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On safari with Leora Rothschild: The 9 best safari lodges for 2016

These safari lodges are on Leora Rothschild’s hot list for 2016.

And what better way to decide how to see Africa than with the help of a local so passionate about her homeland she founded a company to share it with travellers?

Raised in South Africa, Leora Rothschild has long felt a special affinity for this vast and vibrant continent. Since founding Rothschild Safaris in 1998, she has been able to share her love with keen travellers and adventurers, and now plans journeys to other parts of the world, too. Africa is still in her heart, however, and here she shares nine of her favourite safari lodges with Signature.

Chinzombo, Zambia

Chinzombo combines all the luxury accoutrements on its 24 hectares of private land along the Luangwa River with outstanding wildlife and one of the best opportunities to see leopards. The six villas (including a two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite designed for families) blend the modernist style of architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, known for their work on North Island, Seychelles, with traditional Zambian building methods. The ‘wildy luxurious’ Chinzombo is one of six safari lodges operated by Norman Carr Safaris. In the 1950s, Carr pioneered the idea of tracking animals on foot to watch and photograph them rather than hunt them. The young game ranger’s vision paved the way for other conservation tourism. Chinzombo may be upmarket, but it manages to retain its bush feel with grass and canvas walls and a design that makes you feel connected to the sweeping vistas.

Leora: This little safari camp is completely off the beaten path, situated on the Luangwa River in one of the most stunning settings. I love the walking safaris offered here: very low key, huge open grasslands and not many tourists at all.


Mara Bushtops Camp, Kenya

Mara Bushtops is best known for its proximity to the Mara River, the site of many Great Migration River crossings from July to October. As well as a water hole, a large natural salt lick brings a parade of gazelle, warthogs, zebra, impala, buffalo and accompanying predators, offering guests of the restaurant a perfect vantage point. The 12 bush camp tents are named for the wild animals you see wandering by and include a large private terrace, hot tub and even a telescope for game viewing.

Leora: The huge tented suites are luxurious in every way, yet designed to ensure you experience the natural beauty of the Maasai Mara. The big bath tub on the deck is dreamy to sink into after a game drive. This safari camp is an all-time favourite.


Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa

The Oppenheimer family’s private game reserve is South Africa’s largest. Spread over 100,000 hectares, it is imbued with the ancient magic of the San people as well as the rare wildlife of the Kalahari, including the black-maned lion, the aardvark and two families of meerkats, habituated to humans after many years of interaction. Catch a glimpse of an endangered pangolin, sleep on a deck under the stars, and enjoy locally sourced, delectable meals.

Leora: Fantastic for families and the exclusive traveller experience. It’s you and nature. A great place to end your safari before heading home.


Chem Chem Lodge, Tanzania

Boasting just eight secluded tent-style suites in the spirit of a vintage safari and the main lodge house overlooking a watering hole, Chem Chem Lodge is a pioneer of the ‘slow safari’. Within its private concession on the eastern shore of Lake Manyara, safaris are on foot only, with game drives taking place in nearby Tarangire National Park. Owners Fabia Bausch and Nicolas Negre host their guests personally, making for a truly intimate African experience.

Leora: Authentic cultural activities, sundowners on Lake Manyara, flamingo viewing, walking or running with a Maasai guide and traditional game drives – this is one of my favourite East Africa safari camps. I just love Fabia, who pours her heart and soul into the camp. Wildlife viewing is authentic with no crowds.


Mwiba Lodge, Tanzania

Luxurious and remote, Mwiba Lodge is nestled among boulders and trees overlooking the Arugusinyai River. This private wildlife reserve offers adventurers the chance to witness the wildebeest calving season from January to March and to see the leopards of Mwiba. You can also interact with local tribes: forage with the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers, consult the wisdom of a Sukuma medicine man, and join the warrior-pastoralist Maasai and Datoga tribes for a sunset tradition.

Leora: Combine Mwiba Lodge with a camp further north to see big wildlife. Mwiba is best for great walks and there are not many tourists.


Serra Cafema, Namibia

The other-worldly landscape of Namibia is home to a safari experience quite unlike those found throughout the rest of Africa. This vast desert is
the domain of the Himba people, one of the last truly nomadic cultures on Earth. This eight-villa oasis is the ideal location to encounter the local community, cruise along the river, and traverse the dunes on a quad-biking excursion. As for wildlife, you might see Nile crocodiles, oryx, springbok, chameleons and cape foxes cleverly camouflaged
in the remote landscape.

Leora: Serra Cafema, on the banks of the Kunene River in the Hartmann Valley, is one of the most remote camps in Southern Africa. When I stayed
here I loved the interaction with the Himba people, the fantastic quad biking and the camp’s riverside setting. The Nile crocodiles are some of the largest I have ever seen.


Singita Mara River Tented Camp, Tanzania

This chic, bohemian camp is set on the northernmost tip of the Serengeti National Park near the Mara River and is an ideal place to watch game, big cats, elephants, crocodiles and hippos. Each of the six tents is East African in style with art pieces by young African designers and craftsmen adorning the walls, bringing a decidedly contemporary feel to the classic surrounds. Singita’s ‘miracle makers’ are able to create any number of luxury experiences; all you have to do is ask.

Leora: The best time to visit is July through September. There’s fantastic wildlife viewing of the wildebeest migration. This is luxury at its finest.


Singita Boulders Lodge, South Africa

With a name that means ‘place of miracles’, this Singita property in Sabi Sand Reserve really delivers on its inherent promise. The organic materials and design make for absolute luxury with a distinctive rustic look that draws on the raw, earthy beauty of Africa. The lodge overlooks Sand River, offering a peaceful outlook from each of its 12 one- and two-bedroom suites, complete with private infinity pools. Singita is also renowned for its sustainable approach to community development and commitment to wildlife protection; be sure to look out for endangered species such as the wild dog while setting out on game drives.

Leora: I love this lodge because it’s located in the heart of the Sabi Sand Reserve. Travellers can connect intimately with the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo) in a close setting. Architecturally this lodge is stunning.


Royal Malewane, South Africa

This colonial-style lodge in Kruger National Park has long been considered one of Africa’s most luxurious. Accommodating just 20 guests in six Luxury Rooms, two Royal Suites and the private villa, Africa House, Royal Malewane offers an exclusive safari experience. The Bush Spa is the place to relax with massage and holistic treatments, with a central pool at the heart of this oasis. Make the most of other activities in the area: golfing or a hot air balloon flight.

Leora: This lodge has the ‘wow’ factor. Besides excellent wildlife in this area, the decor is something that will capture your attention and there are private plunge pools to soak in after your three-course lunch. The attention to detail and service are second to none.