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  • Jamie Thom

6 Unique & Wonderful Places to stay on Safari

If you are heading to Africa on a luxury safari, you may be interested to stay in one of these unique and wonderful lodge cabins, tents, floating rooms, tree-houses or sleep-outs...

1. The Highlands, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

The Highlands opened in 2016 and is one of the newest camps in the area, located about 45 minutes' drive north of the Ngorongoro Crater. It is some distancer from other camps in a forested hillside near the Olmoti Volcano. The camp's geodesic domes are unique in design – you'll struggle to find anywhere else like this in East Africa! The main attraction of The Highlands is its location – far from other camps in the area and with beautiful views – and the opportunity to do some great walks and cultural activities, all from a stunning property with good food, service and guiding. Although this not one of the closest options for the Ngorongoro Crater, the drive there is beautifully scenic past numerous Maasai villages. If you are staying for a couple of nights and looking to enjoy Maasai culture as well as the abundance of the Ngorongoro Crater, this will be a great [although expensive] choice!

2. Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya

Originally built in 1932, it has been a country house hotel since 1984 and one of Kenya's most popular destinations in the city. Most of the hotel's patch of land comprises the Giraffe Centre, and a group of these gentle creatures roams the grounds. They visit the house and gardens daily to be fed through the windows. If you're aiming to stay here, book as early as you possibly can, as rooms are often taken a year or more ahead.

Giraffe Manor is a unique and charmingly eccentric country house hotel that has enduring appeal. When it first opened, it was neck and shoulders above Nairobi's other places to stay. Now after many years, it has long outgrown its early novelty appeal, Giraffe Manor is somewhere to which people can happily return over and over again. The frequent difficulty of getting a room here, often as much as a year or more in advance, is testament to its allure, despite the price tag.

3.The Dove's Nest at The Hide, Hwange, Zimbabwe

Independent and owner run, The Hide sits in a 5km2 private concession within a north-eastern annexe of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. The Hide’s secret getaway, The Dove’s Nest, is located just 10 minutes away from the main lodge and provides the perfect elevated space from which to survey your very own private kingdom. Overlooking the open tree-lined vlei and pan where giraffe and elephants come down to drink, this platform offers the perfect vantage point to view wildlife from.

After enjoying dinner at The Hide, a guide will take you on a night drive to The Dove’s Nest, where on arrival you will given a safety briefing, supplied with a radio for your peace of mind and left to enjoy your beautiful private retreat for the night.

The Doves Nest provides you with a romantic African fairytale setting, where you can sleep out in the vast openness of the wild and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the bush that surround you. There is something quite special about the wide expanse of the African sky and with just the stars, moon and occasional call from the wild, to keep you company, you are in for a treat for your sleep out at The Hide.

4. Shipwreck Lodge, Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Marooned on Namibia’s desolate and remote Skeleton Coast, Shipwreck Lodge feels more like a film set for Mad Max, with rooms strewn out over the dunes.

They aren't haphazard structures however, but light-wood cabins with great big picture windows that bring the sea to you – without the waves and the salt-stinging wind; toasty wood burners keep the cold at bay. Colourful fabrics offset the oft-monochrome hues of your surroundings. What better way to immerse yourself in fantasy than in warmth and comfort?

Should fair weather prevail, Shipwreck Lodge is fully prepared, with sunloungers on the sea-facing deck. But if the wind rises while you’re enjoying your afternoon tea or a spectacular sunset over the Atlantic Ocean, blankets are on hand so you can cosy up and carry on.

Lining these inhospitable shores are Cape fur seals, closely followed by black-backed jackals and solitary brown hyenas, while on the ephemeral Hoarusib River, desert-adapted elephant eke out a living. So whether on foot, on a quadbike, or in a rugged 4WD, keep your eyes peeled. Even the scuttling crabs are worth seeking out.

5. Houseboat on the Chobe River, Namibia [Botswana]

At the eastern end of Namibia's Caprivi Strip, four houseboats known as the Zambezi Queen Collection, cruise the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers. Each Chobe Princess houseboat has four or five large cabins, furnished with a double or twin beds. The en-suite bathroom is fitted with a shower, toilet and hand basin, and each cabin has air conditioning and a large sliding window offering fantastic views of the changing river scenery as the houseboat glides by.

Above the cabins, the partially covered communal deck has a lounge and bar with comfortable seating in the shade, an open-air dining area, and a small plunge pool. Two of the houseboats have an upper deck where sun loungers are set out. This deck offers particularly great leverage for guests to experience the wide expanse of the Chobe River and the more secretive waterways of the Zambezi.

Each houseboat has dedicated tender boats. These are small motorboats that accompany the safariboats on their travels. A tender boat allows guests the freedom to partake in any excursions or activities best done away from the main houseboat.

All three Chobe Princess houseboats provide a memorable way to explore this lush river landscape. Whilst sailing on the Chobe River the houseboat's top deck provides an ideal platform from which to view the abundant wildlife of the Chobe National Park. Other activities offered include fishing on the Zambezi River renowned for its sizeable tiger fish and bream, sunset cruises and birding trips in the tender boats, and visits to some of the local fishing communities in the area.

Game drives in Chobe National Park are not included, but can be arranged in advance at an additional cost.

6. On a Salt Pan from Meno a Kwena or Planet Baobab, Botswana

In the dry season (June – November) the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan is a desert covered in white salt crystals. Since there is no water and no plants grow in the arid salty ground, there’s also no incentive for animals to come here. Not even mosquitoes make their way to the salt pan, that’s why you can easily sleep there without even a mosquito net around you.

After setting out onto the pans on a game drive, you arrive at camp site [nothing there!] and get set up before enjoying a barbecue. And without you even noticing it gets so dark, that the Milky Way lights up the sky like neon lights. There is virtually no light pollution over the salt pan so you’ll get one of the clearest and impressive night skies you can imagine! It’s hard to imagine how silent it can get, but the salt pan is probably one of the most soundless spots in the whole world. If you are skeptical about sleeping out there without any protection around you, just watch some shooting stars pass by and you are sure to glide into a state of delicious sleep!

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