Imagine waking up in a canvas tent in the middle of a vast African safari. You pull the white flowy curtains aside to find yourself greeted by a stunning view of lines of wildebeest stringing out across the endless savannah. Further, in the horizon, you see majestic elephants shaking their ears as if saying good morning. You then head out, venturing the vast plains on the back of a jeep while marvelling at the stunning sunrise above.
A safari adventure is one of the most coveted travel experiences by those unimpressed by the typical tropical beach vacations or shopping in bustling metropolitan cities. And while it takes a bit more effort to get to a safari, it’s all worth it in the end. We mean, where else will you get to admire the Big Five in their natural habitat, sans glass enclosures and towering wire fences?
If travelling to a safari destination has always been on your bucket list but you haven’t had the chance to embark on one, perhaps this year would be the right time to take a plunge and book that once-in-a-lifetime experience. While the mention of “safari” might immediately conjure up Africa, there are other destinations such as Sri Lanka or Nepal with a variety of wildlife to rival Kenya or Nairobi. The options are limitless.
If you’re looking to go on a safari adventure but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best safaris and national parks around the world to check out this year, along with the most luxurious accommodation to retreat into at the end of the day.
Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Located in the lowlands of Southern Nepal, Chitwan National Park protects more than 932 square kilometres of forests, marshland and grassland containing a variety of animal populations. The UNESCO Heritage Site is home to the highest density of tigers in the world, as well as one of the largest populations of single-horned Asiatic rhinoceros — making it one of the best places for viewing wildlife in Asia.
Where to stay
While luxury lodges are hard to come by here, the region has seen an increasing development of new accommodation such as Meghauli Sera, a new Taj property near Chitwan National Park. The safari lodge is set on the banks of the Rapti River, with the lower Himalayan ranges as its backdrop — making for the perfect sanctuary to relax after a day’s adventure.
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Kenya’s quintessential safari destination, Maasai Mara National Reserve is a true wildlife haven covering over 1,500 square kilometres. Along with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Maasai Mara forms Africa’s most diverse and spectacular eco-systems — so there’s definitely no better place to spot the Big Five.
Where to stay
Perched high above the floor of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, Angama Mara treats guests to all-encompassing views of Kenya’s Maasai. Stay in one of the 30 well-appointed suites spread out over two camps. Activities include all-day and night game drives, walking safaris on the escarpment, community visits and hot-air ballooning.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Known as Africa’s last Eden, the Okavango Delta in Botswana is one of Africa’s last remaining great wildlife habitat, comprising permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains which provide refuge to huge concentrations of game. You can even view animals from a traditional canoe or mokoro.
Where to stay
The former royal hunting reserve of Chief Moremi, Sanctuary Chief’s Camp has been remodelled as a luxury camp in the heart of the Okavango Delta. The property is home to some of the largest suites in the area, with each pavilion featuring a tranquil outside seating area and a terrace plunge pool. The creme de la creme is the new Geoffrey Kent Luxury Suite, consisting of two pavilions and features a private bar, boma, lounge and kitchen — all serviced by a private house-keeper, waiter, guide and vehicle.
Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Yala National Park, bordering the Indian Ocean in the southeastern region of Sri Lanka, is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka. And while Yala spreads over an area of 1260 square kilometres, only one-fifth of the area is open to visitors. The park is home to Sri Lanka’s broad variety of endangered wildlife such as sloth bears, elephants, water buffalos and leopards. In fact, Yala is famous for being one of the best places in the world to spot a leopard.
Where to stay
Framed on one side by a lush tropical jungle and a saline lake on the other, Chena Huts by Uga Escapes is a spacious 7-acre property with fourteen 1130 square ft guest cabins. The well-appointed cabins each comes with a living area, bedroom, en-suite bathroom, and shaded outdoor deck with a 5-metre plunge pool. If you want to luxuriate in a refreshing bath after your safari adventure, the bathrooms feature free-standing bathtubs and twin vanity consoles.
Isalo National Park, Madagascar
Often referred to as the ‘Galapagos of Africa’, Madagascar is unlike any other safari destination in the country. Located on the southeast coast of Africa, it boasts beautiful coastlines and rugged landscapes, and are home to lemurs and other unique wildlife endemic to the island. Check out Isalo National Park, known for its wide variety of terrain including towering sandstone formations, deep canyons, palm-lined oasis and miles of grassland. It is also home to a around 340 animal speces, such as the Malagasy rainbow frog, the knob-billed duck, the bright-eyed frog and a few species of lemurs.
Where to stay
As Madagascar has barely opened up to mass tourism, luxury accommodations are a rare find. Yet, there are properties like Isalo Rock Lodge Madagascar, a modern 60-room retreat etched against the dramatic rock mountains and cliffs of the Sandstone Mountains. Each room has its own private balcony boasting views of Isalo, making it an excellent base to explore the national park.