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Luxury #safari vacations
You’re in the middle of the African bush. A #lion roars in the distance, #hippo are submerged in a nearby waterhole, and you’ve just seen a herd of elephant march in a line across the plains, silhouetted against the setting sun. Then, you arrive at a spot illuminated by lanterns, a table is set up for dinner and meat is sizzling on the grill. You’re handed a drink and soulful singing accompanies your sundowner.
This is the kind of experience a luxury safari can bring. Add to that camps and lodges that redefine the concept of a tent, where you have your own pool and a deck that provides a front-row seat to wildlife. And, your stay is sprinkled with extra touches, from the intimacy of private game drives, bush walks and boat trips to the guides whose knowledge, passion and personalities make each day memorable.
Botswana is the frontrunner when it comes to luxurious safari experiences. The country has a low-volume, high-quality ethos, meaning fewer, smaller camps that offer a more personal experience and a lower environmental impact.
One of the best is Zarafa Camp in the private Selinda Concession of the northern Okavango Delta. You can arrive by helicopter for that extra touch of class.
The camp has just four large tented rooms, each with a private plunge pool overlooking the Zibadianja Lagoon. Wood, brass and copper fittings evoke the early days of African exploration, and open, netted sides allow the smells, sounds and light breezes of the bush to enter your open-plan bedroom.
You can sit out on your private deck as you wait for wildlife to come into view. Herds of elephant often wander up to cool off, bee-eaters and fish eagles zip and soar over the water, and you might hear the distant roar of lion.
You’re treated to three-course dinners of grilled meats, fresh vegetables and salads, all served around the candlelit communal dining table.
Zarafa is one of the only camps in Africa to provide top-of-the-range cameras and binoculars for you to take on the twice-daily private game drives. And, as well as being nature experts, the guides are trained in helping you make the most of photography opportunities. You can also head out with them on bush walks for a more detailed look at the ecosystem.
For a luxury safari in South #Africa, the Sabi Sand #Wildtuin private reserve offers a quieter, more exclusive alternative to the bordering #Kruger. Wildlife is free to roam between the two, so you have just as much chance of seeing the #BigFive, along with wild dog, giraffe, cheetah and many other animals, but without the crowds.
There are also fewer camps and lodges in Sabi Sand Wildtuin, and they’re all of a high quality. Dulini Safari Lodge in the north of the reserve offers six stone-and-thatch cottages, each with a plunge pool overlooking a dry riverbed, where you often see elephant digging for water. You have your own well-stocked bar, and a private butler should you prefer to dine in your room.
Ebony and leadwood trees shade the main lodge, which contains a library and lounge. You can indulge in a massage on the veranda, overlooking the surrounding wilderness.
Meals are shared in the boma, an alfresco dining area, beside the open fire pit. Expect grilled red meats and chicken, fresh fish, couscous and salads, platters of fresh fruit and eggs cooked to order. There’s also an extensive wine cellar.
The guides knowledge of the bush, is encyclopaedic after 15 years of guiding. They have excitement at each new animal encountered, even though they tread these paths almost every day. It’s an enthusiasm you can’t help but share.
The wild, untamed nature of Zambia, along with relatively few visitors, makes it an excellent destination for a luxury safari. And, you could pair a safari in South #Luangwa with a visit to #VictoriaFalls without leaving the country.
I recommend staying in one of #Chinzombo Camp’s six large, modern villas set beside the Luangwa River. You can relax by your own plunge pool or by the main infinity pool, and head out on drives and boat safaris in search of game. The area is particularly known for its leopards, but you’re also likely to see elephant, lion and a wide range of birdlife.
Zimbabwe might not be the most luxurious of safari destinations… yet. But, on the horizon is a great deal of investment in the country’s safari offerings. New camps and lodges are set to spring up and raise the bar when it comes to facilities and service.
That’s not to say this level of quality isn’t already available. In #Hwange National Park you can stay at #Somalisa Camp, set on an acacia-strewn island within a seasonal floodplain. Traditional in style with its seven canvas tents and raised wooden decking, it has been finished to a high standard. Glass wood-burners are fitted in the rooms, copper bathtubs hide behind red-brick walls and rugs are made from African textiles.
The main camp overlooks a natural waterhole. Soaking in the wraparound pool, you can watch elephant come and go — there’s even a dedicated ‘elephant pool’ where they can drink just below the deck.
Zimbabwe claims some of the best-trained guides on the continent, with a particular focus on walking safaris. As you explore the bush on foot, your guide will open your eyes to the intricacies of its flora and fauna. You might learn how to identify animal tracks (and dung), hear how termite mounds are made, discover the different uses of trees and plants, or focus on birdwatching.
Luxury extensions to your safari
Beach stay in #Mozambique
A safari followed by a beach stay is a tried and tested combination. Mozambique is arguably the most luxurious option, and it’s easy to reach from anywhere in southern Africa (usually via #Johannesburg).
Many of Mozambique’s lodges reside on small islands that you can only reach by boat or helicopter. Azura Benguerra, is set on a tiny island in the #Bazaruto Archipelago. Picture soft white sands, clear turquoise waters plied by traditional dhow sailing boats, and palms swaying in the breeze.
The property’s 20 thatched villas open straight onto the beach. They have their own pool and a deck where you can lie in the sun or the shade listening to the ocean. You also have a private butler, who can arrange anything from in-room massages to water activities.
Because this stretch of beach is quite tidal, you’re taken out by speedboat to snorkel or dive in the surrounding marine reserve. You could also hop between some of the archipelago’s other islands, pausing for a picnic lunch, or go horse riding. In the evening, enjoy a sunset dhow cruise or a private candlelit dinner on the beach.
Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe
It’s easy to combine a safari in Zambia or Zimbabwe with a visit to Victoria Falls.
On the Zambia side, rather than staying in Livingstone you could base yourself at Thorntree River Lodge, right on the banks of the #Zambezi in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. The 12-room lodge has a contemporary design but retains a traditional feel thanks to its canvas roofs. From the deck, you can take a dip in the pool while looking out over the river.
Over on the Zimbabwe side, just outside the main town of Victoria Falls, Old Drift Lodge offers a similar experience. The lodge is set along the riverbanks within Zambezi National Park, and you arrive by speedboat. Its 14 canvas rooms each has a private plunge pool, and you can gaze over the river while soaking in the roll-top bathtub.
From both lodges, as well as visiting the falls, you can take leisurely sunset cruises along the river, looking out for hippo, crocodiles and birdlife. Game drives through the parks give you a chance to see rhino, elephant, giraffe, zebra and antelope.
#Sossusvlei’s dunes, #Namibia
Before or after a safari in Namibia’s #Etosha National Park and arid Damaraland, I highly recommend spending a few days exploring the burnt-orange dunes and stark salt pans of Sossusvlei, in the #Namib-Naukluft National Park.
The landscape here is unlike anywhere else in Namibia. For a start, it’s home to some of the highest dunes in the world, which you can explore on foot, by quad bike or on horseback. The shimmering white-clay salt pans and wizened petrified trees, contrasted with the (hopefully) clear blue sky, make for excellent photographs.
Base yourself at Little Kulala, a modern lodge with 11 stone-built rooms surrounded by windswept sand dunes. A private gate leads into the park, allowing you to get there early and pick a good spot for watching the sun rise over the desert (followed by a champagne breakfast). On calm, clear nights, you can sleep up on the roof, with nothing but mosquito nets separating you from the star-scattered sky.
Luxurious South Africa & Victoria Falls
South Africa and Zambia
10 days from $10,450pp
Luxurious Luangwa & Lower Zambezi
9 days from $13,995pp
Luxury Botswana safari
10 days from $21,950pp
Contact #EliteTravel to arrange your luxury safari!
Best National Park Islands Around the World
If secluded beaches and untamed nature speak to your inner adventurist, an island adventure might be for you. But where to start?
How about the best #nationalparkislands around the world. These islands are snapshots of perfectly preserved ecosystems and communities that date back hundreds and thousands of years. From the far reaches of the South Pacific and the Northeast of the United States, to 600 miles off of Ecuador and the coasts of Okinawa, there are so many spectacular islands that are not only visually stunning and diverse in scenery, but integral to the study of biodiversity.
Some of these islands are well-known and easily accessible to travelers, while others are far more remote and offer a complete escape from the rest of the world. No matter if you need a quick day trip from your Caribbean vacation, or want to disappear off the map entirely, Robinson Crusoe style, these are the best national park islands around the world.
#Whitsunday Islands National Park, #Australia
Close your eyes and picture heaven. Odds are you’re picturing Whitsunday Islands National Park without even realizing it. Lush, verdant islands ringed in powder white sand slope gently out of an aquamarine sea.
The islands sit off the coast of #Queensland and are famous around the world for their translucent waters, secret beaches, and eye popping coral reefs. The park protects 32 islands, including the eponymous Whitsunday Island, known for #WhitehavenBeach and its white silica sand.
What to do when you get there? Lace up hiking boots and hit one of the many miles of trails, or strap on a snorkel mask and peruse the brilliant coral reefs, which are protected by the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Visitors can access the park via private boat or commercial boats, which depart from Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour in Queensland.
#CocosIsland National Park, #CostaRica
Leave the mainland of Costa Rica behind and enter a veritable, real life Jurassic Park. More than 350 miles from #Puntarenas on the Pacific coast, Cocos Island commands attention as the jungled rock face juts out from the sea.
The entire island is a humming haven for tropical animals, birds, and marine species. And because of its isolation, visitors will feel as if they've left the modern world altogether.
Cocos Island National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the only island in the eastern Pacific with a tropical rainforest. Visitors can immerse themselves in the spectacular diving (as it is one of the best places in the world to view sharks, stingrays, tuna, and dolphins). The island is only reachable by boat and is only open for day tours. Boats leave from Puntarenas.
U.S. Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands
You don’t need to travel to the ends of the earth to find epic island beauty. You don’t even need a passport. The U.S. #VirginIslands National Park is a slice of aquamarine heaven that is entirely our own.
Beyond beautiful beaches (which are spectacular, to say the least), there are ruins of former plantations, petroglyphs carved by the indigenous Taino people, coral reefs for snorkeling, and a home base for monitoring endangered sea turtles.
The park covers about 60 percent of St. John Island, and is crisscrossed with more than 20 hiking trails and unspoiled beaches like Hawksnest Bay and Trunk Bay. To reach St. John, take a ferry from Red Hook, St. Thomas.
#Acadia National Park, #Maine
Epic sunrises greet rugged, craggy coastal landscapes blanketed with towering pine forests. Acadia National Park in Maine is predominantly located on Mount Desert Island, with the rest of Isle au Haut, a smaller island 20 miles south of Mount Desert.
For more than 100 years the park has been a favorite pilgrimage for leaf peepers because come mid-September the forests erupt in oranges, yellows, and reds. A 27-mile Park Loop traverses the island’s lakes, forests, and seven mountains. There are also more than 150 miles of hiking trails and 50 miles of carriage roads. Be sure to snap a shot of the famous lighthouse.
#ChannelIslands National Park, California
Whale watching, kayaking through rock caves, amazing wildlife, and hiking over towering cliffs that tumble down to the sea — this is what you can expect when you visit Channel Islands National Park off the coast of #Ventura.
The park is made up of five islands, which were formed thousands of years ago. Home to blue whales, seals, sea lions, and the largest colonies of seabirds in Southern California, Channel Islands National Park is a wealth of biodiversity. Visitors can take the day trip across the Santa Barbara Channel to explore the islands.
Overnighters can book a campsite on all five of the islands, as well. Painted Cave is popular for adventurous sea kayakers, as it is one of the world's largest sea caves at nearly a quarter mile long.
#ChristmasIsland National Park, Australia
Officially part of Australia, but in actuality closer to Java, Indonesia, Christmas Island National Park is a visual wonderland in the Indian Ocean.
Sixty-three percent of the island is protected by national park, but most of the world knows the island as a place for people seeking asylum. It's a melange of cultures, from Chinese, Malays, Sikhs, English and Australian. But the island's biggest population belongs to the red crab. Tens of millions of red crabs live on the island and are an integral part of its ecosystem as they help in recycling nutrients of the rainforest.
The island's greatest site is the migration of the red crabs, as millions of them scuttle down to the beaches to lay their eggs, usually between October and December. It's a brilliant parade of crimson and orange as the crowd shivers with the movement of this great natural phenomenon.
#DryTortugas National Park, Florida
Be prepared to test out your sea legs when visiting this national park. Seventy miles off the coast of Key West is this remote, aquatic national park, where less than 1 percent of the park is actually on dry land.
Seven small islands lie in the middle of pristine, Caribbean-colored waters teeming with coral reef and marine life. There are also shipwrecks and a moat wall waiting to be discovered below the water's surface. The park is only accessible by boat or seaplane, but camping is available on Garden Key.
Here you'll also find Fort Jefferson, which was used a prison during the Civil War.
#MorneTroisPitons National Park, Dominica
Misty mountains disappear underneath lush tropical forest, while majestic waterfalls tumble from towering cliffs in the distance. Volcanoes sleep on the rim of canyons, while the surface of lakes bubble at boiling temperatures. This other world paradise is Morne Trois Pitons National Park on the island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles.
The centerpiece of the park is Morne Trois Pitons, a volcano that reaches 4,402 feet high— part of the highest mountains in the Caribbean. Other landmarks include hot springs, three freshwater lakes, and Boiling Lake, which, as its name suggests, reaches boiling temperatures near the center.
Travelers can reach Dominica via air from Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, or St. Martin.
#Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Unleash your inner Khaleesi on Komodo Island and discover the real-life Komodo dragons. These reptilian giants traverse the mossy mountains, wandering down to sandy beaches that outline stunning blue waters. The island, part of the Indonesian archipelago, was developed a national park in 1980 with the purpose of preserving its mythological resident, the Komodo dragon.
Today the park has been expanded to protect all of its wildlife on both land and sea. The park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and comprises three islands: Komodo, #Rinca, and #Padar, which are between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. Divers love Komodo for its epic dive sites, as well.
The best time to visit Komodo is April through December. The island has a few resorts, as well. Most people visit the park through Labuan Bajo in Flores or Bima in Sumbawa. But the main point of departure is Bali.
#Galapagos National Park, Ecuador
Prepare to visit the ultimate Mighty Kingdom. The Galapagos Islands are some of the most sought after islands in the world for biodiversity and sheer natural beauty. Six hundred miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador, there are 13 major islands and seven smaller ones that make up the archipelago.
Originally the islands were formed from volcanic rock, and today is one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. Charles Darwin was one of the first to visit the islands to study its natural history. It was from this journey that he began to form his theory of evolution.
See albatrosses, Sally Lightfoot crabs, Frigate birds, sea lions, and more. Another selling point of the Galapagos? It has year-round good weather so there's truly no bad time to visit. Flights depart from Guayaquil or Quito daily.
#KeramaShoto National Park, Japan
Off the coast of Okinawa is a tropical island paradise. The Kerama Islands are jewels of Japan that rise up from crystal clear Caribbean-esque waters. Forty miles from Okinawa, Kerama Islands feel like a completely different world.
There are more than 30 islets and a few rock reefs that make up the entire park. It's one of the best spots in Japan for whale watching and snorkeling. Ferries stop on the larger islands: Tokashiki, Zamami, and Aka.
On these islands, and the smaller surrounding ones, explore local villages, walking routes, mountain hikes, and beautiful brightly colored flora.
National Park of #AmericanSamoa
Dubbed the "#IslandsofSacredEarth," it's not a stretch of the imagination to see why. This park is one of the most unique parks in the United States — probably because it's located nowhere near the United States.
American Samoa is a territory in the South Pacific, and the national park is nothing short of an iconic tropical paradise. More than 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii, this is the most remote national park in the country, so bear in mind that means usual U.S. Parks services should not be expected. Instead, visitors will find an authenticity unparalleled anywhere else, from remote villages to coral sand beaches, and rare flora and fauna.
The park is on three islands, #Tutuila, Ta'u, and #Ofu, all of which are wrapped with tropical rainforest. Another 4,000 acres of the national park is underwater. Currently the only way to reach American Samoa is via Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu, or from flights via Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji.
#KeppelBay Islands National Park, Australia
Surrounded by the magnificent Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, these 13 islands off the coast of Queensland not only form Keppel Bay Islands National Park, but are the home to the indigenous Konami-Woppaburra people.
Highlights of the park include private beaches and bays, mesmerizing cliffs, and playful sea turtles that breed around the islands. Seven of the Keppel Islands are outfitted for camping, and others have picnic facilities for those who plan to make it a day trip.
#PrinceEdwardIsland National Park, Canada
Purple skies, cobalt water, and fiery orange rock are just a few of the visuals that you'll take away from Prince Edward Island National Park. The park sits on the island's North Shore, with seven beaches and more than 25 miles of hiking and biking trails.
A portion of the park, which was added in 1998, has archaeological findings that date back 10,000 years. Lovers of the childhood book series "Anne of Green Gables" can explore the world of author Lucy Maud Montgomery, as well, as the island was the inspiration for the beloved series.
Explore Green Gables Heritage Place, which has the original house of Lucy Maud Montgomery, gardens, farm, and a historic forest trail.
#LucayanNationalPark, Grand Bahama, Bahamas
Want the beauty of the Bahamas minus all the people? Skip the tourist trail and head to this spectacular slice of natural beauty.
Lucayan National Park, on Grand Bahama, is a 40 acre park that has one of the longest underground cave systems in the world, which can be viewed via a short footpath. Diving is only granted with specific permission so as to preserve the ecosystem.
Explore the secretive mangrove forest by kayak, or lay out on the pristine Gold Rock Beach. The park is 25 miles east of Freeport.
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