By Sebastian Bartlett
There’s no shortage of memorable safari escape scattered across East Africa, but only a handful are worthy a place on your bucket-list. From the misty hills of Rwanda to the dramatic plains of the Serengeti, these remarkable destination lodges are not to be missed.
1. Primate Lodge Kibale, Uganda
Hidden away in the lush rainforest of the Kibale Rainforest National Park, Primate Lodge Kibale is the ultimate destination for viewing chimpanzees in the wild. That said, the Park is also home to 13 different species of primates!
The lodge boasts nine spacious luxury cottages with wonderful forest views, but for a close-up encounter book a night in the secluded Sky Tree House set deep in the rainforest!
Memorable for: its unique wildlife encounters and did we mention the tree house?
2. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Rwanda
Blending the charm and character of a country hotel with the exotic appeal of a safari lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is the ideal destination for discovering Rwanda’s famed Parc National des Volcans.
Six cottages and two suites boast en suite bathrooms and private verandas offering impressive views of the mist-clad Virunga Mountains. Use this lodge as base for popular for gorilla treks, visits to Dian Fossey’s original research camp Karisoke or trips into the Buhanga Sacred Forest.
You’ll love it: for its blend of history, charm and location.
3. Serena Mountain Lodge, Kenya
While many lodges are focused purely on spotting the Big Five of Africa (Buffalo, Lion, Elephant, Leopard and Rhinoceros), Serena Mountain Lodge offers a rare chance to discover the remarkable high-altitude wilderness of East Africa.
While the photo-hide at the exclusive waterhole offers wonderful wild sightings, the magic of Serena Mountain Lodge is in its forest walks and hikes through high moorlands, the trout fishing in untouched streams and guided climbs up Mount Kenya.
Ideal if: you have a large group travelling together.
4. Porini Rhino Camp, Kenya
With rhinoceros populations in Africa hard-hit by poaching, Porini Rhino Camp situated in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy is blending eco-conscious luxury with community development in a bid to conserve this unique corner of the Laikipia plateau for the future.
In-between game drives with remarkable wildlife sightings, visit Baraka the Black Rhino, an ambassador for his species who, after becoming blind, was rescued from the wild and is cared for on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Stay here: if you want to deepen your understanding of the conservation challenges in Africa.
5. Governors’ Camp, Kenya
Overlooking the Mara River and the endless grassy plains of the Masai Mara National Reserve, Governors’ Camp has epitomised the pinnacle of safari luxury for more than 45 years.
While more than 37 tents make up this iconic destination, it retains an intimate atmosphere that perfectly captures the era of the classic African safari camp. For a combination of superlative game viewing and safari romance, Governors’ Camp is hard to beat.
Perfect for: a classic taste of vintage African safari romance. Don’t forget to book a hot air balloon trip over the African plains.
6. Mikeno Lodge, Democratic Republic of Congo
Situated alongside the ranger headquarters of Virunga National Park – Africa’s oldest Park – Mikeno Lodge is the ideal base for discovering the incredible biodiversity of this World Heritage Site.
After a day gorilla-trekking or hiking up the Nyiragongo volcano, the lodge’s 12 bungalows offer luxury accommodation built of lava stone, mahogany and thatch. It’s an impressively stylish escape in the heart of untouched Africa.
Special quirk: It’s built out of lava stone, and it’s close to an active, bubbling volcano. Need we say more?
7. Isasha Wilderness Camp, Uganda
For African travellers who have “been there, done that”, Isasha Wilderness Camp offers a unique opportunity to discover a little-known corner of central Africa.
The camp’s 10 airy safari suites are set right on the banks of the Ntungwe River in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. Well-known for its excellent birding, the Park is also famous for its tree-climbing lions, which are often spotted on twice-daily game drives from the lodge.
Best for: off-the-beaten track safaris in absolute luxury.
8. Clouds Gorilla Lodge, Rwanda
Perched at an altitude of 2 000-metres, it’s not hard to see how Clouds Gorilla Lodge got its name. The highest lodge in Uganda, Clouds Gorilla Lodge boasts remarkable views of the enigmatic Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, while at night the eerie red glow distant volcanoes can be seen from this memorable mountain eyrie.
Situated mere steps away from the Nkuringo trailhead for gorilla tracking in Bwindi, the lodge is also the ideal destination for twitchers, with wonderful Afro-alpine species to be ticked off.
The perfect lodge if: you’re splurging on that once-in-a-lifetime gorilla encounter.
9. Great Migration Camps, Serengeti
And now for something completely different. Great Migration Camps isn’t a lodge per se, but a mobile tented camp that follows the Great Wildebeest Migration – the herd of 2 000 of these beasts that move across the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem all year long. The camp can be packed down and moved in a matter of hours, making Great Migration Camps the only operator in the world that can guarantee you will see the Great Migration when you come to Africa.
Don’t expect full luxury, though. While you’ll have every creature comfort you need, from hot showers to cold beers, Great Migration Camps is the ultimate frontier camping experience. And it’s a 100% leave-no-trace operation.
Try this if: you want to experience what it was like for the first people exploring East Africa, at highly affordably prices.
10. Weru Weru River Lodge, Tanzania
Named for the river flowing from the glacial melt of Mount Kilimanjaro, Weru Weru River Lodge is the ideal destination for climbers and hikers planning their ascent of Africa’s highest peak, or resting up and celebrating a successful attempt on the summit.
Surrounded by coffee plantations, and conveniently situated a short drive from the airport at Moshi, Weru Weru River Lodge offers the ideal blend of convenience, comfort and value in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. Planning to plant your flag atop Uhuru Peak? You couldn’t pick a better base.
A great choice: for value, comfort and convenience close to Kili.
Follow the #7SummitsAfrica Challenge’s reviews of these top 10 spots as they rest in-between climbing 7 African mountains for 7 causes in 7 weeks. Expedition kicks off 4 November 2017.