plan a very personal experience,” said one T+L reader of Roar Africa. She noted how carefully her accommodations had been selected: “They were each so different from one another but equally spectacular.”

Though the Big Five (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, and Cape buffalo) are what come to mind when most people think of safaris, the experience can go far beyond that (tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda, for example). Wildlife lovers don’t even have to limit themselves to Africa: many of the experts on this list also plan trips to Costa Rica, India, Australia, Bhutan, and other awe-inspiring destinations.

With such spectacular sights, it’s little wonder that many clients end up taking multiple “once-in-a-lifetime” trips. Find out what set readers’ No. 1, Rothschild Safaris, apart — and who else joins them on this year’s list of the best safari companies.

1. Rothschild Safaris

Courtesy of Rothschild Safaris

Score: 99.26

More information: rothschildsafaris.com

“I credit them with providing me some of the best memories of my life,” wrote one of many satisfied Rothschild clients — some of whom said they traveled with the company a half-dozen times. Since 1998, the outfitter has been planning safari experiences that are flawless from arrival to departure, with special surprises sprinkled throughout. “At each camp, we had an exclusive or memorable experience different from the other camp visitors,” said one T+L reader. “Behind-the-scenes access to sanctuaries, up close experiences with rare animals, or exclusive outdoor dining with private chefs and staffing.”

2. Roar Africa

Courtesy of Roar Africa

Score: 99.26

More information: roarafrica.com

3. Deeper Africa

Little Ruckomechi Camp/Courtesy of Deeper Africa

Score: 98.88

More information: deeperafrica.com

4. Alluring Africa

Courtesy of Alluring Africa

Score: 98.66

More information: alluringafrica.com

5. Micato Safaris

Courtesy of Micato Safaris

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 98.44

More information: micato.com

6. Africa Adventure Consultants

Courtesy of Africa Adventure Consultants

Score: 98.40

More information: adventuresinafrica.com

7. Extraordinary Journeys

Courtesy of Extraordinary Journeys

Score: 98.23

More information: extraordinaryjourneys.com

8. Go2Africa

Courtesy of Go2Africa

Score: 98.05

More information: go2africa.com

9. African Travel Inc.

Courtesy of African Travel Inc.

Score: 96.89

More information: africantravelinc.com

10. Wilderness Safaris

Courtesy of Wilderness Safaris

Score: 96.30

More information: wilderness-safaris.com

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