Across Africa there’s constantly something new to discover and uncover, with many places still feeling off the beaten path. While filming The Woman King in South Africa, Viola Davis’ makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera felt “what everybody talks about when it comes to Africa — there’s a connection to the planet that, as a 55-year-old man who’s traveled the world, I’ve never found before. You feel like you’re part of a much bigger plan. For me, the game drives put everything in perspective.” THR explores the latest in all-inclusive safari experiences and more on the continent.
In the Greater Kruger National Park area, Royal Malewane (where Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Richard Gere and Bono have all stayed) has debuted a 12-bedroom glass, steel and thatch lodge dubbed Waterside at Royal Malewane (from $1,178 a night, theroyalportfolio.com). At this latest property from Royal Portfolio, every maximalist suite features its own pool.
Massive private game reserve Tswalu Kalahari in the Northern Cape has launched a new way for animal lovers to get up close to wildlife: a rhino notching experience ($7,265 per person, tswalu.com), in which the guest helps monitor and microchip a young rhino alongside pro trackers and veterinarians with the goal of collecting genetic data. In 2021, Tswalu Kalahari unveiled Klein JAN, the James Bond of fine dining experiences filled with suspense and culinary bliss, by Michelin-starred chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. And in 2023, Tswalu’s Loapi Tented Camp debuts with six luxurious safari homes open to those seeking complete privacy — plus a personal butler and private chef — while in the bush.
Twelve-suite eco-luxe lodge The Homestead (from $3,500 a night per person, www.homesteadlodge.com) opens in Nambiti in 2023, offering camping in the high mountains, animal photography classes, local cooking sessions, and game drives on eerily quiet — and sneaky — electric 4x4s.
Singita Sabi Sand and Singita Kruger National Park — Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake honeymooned at another Singita safari lodge — have opened dedicated contemporary African art galleries in an effort to offer guests more opportunity to engage with Africa’s artistic traditions. An artist residency is ongoing as well.
Roar Africa CEO Deborah Calmeyer — who counts Robert Redford as a close friend and client — recently launched the Out of Africa city-and-safari experience across Kenya. The Roar Africa trip takes up to six guests to visit filming sites from the epic 1985 movie including the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the Karen area of Nairobi, and Laikipia Plateau, with a bush flight in the exact yellow 1930s Gipsy Moth plane used in the film ($32,660 per person, double occupancy, roarafrica.com).
Angama Mara, the deluxe safari lodge that has hosted Julianne Hough, is one property on Roar Africa’s itinerary and offers its own Out of Africa-style picnic complete with butler service and bubbly on the kopje (hill) where the most romantic scene was shot (from $1,400/night per person, angama.com).
The luxury operator also announced the Roar Africa Emirates Executive Jet Safari, a $125,000 per person splurge for 10 guests coming in August 2023 that encompasses the “holy grail of Africa,” i.e. Victoria Falls, the Okavango Delta, Kenya’s Great Migration and gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Great Plains’ Mara Toto Camp (from $720 a night, double occupancy, greatplainsconservation.com), on the border of the Maasai Mara and ripe for big cat enthusiasts, opened in May 2021. And at Great Plains’ Mara Plains Camp, a two-bedroom villa called the Mara Jahazi Suite (from $5,760 a night), complete with private chef, vehicle and guide, debuted in 2021. And the brand’s Mara Expedition Camp (From $690 a night per person sharing) bowed last year with a romantic throwback safari vibe, designed by photographer and filmmaker Beverly Joubert and offering a traditional ambience plus walking safaris.
The intimate, sustainable luxury lodge Segera Retreat (from $1,600 per person, double occupancy, segera .com) in Laikipia — owned by the founder of the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town — “focuses on conservation, commerce and culture,” says film producer Geralyn Dreyfous (On the Record), who has seven documentaries in production in Kenya. “They do a lot of artist residencies for Kenyan designers and photographers.”
Roar Africa’s upcoming retreat, Into the Wild With David Whyte, takes place there Feb. 22-28, 2023. Co-hosted by Whyte, Steven Spielberg’s Irish poet friend, it features activities (drumming, Swahili cooking) and bodywork designed to bring guests out of their heads and into their hearts (from $21,700 a person, double occupancy; $38,500 single, roarafrica.com).
Dreyfous calls Arijiju (from $9,000 a night for up to six people, arijiju.com), a safari lodge at the base of Mount Kenya, “the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. You can go horseback riding among the wildlife, and while you’re in the pool, elephants will come up and start playing, hosing you down with water.”
Sanctuary Tambarare lodge opened in June 2022 with secluded tented suites overlooking the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and is part of the Kenya Safari in Style trip (from $8,695 per person) from Abercrombie & Kent, the operator that has planned Africa trips for James Brolin, Kristin Davis, Winfrey, Andrew McCarthy and Ricky Martin. The revamped itinerary includes horse riding alongside rhinos, five to seven km runs across the plains, and a cycling safari.
Active types will also get into the annual Rhino Charge (June 3, 2023), the Rhino Ark charitable trust’s annual fundraising off-road 4×4 competition held in a secret location in Kenya and drawing Hollywood bold-facers. “Who knew conservation and protecting one of the last bastions of wildlife in our world could be so much fun?” says actress and producer Maria Bello (The Woman King), who has attended the last few years. Beyond the extreme event, friends of the organization can stay at the Rhino Retreat bungalow all year long for a contribution to conservation.
Luxury operator Extraordinary Journeys booked Kristin Cavallari a Kenyan safari that involved working with a local school and also put together a down-to-earth trip for an award-winning actor incorporating African Bush Camps Foundation — so they’re experienced at working philanthropy into itineraries. One such offering is At the Forefront of Conservation, a 12-day, $32,781-$37,703 per person journey that includes once-in-a-lifetime adventures in concert with the executive teams of organizations such as Pangolin Project, Save the Elephants and Tsavo Trust — think assisting in collaring an elephant in a helicopter mission, tracking pangolins and black rhino, and fly-camping in Tsavo West for a night on the Rhino Platform.
July saw the arrival of Great Plains’ Okavango Explorers Camp (from $1,165 a night, greatplainsconservation.com) in the private Selinda Reserve. With just six beds, the intimate throwback safari camp offers canoe trips, elephant-spotting canoe trips, floating gourmet experiences and drives to seek one of the highest concentrations of wildlife such as lions, leopards and wild dogs in the region.
With extraordinary architecture, including a singular baobab treehouse, Xigera Safari Lodge entered the same Okavango Delta landscape in late 2020, embracing the year-round water through experiences both on land and traditional mokoro boat ($2,320/night per adult sharing, xigera.com).
On the banks of the Chobe River in the famed national park, Chobe Game Lodge is where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were married and Steve Harvey as well as royals have since safari’ed. Guests can expect to spot swimming elephants during water safaris in solar-powered boats, led by the team of all female guides (from $880 a night per person sharing, chobegamelodge.com).
Large lion prides are a hallmark of the remote corner of the Serengeti where andBeyond Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp (from $1,080 a night per person sharing, andbeyond.com) opened in June 2022. The Grumeti reserve has seen Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Charlize Theron in the past, and this classical tented camp boasts renewable energy, daily yoga classes, and suites that touch lightly on the landscape with deep baths, outdoor decks and private plunge pools.
At Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti — where past guests have included Laura Prepon, Vanessa Hudgens and Uzo Aduba —a fresh spa menu focuses treatments on powerful African botanicals (from $1,150 a night, fourseasons.com).
Spring 2022 brought Mpala Jena Camp to the lush banks of the Zambezi River. Activities can include boat cruises, walks, game drives, and trips to the spectacularly powerful Victoria Falls, where Ewan McGregor famously bungee jumped (from $780 a night per person sharing, greatplainsconservation.com).
The first and only Relais & Chateaux property in Zimbabwe is Tembo Plains Camp, which also opened in spring 2022. With just five accommodations, the exclusive safari destination in the private 130,000-hectare Sapi Reserve offers sightings of painted dogs, leopards, buffalo and elephants day and night (from $895 a night per person sharing, relaischateaux.com).
Namibia is an offbeat safari destination where spectacular landscapes are at risk of overshadowing wildlife sightings. It’s also popular with Hollywood. Mad Max: Fury Road was filmed in the country, and Will Smith spent time in 2021 filming a National Geographic series.
Last year, Ultimate Safaris opened the remote Onduli Ridge camp with rhino trekking in Damaraland, near a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Six suites literally built into granite boulders — like the property’s picturesque pool — can open up completely at night allowing guests to sleep under the stars on their rolling king bed (from $550 a night per person sharing, ultimatesafaris.na).
Habitas, known for its Tulum hotel (where Paris Hilton has stayed), launched its first sustainable safari experience in 2021. Habitas Namibia, on a private estate just outside the capital of Windhoek is a boho tented lodge that puts a mindful wellness spin on wildlife immersions and serves up not just creative cuisine but vibrant music and dance performances, too (from $780 a night, ourhabitas.com).
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.