Top lodge safari destinations

There are fantastic safari lodges scattered across Southern and East Africa, all of which are well placed to explore the wilderness, from the wide open plains of Kenya and Tanzania to the Namib Desert to the forests Uganda. What’s more, your experience can be as simple or as plush as you like. You could sleep in low-key chalets and share simple communal dinners or bed down in an exclusive tented camp where dramatic views across the local watering hole can be enjoyed with a gourmet dinner and glass of champagne in hand. It‘s all heavenly, whatever your budget.

1. Botswana

Botswana is home to one of the continent’s last great wildlife havens, thanks to the preservation of ancient migration routes. The sheer quantity of wildlife here is what hits you, and major wildlife spectacles are a regular occurrence rather than a rarity. There are, for example, more than 100,000 elephants here, more than anywhere else in the world. So bring your binoculars – and prepare to be dazzled.

2. Namibia

With wildlife experiences ranging from tracking unusual desert-adapted elephants, to bushwalks in search of the rare black rhino, to watching the Big Five at the watering holes of Etosha, and viewing Cape fur seals on the country’s wild coastline, lodge safaris in Namibia offer adventure by the bucket load. And with plenty of homely, locally owned lodges, you can give back to the community, too.
South Africa

3. South Africa

South Africa’s excellent infrastructure, top-notch lodges and varied national parks and reserves make it a popular choice for safari newbies. Kruger National Park has nearly 20,000km² of prime wildlife viewing territory, including Big Five habitats and almost half of the country’s white and black rhino populations, so a lodge safari here will always deliver.

4. Tanzania

Tanzania is perfect for a lodge safari, as not only does it have a wide range of options to suit families, couples and singles, it’s home to two iconic wilderness areas. Vast Serengeti is Tanzania’s oldest park: a 15,000km² space that’s home to one of Africa’s largest populations of lion. The nearby Ngorongoro Crater has equally impressive credentials, with 30,000 animals living within the 25km-wide remains of a volcano.

5. Uganda

Lodge safaris in Uganda focus on two national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable, the world’s most famous gorilla trekking location, and Queen Elizabeth, which is home to elephants, lions and hippos, among other species. One or two days of your holiday will be spent tracking the mountain gorillas, leaving time for optional forest hikes, visiting local community projects or simply soaking up the scenery from your lodge.

6. Zambia

Zambia’s natural wonders are among the best on the continent, with the thundering Victoria Falls, the rushing Zambezi River and wildlife-stuffed South Luangwa National Park all top draws. Whether you want to spot the Big Five from the safety of a 4WD, explore the landscape on foot or float downriver spotting hippos and crocs, you’ll be able to do it here – and there are plenty of impressive lodges to relax in once you’re done.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Lodge safari or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Lodge safaris advice

Self drive safaris in Namibia

Simon Mills from our supplier Native Escapes:
“Namibia is superb for self drive safaris; Etosha National Park is just set up for it. It is very dry most of the year, so self drivers just need to head to a succession of waterholes – and if they wait, and have patience, animals will come. Driving in Namibia is a good experience. Driving is on the left, like the UK, but given the number of gravel roads, we’d always recommend driving in a 4x4 for clearance and safety. There is also a 40km/h speed limit in the park, too.”

Think beyond the wildlife

Will Fox from our supplier On Track Safaris:
“So many people come back from Africa and say, ‘that was nice, but I wish I'd been more involved.’ They don't want to just be shown animals, it's not Disney World. Safaris shouldn't just be about seeing animals and staying in a nice lodge with a spa. That's wonderful, but it should also be about understanding the real issues in Africa and learning more about whatever it is you're keen on. We teach our guests a few native words. If you thank the lodge staff in their own language, you'll get such a beaming smile. They're just so impressed that someone has learned a few words of their language.”

Best time to go on a lodge safari in Tanzania

Amanda Marks, from our supplier Tribes Travel:
“The Wildebeest Migration moves constantly so you have it from December to March in the southern Serengeti – you can find the wildlife there quite easily. They tend to give birth at the beginning of the year, then move north and west, though they are more spread out so it’s not such a spectacle – but you can still find them. Then from July to October they are in Kenya, but they are also in the very north of the Serengeti, which is just as good a place to see the migration.”

The safari lodge experience

Amanda Marks, from our supplier Tribes Travel: “Some people feel ‘safer’ in lodges if they are concerned about proximity to wildlife with just basic canvas between them and the wild. Also, you tend to get more facilities in a lodge. I’ve recently returned from northern Serengeti. Nomad Tanzania’s Lamai Serengeti is a stunning safari lodge which feels connected to the wild in a similar way that camps do, despite having solid walls. Its position up high with incredible views adds to its appeal, as does the style and quality of service.”

Simon Mills, from our supplier Native Escapes: “Aside from large comfortable beds, showers, hot water, excellent food and the quality of a lodge set up, you also benefit from going out with the lodge guides and trackers, so you get the benefit of their extensive experience in spotting wildlife and bringing a game drive or walk to life. We have a number of incredible lodges across Africa. What makes a safari lodge special normally comes down to location, level of service, quality of guides - and in some cases incredible design that also supports local communities in a big way.”

Lodge safari tips from our travellers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful lodge safari holiday tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
The following items would help make your trip more enjoyable: a camera with a good zoom, plenty of memory and a spare battery...
– Sandra Schuler in Namibia
“Follow the advice about taking warm clothes for game drives in the early morning - it can be chilly! Plus, be patient, wildlife appears in its own time and not always quite what you might expect - don't have preconceptions of what animals you might see on a game drive. Take time to listen to the sounds of the early mornings.” – David Sewell in South Africa

“Aim to enjoy every part of the holiday, whether it is the flight in a prop plane and landing on an air strip with elephants and giraffes standing to on either side (or in the middle), or hundreds of hairy caterpillars in procession. Big or small, take it all in and enjoy watching and listening. The animals will be doing something different every time you see them and remember that it is a privilege to be in their environment. Don't worry about dressing up for travel or evening meals, and forget make-up and hair styling too. I would also recommend taking a travel washing line and biodegradable washing liquid and doing regular washes- the clothes dry quickly. And ladies, wear a sports bra.... ” – Joanne Davenport in Tanzania

“The following items would help make your trip more enjoyable: a camera with a good zoom, plenty of memory and a spare battery; sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses and a hat to protect against the powerful Namibian sun; a windbreaker for the cooler climate in Walvis Bay/Swakopmund, especially if you have opted to go on the boat cruise. ” – Sandra Schuler in Namibia
Complete your PADI diving course before you go on holiday - the coral reefs around Mafia [island] are too incredible to miss. Pack very little – the laundry services are incredible in all the lodges we stayed in in Tanzania.
– Liz Taylor
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Anna Omelchenko] [Botswana: Claire Gribbin] [Namibia: Matthias Mueller] [South Africa: Flowcomm] [Tanzania: Anita Ritenour] [Uganda: Cristoffer Crusel] [Zambia: andresmh] [Maasai Mara: Make it Kenya] [Photography: Make it Kenya] [Coral - Tanzania: Frontierofficial]