Best for spotting tree-climbing lions
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Finding lions in Africa is no big deal. But spotting the elusive tree-climbing variety is. In our book, there’s nothing quite as adorable as finding a big cat perched on top of a tree catching forty winks in broad daylight. Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park is one of the very few places in the world where you can sight these gorgeous creatures who climb the trees to beat the heat (and those aggressive flies). Touring jeeps from Arusha frequent the region all day but if you want to beat the crowds, check in to andBeyond Lake Manyara – the only permanent lodge in the national park – and you’ll have all the tree-climbing lions to yourself in the morning before the jeeps arrive and at dusk after the tourists leave. (Image: andBeyond)
Best for seeing rare species
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In north-west Botswana, the lush plains of the Okavango Delta are home to some of the world’s most endangered species, from the African wild dog and cheetah to white and black rhinos. Throw yourself in the middle of a landscape alive with the sound of trumpeting elephants and chattering baboons by checking in to one of Sanctuary Chief’s Camp’s 10 luxury pavilions. Make your way to the property’s swimming pool, perched right next to a swamp, at sunset (when all sorts of wild creatures arrive) to admire nature’s ultimate improv theatre. (Image: facebook.com/SanctuaryRetreats)
Best for gorilla sightings
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There’s nothing separating the eight stone-and-timber cottages of Uganda’s Bwindi Lodge from the appropriately named Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where about half of the world’s highly endangered mountain gorillas live. So don’t be surprised if you wake up one morning to find a shy – almost melancholic – troop of gorillas quietly exploring the lodge’s gardens. To get in the middle of a gorilla colony, however, opt for the lodge’s Gorilla Tracking experience.
Best for living in absolute luxury
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Maasai architecture meets Versailles interiors at Tanzania’s andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, which offers 30 stilted suites with crystal chandeliers, silk curtains, plush rugs and freestanding baths. Enjoy panoramic views of the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater from your balcony (you might even see a dazzle of zebras grazing on the property’s lawns) then hop in a jeep to get among the crater’s diverse wildlife – from large prides of lions to endangered black rhinos. (Image: andBeyond)
Best for a camping experience
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What could be more eerie (and exhilarating!) that the sound of a hippo rustling right next to your tent in the dead of night? Experience this unparalleled proximity to Africa’s free-roaming denizens by checking in to Sanctuary Olonana on the banks of the mighty Mara River in a private stretch of Kenya’s most famous game reserve, the Maasai Mara. Featuring 14 luxury tents, each with an ensuite, the lodge also offers scenic flights and hot air balloon rides if you want to see the action from above.
Best for viewing volcanoes
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The mighty volcanoes – most of them dormant – of the Virunga Mountains dramatically rise above the east African landscape, offering travellers exciting trekking and climbing opportunities. Base yourself at Rwanda’s Virunga Lodge, where each of the 10 rooms feature a private verandah with sweeping views of the soaring volcanoes and the twin Bulera and Ruhonda lakes. The lodge offers a range of excursions – from gorilla treks to mountain hikes – to help you really immerse yourself in the setting.
Best for beating the crowds
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With hundreds of jeeps and thousands of tourists, central Serengeti in Tanzania can sometimes feel like a circus. For a more exclusive experience, make a beeline for the national park’s western corridor. It’s home to just a handful of permanent lodges, which means you won’t be competing with hundreds of other vehicles to get close to a pride of lions. Check in to andBeyond Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp on the banks of a Grumeti River tributary full of hippos and crocodiles.
Best for witnessing Victoria Falls
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One of the world’s most staggering natural phenomena, Victoria Falls attracts millions of tourists each year. To avoid the masses, stay at Sanctuary Sussi and Chuma, located 12 kilometres upstream, where the glistening Zambezi River takes a dramatic turn. Join the lodge’s guided walking safari or hop in a jeep and visit the falls first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive. (Image: facebook.com/SanctuaryRetreats)
Best for proximity to Johannesburg
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Not a fan of multiple internal flights? About three hours’ drive north of Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, you’ll arrive at Mabula Game Lodge. The lodge offers a range of safaris – from classic to adventurous – that promise close encounters with the big five as well as sightings of hundreds of bird species and mammals.
Best for relaxing
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After slogging your way through the African savannas, nothing could be more delightful than letting go at a luxury tropical resort plonked on a blindingly white-sand beach in Zanzibar. With that in mind, make a beeline for andBeyond Mnemba Island – a privately owned island retreat, which can accommodate a maximum of 20 guests at a time. You get the gist – it’s super luxe and super relaxing. (Image: andBeyond)