African safaris conjure golden-age-of-travel fantasies: Serengeti sunsets, tented opulence, Hemingway-esque glamour. Thinking hefty price tags as well? Not always—these all-inclusive resorts offer luxury, expert guides, and epic landscapes at a less-than-sky-high cost.
Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp
Where: Masai Mara, Kenya
Why Here: This all-new camp combines modern comfort with a timeless, classic ambience. Laid out along the Sabaringo River, 40 spacious, secluded tents overlook the fabled Masai Mara plains.
What You'll Do: On cool morning game drives, snuggle beneath a blanket watching the wildlife spectacle unfold before your eyes. Expect to see large elephant herds, as well as lions, cheetahs, and other predators. From July to October (high season), the annual migration of half a million wildebeests and vast groups of zebras and topi down from the Serengeti into the Mara is an unforgettable sight. You can also add a sunrise hot-air-balloon safari, followed by a Champagne breakfast. Then unwind from the action-packed game drives and guided Mara River walks with a little relaxation poolside and a feast featuring organic produce from the garden.
The Bottom Line: Low season (Nov. 1–Dec. 20, Jan. 1–June 20), from $330 per person a night, inclusive; high season (July 1–Oct. 30, Dec. 21- 31), from $450 per person a night (50 percent discount on the bride's accommodations), andbeyond.com.
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Where: Livingstone, Zambia
Why Here: An intimate boutique lodge based in a 1948 farmhouse, the River Club is just the ticket for privacy-seeking newlyweds. There are a mere 11 colonially inspired, newly refurbished suites on the 50-acre property, which borders the Zambezi River.
What You'll Do: This is the place for you if you crave a safari without early wake-up calls. Here you're positively encouraged to sleep in, wake to the sound of hippos grunting in the river nearby, and sip your coffee in bed. Later you can take a cruise to see elephants bathing on the far bank before heading to Honeymoon Island for a private cocktail hour. Active types can head 11 miles downstream to the World Heritage Site–listed Victoria Falls for whitewater rafting and other adventures, or take a game drive into nearby Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park to look for the rare white rhino.
The Bottom Line: Low season (Nov. 1–Dec. 19, Jan. 11–June 14), from $488 per person a night, inclusive; high season (June 15–Oct. 31, Dec. 20–Jan. 10), from $513 per person a night, theriverclubafrica.com.
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Where: Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana
Why Here: The casual yet comfy 11-tent Camp Kalahari sits on the edge of the remarkable Makgadikgadi Salt Pans National Park, a surreal, lunar-like landscape that is a remnant of a huge ancient lake. The tents' simple décor—a mix of original African pieces and textiles (Moroccan kilims) with colonial antiques (four-poster beds)—has the ambience of a traditional Victorian-era explorers' camp.
What You'll Do: Between searching for meerkats and learning tracking skills from the Bushmen, you can rest by the pool. The wet (or green) season, November to mid-April, is a good time to go: The price is right, the water on the salt pan and the lush grass attract masses of wildlife, and you get front-row seats to Africa's second-largest annual migration of zebras and wildebeests.
The Bottom Line: Wet/green season (Nov. 1–Dec. 31), $512 per person a night, inclusive; high/dry season (Apr. 16–Oct. 31), $699 per person a night, inclusive, unchartedafrica.com.
Where: Eastern Cape, South Africa
Why Here: This intimately scaled lodge is all about romance and grand vistas. Nine thatched guest suites, each with a private deck and plunge pool, perch high above the Great Fish River, where the silence is punctuated by the cry of African fish eagles. Tranquillity and privacy are prized, and suites include touches like candles and soft throws for chilly evenings.
What You'll Do: Early morning game drives in search of black rhinos, cheetahs, and elephants start near dawn; you'll return to a hearty breakfast. The more adventurous can opt for nocturnal drives (with spotlights) or even on-foot tracking of big game, accompanied by an armed ranger team.
The Bottom Line: Low season (Mar.–Dec. 14, closed in June), $481 per person a night, inclusive; high season (Dec. 15–Jan. 15, all of Feb.), $690 per person a night, kwandwe.com.
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Where: Limpopo, South Africa
Why Here: An elegantly refurbished camp with 12 gorgeous and comfy tents, this ultraluxurious retreat shares an unfenced boundary with the famous Kruger National Park—which translates to exceptional game-viewing year-round.
What You'll Do: Twice-daily game drives provide frequent sightings of elephants, lions, leopards, large herds of buffalo, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, and kudu. Back at the camp, sumptuous bush breakfasts and lantern-lit, wine-paired dinners are served in a different location every day—one night at a dry riverbed, another around the swimming pool.
The Bottom Line: $530 per person a night, inclusive; special offers available during low-season months (May, June, Nov. 1– Dec. 15), tandatula.com.
Where: Hwange, Zimbabwe
Why Here: The gorgeous landscapes of Zimbabwe have bounced back as a safari hot spot in recent years, thanks in part to greater economic stability. New and upgraded camps in Hwange National Park like this one offer expert guides, who will take you exploring on foot or in a 4X4.
What You'll Do: On excursions you'll see immense herds of elephants, impalas, kudu, and zebras, along with their predators (think a lioness crouching in the underbrush). Back at camp, you can sit outdoors for breakfast or dinner, shaded by false mopane trees, and watch a parade of wildlife approach the watering hole just yards away. While elephants, baboons, and buffalo may gather to quench their thirst, you can kick back with your own glass of chilled South African Chenin Blanc and enjoy the sunset from the viewing deck.
The Bottom Line: Low season (Jan. 11–June 14, Nov. 1–Jan. 10), from $419 per person a night; high season (June 15–Oct. 31), from $567 per person a night, wilderness-safaris.com.
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