How to Choose the Right Safari Lodge

With the large selection of outstanding luxury safari lodges and camps all over Africa, opting for just one can be tricky! South Africa alone is blessed with an amazing array of luxury Kruger Park lodges to choose from.

To make it slightly easier for you, we’ve highlighted some factors we believe you should consider as you try to pick a lodge for that magical safari you’ve been dreaming about for ages.

Location

This is possibly the most important question you have to ask yourself – is the lodge actually in a part of Africa that you particularly want to see? For instance, you might’ve heard about the amazing ‘green Kalahari’ and are keen to see it for yourself, so it would make sense to choose one of the Kalahari lodges. Or if you want to see the Great Wildebeest Migration you need to head to Kenya.

Also, ask yourself what particular activities you would like to participate in, or particular attractions you would like to see, then choose your lodge with that in mind. How about…

  • Guided nature walks and wilderness trails
  • Seeing gorillas in their natural habitat
  • Cultural visits to local villages
  • Exploring the charming historic Karoo village of Matjiesfontein with its old railway museum and the stately Lord Milner Hotel
  • Seeing the Sudwala, Cango or Waenhuiskrans Caves
  • Visiting a reptile park like Pure Venom, Ndlondlo, or Croc City Crocodile and Reptile Park
  • Guided game drives in the Serengeti, Masai Mara or the Kruger
  • Bungee jumping
  • White river rafting
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Sumptuous spa treatments
  • An immersive experience with elephants
  • Hair-raising aerial cable trailing, or canopy zip-lining

Are you considering including other destinations as well?

Considering the cost of travelling, holidaymakers often wish to combine destinations, see other attractions or indulge in more activities during their trip. Therefore choosing a luxury lodge that is centrally located to this other destination, area, town, attraction or activity makes excellent sense.

Many of the superb lodges in the lower part of the Greater Kruger, for instance, make it possible to visit Sabie, Pilgrimsrest, Graskop, the beautiful Blyde River Canyon, God’s Window, The Mac Mac Falls, Lydenburg, and historic Barberton in an easy day trip.

How much can you afford to spend?

This is obviously a very important consideration! Some luxury lodges may be out of your price range. However, don’t become disheartened – many excellent luxury lodges are more affordable and give you significantly better value than others. So it’s a question of doing your due diligence and then deciding.

Another very important factor here is to keep your eyes peeled for ‘special offers’ from tour operators or lodges. Grabbing a special offer could mean that you have your dream holiday at a lodge that might ordinarily be outside your budget. If you’re not tied to a particular time-frame and you can travel off-season is also an excellent way of staying at a fantastic lodge without breaking the bank.

What amenities/facilities does the lodge offer?

Knowing what amenities and facilities a lodge has is crucial if you’re travelling with children, elderly relatives or someone who is disabled and will require special access and care. Likewise, if somebody in your party has special dietary requirements, will the lodge be able to accommodate them accordingly?

It is also important to note that many lodges or camps won’t accept children below a certain age. And almost all the lodges won’t allow small children, toddlers or babies on game drives.

You therefore need to make sure whether the lodge you choose will accept your children, and if they do, whether they have babysitting or childminding services on tap. Also check if they provide programmes and activities specifically geared to children – it can make a huge difference to your and the kiddies’ enjoyment of the holiday experience.

If you’re going to be on your honeymoon, there are many lodges that cater specifically for honeymooners and romantic couples, whereas others may lean more towards accommodating families or larger groups.

Also check the availability of things like a gym, a wellness centre, cycling or walking routes, horse riding, etc if those things are priorities for you. And if you’re a passionate foodie, make sure that the lodge is renowned for its cuisine and wine cellar!

What is the transport situation?

The transport situation can materially affect how your holiday pans out! For instance, is it easy to hire a car if you need to, and will you have ready access to fuel/gas? Many of the lodges have fuel accessible on-site, but not all of them do, which can obviously be problematic if you’re in a very remote location.

And if you’re flying in, how close is the lodge you’ve chosen to an airport, or does it have its own landing strip? Will they meet you at the airport or arrange for you to be collected? If you would prefer to do your game-viewing on your own, does the lodge you’re considering allow self-drives or do they only permit guided game drives?

What time should you travel?

Travelling at the right time for you can materially affect the success of your holiday. For instance, if you’re very sensitive to heat, you do not want to go to the Greater Kruger during the summer months from November to March when temperatures often sky-rocket to above 104°F or 40°C! The heat problem is frequently compounded by high humidity levels and a lot of rain. The drier and much cooler winter season would more than likely suit you better.

You also need to remember that Cape Town, for instance, has a Mediterranean climate, which means that they have a wet winter and dry summer. June/July/August can be very cold and wet, and definitely not ideal holiday weather.

And opting to travel in the countries close to the equator during the region’s two wet seasons, March to July and September to mid-October, can also complicate your holiday by making travelling conditions harder and less enjoyable.

Conclusion

We know that choosing the right luxury lodge, in the right area and visiting it at the right time, can make a massive difference to the success of your luxury safari experience. You have to feel at home, welcome and in tune with the lodge, its atmosphere, surroundings, facilities and amenities.

If you’re a committed conservationist, choose a lodge that also espouses that ethos. If you’re part of a close family, choose a lodge that will make your children welcome and cater to them with activities and services. If you seek privacy and seclusion, go for one of the smaller lodges that will provide that privacy and restful atmosphere.

In fact, choosing the right lodge for you can make all the difference!