A safari to the wilderness of Africa delivers perfect escapism! On your next safari holiday turn off your phone, leave your laptop at home and tell everyone that you’ll be off the grid for the duration. As a result, you will have the most freeing experience!
Step it up even further and take your safari exclusively. This means that while you are on your vacation, you only spend time with the people of your choice, namely your family or travelling companions. There are no other guests, so you have the freedom and privacy to truly unwind and enjoy your time. This is also the very best way to travel on a family safari! You and your family, whether that be a smaller group or a larger extended family, can take over a private safari property for the ultimate safari experience.
So where to stay? The options are endless; there are different places to suit differing personalities, interests and groups. Here are some of my favourite safari lodges, camps and houses in Africa that can be taken privately. There is something here to inspire all tastes!
Keep things traditional with a mobile safari set up just for you and yours in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana. Home to the Big 5 and so much more, Moremi has forests and wetlands and open grassy plains and a huge amount of space!
You can explore the fringes of the Okavango Delta with your private guide for a few days then move to a luxury permanent lodge that you can take exclusively. Little Mombo with its three rooms is a perfect example of a small intimate lodge that lends itself wonderfully to exclusive use for family or group of friends. Another great choice is Little Dumatau with just four rooms.
Staying in a small exclusive lodge means you can reap the benefits of having the full attention of the entire staff. Your guide gets to know you all and what you would like to see when you go out on a game drive, and the hospitality staff know that Grandma likes a G&T at lunch but a dry white with dinner, the kids like anything ultra-sweet, and little Sally only eats spaghetti and tomato sauce – at every meal if she could!
Your guide and the staff looking after you will share in a gentle yet enthusiastic way everything about the culture and wildlife of Botswana. After a few days of slowing down, spending time watching the sunset, taking sneaky siestas in the afternoon (when did you last have one of those?) and turning your mind to the wilderness, wildlife and family, your shoulders will drop and you will feel relaxed, knowing that this fleeting time is so so precious.
Of course, you could also be active, keeping busy each day. Zambia has much to explore and many places to stay as a private party, no matter how small. With private activities geared around your interests, you could include a stay in Tangala House near Livingstone and explore the Victoria Falls in all their glory before heading north by private charter to the South Luangwa National Park.
Stay in Chamilandu Camp, which has just three chalets. South Luangwa is the home of the walking safari and you can spend time exploring with your private guide on foot and taking night drives to try to spot some leopard, a big cat species that the South Luangwa is well known for. For those who prefer more luxurious accommodation, the two-bedroomed family suite at Chinzombo with a private guide and vehicle is just the place!
To finish off your Zambian safari I would highly recommend Chongwe River House, set away from it all along the Chongwe River. Chongwe has just four bedrooms, all en suite, a full complement of staff to look after your every need, a private guide and a swimming pool that is often visited by elephant!
It is simply wonderful, I recall having a cool dip in the pool there one afternoon with some friends, only to find we were joined by an elephant wanting to quench its thirst. I don’t know why it wanted to drink from the pool when the river was just a few feet away, but best not to argue!
Should you want to stretch those legs and walk with one of the finest guides in Africa, then a two-to-three-day walking safari off the beaten track with Debs Tittle will surely have you booking your return to Zambia before you have even boarded your return flight! Debs and her gentle way with guiding is exceptional. She is completely in control and her expertise in guiding is little matched by others.
Kenya offers families and groups of friends a perfect assortment of private houses and villas to book on an exclusive basis. Lengishu and Laragai, both located on the Borana Conservancy, are sumptuous, with divine food and scenery to die for. There’s horse riding, wildlife, camel riding and views of Mt Kenya to enjoy, as well as spending time with local Maasai tribes.
Ol Jogi is a top choice for a private safari to Kenya and perfectly suited for larger groups travelling together. Located in Laikipia, it simply is quite amazing! Ol Jogi sits on a vast private conservancy that has been dedicated to conservation and owned by the same family for decades. There is a wide diversity of wildlife species which you can see in abundance, and there is an abundance of activities for you to enjoy, too.
You take the entire conservancy exclusively, so you have the place to yourself and the activities and accommodation are all private. There are exquisite rooms and cottages as well as possibly one of the best wildlife hides in Africa.
The well-kept lawns are framed by exotic flowers and surround the old Kenyan homestead, lovingly updated to provide everything a family could wish for on their safari. There is a billiard room and a library, an enormous swimming pool and a spa which houses a hamman. Ol Jogi also has a well-appointed gym, a tennis court and a volleyball court too.
I would say to take the whole family and stay for at least a week, or more, you really don’t need to go anywhere else! Everything you wish to do will be tailored completely to your preferences; you can see all the animals, go horseriding, walking, take night drives, do yoga and much more! When I visited, giraffe and zebra often came up to the house to the salt lick and we saw lots of long-necked gerenuk, Beisa’s oryx and of course rhino too.
Take the time to learn about the conservation work they do, too. They have a working wildlife rehabilitation centre and active anti-poaching team. Another fun activity is to go fly camping for night in the conservancy, listening to the sounds under the stars. The next day visit some local villages to spend time with the Maasai, finding out how they live and how their lives differ from yours.
To finish your private safari to Africa, why not spend a week (or preferably more) on a luxury private island in the Indian Ocean? Thanda Island is a dream, a fantasy tropical island off the coast of Tanzania.
One of the few truly private islands in Africa, Thanda Island is perfect to enjoy complete privacy with your own family and friends. Thanda can accommodate up to ten adults and nine children as, in addition to the main house, there are Robinson Crusoe-style banda beach huts to take further guests should you need. Whatever the number of your party, this island is yours!
Thanda sits in the Shungi Mbili Island Marine Reserve, so there are gentle whale shark, sea turtles, dolphins, dugongs and, depending on when you go, you can watch turtles nesting and their eggs hatching.
What is of importance here is the conservation work that Thanda Island is part of and they have teamed up with the Tanzanian Marine Parks and the leading NGO, Sea Sense, on a range of marine conservation and education programmes in the region. One of the highlights of taking a holiday on Thanda is that you can learn all about their work in conservation projects on the sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins, whale sharks, coral reefs and marine reserves.
If you would like more information about private holidays and safaris in Africa, please do feel free to contact me. Or, if you would just like to dream for now, you can do so at our Video Library.
Images and video by kind courtesy of:
Thanda Private Island, Ol Jogi Private Conservancy, Lengishu House, Time + Tide Chongwe House & Will Burrard-Lucas, Time + Tide Chinzombo, Feline Fields, Little Mombo & Dana Allen.