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The World’s Most Spectacular Safaris

It's no secret why a safari tops our travel wish list: the dreamy luxury tents, unparalleled stargazing, once-in-a-lifetime exotic wildlife-viewing. Read on for the 11 camps we're swooning over.

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Photo courtesy of Angama Mara

1

Angama Mara, Kenya

If Angama Mara looks like it's straight Out of Africa, that's because it is. Scenes from the film were shot in the Ngong Hills on this very property, which sits on the western edge of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. That this new-build lodge is the brainchild of Steve and Nicky Fitzgerald, the minds behind andBeyond, tells you all you need to know about the level of luxury found here. The two camps, with 15 suites each, are just as impressive as the views, with terraces overhanging the Oloololo Escarpment that look out over the vast Great Rift valley, and, inside, an expert blend of Maasai-inspired brickwork and colonial-era touches including thatched roofs and Nairobi-made canvas. For Kenya, Angama Mara is a new standard setter.

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Photo by Dana Allen and courtesy of Wilderness Safaris

2

Wilderness Safaris Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia

Looking to trade the Serengeti for the sand? The coastal desert that makes up northwestern Namibia is a harsh, lunar-like landscape of shifting dunes and stark terrain where elephants, giraffe, hyena, and even lions call home. Watch the scene unfold from any one of the eight tented suites at Wilderness Safaris Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, whose decks overlook a nearby watering hole, or on daily game drives that take in the isolated wilderness. Plan to stay a while? Trips of three nights or more include a flight (weather-permitting) over the Skeleton Coast, a rocky shoreline dotted with Cape fur seal colonies and offshore shipwrecks.

RELATED: What It's Like to Go on a Luxury Safari

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Photo courtesy of SUJÁN

3

Jawai Leopard Camp, Rajasthan, India

It takes a three-hour drive from Jodhpur or Udaipur to reach this refined eight-tent retreat, tucked among northern India's verdant Aravalli Hills, but somehow it feels even farther away. In essence, Jawai is as an Indian safari should be: unregulated territory where leopards—considered sacred guardians of the area’s ancient temples—thrive and guided drives or walks with Rabari herdsmen are free to explore without typically heavy park regulations. Days here are best spent soaking in the surrounds, which antelope, Langur monkeys, wild boar, flamingoes, and crocodiles also call home, before retiring for evening cocktails and dinner by a bonfire under the stars.

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4

Virunga Lodge, Rwanda

When it comes to wildlife sightings in Africa, the biggest bragging rights usually revolve around spotting two groups: the Big Five, of course, and the critically endangered mountain gorilla, who hide in the misty cloud forests of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. The 10 stone bandas that make up Volcanoes Safaris' Virunga Lodge have what many consider to be one of the best views in the world: their ridge-line perch looks out across the Bulera and Ruhonda twin lakes and the Virunga Volcanos. Here, expert guides lead treks into Africa's central highlands, where guests can climb a volcano, track golden monkeys, or be among a lucky few to sit at a close distance from the vanishing eastern gorilla.

RELATED: World's Most Epic Animal Adventures

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5

Arkaba Homestead, Australia

The word "safari" might not immediately bring to mind images of Australia, but Arkaba is hoping to change that. The 60,000-acre former sheep ranch turned wildlife conservancy near South Australia's Flinders Ranges National Park, roughly 250 miles north of Adelaide, is a case study in conservation, where tourism group Wild Bush Luxury has been working to rid the land of invasive species and reintroduce native flora and fauna. Just ten guests are allowed to stay at the 1850s homestead at any one time, where days are spent on open-top drives and multi-day bushwalks through the outback in search of resident kangaroo, rock wallabies, and emu.

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Photo courtesy of Time + Tide/Norman Carr Safaris

6

Chinzombo Camp, Zambia

You have to board a boat and cross the Luangwa River in order to reach this six-villa stunner—arguably the most luxurious in the Norman Carr Safaris portfolio—and it’s the perfect prelude to a week (or more) spent on the water. Game drives make good use of the camp’s 60 acres as well as private, direct access to South Luangwa National Park, though you’ll be treated to an equally captivating show right from your open-plan room, where an elevated waterfront deck provides an ideal spot for watching hippos, warthogs, and other wildlife laze about close by. The tranquil, eco-chic design underlines the conservation element of Chinzombo, which played a large part in the region’s re-introduction of black rhinos, while also bringing a new kind of safari experience to often-overlooked Zambia.

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Photo courtesy of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces

7

Meghauli Serai, Nepal

In wake of the devastating earthquakes that rocked Mount Everest in recent years, the state of tourism in Nepal was almost at a standstill. Taj Safaris had better plans, swapping snow and summits for groves and grasslands by opening a jungle lodge in the heart of Chitwan National Park, a wildlife sanctuary for rare and exotic species including royal Bengal tigers, sloth bears, one-horned rhinos, and an astounding 500-plus types of birds. Meghauli introduces an unprecedented level of luxury to Nepal, where standalone villas have their own private plunge pools overlooking the junglescape and, beyond exhilarating 4x4 game drives, guests have their pick of hikes in the Himalayan foothills, Tharu village visits, or slow-motion canoe rides down the Rapti River.

Check Prices for Meghauli Serai, A Taj Safari Lodge in Nepal

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Photo courtesy of andBeyond

8

andBeyond Sandibe Okavango Lodge, Botswana

Luxury safari outfitter andBeyond is throwing millions of dollars into rebuilding (and reimagining) its lodges—and Sandibe is the latest to emerge. The new look is an architectural feat that bends seamlessly with its surrounds: elevated, curvaceous wood exteriors modeled after the body armor of pangolins play off the golden grasslands, while private plunge pools in each of the 12 suites echo the area's endless lagoons and floodplains. In the heart of the Kalahari Desert, Botwana’s Okavango Delta is home to a diverse range of species including lion, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, wild dog, and secretary birds—though the baboon cries that signal the start of each day might be your most memorable encounter.

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Photo courtesy of Singita

9

Singita Grumeti Serengeti House, Tanzania

The five blissfully low-key lodges that comprise Singita Grumeti, in Tanzania, are praised again and again for their sense of solitude, intimacy, and service that goes above and beyond—not to mention their unbeatable position near Serengeti National Park and the great migration route. The exclusive-use, eight-suite Serengeti House is especially dreamy for its private tennis court, horseback safaris, and 'grammable infinity pool that overlooks the plains. A private vehicle and guide are on hand for whenever you'd like to head into the bush, as well as a chef, host, and personal staff who await your return.

RELATED: What to Wear on a Safari

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10

Anantara Resort Golden Triangle, Thailand

When it comes to responsible elephant encounters, few places, if any, compare with Anantara Resort Golden Triangle. The property, whose 77 rooms have balconies overlooking the gardens of Thailand or Myanmar and Laos across the mighty Mekong, doubles as a village for mahouts (elephant trainers) who ensure that guests can mingle with the animals at every point of their stay—think arrival greetings, elephant yoga, river bathing rituals, and trailside treks culminating in a blissful picnic lunch. Here, the purpose is less about tracking animals and more about living among them—a life-changing encounter few other safari experiences can replicate.

Check Prices for Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp Resort All Inclusive in Chiang Saen, Thailand

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11

Nelson Mandela Center for Reconciliation Villa, South Africa

South Africa is no stranger to premier safari lodge experiences, but the Nelson Mandela Center for Reconciliation is a game-changer. The former country retreat for the one-time president is now a private home where you and 11 of your closest family and friends can kick back. The house was designed according to Mandela's wishes with a look that's simple yet refined, spotlighting regional materials, African craftsmanship, and the type of welcoming atmosphere worthy of one of the world's most beloved peacemakers. Among what's included: private chef and butler service, an indoor heated pool overlooking a waterhole, and regular visits to nearby Shambala Private Game Reserve where you decide the itinerary, be it a day or night game drive, bush walk and picnic, a sundowner cruise, or stargazing.

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