What should a modern-day safari entail? There are the obligatory components of course, from early morning game drives to bush sundowners and boma dinners. More and more lodges however add certain wellness elements to their offering, meant to nourish the bodies, minds and souls of stressed out urbanites. You want spa treatments in the middle of the wilderness? A gym with views of the Big Five? The opportunity to run with a Maasai warrior? Or the chance to spot a leopard while exploring the area on a mountain bike? Then read on for our pick of the continent’s best wellness safaris.
Cederberg, South Africa
There is a certain magic that surrounds this upmarket lodge in the Cederberg mountains – the minute you arrive everything just seems to melt away, leaving you utterly relaxed. Bushmans
Kloof is all about holistic wellbeing, from the scenic nature drives, rock art excursions, hiking trails and mountain bike paths, to the water colour sets and yoga mats in your suite and the freshly prepared culinary treats with ingredients from the lodge’s garden. Then there’s the spa, surely one of the country’s top safari spas – for the ultimate escape book a B|Africa signature treatment in the spa gazebo, an oasis of solitude overlooking the Boontjes River.
Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa
Waterberg, South Africa
Those in need of a serious overhaul should head to Mhondoro in the malaria-free Welgevonden Game Reserve for a special nine-day Yoga & Wellness programme – total body detoxification guaranteed. You’ll start with a special three-day diet to prepare the body for what’s to come, followed by a three-day juice fast and finally three days building back up to solids. It’s not for wimps but the accompanying food and yoga workshops will help you through it, and you’ll be pleasantly distracted by the magnificent Big Five game drives. Not in the mood to wave goodbye to food for three days? A healthy food programme minus the juice fast is also available.
Masai Mara, Kenya
Who says you have to forego exercise while on safari? In Angama Mara’s fitness room you can choose from state-of-the-art fitness equipment, Pilates balls and a ballet barre – all while admiring the spectacular views (and animal sightings) through the floor-to-ceiling glass stacking doors. Then there’s the pool, a soothing infinity affair – perfect for dips, lounging, and yet more views of the Mara. Continuing the wellness theme are full-body massages offered on the deck; and, if you can tear yourself away from the comforts of the lodge, long, lazy picnics on the famous Out of Africa kopje.
Time + Tide Chinzombo
South Luangwa, Zambia
Situated on a sweeping curve of the Luangwa River, this wildly luxurious camp features authentic yet beautifully modern living areas that melt into the tranquil riverside setting. Sprawling, ancient shade trees and private plunge pools make staying in your villa a tempting option – so you’ll be pleased to hear that the lodge’s in-house spa therapists come to you. Expertly trained in Balinese techniques, these wellness angels set up for your massage on the deck under the trees, and use only 100% natural products, many of which they make themselves with local ingredients such as baobab – elevating Chinzombo to best safari spa status in our opinion.
South Luangwa, Zambia
What do you get if you combine the close-range viewing of a walking safari with the airy speed of a game drive? The thrills and excitement of Tafika’s signature 1.5 hour long mountain bike safari. With the wind blowing through your hair and the fresh bush air filling your lungs, this guided tour (often led by Tafika’s owner, John Coppinger) will take you through the game management area and along main roads through the South Luangwa National Park. Expect to see a diverse blend of wildlife, including, if you are lucky, a certain feline species – the area is famous for its high concentration of leopards.
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Set on the edge of the mountain forest hugging the Olmoti volcano, The Highlands offers exclusive and richly rewarding wilderness activities. There’s the obligatory Ngorongoro crater descent of course, but also the Olmoti climb – starting straight from the camp and following an ancient Maasai cattle trail through mountain forest, grasslands and rocky outcrops. Or how about descending into the Empakaai crater and walking to the sparkling soda lake on the crater floor, famous for its pink flamingos? If you are keen to expand on this spectacular hiking experience you may want to look into booking our special walking expedition, which continues on to Lake Natron in the Great Rift Valley.
Lake Manyara, Tanzania
Forget your usual park run – how about running across the plains with a Maasai warrior? The Maasai are renowned for being light-footed, elegant and fast, making them the perfect training partner. At Chem Chem, an eco-luxury camp in a 50,000 acre concession just outside Tarangire National Park, guests can join one of these running champions at sunrise for a truly unique outdoor fitness experience. Ambling walks in the bush and sunset massages are also on offer, striking the perfect balance between working out and vegging out.
Like an ethereal mirage in the middle of the desolate Makgadikgadi Salt Pan, San Camp is the place to go for a digital detox. With absolutely no Wifi available, you can stow all your devices away and get back to nature – on bush walks with the Zu/’hoasi Bushmen for example, or on an exhilarating horseback safari. Back at the camp, watch the classic white tents billow in the evening breeze before retreating to the yoga and meditation pavilion to relax and unwind – at which point your iPhone will be but a distant memory.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
The re-opening of Mombo and Little Mombo in 2018 heralded a new health and wellness era for the camps, making them real contenders for the “best safari spa” title. There’s a new 12.5- metre lap pool for starters, as well as a gym with views that are bound to make working out a cinch – as will the high-tech equipment, ice-cold coconut water and convenient shower room for pre-game drive rinses. The new spa features a range of signature treatments, including Mombo’s “Soul of Africa” massage with marula oil (all products are by Africology, a supremely eco-friendly – and highly addictive – African spa brand). But perhaps the most exciting news is the employment of a permanent yoga instructor who leads classes at the camp and even out in the bush.
Cape Winelands, South Africa
Despite not being a safari lodge per se, we couldn’t help but sneakily mention Babylonstoren, a farm whose magnificent fruit and vegetable gardens will blow you away. The vision of a former magazine editor, everything at this picture-perfect Cape Dutch farm is inextricably linked to nature and wellbeing, with a “pick, clean and serve” approach in its three restaurants – a farm-to-fork philosophy in the truest sense of the word. Get lost in the expansive gardens or join an informative garden tour; explore the hammam, chill room, hot spa and gym at the spa; then swim in the farm dam, pick fruit and watch the sunset over a glass of wine before settling in for the night at the farm hotel. We dare you to leave without picking up a candle from the “Scented Room” – it will transport you to a state of utter bliss wherever you are.