Africa boasts some of the most remarkable wilderness experiences in the world, and with a wave of new lodge openings this year, it now has the accommodation to match.
Citizen Femme had the tough task of whittling down dozens of new lodges and camps to produce our hotlist of the most exciting new properties in Africa.
A bit of Safari Chic doesn’t go amiss. Lisa Haynes gives us the ultimate packing edit for wowing in the wilderness.
SAFARI PACKING EDIT
Read on to start dreaming of Africa’s remarkable new luxury lodges.
Shipwreck Lodge, Namibia
Seclusion is the name of the game. Hidden in the raw, rugged landscape of Namibia’s rarely visited Skeleton Coast National Park, looking out across the Atlantic Ocean, Shipwreck Lodge feels as if it is clinging to the very edge of the world. The dunes of the desert form a spectacular backdrop, and in spite of first appearances, they are far from empty: this is the homeland of desert adapted elephant, giraffe, lion, and baboon. Colonies of seal lounge along the rocky shoreline, and korhaan, lark, and chat circle in the skies overhead.
The striking lodge architecture is inspired by the shipwrecks dashed along the shore, and you can see the influence in the building materials as well as the shapes. Each of the 10 wooden cabins sleeps two and has solar power and a wood burning stove. Communal areas include a lounge and restaurant with wrap around deck, and there’s always a 4×4 on hand to take you on desert excursions.
Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
Not only Bond villains live in volcanoes: in Rwanda, critically endangered mountain gorillas do, too! The remarkable Bisate Lodge is nestled in an extinct volcano cone in the Volcanoes National Park. Each thatched villa is shaped to look like a gorilla nest. They are part-hidden by the forest canopy, but oriented so that you still have jaw dropping views from the decks.
Natural materials and colours feature prominently in the lodge’s design: expect arching timber ribs, stone fireplaces, and stylish furniture made of wicker or reclaimed wood. The sumptuous bedrooms have king size beds and open out onto private terraces. Every stay contributes to biodiversity conservation and the uplift of local communities, and you will have the rare privilege to trek through the jungle with a scientist in pursuit of semi-habituated families of mountain gorilla.
Little Mombo, Botswana
Little Mombo was completely rebuilt this year, and it’s now without doubt the most exciting place to stay in Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve. There are just three tents in this secluded part of Chief’s Island, all shaded by jackalberry and sausage trees.
Calling Little Mombo’s rooms “tents” is really a misnomer: we can guarantee you won’t ever have seen tents quite like this. Beneath the canvas roofs are expansive villas which seem to be channelling Japanese ryokans in their unbleached fabric panelled walls and wooden screens. Soak in the freestanding gold bathtub at night as you listen to the lion roar, or relax on the deck as herds of elephant and giraffe wander by. The camp has a beautifully situated pool, lounge, and boma where you can sit around the bonfire each night sharing stories and looking up at the stars.
Zuri Zanzibar, Tanzania
There is a part of paradise floating in the Indian Ocean: its name is Zanzibar. This Spice Island is a melting pot of East African, Indian, and Middle Eastern cultures, and its tropical beaches are breathtakingly beautiful. Zuri Zanzibar — a member of Design Hotels — sits on the island’s northern tip, each villa opening out onto pristine white sands and then azure waters beyond.
Unlike the other properties in this CF hotlist, Zuri Zanzibar is substantial in size, with around 55 bungalows, suites, and villas. The advantage of this is that has a superb selection of facilities, including the MUAU Wellness spa, an outdoor gym and yoga areas, and a gorgeous long infinity pool. Make full use of the WIMBI Water Sports Centre and the PADI Diving School: activities are included in your stay. Choose a villa with your own stretch of semi-private beach, an open air jacuzzi, a breezy living area, and lush gardens outside.
One & Only Nyungwe, Rwanda
Rwanda gets a double billing in our hotlist, but justifiably so. One&Only Nyungwe House throws open its doors for the first time this October in a jade green wilderness where untouched forests run into rolling tea gardens. Wild chimpanzee inhabit the surrounding trees and the early morning mist that hangs in the air makes this destination seem nothing short of magical.
The lodge’s contemporary, predominantly monochrome interior design is juxtaposed with the natural environment you see through the full length walls of glass. The treatments in the open air One&Only Spa are influenced by the plants and herbs of indigenous healers, and the chefs, too, will be taking their inspiration from the Rwandan rainforest.