Safari Pricing Explained

We are often asked how much safaris cost. This is because it is extremely hard to find prices for safaris online, and because there is an incredibly vast range of safari tours available—each type of safari tour obviously has its own associated costs, depending on the travel agent that you use.

Iconic Africa showcases the African destinations which best represent our values of the utmost luxury, world-beating African hospitality, delectable contemporary cuisine and most importantly an authentic commitment to wilderness conservation.

We aim to give you the most comprehensive quotations by detailing all of the expenses that you will incur during your safari adventure. We pride ourselves on the fact that our quotations have no hidden costs and no hidden surprises. Here’s what you need to know about safari costs.

Good safaris are expensive, however, you truly get what you pay for. We cater for mid- to high-end, boutique safaris which means our focus is on luxury, excellent service, and unforgettable safari experiences. It is important to remember that Africa is a huge continent. Great distances need to be covered by either cars, airplanes, or both. Therefore travel costs often make up a large portion of your safari expenses.

Because we cater for mid- to high-end safaris, the lodges that we choose are only the best of the best. Guests can expect a large staff complement at all lodges—in fact, the staff-to-guest ratio at most of the lodges that we recommend is a 3:1 ratio. This is to ensure that our clients are treated like absolute royalty. Of course, excellent accommodation and gourmet meals are world-class too. The lodges that we have on offer pride themselves on exclusivity and, of course, fewer visitors means fewer vehicles, which ultimately means a more exceptional and much more intimate wildlife experience for you.

We specialise in tailor-made safaris which ensures that our clients are not limited to pre-set itineraries or specific dates. Our clients can choose their own accommodation and they can indicate which activities they would like to experience on their safari. Our clients tell us what they want the focus to be on (for example, game viewing, birds, cats, relaxation, romance etc.), and we make sure that their expectations are not only met but exceeded. Read more in our Iconic Africa Promise

Our itineraries are perfectly planned out and drafted with each, individual client in mind. They are highly intricate and specific, so you will never be met with nasty shocks or unpleasant surprises. They contain comprehensive information about where, when, and with whom you should meet, and we set up the itineraries in such a way so that they are easy to read and the important information is easy to find. The itineraries also indicate where any costs are not covered by travel agency costs or accommodation costs.

So, what do we include in your quotation? Our quotations include all of your internal flights with specific details about each flight—such as when and where to meet, and who will pick you up to take you to and from the various airports. We also include details about all of your transfers, and all of your vehicles costs will be included. The quotation includes your day tours with specific details, and rental costs for rental cars and accommodation costs are also included in the quote.

For any other queries on costing please do let us know.

Month on Instagram

Just in case you need some inspiration to pack your bags for another unforgettable African adventure, we’ve put together some of our top pics from this month here. From encounters with Gorillas, to hot air balloon rides, to migration river crossings, to magical Marataba visits and so much more… April has certainly been full of adventures! #luxury #bigfive #Africa #safari

 

 

 

 

Game Reserves and National Parks—what’s the difference?

If you are planning a once-in-a-lifetime African safari, it is important to keep in mind the differences between game reserves and National Parks so that you can get the exact adventure that you have been dreaming of. Many travellers to Africa don’t realise that there is a huge difference between game reserves and National Parks, and this can often lead to disappointment because guests were hoping for a distinct type of experience.

Perhaps the most striking difference between the two lies in the exclusivity and freedom that guests will encounter. If you are looking for a unique safari adventure, it is essential to book in a private game reserve. Because there are fewer safari tours that take place in private game reserves, guests are allowed to freely explore the African wilderness. Private game reserves offer guests the opportunity to escape from the crowds that are associated with the larger National Parks. This means that guests can experience the true African bushveld all to themselves, and they won’t have to share their wildlife sightings with an enormous crowd of other vehicles.

The number of visitors to National Parks is not restricted so the safari experience is open to everyone. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that you will have to share your sightings with quite a large number of other people. ‘Traffic jams’ are a real thing in National Parks as visitors scramble about to view animals that have been sighted. Visiting a National Park will also mean having to share your bucket-list safari experience with all sorts of other visitors. At private game reserves, the number of vehicles that can be present at a game sighting is restricted to two or three cars which means that you are ensured the ultimate game viewing experience.

Private game reserves only allow game viewing vehicles from the lodges to be used, and the rules about where you can drive are very different from the rules at National Parks. In private game reserves, game viewing vehicles are allowed to drive off-road to allow guests to search for big cats or to track specific animals. Private game reserves don’t have hours of operation like National Parks so guests are given an exclusive opportunity to experience an exhilarating night drive. This means that visitors to a private game reserve enjoy a more ‘full’ experience than visitors to a National Park.

It is essential to have the option of going on night drive if you would like to search for nocturnal animals which won’t be visible during the day. Unfortunately, visitors to a National Park have to abide by the rules that are set by the Park. This means that game drives are restricted to certain times and to certain roads. Guests cannot enjoy night drives in National Parks. Bush walks are another popular activity that private game reserves offer that cannot be enjoyed by guests of National Parks.

Although it might seem that private game reserves are the way to go, it is important to remember that National Parks do offer some of the best game viewing in Africa and it is an experience that is not to be missed. Ultimately, your choice has to be based on the kind of experience you are looking for. If you are looking for exclusivity and freedom, private game reserves are your best option.

Please do let us know if you have any more questions on the above as we’d be more than happy to help.

Lime, Cardamom and Blueberry Gin Fizz

“One of my very favourite things to keep me company on peaceful evenings in the bush, when the sun is setting, the dust is settling and the night-time creatures are starting to come alive is a Gin and Tonic. The added notes of cardamom and lime make this one extra special, and the pretty pinkness from the blueberry skins is hard not to love.” Sarah Graham.

Ingredients

  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • 4 tots gin
  • 600ml tonic
  • Lots of ice

What to do

1. Add lime zest, cardamom pod, sugar and blueberries to your pestle and mortar. Crush the cardamom pod to release the seeds and mix everything together into a rough paste.

2. Transfer the mixture to a large glass jug, adding lime juice, gin and tonic water to taste, and lots of ice.

Photo from ‘Sarah Graham’s Food Safari Season 2’ by Ricardo de Leça.

For more of Sarah’s delicious food safari recipes click here. 

Month on Instagram

It’s as if we blinked and February was gone!

Although it might have been short it certainly was sweet.  From team visits to the Kruger, to exploring some new lodges, investigating Africa’s rare creatures and welcoming award-winning photographers to our Instagram feed… we’ve had a busy month.

Scroll down here for a quick catch up on what’s been happening. #luxury #safari #travel #africa

 

Africa’s Rare Finds

Are you wondering what animals should be at the top of your wish list for your upcoming safari? Here are 5 of Africa’s rare finds that you should most definitely keep your eyes peeled for. A sighting of any one of these incredible creatures is undoubtedly be an experience you will never forget!

  1. African Wild Dog

With only 6600 Wild Dogs left on earth, the African Wild Dog is one of the most endangered animals in the world. You can still find Wild Dogs in southern Africa, Tanzania, and northern Mozambique. Wild Dogs are also known as “painted wolves” because of their attractive and characteristic patchy markings. Every Wild Dog has its own unique markings, making each Wild Dog an individual. Wild Dogs hunt in packs and they are intelligent and harmonious hunters—they have a distinct hunting style that allows them to work together to bring down prey. The entire pack takes turns looking after the pups.

  1. White Rhino

White Rhinos were on the edge of becoming extinct but, because of hugely successful conservation efforts, the White Rhino is currently the least endangered species of living rhino. White Rhinos are the second largest land mammal on the planet. You can tell the difference between black rhinos and white rhinos by looking at their upper lips. A white rhino will have a square lip, which is why they are also known as ‘the square-lipped rhino’. A black rhino boasts a pointed (triangular) upper lip. If you’re hoping to spot one of these beauties, you are more likely to find them in the early morning, late afternoon, and evening.

  1. Aardvark

The name ‘aardvark’ is an Afrikaans word which means ‘earth pig’ or ‘ground pig’. Aardvarks are also known as Cape anteaters. They use their strong feet and claws to dig into huge termite mounds so that they can treat themselves to their favourite food! Their tongues can be up to 30.5 centimetres long which means that they can catch approximately 50 000 termites in one go. African folklore reveres Aarvarks because of the way they search for food and because they are not afraid of soldier ants.

  1. Pangolin

The Pangolin is the most trafficked and hunted animal in the world because their scales, which are very valuable, are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The animal is called a Pangolin because the Malay word ‘pengguling’ means ‘rolling up’. Pangolins roll up into a tight ball when they feel threatened. Interestingly, there is no record of how long pangolins can live for in the wild. Speculation suggests that they can live for up to 20 years because the oldest pangolin in captivity lived for 19 years. Mothers carry their babies on their tails for the first three months of their lives.

  1. Pel’s Fishing Owl

Pel’s Fishing Owl is the largest fishing owl that can be found in Africa and it is also known as the African fishing-owl. This owl is distinct because its legs and toes don’t have any feathers. Instead, the toes are covered in spiky scales that allow the owl to hold on to wriggling fish. Pel’s Fishing Owl is also different from other owls because it doesn’t have a concave facial disk. This is because it uses its sight to hunt instead of its hearing. This type of owl is not a threatened species but it is listed as vulnerable because the rivers and streams that it relies on for food are heavily polluted.

Please do let us know if you have been lucky enough to spot one, two or even all of these 5 beautiful creatures. If not and you’d like to… let us know and we will do our very best to help you!

Iconic Africa’s 2017 Bucket List

“One day, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” Paulo Coelho

Having a bucket list is a great way of making sure we see, do and experience as much as we possibly can. To help you with yours we’ve handpicked the most, breath-taking, unforgettable and unbelievable experiences that Africa has to offer. All of which come very highly recommended!

  1. Witness the Great Migration

iconic-africa-east-africa-migration-african-luxury-safaris

  1. Visit the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls

vic falls

  1. Explore the old town and beaches of Zanzibar

Zanzibar Tanzania Beaches Safari East Africa

  1. Experience the wonder of the Kalahari

Tswalu Game Reserve. Southern Kalahari. Northern Cape. South Africa.

  1. Sample the Cape Winelands

Delaire Graff Restaurant Deck View-810

  1. Ride a hot air balloon over the Serengeti

Sayari-7

  1. Swim with dolphins in Mozambique

wetu-white-pearl-24-36

  1. Go on a walking safari

Kichwa_Tembo_Walking1

  1. See the leopards of Londolozi

LondoDec-7

  1. Witness the absolute abundance of the Masai Mara

cover-image

  1. Raft the Zambezi River

vicfalls-content-03

  1. Visit the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater

Ngornongor-Crater-Lodge-2-(1)

  1. Go whale-watching in Hermanus

birkenhead-banner-02

  1. Ride a Mokoro through the Okavango Delta

Botswana-Safari-Okavango-Safari-Banner-04

We wish for all our friends and fellow travellers that you get to experience as many of these as possible in your lifetime. For after all…

“…in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln.

Please do let us know if we can help in making any or all of the above dreams a reality for you!

Top 5 Spots to See Leopards in Africa

The leopard is without a doubt the most beautiful and most elusive member of the Big Five. It’s the most sought after sighting amongst tourists and one that safari guides across Africa spend their days in search of. If you are lucky enough to see a leopard in your life… that moment will be one that you remember and treasure forever.

Leopards are solitary and stealthy predators whose mastery of camouflage makes them very difficult to spot. To increase your chance of seeing them you need to find their prime habitats where concentrations are greatest. It also really helps if guides are able to take you on night drives as well as drive off road in the reserve to follow these magnificent predators. A leopard sighting is truly a sight to behold but unfortunately seeing them really is down to luck. However, if you go to one of the 5 places listed below you will most definitely have better odds of witnessing this definitive wildlife experience.

Sabi Sands, South Africa

The Sabi Sands situated on the Kruger National Park’s western boundary has an incredibly high concentration of leopard. Within the Sabi Sands your best bet is most definitely Londolozi as this pinnacle safari destination prides itself in its incredible relationship with its leopards. The reserve contains hoards of the perfect leopard prey, its lush habitat and expanse of dense trees makes is perfect for leopards and guides are allowed to drive off road and at night in search of them.

iconic-africa-kruger-national-park-leopard

Click here to read our five favorite stories from the famous Londolozi blog.

Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Moremi is a truly special place as it surrounds much of the Okavango Delta, Botswana’s wildlife hotspot. With herds of small antelope, monkeys, warthogs and the like the grassy floodplains and tall forest are prime leopard country. Most of the camps allow night and off-road driving which helps considerably too. Chiefs Camp in particular sits on the Delta’s largest island and is renowned for some of the best big game viewing in all of Africa and most notably leopard viewing.

leopard-cubs

Samburu & Masai Mara Reserves, Kenya

The Samburu and Masai Mara National Reserves both have great reputations for excellent leopard sightings. Samburu a dry woodland area and the Mara an open rolling grassland are both prime leopard habitats. Leopards lie especially along the rivers, in the trees and in amongst the kopjes awaiting the arrival of their prey often which consist of the great herds that move annually into the areas.

terris-camera-17

 

South Luangwa, Zambia

The exquisite South Luangwa Valley in central Zambia boasts one of the highest concentrations of leopard in Africa due to its high concentrations of prey. A wide and fertile alluvial plain nourished by the Luangwa River, the park’s wildlife ranges from aardvark to zebra and it has long been known for its dense concentrations of predators, especially lions and leopards. South Luangwa camps also offer some of Africa’s best walking safaris, which enable you to prowl this big predator country on foot!

Leopar-Angama-Mara

Kalahari Desert, Namibia and South Africa

The Kalahari Desert is a large “waterless” desert covering most of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. It is hot and rainfall is minimal but it is also home to a large collection of leopard, which graze and cool off by the few rivers in amongst the sandy plains, mostly up North towards Namibia.

luxsafariclassic-banner-011-1920x810

 

A leopard sighting is one of life’s true wonders, an experience you will never forget and one that will leave you speechless and covered (head to toe) in goosebumps! We wish you all the best on your quest to get up close and personal with Africa’s most magnificent predator.

Top 10 Blogs of 2016

January is a time for planning and looking to the future… but it it is also a time for reflection. A time to look back at the year gone by and remember all the great times had, magic moments experienced and adventures encountered! 2016 certainly was an eventful year for us with so many epic memories made. To give it its due we have handpicked our top 10 blogs of the year for you here:

The Great Crossing

‘If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.’ African Proverb.

One lone wildebeest wanders around snorting, cavorting and indulging in the odd blade of red grass. He’s skittish yet surprisingly feisty and fearless. He approaches the vehicle with a confident and somewhat rambunctious attitude. He’s the first, in fact, he’s winning the race. Perhaps not a race that you want to win though, when the closer you are to the front, the hungrier the crocodiles and other predators are!

Iconic Africa Bush Diary Episode #1

Iconic Africa is proud to present the Iconic Africa Bush Diaries!

We would like to give a warm welcome to James Hendry an old friend and expert safari guide who will be sharing monthly bush diary videos from the heart of the Kruger National Park.  James is incredibly talented with a camera and his understanding of and passion for the African bushveld is unparalleled. Thank you James, we are excited to have you on board!

Click here to learn more about James Hendry the safari guide in our interview with him.

What is a “Big Five” Safari?

On first hearing about the Big Five – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, buffalo and elephant – you may presume that the select few were chosen due to their impressive size. You wouldn’t be the first person to make that mistake. After all, the adjective – big – certainly points to that conclusion. Right about now, those who are familiar with Africa’s fauna might question why hippos –weighing in at several tons – did not shove their way onto the list? The answer becomes clear when you delve into a little research about the origins of the term. To save you the trouble, I’ve done it for you; the Big Five was coined by Africa’s early hunters to identify the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot.  Click here for more.

Lion-Chobe-Botswana-Safari

So much to take in, so little time

You may think you’ve seen it all and that you know a lot about the bush, but I can guarantee you that a visit to the Masai Mara is the learning safari of a lifetime. From the mating habits of lions, to the displaying characteristics of the crowned cranes, to the Latin and common names of the trees, to the quirky behaviour of the male wildebeest, to the idiosyncrasies of the local Maasai people… there is so much to take in. Kenyan guides are incredible storytellers; they are knowledgeable and passionate and ensure that with each game drive so much is learnt, not only about the bush and its wildlife but also about life in general too! For more on the pure magic that is the Masai Mara click here. 

Sunset_Mara plains_3

Top 5 Places to See Leopards in Africa

The leopard is without a doubt the most beautiful and most elusive member of the Big Five. It’s the most sought after sighting amongst tourists and one that safari guides across Africa spend their days in search of. Leopards are solitary and stealthy predators whose mastery of camouflage makes them very difficult to spot. To increase your chance of seeing them you need to find their prime habitats where concentrations are greatest. However, if you go to one of the 5 places listed below you will most definitely have better odds of witnessing this definitive wildlife experience.

iconic-africa-kruger-national-park-leopard

A weekend at the lovely Leeu House

From the minute we pulled up outside the exquisite Leeu House we were overwhelmed with the unbelievable 5 star service. The valet, Andy opened the door and welcomed us with the biggest of African smiles, stretching from ear to ear. His warmth was all encompassing and before we knew it he had unpacked the car, taken our luggage inside and taken the car off to park! Second to greet you are the two awe-inspiring sculptures of Mandela and Ghandi, history’s most iconic leaders. These are the first indication of the grandeur and the consideration of the space that awaits you. Not to mention, the seamless integration of African and Asian influence that runs throughout the property. Click here for more on our wonderful weekend at Leeu House.

Leeu-House---Pool-exterior-001-optB

The Absolute Abundance of East Africa

In amongst whistling thorns, white thorns, fever trees and wild olives the great plains of the Masai Mara are home to many of Africa’s most majestic animals. The red grass savannahs, interminable vistas and distinct horizons combine to ensure the most quintessential African panorama. The density and variety of wildlife is unreal, with often more than ten different species of mammals in one spot, an anomaly that is unheard of elsewhere. The Mara boasts hoards of unique antelope such as the graceful Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelle as well as the colourful topis making it the ultimate predator’s paradise. Everything, in absolute abundance… and so much more here. 

Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Grumeti, Serengeti, Tanzania. Agency HKLM. Art Director: Paul Henriques. Stylist/Producer: Janine Fourie. Photographer: Mark Williams. 16/02/12.

Africa’s Greatest Ocean Safari

When you hear the word “safari” you immediately think of the Masai Mara, the Serengeti or the Kruger National Park. However, the official dictionary definition of the word “safari” is “an expedition to observe or hunt animals in their natural habitat.”So why not explore the offshore wonders of the Indian Ocean from White Pearl, Mozambique – where a somewhat different but equally magical adventure awaits?wetu-white-pearl-24-36Up, Up and Away

Since the very first time I went to the Serengeti when I was 12, I have dreamt about going on a Balloon Safari. It literally has sat at the very top spot on my bucketlist for the last (almost) 20 years. Little did I know that a few weeks ago, I would get to live out this dream and it would blow me away more than I could ever have imagined…

Londolozi: A Photo Essay

This past weekend we ran our first official Instagram takeover by the unbelievably talented @lara.jess during her trip to Londolozi. We hope you have enjoyed her photos and if not follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on more #IAtakeovers like this.

Londolozi-Leopards-Lara

Click here to read about our five favourite Londolozi blog posts.

What to Pack for Your Upcoming Safari?

The end of the year is upon us and for those of us going on holiday it’s time to start planning and organising. If you are lucky enough to be going on an African safari we’ve put together the perfect packing list to help you out.

singita-sabora_02

“There is something about a safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.” Karen Blixen

okavango-card

Every person has a right to this feeling and should go on safari at least once… Here’s what you should pack:

ICONIC AFRICA’S EXTRA SPECIAL SAFARI PACKING LIST

19_singati_explore_camp

THE BASICS

Trousers (neutral colours)

Shorts (neutral colours)

T-shirts (neutral colours)

Long sleeved t-shirt or turtleneck (neutral colours)

Short sleeved shirts or blouses (neutral colours)

Long sleeved shirt or blouse (neutral colours)

Cardigan/pullover

Scarf/Pashmina

Shoes (closed walking and sandals)

One outfit of “smart casual” evening attire

Swimsuit

Underwear

Socks

Sleepwear

Flip flops (optional) for pool or shower

Personal toiletries

If you are travelling in winter i.e. between April and October ( fleece, warm gloves, scarf and beanie are recommended)

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge-10

ngorongoro_highlands-15

THE EXTRAS

Sun block

Sunglasses

Wide brimmed hat

Lip balm

Binoculars and a camera are a must

Chargers for your cell phone, camera, video camera, etc.

Batteries for small electronics and cameras

Flashlight

First aid kit

Insect repellent and malaria tablets, depending on where you’re going

Credit and ATM cards

Driver’s licence

Health-insurance card

Local guidebooks

Bird and animal guidebooks

Passport and photocopies of passport

Printouts of reservations

Travel journal

olivers-14

Exeter_River_Lodge_Suite

If you have any questions or think that we have left something out please let us know and be sure to follow our Instagram feed to get you excited for your upcoming safari. And last but not least – enjoy every minute of it. We can assure you that Africa is the most beautiful place you will ever visit… and once you’ve been… you will never stop wanting to go back.

 

 

Our Month on Instagram

September has certainly been an adventure for us. We’ve been on a luxurious diamond safari,  seen the Big Five, headed off on an intrepid walking safari and even featured in the Huffington Post!

Just in case you’ve been busy and feel like you’ve missed out… we’ve got the perfect thing to ignite that African spark, that we know is inside of you. Click here to see our latest Bush Diary video and go on your very own mini safari right now! Or simply scroll down for a brief minute to see our September in #instamoments! We hope that these pictures, stories and videos transport you, even for just a moment, to the beauty of our exquisite continent. #luxury #safari #travel #africa

Happy Friday!

Presenting Iconic Africa Bush Diary Episode #7: 'August 2016, the end of winter' filmed by @jamesrahendry our very talented, Kruger based filmmaker. Watch the adorable lion cubs frolicking, the wild dogs feeding, the vultures squabbling, the leopards loving, the wildebeest migrating and the golden sun setting in a fiery red sky over an endless African horizon. Let us take you on a mini safari right now… For the full video click on the link in our bio and to plan a real one go to www.iconicafrica.com to see what other magical adventures await! #iconicafrica #bushdiary #safarilive #safarivideo #kruger #krugerpark #bigfive #safari #wildlife #wildlifephotography #luxuryafricansafari #travel #bucketlist #lions #elephants #wilddog #leopard #africa #epicmoments #bush #vacation

A video posted by Iconic Africa (@iconicafrica) on

Happy #WorldRhinoDay everyone! #iconicafrica #saveourrhino #rhino #africa #conservation #rhinoswithoutborders

A photo posted by Iconic Africa (@iconicafrica) on

 

 

What is a “Big Five” Safari?

On first hearing about the Big Five – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, buffalo and elephant – you may presume that the select few were chosen due to their impressive size. You wouldn’t be the first person to make that mistake. After all, the adjective – big – certainly points to that conclusion. Right about now, those who are familiar with Africa’s fauna might question why hippos –weighing in at several tons – did not shove their way onto the list? The answer becomes clear when you delve into a little research about the origins of the term. To save you the trouble, I’ve done it for you; the Big Five was coined by Africa’s early hunters to identify the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot.  Click here and we will book you a once-in-a-lifetime Big Five Safari right now!

Times change! Aware of their previous failings, land-owners began to look for other ways to monetise their properties that didn’t involve a rifle. It didn’t take long for them to realise they had been shooting their most valuable assets. Tourism proved more beneficial to both the earth and their pockets and the era of killing for sport made way for a new age of conservation. Ironically, it was the very animals that the hunters feared on foot, the Big Five, which became the reserves’ strongest selling point.

Terris-Camera-700x300

The term Big Five stuck, evolving into one of tourism’s biggest marketing weapons. Today, the term “Big Five safari” describes trips to reserves and their affiliate lodges that boast Africa’s elite wildlife. Though the schedule varies, these vacations into the African wilderness revolve around game drives guided by a team of two; a ranger and a tracker. When you’re not admiring one of the Big Five, chances are you’ll be eating or relaxing because safaris are punctuated by near constant meals (from lavish high teas on lodge decks to dinners warmed by an open fire) and holistic luxury (from private plunge pools to exclusive candlelit dinners beneath the African sky).

Ngornongor Crater Lodge-32

As a general rule, if a lodge plays host to the Big Five it points towards a certain calibre of reserve because it takes a relatively large territory and a stable ecosystem to sustain game such as lions and elephants. Despite meeting this standard threshold, Africa presents travellers with an overwhelming number of lodges that vary from disappointing to exceptional. At the highest end of this spectrum are lodges that can compete with any hotel in the world. In fact, Londolozi Private Game Reserve did just that in this year’s Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards when it was voted the best hotel in the world. That’s right. In. The. World.

Chem-Chem-2-1
‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.’ George Orwell’s words are true of Big Five safaris. For first timers, it’s important to understand that just because a reserve has the Big Five, doesn’t mean you’re likely to see them. Leopards are known for their shy natures and while there may be signs of their presence – a paw print in the sand or scratch marks on a tree trunk – sightings are often few and far between. It’s also true that while no game lodge can guarantee the Big Five, some lodges fair much better than others. The Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is the perfect example of this. Sharing fenceless borders with South Africa’s beloved Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sand has the best of both worlds: the freedom of a private reserve and access to the Kruger’s prolific wildlife. As a private reserve, the game vehicles are not restricted by opening and closing times as is the case with national parks. Morning game drives set off before sunrise and afternoon drives continue well after sunset. This autonomy means better and longer sightings and the absence of curfews ensures that your time spent with, for example, a pride of lions will not be prematurely cut short in order to race back to a gate.

Olivers-3-1

Another advantage of privately-owned territories is that rangers are permitted to drive off road, following wildlife into dense thickets and securing rare National-Geographic-type scenes for their guests. Habituated to humans, the wildlife within these private sanctuaries are, to a large extent, unfazed by keen-eyed vehicles. This behaviour is best demonstrated by the Sabi Sand’s rare leopard sightings. Stand out lodges within the Sabi Sand lodges include Londolozi (already mentioned above), Singita, Lion Sands, Chitwa Chitwa, Sabi Sabi and the &Beyond lodges. Outstanding lodges are not restricted to any one area of South Africa. Proof of this is found at Phinda Private Game Reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Shamwari Game Reserve in the Western Cape. Safaris worth pausing for are not unique to South Africa; lodges and reserves within Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and, further afield, Kenya and Tanzania are on a par to many of the finest in South Africa. Each of these countries offers a unique take on the Big Five from the predators chasing wildebeest and zebra during the Great Migration to the astonishing lifeline that feeds a riot of wildlife within the Okavango Delta but let’s leave that discussion for another day…

And-Beyond-Grumeti-8

What I want to share with you is that, from my personal experience, Africa is open-handed with remarkable experiences and though the Big Five is often the inspiration for a trip to Africa, safari virgins often discover that it is just the first chapter of a whole new world opening up to them.

Let us know where you think is the best place to see the Big Five… is it the Kruger National Park?

Come discover your inspiration on our African continent, contact Iconic Africa now and let us start your journey to our beautiful continent right away!

If you are wanting to learn more about African safaris, maybe read our blog post about the difference between game reserves and national parks.