Venturing into the wild—complete with astounding animal encounters—doesn’t have to mean roughing it. Luxurious safari camps throughout southern Africa, offering the true “bush experience,” wine and dine guests without sacrificing the authenticity of the locale. Here are five spectacular safari spots.
Abu Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Abu Camp’s luxurious open spaces and opulent private tents are outdone only by the location itself—the magnificent Okavango Delta. And the only thing more stunning than the Delta is its signature attraction: the Abu herd of elephants, which guests are encouraged to ride as their morning activity. Also on the schedule is a wine-sipping session in the afternoon and dinner on the ultraromantic, candle-lit deck. To accompany the fantastic fare, fine Pinotage—South Africa’s signature wine—is served. If you decide to dine privately in your tent, expect to sip sparkling rosé while an outdoor bubble bath is drawn.
Singita Boulders Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa
Singita Boulders Lodge is unforgettable not only for guests’ frequent encounters with Africa’s Big Five—lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants and Cape buffalos—but also for its stunning wine cellar, which is built around a large boulder, and private suites with plunge pools and fireplaces. While supping pan-African cuisine under the stars, savor one of the lodge’s 35,000 bottles of South African wine, served by stellar sommelier Henrico van Lill. Enjoy a personalized tasting set up in the private wine cellar, or shop in the Singita Premier Wine Direct for rare single-vineyard and auction selections. Check out the lions and leopards on a game drive, walking tour or bike ride, or get a look-see from your luxurious private suite, which overlooks the Sand River.
Zambezi Queen, Chobe River, Botswana and Namibia
As you glide along the Chobe River on this luxury river safari, you’ll behold hippos and crocodiles lounging alongside the boat. Land-based game observing in Chobe National Park is another option, as is sky-high viewing via helicopter. After absorbing the sites, guests can get cozy in the chic, contemporary dining room, where South African chef Pete Goffe-Wood prepares a multi-course dinner, featuring dishes like escabeche of sole, tomato cappuccino soup and Amarula panna cotta. Enjoy an esoteric South African wine from the restaurant’s vast list while stargazing on your private balcony, then drift to sleep amid the murmurs of your wildlife neighbors.
Singita Pamushana Lodge, Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Zimbabwe
Here, within the 130,000-acre Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in southeastern Zimbabwe, it’s not uncommon to come face-to-face with Africa’s most rare and elusive animals, including the black rhino and the roan antelope. In Pamushana’s six luxury suites and one private retreat, guests can enjoy exclusive views of the reserve’s famous cathedral mopane forests and “upside-down” baobab trees—a native African tree that has a swollen trunk base and branches that look like roots when bare. The wine cellar, stocked with a multi-thousand-bottle collection, features fine offerings like Ken Forrester’s 2008 FMC Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, which you can sip while on your private deck gazing at wildlife through your Swarovski spotting scope.
Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa
En route to safari camps, many travelers choose to stop in Cape Town to enjoy one of the world’s most stunning cities. Ellerman House is perhaps its finest—and most exclusive—urban respite, a mansion with mountainside splendor and panoramic views of the Atlantic. Take a day trip to the Cape Winelands, then come home to one of nine uniquely decadent rooms or two comfort-oozing suites. The resort is serious about its wine: Its three cellars hold 9,000 bottles, some dating back to 1980. The wine list is the recipient of South Africa’s Wine List Award 2012 in the category of “Best Long List,” as well as the Diner’s Club Diamond award, also in 2012.