50 incredible safari holidays

Brian Jackman
Tracking the wildebeest migration - This content is subject to copyright.

To go on safari is to take part in one of life’s last great adventures. Here, from the Tropic of Cancer to the Cape of Good Hope, are 50 of the best – for every budget and every wildlife experience. 

Best for first timers

Kenya in a nutshell

Where better for a first taste of wild Africa than Kenya? This is where safaris were born, and Nairobi is only an eight-hour flight from London Heathrow. From here you fly to Elsa’s Kopje, a five-star lodge in Meru, the park where George and Joy Adamson lived with Elsa, the Born Free lioness. Follow this with the chance to see all the Big Five at Lewa, on the Laikipia Plateau. As for a grand finale, it has to be the Maasai Mara in the migration season (July until October).  A 10-night Kenyan safari with three nights at Elsa’s Kopje, two nights at Lewa Wilderness Camp and three nights at Elephant Pepper Camp in the Mara costs from £5,835. Safari Consultants (017 8788 8590; safari-consultants.com).

A lioness in the long grass Credit: SUEBG1 PHOTOGRAPHY

Essential Tanzania

Northern Tanzania is where most first-time visitors go, lured by the magic of its most famous parks: Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti and Tarangire. Together they offer an unbeatable feast of big-game viewing and sensational scenery that will leave you longing to return. This 10-day safari visits all four parks, staying in a mix of lodges and permanent tented camps. Travel is by 4WD safari vehicle, accompanied by a tour leader throughout.  Prices from £2,839 with Exodus Travel (020 3733 0689; exodus.co.uk).

Malaria-free South Africa 

Don’t let the threat of malaria put you off going on safari. Unlike east Africa, much of South Africa is free of the disease, including some of its finest wildlife areas. Among them is Kwandwe, a private Big Five game reserve not far from the Garden Route, and the Marakele National Park in the foothills of the Waterberg. A combination of three nights at Kwandwe Ecca Lodge and three at Marataba Bush Camp  would make a great introduction to the safari life. Prices for this tailor-made six-night safari are from £4,635 with Cox & Kings (020 3642 0861; coxandkings.co.uk).   

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Best for families

Ultimate East Africa

Led by Alex Walker, a fourth-generation Kenyan with impeccable bush credentials, this brand-new holiday takes the joys of safari to another level as your family, including children of all ages, will learn how to guide like a professional, drive your own 4WD across the Serengeti and simply fall in love with Tanzania. You’ll hunt with the last Hadzabe bushmen, fly-camp under the stars and get up close with the Big Five before ending up on the white sands of Zanzibar. Accommodation is at the Highland Lodge near Ngorongoro, Alex Walker’s own Serian camp in the Serengeti and the Baraza resort and spa on Zanzibar.  Thirteen days from £24,850 for a family of four (excluding international flights) with Yellow Zebra Safaris (020 8547 2305; yellowzebrasafaris.com).

Zanzibar Credit: GETTY

Chongwe River House, Zambia

This architectural fantasy of thatch and timbers on the Chongwe river is ideal for a family safari. Overlooking the lower Zambezi National Park, it comes fully self-contained and staffed with a host and hostess, guide, chef and housekeeping team, allowing you complete freedom to plan your days. Children need to be 12 or over to go on accompanied walking safaris or canoe trips, but the staff love to arrange alternative activities for youngsters.  Six nights for a family of four costs from £13,200 (£3,300 per person) excluding flights, with Expert Africa (020 3405 6666; expertafrica.com). 

Child-friendly Amakhala

Leave your malaria pills at home when you visit Amakhala, a “Big Five” game reserve in the Eastern Cape. Treat yourself to the luxury of staying at Hlosi Game Lodge with its pool, log fires and breath-taking views. There’s also a special “Cubs on Safari” programme for children aged 3 to12 and a youngsters’ entertainment room.

A four-night safari in September costs from £1,8199pp with Kuoni Travel (01306 747008, www.kuoni.co.uk).

Kruger to the Cape

Trafalgar’s South African Adventure is a 14-day exploration that begins in the Kruger National Park, tracking the Big Five and other endangered species, and finishes in Cape Town. Guests will also venture to the southernmost tip of Africa for encounters with ostriches, monkeys and penguins, and perhaps catch a glimpse of the southern right whale along the way. Prices from £5,495 per person, excluding flights (0800 533 5617; trafalgar.com).

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Best for budget travellers

Affordable Kenya

From the Maasai Mara to the flamingo lakes of the Great Rift Valley and snows of Kilimanjaro seen from Amboseli National Park, this classic Kenya 4WD safari has it all and includes return flights from London Heathrow with Kenya Airways.  Seven days from £2,279 per person with Hayes & Jarvis (01293 762 456; hayesandjarvis.co.uk).

Kilimanjaro Credit: AFP or licensors/CARL DE SOUZA

Gamewatchers by air

Fly-in safaris cost a little more but save you long road journeys, allowing more time in the bush. Gamewatchers’ Paka Kubwa (Big Cat) safari takes you to three very different areas, staying at authentic, small camps in private conservancies away from the crowds. Amboseli, in the shadow of Kilimanjaro, and Laikipia in northern Kenya are renowned for elephants, while the big cats of the Maasai Mara are world-famous. Eight days costs from £2,729 per person, excluding international flights, with Gamewatchers Safaris (07986 978985; info@gamewatchers.com).

Victoria Falls Big Five

Stretching for more than a mile, Victoria Falls are one of the world’s seven natural wonders. Three days at the elegant Ilala Lodge allows you plenty of time to see them, and maybe enjoy a sunset cruise on the Zambezi before flying to Hwange for a three-day big-game safari in Zimbabwe’s premier national park. Accommodation here is at Davison’s Camp, with expert guides to take you on game drives and bush walks.  This seven-day safari costs from £1,855 per person, excluding flights, and also includes a complimentary dinner and tour of the Falls. Details from Zambezi Safaris & Travel Company (01752 878858; zambezi.com).

Victoria Falls Credit: GETTY
Best for luxury

Tswalu, South Africa

Imagine a wilderness twice the size of Norfolk with just two luxury lodges, and you realise why Tswalu is South Africa’s largest private wildlife reserve. It is owned by the Oppenheimer family, whose dream is to restore this vast sweep of the southern Kalahari to how it used to be. Explore it by private vehicle with your own personal guide and tracker, looking for desert rhinos, black-maned lions, meerkats and sable antelopes. Seven nights from £7.023, excluding flights, with Journeys by Design (01273 623790; journeysbydesign.com). 

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Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

Situated in the Serengeti’s western corridor, Singita Grumeti is a private wilderness bigger than Bedfordshire, where exclusivity is paramount. Although roughly the same size as the Maasai Mara, Singita Grumeti has only three camps and lodges. Sasakwa Lodge, the company’s flagship property, is an Edwardian manor located on a Tanzanian hilltop; Faru Faru Lodge  is set in an enchanted forest beside the Grumeti river; and Sabora Tented Camp, with its air-conditioned Bedouin tents, is down on the plains where the action is. Seven days from £12,250 with Bailey Robinson (01488 689700; baileyrobinson.com).

Singita Grumeti

Best of Botswana

Jack’s Camp should be on everyone’s list of the 10 best places to stay in Africa, not just for its unique location in a palm grove on the edge of the Makgadikgadi salt pans but also for its style and sheer romanticism. Pair it with Belmond Eagle Island Camp, on the Okavango Delta, and you have the perfect desert and delta deluxe safari. Three nights at Jack’s Camp and three at Eagle Island cost from £7,970 per person with the Ultimate Travel Company (020 3051 8098; theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk).

Royal Malewane, South Africa

To immerse oneself in Royal Malewane’s colonial splendour is to experience life in the bush at its most outrageously luxurious. Thornybush private game reserve, adjoining the Kruger National Park, provides the setting, with head ranger Juan Pinto (see panel, right) and Africa’s most highly qualified guiding team on hand to show you the Big Five. An eight-day trip with four nights at Royal Malewane and three nights at the Silo, Cape Town’s newest high-end hotel, costs from £8,400 per person with Bailey Robinson (01488 689700; baileyrobinson.com).

Mkombe’s House, Serengeti

Built into the rocks of a towering granite kopje, Mkombe’s House is the first and only true house in the Serengeti. With room for four adults and six children (no age limit), it comes with its own chef, a gorgeous swimming pool and views over the rolling savannahs of the Lamai Wedge, between the Maasai Mara and Mara River. Those in the know reckon this far northwest corner of the park is unsurpassed for scenery and wildlife, especially at migration time. A 10-day safari with four nights at Mkombe’s House and three nights at Entamanu Camp on the Ngorongoro Crater rim for a family of six costs from £22,590. International flights are not included in the cost. Natural High Safaris (01747 830950; naturalhighsafaris.com).

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Best for walkers

In Livingstone’s footsteps

The Luangwa Valley is where the concept of walking safaris was reinvented, and at Tafika, an idyllic camp on the banks of the Luangwa River, it has been fine-tuned to perfection by John Coppinger, one of Zambia’s most respected guides. Accompanied by a guide, an armed scout and a tea bearer, you follow elephant paths and game trails across South Luangwa National Park, staying overnight at exclusive small bush camps (six guests maximum). Eight nights, including one at Tafika and five at Chikoko Trails Camps, cost from £4,285 per person with Aardvark Safaris (01980 849160; aardvarksafaris.com).

Birdlife in Luangwa Credit: MARCO POZZI PHOTOGRAPHER

Kichaka Bush Camp, Tanzania

For safari diehards, this small, back-to-basics, no-frills bush camp is the way to experience the rugged beauty of Tanzania’s wildest big-game stronghold. The accent here is on walking safaris, led by the owner, Andrew “Moli” Molinaro, whose knowledge of Ruaha and its wildlife is legendary. Back in camp at the end of the day, guests can look forward to outstanding meals by Noelle Herzog, Moli’s partner. Seven nights from £5,936, excluding international flights, with Journeys by Design (01273 623790; journeysbydesign.com).

Goliath Safaris, Zimbabwe

Walking with giants is the main attraction at Mana Pools, an old-school bush camp on the banks of the Zambezi. The giants in question are the big elephant bulls that guide Andrew “Stretch” Ferreira has got to know over the past three decades. It is worth coming here just to walk in the company of this legendary character, looking for lions and wild dogs among the riverine forest glades of Zimbabwe’s most beautiful national park. Five nights from £8,850 with Scott Dunn (020 8682 5070; scottdunn.com).

See lions and wild dogs Credit: GETTY

Beho Beho, Tanzania

Beho Beho, meaning breeze in the local dialect, is the most comfortable lodge in the Selous Game Reserve. It is renowned for its walking safaris, and the standard of guiding is as good as it gets. Options include early morning bush walks with a picnic breakfast and late afternoon walks ending up with sundowners. But best of all is fly camping, sleeping out under the stars with nothing between you and the lions but a flimsy mosquito net. A seven-night safari, including five nights at Beho Beho, costs from £5,595 with Audley Travel (01993 838500; audleytravel.com).

Walking with camels 

Northern Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau is a mosaic of rangelands and private wildlife conservancies such as Lewa, where this walk takes place. Two nights at Lewa Wilderness should enable you to see all the Big Five before the five-night walk begins, accompanied by local Maasai guides and a string of baggage camels. Riding camels are also available whenever the terrain allows, with overnight fly camping in lightweight dome tents. The last night is spent at Il N’gwesi, a community-run lodge on a rocky hilltop with an infinity pool. Ten days from £4,950 with Safari Consultants (01787 888590; safari-consultants.com). 

Lewa Credit: FREDERIC COURBET
Best for bush and beach

Sabi Sands and Benguerra Island

Set in the lowveld of the Greater Kruger, Sabi Sands is a private game reserve renowned for its big game and luxury lodges. Check in at Selati Camp to look for the Big Five, then fly direct from Nelspruit to Vilanculos for a 15-minute heli-hop to Azura Benguerra Island Lodge in Mozambique. Surrounded by the pristine waters and white sands of the Bazaruto Marine National Park, it is hard to imagine a dreamier location for a taste of the barefoot beach life.  Three nights at Selati Camp and seven nights at Azura Benguerra cost from £5,690 with Africa Travel (020 7483 3586; africatravel.com)

Southern Tanzania and Ras Kutani

First, spend four nights at Sand Rivers Lodge in the fathomless wilderness of the Selous Game Reserve, Africa’s biggest. Next come four nights at Mwagusi Safari Camp in Ruaha with its sand rivers, giant baobab trees and nights that echo to the rumble of lions. And finally, six nights to wind down at Ras Kutani, a classic barefoot beach lodge on a blissful stretch of unspoilt coastline near Dar es Salaam. This two-week tailor-made trip costs from £8,530 with The Ultimate Travel Company (020 3051 8098; theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk). 

Mara North and Msambweni 

Mara North is a private wildlife conservancy adjoining the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Spend your days looking for big cats on the rolling savannah, and your nights at Saruni Mara, a stylish boutique safari lodge hidden in a secret valley. Then fly down to Msambweni to relax at Saruni Ocean Lodge on Kenya’s coral coast. If the sea is not big enough, the lodge has its own vast infinity pool. An 11-day safari with four nights at Saruni Mara and four nights at Saruni Ocean Lodge costs from £4,690 with Safari Consultants (017 8788 8590; safari-consultants.com).

Cheetah in the Maasai Mara Credit: AMY NICHOLE HARRIS
For high adventure

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Africa’s highest mountain offers its toughest boots-on-the-ground challenge. You need to be super-fit to stand on its snow-capped summit, 19,000ft above sea level. Even so, 75,000 people climb it each year. The biggest obstacle to reaching the top is acute mountain sickness (AMS), so choose an itinerary that allows time to acclimatise, and an experienced operator. The Shira Route eight-day trek costs £2,155 per person, excluding flights, through Gane & Marshall (01822 600600; ganeandmarshall.com). 

Wings over Africa

This incredible airborne safari combines the remotest corners of Kenya’s wild Northern Frontier with the isolated tribal communities of Ethiopia’s Omo Delta. First you’ll fly over the fossil-strewn shores of Lake Turkena and the rarely visited Suguta Valley before crossing the border into Southern Ethiopia’s Omo Delta in search of the legendary Mizan Teferi tribesmen. Ten days from £11,100 with Scenic Air Safaris (0207 978 4534, www.scenicairsafaris.com).

Gorillas in your midst

Capture your own David Attenborough encounters with the rare mountain gorillas of Rwanda, where Wilderness Safaris is opening a new luxury lodge this summer. Called Bisate, it is set in the natural amphitheatre of an extinct volcanic cone with stunning views of the Virunga Massif, home to 604 mountain gorillas (more than half of the world population). From here you can set out to track one of 10 habituated groups that live in the Volcanoes National Park. Three nights at Bisate combined with three nights at Ol Seki costs from £15,950 with Scott Dunn (020 8682 5070; scottdunn.com).

See mountain gorillas in Rwanda Credit: GETTY

Self-drive in Namibia

Escape to the burning blue skies of Namibia this winter on a self-drive safari. With its excellent roads and friendly people, Namibia is a very safe place for the independent traveller – and the scenery is guaranteed to blow your mind. This 14-day winter sun special by self-drive 4WD is valid until the end of March. The itinerary includes the capital Windhoek, Okonjima, Etosha National Park, Sossusvlei and Damaraland, staying overnight at a mixture of lodges, tented camps and desert campsites. From £2,994 per person with self-drive specialists Safari Drive (01488 71140; safaridrive.com).

A rhino in Etosha Credit: JOHAN SWANEPOEL

Horseback safaris

If you are an experienced equestrian, then look no further than Kujwana Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, for the ultimate in horseback safaris. Kujwana is owned and run by P J and Barney Bestelink, the couple who pioneered riding holidays in the country. Rides last between four and six hours a day, cantering over flooded grasslands past red lechwe antelope and stopping to observe elephant breeding herds. A seven-night riding holiday at Kujwana Camp costs from £5,500 with African Explorations (01367 850566; explorationscompany.com).

Best for birdwatchers

In search of the shoebill

Also known as the whalehead, the shoebill is Africa’s most sought-after bird species, and Uganda is the best place to see it. In particular it frequents the wetlands of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo and the Mabamba Swamps. Besides shoebill, Uganda is home to over a 1,000 bird species, accounting for 50% of the continent’s species as well as a fabulous array of mammals including tree-climbing lions and mountain gorillas. Uganda’s Spectacular Shoebills, Birds & Wildlife 11-day trip with The Travelling Naturalist costs from £4,745 (01305 267994; thetravellingnaturalist.com).

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Birds of Botswana

Birding in Botswana is as good as it gets, especially in the Okavango Delta, which boasts more than 400 species. As you might expect, the accent is on waterbirds, notably herons and kingfishers, but also including sought-after specials such as wattled crane, slaty egret and Pel’s fishing owl. New this year is Splash Camp in the watery heart of the private Kwara Reserve, where you’ll spend your first three nights. Then you’ll transfer to Duba Expeditions Camp for three more nights in another private wildlife concession where big cats provide an alternative distraction. This six-night, two-centre safari costs from £3,915 per person, including flights to and from Maun but excluding international flights. Expert Africa (020 33405 6666, www.expertafrica.com).

Best for photographers

Maasai Mara with Paul Goldstein

Raconteur, conservationist and photographer, Paul Goldstein is the man to improve your camera skills. Be warned: he is a human dynamo, but he will make sure that you go home with fantastic shots from Kenya’s finest big-game stronghold. The Maasai Mara is his second home – especially the private conservancies where you stay at Kicheche’s award-winning camps. Nine days from £4,249 with Exodus Travels (020 3733 5532; exodus.co.uk).

Focus on the Land of Giants

Rich in predators and renowned above all for its elephant herds, Mashatu Game Reserve is one of Botswana’s best-kept secrets. Over the years, thanks to the creation of numerous hides, it has become a top destination for wildlife photographers. Strategically placed beside a waterhole, they enable you to take ground-level close-ups in perfect safety as elephants come to drink. A tailor-made safari based at Mashatu Tented Camp for six nights, including six days of private game drives in a fully-customised photographic vehicle, three sessions at waterhole hides and tuition from a resident wildlife photographer cost from £4,590 with Safari Consultants, 01787 888590, safari-consultants.com.

Special photography courses are available on some safaris

Ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya

Wake up to the finest wide-angle view in Africa – of Kilimanjaro presiding over the game-rich savannahs of a vast and private Maasai group ranch in the Chyulu Hills. Then stroll down to the open-air hide to photograph giant tuskers at Ol Donyo’s waterhole. No camera? No problem. All guests who book a private vehicle and guide are offered professional Canon camera equipment to go with it. An eight-night safari, including three nights at Ol Donyo and three nights at Tortilis Camp in Amboseli, costs from £5,595 with Aardvark Safaris (01980 849160; aardvarksafaris.com).

Best for big game

Kenya’s big cats

Picked by the BBC as the location for its Big Cat Diary television series, the Maasai Mara is home to the world-famous Marsh Lions and other prides. Cheetahs roam across its grasslands and you’ll be unlucky to go home without seeing a leopard or two. Choosing where to stay is a tough call, but the adjoining wildlife conservancies promise more cats and fewer tourist vehicles. A five-night stay at Kicheche Mara Camp in the Mara North Conservancy costs from £3,795, including one night in Nairobi. Rainbow Tours, 020 7666 1266, www.rainbowtours.co.uk.

Lions in Kenya Credit: MASSIMO MEI

Lions of the Serengeti

Stay at Namiri Plains Camp and you’ll have a dozen lion prides to look for, including the Kibumbi Boys. Ironically, this area was closed for 20 years for cheetah research. The cheetahs are still there. Leopards too, but very few vehicles because the nearest camp is miles away. The other great area for lions is around Kogatende in the far north, where Asilia’s lovely Sayari Camp occupies a prime position close to the Mara River. There are lots of dramatic granite kopjes here, perfect for the big cats to pose on. A seven-day safari including three nights at Namiri and three nights at Sayari costs from £5,375 with Africa Travel (020 7483 3586; africatravel.com).

Elephant Watch Camp, Kenya

Nowhere else in Africa can you get closer to wild elephants or learn more about them than at this exotic eco-camp in the Samburu National Reserve. This is hardly surprising when you discover that it was created by the wife of Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the world’s leading authority on elephant behaviour, and is now run by Saba, Iain’seldest daughter. A seven-night safari including four nights at Elephant Watch Camp costs from £4,500 with Audley Travel (01993 838 500; audleytravel.com).

For happy campers

Okavango mobile camping

Nothing beats a no-frills guided mobile camping safari to bring you closer to the Okavango Delta. Grant and Brent Reed, who own and operate Letaka Safaris, know the most idyllic campsites, and their guiding team is second to none. You travel in 4WD vehicles with a maximum of nine guests, and stay in walk-in tents with en-suite bucket showers. An eight-night trip to Botswana, including six nights with Letaka, costs from £4,350 with Audley Travel (01993 838 500; audleytravel.com).

The Okavango Credit: GALLO IMAGES - MICHAEL POLIZA

Serengeti migration

Nomad’s Serengeti Safari Camp is designed to put you in pole position to witness the greatest wildlife show on Earth when the wildebeest thunder past. The camp moves every couple of months as it follows the herds, but will not move during your stay. Accommodation is in spacious walk-in tents with en-suite loos and bucket showers. Game driving is unlimited and you are free to plan the days as you wish. A seven-day stay costs from £4,736 travelling with Tanzania Odyssey (020 8704 1216; tanzaniaodyssey.com).

Southern Tanzania under canvas

Safari in style on this southern Tanzanian circuit that takes in two of the country’s less-visited game strongholds, exploring on foot, by boat and 4WD vehicles. First, you’ll fly to the Selous Game Reserve, four times the size of the Serengeti and swarming with wildlife, staying at Siwandu, whose spacious octagonal tents are set in a palm grove on the shores of Lake Nzerekera. Then on to by air to Jongomero Camp in the remote Ruaha National Park, a vast and crowd-free wilderness where you’ll settle into a tented suite perched on stilts at the edge of a seasonal river. Eight Nights from £5,905 pp with Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 760, www.abercrombiekent.co.uk).

For remoteness

Zakouma National Park, Chad

Welcome to unknown Africa’s last wild secret, a savage wilderness heaving with game and huge flocks of birds. This year it received six black rhino, not seen here for 50 years, making this a Big Five destination again. French-speaking Chad is five times the size of the UK. Just to fly to Zakouma from N’Djamena, the capital, takes three hours. But you’ll have it all to yourself, just like Ennedi in the country’s northeastern corner, a desert region of rock towers and fascinating nomadic people. Nine days costs from £5,595 per person with Steppes Travel (01285 601050, www.steppestravel.com).  

Note that the Foreign Office currently advises against trips to Chad.

Rhino were recently reintroduced to Zakouma National Park Credit: Kyle de Nobrega

Chada Katavi, Tanzania

There’s a real end-of-the-line feel about Katavi, Tanzania’s wildest and least visited national park. It takes at least four hours by light aircraft from Arusha just to get there, but the journey is so worthwhile. Abundance is what this park gives you: thousands of buffaloes, massive prides of lion, elephants, hippos and antelopes galore on Katavi’s endless floodplains. Chada Katavi camp is small, shady and luxurious, and is part of the Nomad portfolio, meaning the guiding is of the very best. Seven days cost from £4,565 with Tanzania Odyssey (020 8704 1216; tanzaniaodyssey.com)

King Lewanika Lodge, Liuwa Plain

Set in the far west of Zambia, this jewel of a park is just about as far off the beaten track as you can get. Renowned for its fantastic bird life and blue wildebeest migration, Liuwa Plain is not just remote but has always lacked accommodation until now. King Lewanika Lodge, the park’s first permanent camp, has six villas on raised decks and provides an oasis of luxury in the heart of the plains. Five nights here cost from £5,815 per person, excluding international flights, with Expert Africa (020  3405 6666; expertafrica.com).

Miavana, Madagascar

Miavana is an ultra-luxurious eco-lodge that takes barefoot beach holidays to a new level on Nosy Ankao, a private island, off the northern tip of Madagascar whose turtle beaches, pristine reefs and aquamarine lagoons set the scene for a blue-water safari. Go swimming, scuba diving, whale and dolphin watching, or visit the mainland to spot lemurs. Nine days cost from £20,350 per person based on two sharing, including helicopter transfers but excluding international flights. Yellow Zebra Safaris (020 8547 2305; yellowzebrasafaris.com).

Spot lemurs in Madagascar Credit: ANUP SHAH

Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

At 9,840ft, Simien Lodge is the highest safari accommodation in the whole of Africa, perched among the dizzy canyons and snaggle-toothed peaks of Simien Mountains National Park. This sky-high Unesco World Heritage site is home to a host of rare and fascinating creatures, including the gelada baboon, Simien wolf, Walia ibex and bearded vulture. See them on a trek in this extraordinary country. A 16-night trip to Ethiopia, visiting Lalibela, Axum and the Omo Delta, including two nights at Simien Lodge, costs from £13,200 per person with Journeys by Design (01273 623790; journeysbydesign.com).

Simien Mountains National Park Credit: Eva Mencnerova - Fotolia
Best new camps and lodges

Thanda island, Tanzania

Move over, Mnemba! Tanzania’s most exclusive barefoot beach retreat now faces hot competition from this private island midway between Mafia Island and the mainland. If you’ve ever wanted to swim with whale sharks and sea turtles, this is the spot, encircled by reefs in its own reserve, and from April you can book it exclusively: eight hectares of wide blue heaven and sugar-white beaches with a five-bedroom villa sleeping 10. Five nights for a group of 10 costs from £6,408 per person, excluding international flights, with Expert Africa (020 3405 6666; expertafrica.com). 

Okavango Delta

If you think you have wandered into a film set, you are right. Duba’s floodplains and whispering reeds have provided the setting for many of Dereck and Beverly Joubert’s award-winning wildlife documentaries. It’s the delta at its most pristine, home to huge herds of buffalo, aquatic lions and rare Pel’s fishing owls.  A six-night safari, with three nights at Duba Expedition Camp, left, and three nights at Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi, costs from £7,115 per person (international flights from £850) through Cazenove & Loyd (020 7384 2332; cazloyd.com). 

Saruni Rhino Camp, Kenya

This pioneering camp is set in the Sera Wildlife Conservancy, which is bigger than Luxembourg and part-funded by Tusk Trust. In this sanctuary live 11 black rhinos you can track on foot with Samburu guides. With room for just six guests in two stone cottages under swaying palms, a stay at Saruni is a unique opportunity to observe one of Africa’s most endangered species in the wilds of northern Kenya. One week – three nights at Saruni Rhino Camp and three nights at Saruni Samburu – costs from £4,995 with Steppes Travel (01285 601050, www.steppestravel.co.uk).

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Best beyond Africa

Tigers in Kipling’s India

Nothing in India, not even the Taj Mahal, can surpass the thrill of coming face to face with a wild Bengal tiger. Choose Madhya Pradesh for your close encounters. Among its parks and tiger reserves are Pench, where Kipling wrote The Jungle Book, and Bandhavgarh, which has the country’s highest density of these awesome carnivores.  A 14-night Tigers in Style safari costs from £6,100 with Scott Dunn (020 3411 8423; scottdunn.com). 

Pumas in Patagonia

Call it the puma, cougar or mountain lion, this shy and solitary predator is best seen in Chile’s deep south, hunting for guanacos across the Patagonian steppes of the Torres del Paine National Park. Going before April, when there are cubs to feed, improves your chances of success. Eleven days from £4,895 with Naturetrek (01962 733051; naturetrek.co.uk).

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Jaguars of the Pantanal

If you want to see “el tigre”, as Latin America’s apex predator is known, you must venture deep into Brazil’s Pantanal. As the waters recede in the dry season (June-November) so the chances of finding jaguars increase as you travel by boat through the emerald forests. A 12-day Wildlife of the Pantanal trip costs from £4,395 with Wildlife Worldwide (01962 302 086; wildlifeworldwide.com).