Lodge safari travel guide

Lodge safari vacations give you the best of both worlds. You get to explore the African wilderness in the company of expert guides, but you’ll do so from a comfortable base, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got your own room to retire to after a long day’s drive through the plains. And unlike on a mobile camping safari, you won't have to scan the bush for predators before making a dash to the communal loo.
Lodge safaris are all about combining adventure with comfort; with days spent adventuring in the wilderness capped off by sundowners, good food and unblemished sleep
You won’t be sealed away from the wildlife though. Most lodges embody rustic luxury, so as well as a bar, a restaurant and your own cosy bed, you’ll get a verandah overlooking the wilds and you’ll be soothed to sleep by the sounds of the nature around you. You’re likely to travel between lodges during your safari to make the most of varying national parks and wildlife, but we recommend at least two nights in each, to let you relax and get to know your surroundings. Find out more in our lodge safari vacations guide.

What do lodge safaris entail?

Creature comforts

By ‘creature comforts’ we don’t mean roll-top baths, penguin-suited butlers and grand piano music tinkling over the bush; when it comes to being on safari less is usually more. We mean that unlike a bush camp safari, where you sleep in tents that you often have to put up yourself, a lodge safari offers a ‘home’ base for a few days. You’ll have your own room, hut or chalet where you can leave your belongings when you head out on game drive. And when you return after a long day out, you’ll have a shower and a comfy bed waiting for you, as well as good meal and perhaps a few sundowners.
The style of accommodation varies greatly, and you could find yourself in a low key stone guesthouse in Namibia, a traditional reed-built chalet set alongside riverbank in the Okavango Delta, a room in a sprawling lodge in Tanzania or a even a plush tent in an intimate permanent tented camp in the Zambian bush. As a rule though you’ll have your own hot shower and toilet, mosquito netting, a private front verandah and power for at least part of the day. There will be an on-site bar and restaurant, and in some cases a swimming pool.
In many cases, a stay in a safari lodge is almost as memorable as the safari itself. Many are in remote locations, involving a long and bumpy road journey through spectacular scenery, or a flight to a distant dirt airstrip, where you can spot wildlife as your plane comes into land. They also offer perks such as guided nature walks, hot air balloon safaris, and dinners, drinks or picnics served out in the bush or the desert.
Community run lodges can be particularly special. As well as placing high value on minimising environmental impact, they also help preserve cultural heritage, and promote interactions between visitors and the surrounding community. You might be welcomed back from your daily game drives with traditional singing, for example, or get to spend time in a local village.

Centre based or nomadic

Lodge safaris are extremely flexible. You could choose to base yourself in one lodge for your entire vacation, exploring different areas of the wilderness each day. Or, you could be transferred to a new lodge every two to three days, either by road or by light aircraft. This allows you to visit multiple parks or reserves, and even different countries. If you want to mix it up even more, seek out a trip where you’ll spend a few nights in a lodge and a few nights camping, either in the wild or at an established bush campsite. This provides a good balance if you don’t fancy roughing it for the entirety of your vacation.

Small group lodge safaris

On small group safaris you’ll travel in a group of around eight to 12, which is ideal for solo travelers as you’ll be able to swap stories and sundowners with a bunch of likeminded people. You usually stay at a few different lodges, and you’ll be accompanied by an experienced driver and tour leader, allowing you both peace of mind and the kinds of experiences that would be hard to organise alone.

Tailor made lodge safaris

Tailor made safaris combine the flexibility of a self drive vacation with the security and ease of a small group tour, which is great if you have a particular interest that you want to focus on, such as bird watching or photography, or if you’d like to spend a longer time in a specific place. On a tailor made vacation you can choose to be accompanied by a private guide for the entire trip, taking game drives in the same vehicle throughout; or you could choose to include transfers only, and take part in the drives and activities organised by your lodge. Whatever you prefer, your vacation company will arrange all the logistics for you.

Self drive safaris

Self drive safaris allow you the chance to see wildlife at your own pace and take rest stops whenever you want, as well as the opportunity to beat the crowds by visiting parks and reserves at less popular times of day. While self drive safaris can be difficult in some countries, Namibia and South Africa have a brilliant set up. Your tour operator can take care of all the nitty gritty – providing car hire, routes, lodge bookings and maps, and acting as emergency support should anything go wrong on the road. All you have to do is turn up with your driving licence.

Kid friendly breaks

Going on safari can be a life changing experience for children, but you have to choose your destination and accommodation wisely. On a lodge safari, kids have the comfort of a ‘home’ to return to after their game drives; and unlike a bush camping safari, there’ll be plenty to do on site, such as a pool, a communal lounge or a small library. What’s more, many lodges offer babysitting services or put on child friendly nature walks, should the kids tire of all those long drives. Tanzania and South Africa in particular both have excellent family friendly lodges and guides, while South Africa and Namibia have the lowest risk of malaria. Generally, though we’d only recommend lodge safaris for children aged eight and over, and gorilla trekking for teenagers aged 15 plus.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Lodge safari or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time to go on a lodge safari

Gorillas are present in Uganda all year round, including during the March to June wet season, so when you choose to visit depends on your own personal tolerance for rain.
The general rule for safaris is to avoid the heavy rains, which descend on East Africa in March, April, May and June. Animals are more difficult to spot, roads are prone to flooding and many lodges shut their doors. The July, August, September and October dry season offers much better conditions, though the school vacations and the Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania can make late July and August very busy. November, December, January and February can be a great compromise. There is a bit of rain, but conditions are still good for wildlife watching, and the landscape is lush. In South Africa and Botswana, the dry season of May to September is best for wildlife viewing.

Kruger Weather Chart

RAIN (mm)
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Anna Omelchenko] [Luxury lodge: The Travel Manuel] [Safari: Make it Kenya] [Gorilla: Cristoffer Crusel]