Best Safari Lodges in Africa Safari: Lions Sands and Londolozi

A 8 day trip to South Africa 
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Take an opulent and evocative journey across the Kruger that's Inspired by Travel + Leisure's 2016 best safari lodges in Africa. From the rhino-filled wilderness of Eastern Kruger to the private reserves in the west, the 8-day safari is filled with exclusive extras; bush walks, a private treehouse, plunge pools visited by elephants, and spa treatments while overlooking the savannah. It's a thrilling big-game safari for those seeking to blend contemporary luxury with pure wilderness.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, Sweni River, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Lion Sands Game Reserve, Londolozi Game Reserve, Sabie River, Sand River

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Johannesburg – The Best City Hotel in Africa and the Middle East

Johannesburg delights in surprising visitors. It's a city of contrasts and colors, from the graffiti-laden streets of Soweto to upmarket suburbs and wine cellars, the ancient history found at the Cradle of Humankind to the contemporary innovation of the Maboneng Precinct in the heart of the city. You'll be greeted at O. R. Tambo International Airport by a local guide who will customize a day in the city. Visit Soweto and Velekazi Street, where Nelson Mandela and Desmund Tutu both lived; find the clues to human evolution at the Cradle of Humankind, where over a third of humanoid fossils ever discovered were unearthed; settle into the gastronomy of South Africa at a fine dining restaurant and private cellar; or find the vibrant edge to a city that is constantly being redefined.

The Saxon Villas and Spa provides a serene space after the international flight, as well as introduce the boutique style of accommodation on this safari. Ranked by Travel + Leisure as the 2016 leading city hotel in Africa and the Middle East, the Saxon showcases a cutting-edge take on Africa's iconic style. A spa treatment is included and the day's itinerary is flexible, so you could travel here immediately from the airport or first explore the city. Your guide can make dinner arrangements and will provide transport to any of Johannesburg's celebrated fine dining stops.

What's Included: accommodation at The Saxon Villa and Spa, airport transfer

Day 2: Kruger National Park – Luxury Safari in the Heart of the Wilderness

The scale of the Kruger can be baffling. Larger than many European countries, this vast savannah is one of Africa's oldest safari destinations, a realm that's been carefully preserved for over a century. It's home to over half the world's rhinos, a huge concentration of big cats, and an abundance of large mammals that's scarcely believable even if you were to spend two months on safari. A light aircraft takes you from Johannesburg to an airstrip in the east of the park, where it's a short drive to Sweni Lodge, a property located in a vast private concession. This is one of the Kruger's least-visited areas and there's rarely another vehicle or visitor in sight.

Check into your suite and gaze out through the floor-to-ceiling windows, the vistas alive with the wanderings of elephants, buffalos, and giraffes. Sometimes even rhinos are seen, the critically endangered mammals plodding across the thick savannah beneath the lodge. Hippos play in the Sweni River, further inspiring photos as the big game sightings start from your own suite. With this safari, you won't need excursions to see the animals. Sip a welcome glass of champagne as a zebra herd drinks below, watch baboons march past while receiving a massage, and then find a giraffe tower loping along as you tuck into lunch. The lodges on this itinerary have a discerning focus on providing service and luxury; but they're also celebrated for their location, hidden away in the areas of Kruger that have the highest big-mammal densities. At Sweni Lodge, it feels like you're floating above the river, losing yourself in the procession of wildlife that's constantly coming to drink.

After lunch, a first game drive starts to bring intimate encounters. The savannah is thick here and the trees provide a hideout for a healthy leopard population. Bumping off the trail, the guide takes you alongside an umbrella thorn acacia, where the spotted hunter languidly stretches across the high branches. Drive a little further and your heartbeat rises, four rhinos ambling past just meters from the vehicle. Next it's an old elephant bull, towering high above your head then walking onwards. By the river you find a buffalo herd, over a hundred of them creating an echoed drum roll with their footsteps across the banks. A lion pride greets them, the lionesses trying to rile the herd and separate a young buffalo hidden amongst the horns. Sometimes safari is about exploring; at times like this, it's all about sitting back and watching the drama unfold. Return to the lodge around sunset for a tranquil evening above the river.

What's Included: accommodation at Sweni Lodge, airport transfer, domestic flight, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Kruger National Park – The Evocative Big Five Wonders of the Kruger

Come on an African safari and the first focus is usually on the famous Big Five. In this wild corner of the Kruger, you might spot them all from the sanctuary of the lodge. Game drives bring moments of intimacy, like when the vehicle stops and you're surrounded by a 20-strong elephant herd. Or when a leopard decides to descend from the tree and walk straight past the vehicle. Soon you realize that no animal is seen in isolation and the whole landscape is a stage of interaction. Follow the elephants and watch a baby chase away a warthog; track the leopard as she stalks a small herd of impala; gain an insight into how size dominates who gets to drink first from the waterhole.

Today you take an early-morning game drive around Singita's private concession, the dawn start helping to reveal the most famous of safari scenes; lions hunting, big herds on the move, hyenas battling with vultures, and hippos emerging from the water. You'll return around 10 AM and can relax at the lodge through the hottest part of the day. That could mean sipping wine and champagne while watching the hippos below, a spa treatment listening to the monkeys, and lunch on a terrace high above the river. As the mid-afternoon heat slips away, the Kruger becomes active once more, the animals waking from slumber. It's the other premier time for an action-packed game drive.

What's Included: accommodation at Sweni Lodge, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Lion Sands Game Reserve – Thrilling Full-Day Drive Across the Kruger

Before most people go on a safari, they dream of seeing the famous animals, particularly lions, elephants and rhinos. In the Kruger, these mammals are so abundant that you quickly lose count of what you've seen. On a single drive, you might see two-dozen rhinos, hundreds of elephants, thousands of buffalo, plus a handful of different lion prides. The landscape keeps delivering evocative safari moments, every turn revealing another giant in their habitat. Then there are the animals that blur into the panorama, those so plentiful they become as commonplace as the trees; springbok, impala, kudu, wildebeest, zebra, baboons. Lion Sands is in the west of the Kruger and while it's possible to make the transfer by micro flight, a full-day game drive transfer is a thrilling way to explore the enormity of this world.

After the intrepid adventure across the bush, you slip into the opulence of Narina Lodge, where your wooden suite is exceptionally positioned above the water. Secluded in the trees, this lodge continues the impression of being alone in the wilderness. The lodge ranked sixth in Travel + Leisure's 2016 best of Africa. Lanterns illuminate the dinner tables beneath the trees and the odd elephant or giraffe passes as you're tucking into the main course. Safari isn't just about what you see. It's about the sounds and the smells, the sublime feeling of nature playing out uninterrupted. Through the evening you're entertained by a soundtrack of wild animals in the surrounding bush, an indelible lullaby bringing a day in Kruger to a close.

What's Included: accommodation at Narina Lodge, safari, transfer, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Lion Sands Game Reserve – Walking Safari and a Private Treehouse Above the Kruger

Over three days of game drives, some animals will have become commonplace on your panorama. On a walking safari, these animals come back into focus, their beauty more intimately revealed when you're sharing the same ground as them. Guided by skilled trackers and accompanied by an armed ranger, the walking safari allows you to share the savannah with large herds of zebra, kudu, springbok, buffalo and even elephants. By moving quietly and responding to animal behavior, the guides can get you within thrilling proximity. Your heart races, goosebumps rise across your arms; across the river there are 15 elephants splashing in the water. A little later, six zebras canter past you and a herd of buffalo returns your gaze. On a walking safari, you become part of the landscape, becoming another mammal and not appearing as a threat. It's this aspect that helps you get so close.

Following the walking safari, you return to relax at the lodge before an afternoon game drive across the Lion Sands. Part of the Sabi Sands group of reserves, this private concession is only accessible to guests, so you won't be encountering many other vehicles on the drive or walk. Tonight's accommodation elevates the immersion even further, spent at the glass-enclosed Kingston Treehouse, located above the savannah's awning of high trees. From up here you're completely open to the atmosphere of the wild, hearing every shout and spotting every mammal that roams beneath the canopy. Like always, the suite is fitted out with all the contemporary luxuries but without interrupting the authenticity of the surroundings.

What's Included: accommodation at Kingston Treehouse, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 6 – 7: Londolozi Game Reserve – Old-World Safari Along the Sand River

Celebrating its 90th year, Londolozi provides one of Africa's longest-running safari experiences. Throughout the decades, it's been a lodge that constantly redefines ideas of a journey into the wilderness, always maintaining the old-world safari feel while updating the camps to satisfy contemporary tastes. Hidden in a leadwood tree canopy, the Tree Camp is an epitome of their approach and it more than earns its place as Travel + Leisure's second best game lodge in Africa (the number one being in Tanzania). A private swimming pool is for spending lazy afternoons watching the big mammals in the Sand River below, an exceptional wine cellar complements the cuisine, lanterns illuminate the camp's decks after sundown, and your suite offers an absolute sense of privacy should you want it.

But most of all, Londolozi is exceptionally situated for wild safari encounters. A resident group of leopards occupy the savannah on all sides of the camp, many of them easily spotted on a game drive. Sometimes you hear the birds or baboons squawking and know that a leopard is prowling for a meal nearby. Hippos and elephants practically walk beneath the camp, with the pachyderms having a history of taking sips from the swimming pools. Kudus skip past at dawn while springbok have a habit of greeting you at breakfast. This is a corner of the Kruger that is never quiet, and 90 years of safari in Londolozi are a testament to providing experiences that don't interrupt the rhythm of the wild.

Twice-daily game drives are the premier means of exploration and there's a strong focus on the big cats, particularly the resident leopards. These spotted hunters are often a rare and elusive sight on safari; in Londolozi, there a regular part of the program, with two or three spotted on most days. And it's not just a leopard in the tree; it's a leopard submerged in the grass and then pouncing on an impala, or a leopard gently teaching her cub about the nuances of stealthy hunting. Lions are also abundant and favorites like rhino and elephant continue to be a regular part of the safari experience.

What's Included: accommodation at Londolozi Tree Camp, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Londolozi to Johannesburg – Departure

The Londolozi airstrip ensures an easy stress-free transition from the wild back to the city. Choose from two afternoon departures and soar back to O. R. Tambo International, where you connect onto your homebound flight. All the facilities at the lodge can be used prior to departure, after a morning game drive provides the final safari memories.

What's Included: safari, domestic flight, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$3,195
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.