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Breaking the mould: eight new safari lodges that are doing things differently

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An elephant, found in the 128,000-hectare Sapi Private Reserve, east of Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park.

Photograph by Chisa busanga by green safaris
By Emma Gregg
Published 19 Jun 2022, 06:03 BST

1. Chisa Busanga, Zambia

Best for: Quirky modern design

Causing chirps of excitement ever since the first details were released in 2020, Chisa Busanga’s charming bird’s nest-like treehouses set deep in Kafue National Park, received their first guests in July 2021. Woven out of branches, canvas and aluminium, there are just four treehouses in a spacious, grassy landscape where wild dogs, lions and elephants roam. Activities at this solar-powered camp include walking, e-biking and drives in Green Safaris’ trademark electric safari vehicles. greensafaris.com

2. Eden Nairobi, Kenya

Best for: Urban birdwatching and contemporary African art

You needn’t travel far to feel close to nature in the Kenyan capital. Relaunched with a cool new restaurant in 2021, this upmarket suburban guesthouse in the Langata suburb has a large, lush garden adjoining a 100-acre forest, making it the perfect place to acclimatise before a safari or wash off the dust at the end. Birders love it, as do art aficionados — created by fashion designer Anna Trzebinski, it’s packed with paintings, sculptures and ethnographic books. eden-nairobi.com

3. Sanctuary Tambarare, Kenya

Best for: Keeping in shape

It’s easy to over-indulge on safari, and if your days are dominated by drives, you’ve little hope of burning those delicious calories off. Set to open in June 2022, this swish, contemporary luxury camp in Laikipia’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy breaks the mould by focusing on fitness instead. As well as wildlife-watching in rhino-rich Laikipia, it offers cycling, horse riding, rock climbing, bushwalks, 5-7km runs and one-hour coach-led workouts. sanctuaryretreats.com

4. Khwai Leadwood Camp, Botswana

Best for: Black African leadership

Khwai Leadwood, which opened in 2021 inside the Khwai Concession bordering the Moremi Game Reserve, is the latest in a collection of camps founded by Beks Ndlovu, a dynamic Zimbabwean safari guide with an exemplary commitment to hyperlocal craftsmanship, employment, training and community development. With contemporary tents decorated with basketware and mid-century touches, the design gives classic safari styling a refreshing reboot. Wildlife-wise, you’re utterly spoilt: this is the Okavango Delta, after all. africanbushcamps.com

5. The Capanne Project, Rwanda

Best for: Indigenous architectural heritage

This imaginative village lodge on Nkombo Island, preparing to open at the time of going to print, offers a chance to stay out on the waters of Lake Kivu and learn about the Rwandan-Congolese islanders’ cultural traditions. Inspired by ancient dwellings, each of the two guest huts is built of sweet-smelling straw and furnished with handmade mats and mattresses. Funds from stays here help support the islanders, who are both isolated and marginalised. sextantiorwanda.com

6. The Safari Series, Kenya

Best for: A youthful vibe

Since 2019, adventure-loving young Land Rover enthusiast Ed Hough and his wife Moon have been shaking up the traditional safari offering, and which generations it appeals to. They arrange guided walks and drives around Lolldaiga Hills private conservancy, in vintage Series I and II Landies, upcycled as safari vehicles — or simply hand over the keys, so you can drive yourself. Their six-tent camp, staffed by a small local team, is refreshingly unfussy, with a light-as-air, colourful style. safari-series.com

7. Sayari Camp, Tanzania

Best for: Craft beer and wildebeest-watching

If the beer-lover in your life has doubts about being immersed in the wilderness, miles from a proper pub, Sayari is the answer. Rebuilt in 2020 in a crisp, contemporary style, it’s a luxurious camp in the Serengeti National Park, with its own solar-powered microbrewery — the first of its kind in the bush — and drinking water purification plant. The camp operates from June to March, with the Great Migration peaking between July and September. asiliaafrica.com

8. Tembo Plains Camp, Zimbabwe

Best for: Camera geeks and plant-based cuisine

The latest camp from National Geographic explorers-at-large Dereck and Beverly Joubert, which launched in August 2021, has their trademark flair. Set in the Sapi reserve, it accommodates up to 12 guests, all of whom are given access to professional quality cameras — ideal for photographers who want to up their game. True to the Jouberts’ own ethics, the planet-friendly menu includes some of the best vegan dishes you’ll sample on safari. greatplainsconservation.com

Published in the Jul/Aug 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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