When looking for a top safari lodge, the first step is to choose an excellent game reserve deep in the heart of the bush. Professional guides from the lodge will ensure excellent game-viewing with drives and bushwalks, birding, and tracking. Indulge in luxurious facilities with heated pools, spas, outdoor showers, king-sized beds, exquisite décor, excellent cuisine, and dining under the stars.

Quatermain's 1920s Safari Camp

Quatermain's central thatched boma (photo courtesy of Quatermain's 1920s Safari Camp)
Quatermain's central thatched boma (photo courtesy of Amakhala Quatermain's 1920s Safari Camp)

This is a safari lodge with a difference. Quatermain's 1920s Safari Camp in the private Amakhala Big Five Game Reserve takes you back to safaris of the past. You stay in well-spaced expedition-style tents from an era of colonial pioneers and explorers, but with the convenience of private ensuite outdoor bathrooms. 

From your secluded deck, hear the haunting call of the African fish eagle, or see the flash of a shy antelope. Spot the Big Five on a game drive as well as hyena, cheetah, zebra, and giraffe. Focus on the smaller side of life with top-quality guides introducing you to birds, plants, and insects. For the brave: take a Big Five Walk with a qualified guide. For the more cautious, there are birding and geology walks.  

At nightfall, gather around the fire in the central thatched boma (traditional enclosure) and enjoy local specialties such as tender stews and seasonal vegetables. Unwind in an older world, gently lit with gas lamps and candles. With a limited number of guests, share your stories with friendly company. Relax under the stars, listening to the game rangers' tales while sipping Amarula liqueur made from the berries of a local marula tree. Back in your tent, fall asleep to the calls of jackals, nightjars, barn owls, and possibly even lions. 

Sindile Shamwari

Private tent at Sindile Shamwari
Private tent at Sindile Shamwari Lodge (photo courtesy of Shamwari Game Reserve)

Experience the luxury of the Sindile Shamwari tented camp in the 27 square miles (70 sq km) of the Shamwari Private Game Reserve. Enjoy the views of the Bushman's River, savanna, and thicket rolling into the distance. Nine private tents have a deck, heated plunge pool, king-size bed and lounge, and indoor and outdoor showers. The main area has a lounge, dining room, and bar with fireplaces, a deck, a firepit, a boma, a spa, and a gift shop.

Take sunrise and sunset game drives with knowledgeable guides, or go on a walking, birding, or photographic safari. In addition to spotting the Big Five, the guides will share their intimate knowledge of the birds, insects, and flora, as well as the local history. Children can learn and have fun in the "Kids on Safari" program. Together you can visit the Wildlife Rehab Centre and the Born Free Big Cat Rescue and Education Centres, which care for injured animals and rescue large cats from captivity.

Meals come with expansive views, whether in the form of buffet breakfasts and lunches, high tea, or evening meals. These are à la carte or a barbecue around the fire pit. 

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River Bend Lodge

Suite at River Bend Lodge
Suite at River Bend Lodge (photo courtesy of River Bend Lodge)

River Bend Lodge is a private luxury lodge in the Addo Elephant National Park, home to Big Five game animals and more than 300 bird species. Suites are secluded and tranquil, with outside showers and patios opening onto the bush. 

Game drives are individualized and experienced guides will take you to the five different biomes in the park. Enjoy an early morning safari with coffee, hot water bottles, and blankets, or a late afternoon drive with drinks and snacks. Take a specialist safari like birding, photography, or star-gazing. Meanwhile, cyclists and hikers might opt for the trails outside the Big Five zone. Be pampered with spa treatments or dip into the outdoor swimming pool. Children are entertained with mobile playrooms and mini-ranger and chef programs. Arrange a game drive to suit the noisy enthusiasm of your children, or take advantage of the free babysitting services.  

Breakfast or lunch can be a picnic in the bush. Feast on sumptuous meals where nothing is too much trouble. Expand your wine knowledge with River Bend's "Introduction to South African Wines," hosted by the in-house wine connoisseur.  

Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve

View from an Eco-Pod
View from a Camdeboo Eco-Pod (photo courtesy of Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve)

The Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve comprises 34,600 acres (14,000 ha) in the semi-arid Great Karroo region of the Eastern Cape. This is a landscape of contrasts, where the bright midday sun gives way to a watercolor of pinks and blues at dawn and dusk. 

The lodge offers a perfect mix of an African safari and five-star relaxation. Suites in the gabled manor house have garden or mountain views, swimming pools, and a spa. While at the same time, a luxury cottage and a villa are available for larger groups, as well as venues for conferences and weddings. Secluded opulent eco-friendly Pods provide a unique wilderness experience with panoramic views, a hot tub, and firepits. 

This Big Five reserve has many other species, such as cheetah, giraffe, endangered Cape mountain zebra, a variety of antelope, and a diversity of birds. On game drives with knowledgeable rangers, you will see a wide range of animals and learn about the local ecology. But, time spent here is about more than game viewing: The changing landscape is so beautiful that you may be distracted from the job of looking for wildlife. And when you are done with the outdoors, take a time-out in the spa to complete your relaxation.

Evenings mean wholesome, traditional meals emphasizing local cuisine with an excellent choice of wines. For those with specific food needs, the chefs are ready to cater to you.