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8 lodges where animals roam free

Now that’s up close and personal

Unless you’re doing something wrong, you’re always going to see safari animals on safari. From lazy lion snoozing in the shade to towers of giraffe skimming the tops of the trees, the parks and reserves across the continent are jam-packed with creatures great and small. But where should you go if you want to get REALLY close? Here are our favourite lodges in Africa where the wildlife roams free, and you don’t even have to venture out of camp for fabulous game viewing.

zambia chiawa top lodges where animals roam free

Chiawa Camp

Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

It’s not often you come face to face with a wild elephant, but that’s exactly what’s in store at Chiawa Camp. The elephant in question is Shorty, a good-natured beast who seems to time his arrival perfectly with lunch… And if you miss Shorty, don’t panic, for the camp occupies a superb location on the banks of the Zambezi River, where hippo wallow, crocodile sunbathe, and buffalo splash in the shallows, all within metres of the main area.

Chiawa Camp
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giraffe manor lodges where animals roam free

Giraffe Manor

Nairobi, Kenya

We couldn’t talk about up close and personal wildlife encounters without a mention of Nairobi’s beautiful Giraffe Manor. Built in 1932, the house and surrounding gardens have been a sanctuary for Rothschild giraffe since the 1970s and today, there are nine in residence. Find the long-limbed creatures poking their necks through the French windows of the conservatory at breakfast time (perhaps it’s the pancakes?), or watch them ambling across the grounds from your stately suite.

Giraffe Manor
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granite londolozie lodges where animals roam free

Londolozi Granite Suites

Kruger, South Africa

A bath overlooking the wind-rippled Sand River in the Sabi Sands Reserve is quite something; but a bath overlooking said river, accompanied by a herd of trunk-swinging elephant is even better. If that sounds like your cup of tea, head straight for the exclusive Granite Suites in the heart of the reserve. As well as elephant wandering by, you’re likely to catch sight of lion, giraffe, zebra, and plenty of dainty antelope from the comfort of your bubbly tub.

Londolozi Granite Suites
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Mfuwe Lodge

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

What happens when you build a lodge on an age-old elephant trail to a wild mango tree? The elephants walk straight through it, of course! Visit Mfuwe Lodge from October to December, and spot the magnificent pachyderms as they amble through the reception area to munch on the sweet mango tree at the heart of the lodge. The grey family have become so well-known to staff (and guests!) that each elephant has been named – but make no mistake, these ellies are as wild as they come.

Mfuwe Lodge
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singita sabora top lodges where animals roam free

Singita Sabora

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

At Singita Sabora in the private Grumeti Game Reserve on the western edge of the Serengeti, it’s just you, 35,000 acres of wilderness and, every May to June, the herds of the Great Migration. There’s not a fence in sight and you’ll open your tent flaps to hundreds upon hundreds of grazing wildebeest and zebra in the morning, and fall asleep to their gruntings and snortings every night.

Singita Sabora
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meno a kwena

Meno a Kwena

Makgadikgadi, Botswana

Sometimes, the best game viewing is where you least expect it, and at Meno a Kwena, it’s right underneath your nose. Perched high on a clifftop overlooking the Boteti River in Botswana’s Makgadikgadi, you don’t even need to leave your stylish vintage tent for prime game viewing. In fact, watching the largest migration of zebra and wildebeest in southern Africa as they congregate at the river is arguably best from your private veranda, G&T in hand.

Meno a Kwena
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segera top lodges where animals roam free
Segera photographed by David Crookes 2013

Segera Retreat

Laikipia, Kenya

A safari at the wonderfully lavish Segera Retreat is exclusive to say the least. From food that wouldn’t look out of place in a Michelin-star restaurant, to the well-stocked wine cellar and award-winning spa, you definitely won’t get bored. But it’s the wildlife of Laikipia that really sets the lodge apart, particularly when a tower of elegant giraffe lope across the plains, just in front of your private veranda, or you catch sight of an elephant grazing peacefully from the depths of the swimming pool. Wow.

Segera Retreat
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hoanib skeleton coast top lodges where animals roam free

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Up in the arid, desolate landscapes of northern Namibia, you would be forgiven for thinking that not much wildlife could possibly exist. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll find a host of unique and utterly fascinating desert-adapted species. And if you visit the beautiful Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, you won’t need to look very far at all for the waterhole in front of camp attracts a regular stream of desert-adapted ellies, best viewed from the cool shade of the magnificent main area.

Hoanib Skeleton Camp
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