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 is 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.