Safaris come in many shapes and sizes, and while you never want to settle for a ‘cookie cutter’ safari, there are certain experiences that characterize the luxury South African safari.
It should be filled with moments that are curated around your personal tastes and expectations to help you connect with nature deeply. Because a safari is much more than being able to tick a certain destination, animal, or activity off your bucket list. It has the potential to be a fulfilling and even transformative experience, one that will live with you long after you’ve left the bush.
These five experiences are what luxury safaris in South Africa are all about!
1. Small, intimate lodgings
Sometimes less really is more, particularly when staying in a safari camp, like Rhino Sands Safari Camp, that prioritizes intimacy and privacy. There is something indulgent in knowing that you share a camp with just a handful of other guests. Imagine, a spacious tented suite with bedroom, lounge, and bathroom, that opens out onto a private deck with a plunge pool and views of the bush that are only yours to enjoy.
While the focus of a safari is around game drives and meal times, each day is interspersed with moments that make it a little different from the one before. And, as part of a personal and authentic experience, you should always be able to choose how much or how little you do each day.
2. Exclusive safari destination
In a private game reserve, you won’t have to share special moments on safari with a crowd of other visitors. There are fewer lodges in an independently-owned reserve in order to maintain less human traffic to ensure low-impact tourism and a better guest experience. The guides on private reserves also share sightings with their colleagues by radio which increases the possibility of seeing rarer species such as rhino, leopard, and cheetah.
A government-owned national park, on the other hand, offers lower entrance fees, day visits and self-drives, and more accommodation options, which means a greater chance of interruptions from rumblings of other vehicle engines and their chattering passengers.
3. Immersive bush experiences
A big drawcard of a luxury South African safari are those added – and sometimes surprise – guest experiences that allow you to truly connect with the wonder and magic of the bush. Just before heading back to camp for dinner, your guide might drive up to a hilltop where a table is laden with gourmet snacks and drinks to be enjoyed at sundown.
The morning’s bush stop might be overlooking a watering hole, so you can watch the hippos and crocodiles wake up while you drink your first cup of coffee. A romantic dinner under the stars on your suite’s private deck, a welcome note on arrival and turndown service each night, and a bubble bath sprinkled with flower petals - these are some of the things that make your experience luxury.
4. Warm and attentive service
One of the highlights of a luxury safari is the professional and personalized service. In a small camp, each guest is an individual that staff get to know and often make friends with. The same guide will look after you throughout your stay, and they will go above and beyond to make your safari your best holiday yet.
Guides at smaller camps are highly-trained and personable with plenty of experience working in the bush. You’ll learn and see the world around you through highly skilled eyes. And their local knowledge of the terrain and in-depth understanding of wildlife behavior means the chance of great sightings is significantly increased.
5. Eco-friendly luxury
A luxury safari in South Africa should be underpinned by an eco-friendly ethos and practice. Regulating and coordinating game drives from the properties on the reserve reduces stress on the bush and wildlife. Smaller camps that are raised on stilts above the ground and built to maximize natural airflow and run off solar-powered electricity are all part of enjoying an unforgettable safari that has minimal disruption to the surrounding environment.
A luxury South African safari celebrates the privacy and tranquillity of wilderness camping, while incorporating the creature comforts of modern life and some extra luxurious touches.