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Forget the Traditional Safari—These Incredible Journeys Are Unlike Anything You’ve Seen

Kwandwe Melton viewing deck

The African safari is already an once-in-a-lifetime experience, but safari lodges today are getting more creative than ever when it comes to finding ways to get guests close to wildlife.

Most people wouldn’t dream of traveling to Africa without going on a safari. The image of that romantic journey through the savannah, channeling a Livingstone expedition or a scene from Out of Africa, remains the quintessential experience so many travelers crave.

But when you’ve grown tired of bragging around the boma campfire about the number of leopard sightings on your last expedition to the Serengeti or the Kruger you can try something more, as safari lodges are offering new ways for travelers to experience the savannah in style.

Increasingly, savvy lodges are looking beyond in-lodge luxuries to create memorable excursions that are out of the ordinary. Emphasizing conservation and adventure, these establishments are discovering innovative ways to draw in visitors.

In theory, there is no limit to the types of travel experiences that can be combined with a safari, save of course anything that might involve getting eaten by lions. Here, we take a look at a few of the safaris that offer unique ways to experience African wildlife in luxury.

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HOT AIR BALLOON SAFARI, Angama Mara, Kenya
When you’re after an epic experience like viewing the great migration, where millions of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope traverse the East African plains, there is no better option than adopting a bird’s-eye view.

Located high above Africa’s Great Rift Valley and alongside the famed Maasai Mara, Angama Mara offers a true bucket-list experience through its hot-air balloon flights, offered in partnership with Governors Balloon Safaris. When you’re not soaring above the plains, you might be able to spot animals via the floor-to-ceiling glass fronts of the luxurious tented suites, while enjoying morning tea served by a butler.

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PHOTOGRAPHY SAFARI, Londolozi, Sabi Sabi Game Reserve, South Africa
Londolozi is one of the original safari lodges in South Africa, established in 1926 and adamantly devoted to conservation. Today, its safaris bring out the National Geographic photographer in their guests.

Londolozi is a great setting for photography with vivid light, a plethora of wildlife, and diverse scenery. In between excursions to hunt down the perfect shot, guests spend time editing and printing images (under instruction) in a full photography studio boasting facilities to create large-format prints on canvases.

For the truly dedicated, arrange a private tour where a dedicated team will position vehicles in the best light and a photography tutor can assist with camera settings and lighting. You can even rent any photography equipment you might need.

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MOBILE SAFARI, Singita Grumeti Private Reserve, Tanzania
Singita is one of the most exclusive safari resort groups, but their most authentic experience comes from their mobile tented camp safari. Located in a secluded area of the Serengeti, it is designed to tread lightly and minimize ecological impact while also allowing guests to experience what it must have been like in the early days of safari. This option is also great for animal sightings, as it allows the team to follow the animals. There’s still no skimping on luxury, as tents are outfitted with artful furniture, fine cuisine is served, and it includes all the experiences you would get from a luxury lodge.

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RHINO CONSERVATION SAFARI, &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Rhinos are one of the most endangered species in South Africa, but you can get up close and personal with their conservation efforts at the &beyond Phinda property by watching the darting and notching of rhinos.

Researchers identify rhinos for research and security purposes using ear notches. Guests go in small groups with a ranger, following a veterinary helicopter, which darts the animal. They then get the opportunity to get up close with the anesthetized rhino, the most gentle of African giants, before heading back to the luxuriously-appointed Phinda lodge, with its stunning views over the plains and sumptuous accommodations nestled in the forest.

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WILD STUDIO YOGA SAFARI, ol Donyo Lodge, Great Plains Conservation, Kenya
More and more travelers are seeking out yoga experiences as a way to truly unwind. This experience in Kenya is one of the most incredible, offering the opportunity to center yourself in sunrise and sunset yoga sessions under the magnificent peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. The sessions are conducted at the exquisite ol Donya Lodge, a Relais & Châteaux and National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World member. The lodge itself is built in harmony with the landscape, surrounded by volcanic rocks and overlooking acacia forests.

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BOAT SAFARI, Wilderness Safaris, Vumbura Plains Camp, Botswana
Botswana’s Vumbura Plains Camp is made up of quiet, eco-friendly nested camps intended to create minimal disturbance while also allowing guests to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of the Okavango delta. The accommodations are along the waterways, but coming to understand the wildlife truly involves taking either a boat or mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe. From here, guests can view the true wonders of the water wildlife, from reed frogs to fish to occasionally bigger game.

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GOURMET SAFARI, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Kwande has won multiple awards for their safari cuisine, which incorporates not only sumptuous lodge-based bush banquets, but additions on their safaris with high teas and picnics served on their excursions.

In addition, the lodge offers a campfire-cooking course where guests can try their hand at the most South African of activities, the braai (barbeque). The braai-master course involves preparing a three-course meal over an open campfire using South Africa’s vibrant array of meats such as impala, kudu, ostrich, warthog and gemsbok, and of course the spiral sausage known as boerewors.

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