The unexpected luxuries of a safari


A safari in Africa may well be the epitome of adventure, heading out in the remote wilds of the planet in search of untamed creatures big and small and the drama that plays out when prey and predator meet. While you can certainly opt for a budget safari where you pitch your own tent, sleep on the ground, and endure food that can be cooked over a fire, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it’s quite the contrary when you choose a luxury safari. On a luxury safari, you definitely get what you pay for and will enjoy the very best, in more ways than you may expect. Small camps that accommodate just 12-20 guests maintain an atmosphere of intimacy and exclusivity, and means you can have your own private game drive experience. High thread-count linens on plush beds in airy tents, ensuite bathrooms with flushing toilets and hot water, private plunge pools for cooling off mid-day, gourmet meals from freshly baked scones to beet ravioli in a parmesan cream sauce, and sundowner cocktails in the most scenic locations, are just some of the creature comforts you’ll enjoy. And while all of those things certainly add to the memorable and relaxing nature of the adventure, the true luxuries of any safari are often found in the intangibles.

The luxury of opportunity

A photographic safari based in a private reserve in unlike being in a public area. Private reserves or concessions are not accessible by everyone, and the fewer the people the better the experience which provides the luxury of opportunity – to view more wildlife in nearly complete solitude. It a much different feeling to be the only ones for miles watching a cheetah basking in the shade versus being one vehicle of ten all surrounding moment. Moreover, in exclusive-use areas, the regulations are often different from public parks. Guides can stay out after sunset and usually drive off-road, which may be the difference between seeing a pack of endangered African wild dogs through a thicket or knowing they were just out of view. Opportunities are also created because guides know the territories of the herds, prides, and packs that live in the area around the camps, and they also communicate with each other to share sightings. A seasoned, expert guide thinks about the placement of the vehicle for optimal photos.

The luxury of knowledge

In general, as guides gain experience and expertise, they are able to move up to better camps. Luxury camps employ the best and most skilled guides, and traveling with an experienced naturalist guide means you’ll have the luxury of knowledge. Expert guides know not just where to find wildlife (individual territories or favorite hiding spots), but also incredible details about them—even down to individual animals. They can often spot animals from hundreds of feet away with their eagle eyes and know by a gazelle’s behavior if there is something lurking in the long grass—and will wait before driving on to see if something happens. On a recent safari, one of our guides knew that a leopard mother and her adolescent cub had been separated from each other for a few days and that a reunion had to be imminent. The cub had been calling all afternoon, and at dusk, guests watched from nearby as the mother returned. His knowledge allowed them to witness the moment when they reunited—pure magic!

The luxury of serenity

In this modern age, perhaps the greatest indulgence while on safari is the luxury of serenity. Choosing to embark on a luxury safari means you needn’t worry about anything—your safari operator, camp staff, and guides take care of all the logistics, so you can unwind and focus on being immersed in the natural world, far from your daily routine. Aside from stress-free planning and execution, your brain will have a rest from the over-stimulation typical of our 21st-century lives. Listen to the birds, rustling grass, and hippos snorting in the distance instead of your alarm clock buzzing or planes overhead; relax on the deck as buffalo and wildebeest graze nearby instead of sitting in traffic on your commute; sleep with a cool breeze of fresh air wafting through the canvas instead of inhaling city pollution; enjoy dawn’s stillness during sunrise instead of rushing out the door; and close out the day sitting by a crackling fire under a canopy of stars instead of cleaning up after dinner. Are you ready to finally take the safari you’ve always dreamed of?

Matt Holmes is the Founder & President of Boundless Journeys. Boundless Journeys is an award-winning tour operator that goes off the beaten path for immersive and authentic travel experiences.

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Comments (7)

  1. Joanne S says:

    I never would have equated safari with luxury either. I imagine as tourism has grown so has the availability of different accommodations and investment into this sort of area. As much as I love the idea of a safari, I admit I’d prefer to stay somewhere with more home comforts and that sense of homeliness, especially where running water, a comfy bed and toilets are concerned. I like the twist you’ve put on this by seeing the luxury in other aspects, it’s a good way to see it, it really opens up the experience and shows how meaningful and valuable it can be. I see safaris as a kind of ‘one in a lifetime experience’, for many at least, and I do hope to be able to do one one day, fingers crossed.

    • Matt Holmes says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post! You’re right, a safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people, especially luxury safaris, which are at the higher end of price range. The good news is that with the amenities available at the luxury camps, you can enjoy a remote and immersive wildlife & nature experience without sacrificing any home comforts!

  2. Hi Matt,

    I really loved being transported back to Africa through your post. We’ve had a few adventures in Botswana, Tanzania, and South Africa over the years, all in the luxury style you recommend, and have never regretted a cent. It was all worth it. I agree with the high-end guides who know every twitch of a lion’s face and the overall access they have. Then, the comforts of the lodges after a great day of viewing. You have certainly made me want to plan another trip! Thanks for writing!

    • Matt Holmes says:

      Thank you for the kind words. I’m always happy to hear that I’ve inspired someone to start planning for their next trip. If you’ve never been to Mombo Camp, Wilderness Safaris’ flagship and award-winning camp, I highly suggest it. And I’d also recommend looking into Namibia and/or Rwanda – two utterly different safari experiences from other Southern and Eastern Africa destinations.

  3. L. Lawrence says:

    It seems like true serenity is becoming harder and harder to achieve. So it really is a luxury! There are so many things we think about our everyday life that it’s hard to calm the mind. I even find it hard not to think about the bills, work, and the kids even when I’m supposed to be relaxing. It seems like all this shelter in place has me experiencing cabin fever. My itchy feet are raring to go, but the situation does not allow for it yet. I would love to try and see if going on a safari would really give me serenity. And I’m all for learning by experiencing, as well.

    • Matt Holmes says:

      You’re right, it is really hard to detach yourself from the worries and responsibilities of “adulting.” I believe, it’s something that takes practice. Of course, it helps to be away from home (and physically distanced from those responsibilities) in a remote location with so many amazing things to distract you!

  4. Shelley Hogan says:

    I agree luxury isn’t just about how expensive a thing is, luxury can be more than that, it just depends on your perception of things. Like what you said, it is a luxury to have opportunities like these, having a great private lodge to relax after your safari adventures. Learning new things is also a luxury because not all can experience being in the habitats of different wild animals. Having the opportunity to see them face-to-face in their habitats is extraordinary, even the experience itself is a luxury. Enjoying the beauty of nature away from the busy streets of the city is also a luxury, being relaxed and not thinking of any things to do or problems to solve, just living the life. However, we can’t enjoy these things right now, like the way we want it to be because of the pandemic. I just hope that we can go back to some sense of normality, or a little bit or normal soon.

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