Going on an African safari tour- the adventure of a lifetime…

Ernest Hemingway once said, “I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy.” That is what an African safari tour is all about. There is something about Africa that ensures one becomes infused with its energy. People say that they never feel quite so invigorated or refreshed as they do on an African safari tour.

Going on a safari will probably be one of the best decisions you could ever make. There are just so many draw-cards to it, and it is the ultimate experience for families, couples, groups and any adventurous spirit.

But why is Africa such a dreamy destination? It can be harsh and unforgiving from the outside, but it swings to its own tune and is in a perfect state of equilibrium. The key is to fit into that rhythm and find your equilibrium.  Although the main attractions on an African safari tour are no doubt seeing the Big 5 or watching predators on the hunt, there is so much more. A safari is about peeling off the layers. There is no place on the planet where you will see such a wide diversity of big game and in large numbers. The savannahs make it easy to see the larger beasts and witness the most breathtaking sunsets.

And then you stop. You listen. You smell. And suddenly you realise how much more is actually happening around you. An African safari tour is about all of that. It’s about experiencing Africa. Do yourself a favour and ask yourself why an African safari tour should not be on your bucket list.

Africa’s beauty is beyond comparison and attracts anyone with even half an interest in nature and photography.  Given Africa’s diverse landscapes, cultural array and incredible wildlife, it’s the best place for a photographic safari tour. You have no doubt seen some of the amazing wildlife photographs out there. Many of us harbour a dream of taking a photograph worthy of blowing up and displaying on a lounge wall at home. On any safari, there is always that one beloved shot that you will show off and talk about for years.

The usual mode of transport on an African safari tour is in an open-top game-viewer vehicle. This gets you up close and personal to the larger game, and is fantastic for photography. But people are coming back for more and want different experiences. A walking safari is a unique and adventurous way to explore the African wilderness, and will slowly surpass the rewards of a traditional safari method. A walking safari adds an extra dimension to the experience.  You feel as though you are part of your surrounding environment- you are able to see, hear, touch, smell, and even taste the wilderness! Encountering Africa’s famed wildlife species on foot is a thrill that you will never forget.

Another unique African safari tour is a primate safari. Gorilla and chimpanzee trekking safaris are once-in-a-lifetime safari experiences. You can now get up close and personal with the big apes of Africa on a primate trekking safari. See our primal relatives in their natural environment in the African jungles of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.

An African safari tour can be tailor-made to fit any budget. You can opt for a camping safari tour or a self-drive safari tour through one of a few national parks, staying in their rustic chalet-style accommodation. And if you really want to do an African safari tour justice, do it in style. A luxury African safari tour is a fantastic way to experience the raw beauty of Africa, while still enjoying a comfortable holiday with all the modern necessities at hand, coupled with Africa’s incredible hospitality and service.

The team of safari experts at the Safari Index plan African safari tours and holidays every day, so if you have any questions or want any advice, get in touch with them today.

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Ezulwini: An African Safari Dream

The Safari Index team’s stay at Ezulwini’s two Kruger lodges provided the African safari experience of a lifetime

 

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The heat blazes and the stillness is absolute. A slight breeze blows. The leaves dance on the multitude of trees standing sentry over the wide, rocky river. The silence is only broken by the occasional bird call. It is midday in the African bush.

Ezulwini River Lodge and Ezulwini Billy’s Lodge are almost hidden within the thick, thorny tangle of trees and long, dry grasses that spread across the Lowveld landscape of South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park. Renowned worldwide, the Kruger is synonymous with the African wilderness. Here, lions roam freely, stealthily stalking hosts of impala, buck and even giraffe. Rare and elusive, the lithe leopard is seen silkily slipping through the grasses before disappearing. Herds of enormous, towering elephants glide gracefully across the roads. Rhinos graze lazily on the ample vegetation, just metres away from the Ezulwini safari vehicle. The expert field guides know the terrain inside out, and navigate along the maze-like network of roads seemingly unthinkingly. This is an African safari experience to write home about.

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Sunset on the Ezulwini River Lodge sundowner game drive

Guests at Ezulwini are treated to a world-class, five-star safari experience, without losing out on the wild, untamed atmosphere of the African bush. Both Ezulwini River Lodge and Ezulwini Billy’s Lodge are unfenced and open to the reserve. It is a thrilling experience to fall asleep in the comfort of your fully-furnished rondavel (traditional hut) or luxury suite, knowing that outside, wild animals roam. It is an even greater delight to sit under the stars around a roaring fire, while being treated to a traditional song-and-dance performance, before enjoying a sumptuous three-course meal in the warm company of the lodge’s other guests. A guest capacity of 20 at River Lodge and 14 at Billy’s Lodge ensures that the lodges are never overcrowded, making for a wonderfully intimate atmosphere.

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The rondavel (hut) rooms at Ezulwini River Lodge

The staff at Ezulwini are exceptional. Consistent with the familial mood at the lodge, they make an effort to learn their guests’ names, engaging in friendly conversation on game drives and at mealtimes. In turn, we were introduced to each member of staff, from the chefs and wildlife trackers to the housekeepers and receptionists. Every special need and whim was catered for, from dietary requirements to extra bedding. Josh, the main guide at Ezulwini, has an excellent knowledge of the region, and his informational dialogues about the wildlife and plant species are punctuated with charming anecdotes and witty jokes. The guides and trackers make every effort to ensure that guests get the full wildlife experience, and ensured that we spotted all of the Big 5 on our two-day stay- an incredible exploit. Josh also has a penchant for speed; it will be a long time before we forget the thrill of racing down the park roads, the wind whipping through the open safari vehicle!

A typical day at Ezulwini begins with the early-morning game drive. The 5.30am wake-up time might not seem appealing, but the fresh morning air combined with a classic African sunrise will soon make you forget your sleepiness. The earliness of the hour also gives you a better chance of seeing more animals. We saw rhino, buffalo and elephant on our morning game drives- three of the Big 5! The morning game drive lasts for approximately three hours, with a stop in an open area in the middle of the bush for tea and coffee, provided by the lodge. Breakfast in the bush is certainly a unique experience that will stay with you for a long time! After the game drive, guests are returned to the lodge for a leisurely sit-down breakfast with the other guests.

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Rhino graze metres away from the Ezulwini safari vehicle

The afternoon game drive only begins at 3.30pm. Guests can relax until lunch at the poolside, take in the incredible surroundings from the elevated viewing deck, or unwind in the comfort of the rooms, suites or main lounge and bar area. The lodge is designed in a modern, contemporary style, with uniquely African touches. The standard rooms are fashioned in the style of traditional round African rondavels (huts), with en-suite facilities and all the comforts of modern living. The huts are connected to the main area by shady walkways. There are also private luxury suites, which are situated a little further away from the main area. The ultimate in luxury, the suites have private viewing decks, plunge pools for a refreshing dip after game drives, a lounge area, and open-air showers that provide a uniquely thrilling experience.

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The main pool at Ezulwini River Lodge
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Ezulwini’s luxury suite with private plunge pool

After lunch, it is time for the afternoon game drive, also known as the sundowner game drive. Guests are again taken for an exhilarating ride through the bush, playing hide-and-seek with the wild animal species of Africa. We were incredibly lucky to be brought right up close to a male lion, which was lazily snoozing in the shade of a tree. Holding our breaths and keeping completely silent, we were humbled and awe-inspired to be within metres of this mighty creature.  After spending a while taking photographs, our guide and tracker inexplicably began to manoeuvre the vehicle off the road and right into the heart of the bush. After several hair-raising encounters with trees and tall shrubs, we were amazed to see the lion’s pride of lionesses and cubs sprawled beneath the shade of some large trees. Four of the Big 5!

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Male lion seen on Ezulwini afternoon game drive
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The lioness and her cubs

The final member of the Big 5 is the leopard, one of the most elusive and rarely-seen species on an African safari. Leopards are shy, secretive creatures that prefer to wander solo, instead of in groups like lions and elephants. And so when Josh, Ezulwini’s intrepid guide and jeep-driver extraordinaire, received the radio call that the lodge’s other safari vehicle had spotted a female leopard way over on the other side of the reserve, he put his foot down on the accelerator. We were treated to a roller-coaster jaunt across the reserve. As we slowly pulled up near to the other safari vehicle, we were instructed to be as silent as possible. We strained our eyes, peering through the thickets and branches, until we finally saw her. Long and sleek, the leopard slowly slithered from tree to bush, warily observing her visitors. We held our breaths, hardly daring to move for fear of scaring her off, the silence broken only by the whisper of the wind rustling through the leaves and branches. It was unforgettable. We had seen five out of five, in the space of just 48 hours, and plenty more besides. The bucket list is now one item shorter!

You too can book an affordable African Budget Safari – here’s how

Who said that going on an African Safari is only for the rich and famous? Well you can go on an African Budget Safari and still have an exceptional safari experience with stories to tell.

There are many African budget safari options available – you can literally tailor-make a fantastic affordable safari with the help of the team of seasoned safari experts from the Safari Index.

But first, there are a few things you need to iron out when planning your dream African budget safari. Let’s take a look at a few questions you can ask yourself when planning your African Budget Safari:

  • Where would you like to go? South Africans have a saying that “local is lekker” where some of the best holiday destinations are often right on your doorstep. Southern and East Africa are home to so many parks and reserves that it is safe to say there will be a park or reserve within a couple of hour’s drive of you at any time.
  • Once you know where you would like to go you need to decide what type of accommodation you would like. For the budget conscious – camping is always popular. Those looking at sleeping under a roof – self-catering chalets in national park camps are ever popular. These have basic kitchen equipment, linen and towels and a braai (barbeque) area in which to cook your meals under African skies. Those camping and staying in self-catering camps generally travel in their own vehicles and self-drive around the various national parks.

  • Those looking at travelling without any can opt for full board lodging at a private game lodge? Although these lodges cost more than self-catering but offer an amazing safari experience as the rate usually include one or two guided game drives each day. These affordable and cost effective private lodges offer great value for money – especially to international travellers on their first trips to Africa or going on their first safari.
  • Those looking to get the most bang for their buck look for last minute deals and great specials (such as local resident rates) where, meals and game drives are included at a very low rate.

  • Then there are alternative budget safari experiences which offer great value for money. 3-4 day wilderness walking trails are an incredible way to get truly in touch with nature at budget friendly rates.
  • An affordable budget safari tour or overland safari tour is another way to see a lot for very little. If you have 2-3 weeks or more to spare then this is the best bet for you.
  • A cheap safari doesn’t have to be a bad safari. Draw up a budget and give yourself enough time to save up for that trip. One dream trip a year is worth more in memories then several rushed holidays to cheap and nasty destinations.

The Safari Index Africa has some great African budget safaris and budget friendly game lodges which they recommend in some of Africa’s best game parks and nature reserves. The majority of game lodges, bush camps and safari tours in Big 5 areas are generally expensive given the costs of getting the various first-world luxuries in to the lodges and camps which are located in remote wilderness areas.

Visit our Safari Index’s list of recommend Affordable Safari lodges and budget safari tours today – click here to see more.

A South Luangwa Walking Safari – the ultimate safari experience

In a place where time stands still and feels like where ‘it’ all began, South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is popularly described as a wildlife anchorage and is one of the best places to go on a walking safari.

Why South Luangwa?

Any respected game ranger, safari travel agent, bush enthusiast or wildlife blogger will tell you it’s because the game populations found in this part of Africa are among the densest in the world. From the highest concentrations of hippo in the world and one of the highest leopard counts in Africa to the tens of thousands of Carmine Bee-Eaters that nest in the sand banks of the Luangwa River, all find refuge in south Luangwa.

Why a South Luangwa Walking Safari?

Why would any sane person want to do a walking safari in an area with such an abundance of big game such as South Luangwa??? Well there are a few good reasons we believe…

  1. You get a new outlook on what nature is all about

Think about how much you actually miss when you are on safari in a vehicle … When you are on foot, you are forced to look where you are going and whats around you. You start to observe the ‘whole package’.

  1. You become part of your environment

It’s amazing how quickly a person adapts to life in the bush. You start zoning in to the natural surrounds around you. You become part of it and it becomes part of you.

  1. Its all about the detail

Suddenly the world is just as much about Micro as it is Macro. You suddenly become aware of every little thing. From the tiniest bug to the beauty and mystery of a certain plant.

  1. You experience nature through 5 senses instead of one

Birdsong becomes more pronounced and you feel the wind on your skin. You smell plants and taste their fruits. You touch dung and feel the texture of bark.

  1. You de-stress properly!

There’s no rush, no traffic and most probably no signal either. You have no other choice than to switch off and retune yourself with Mother Nature.

  1. The big thrill!

The thrill of encountering a large animal such as a member of the Big 5 on a walking safari is unforgettable.

A South Luangwa Walking Safari is the new frontier of safari. Go in search of Africa’s wildlife on foot in a remarkably beautiful environment will leave you with dinner table stories for life.  A South Luangwa walking safari can range from between two to ten days. The best part is its completely flexible. Guests have the option of going on game drives in place of or form part of the walk in the afternoons and evenings, which allows one to get closer to the big cats such as lion and leopard.

Custom-made walking safaris in the South Luangwa are made to fit your particular requirements so if you want to walk decent distances every day and avoid the sounds of motors you can do so. You can even walk between different luxury bush camps, each with its own look and feel, and all situated in beautiful locations in vast private concessions in the south of the park. So you could spend every night in a new camp or base yourself out of one camp. Each camp is best enjoyed over a couple of nights in my opinion. The bush camps on a South Luangwa Walking Safari offer simple luxury at its best.

The daily walks average between 3-4 hours but can be extended or reduced if required.  After a long day of walking and tracking you can sit back and enjoy sumptuous meals while taking in the stunning views of the game-rich Luangwa River system around you. Or peer up at the starlit African skies. There is nothing quite like it.

What are you waiting for? Get in touch with the Safari Index today. The Safari Index team of safari experts can help you plan the ultimate South Luangwa Walking Safari in the arguably the best place ever – it’s that simple.

The Best Lodges For: Elephant Spotting in South Africa 

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Elephants are a must see when you’re on safari! Lodges advertised as Big 5 will have elephants on offer, but there are a few lodges that offer exceptional interactions with these gentle giants. Large numbers, herds that breed well or well behaved elephants make the experience more memorable for a first time safari goer.

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Top End Lodges
It’s all in the name – Gorah Elephant Camp says it all. Situated in the Addo Elephant National Park, this luxury experience from the Hunter’s Collection will leave you surrounded by elephants.
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Other top end lodges include the Sabi Sabi properties, the Singita lodges and the Mala Mala lodges. Chitwa Chitwa and Simbambili are also considered to be exceptional elephant hot spots and regular sightings are almost guaranteed.
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Upper End Lodges
Situated on a private concession of the Addo Elephant National Park is the lovely Nguni River Lodge. Savanna Private Game Reserve is also a top choice for elephant viewing! And the newly launched  Cheetah Plains is another great place to stay to see elephants. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, you can’t go wrong with Mkuze Falls Lodge.
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Affordable LodgesThere are a variety of affordable lodges that offer excellent elephant viewing, but the two notable lodges are Elephants Plains Game Lodge in the Sabi Sand and Tembe Tented Camp in Tembe Elephant Reserve.
Jock Safari Lodge
There are many other lodges where elephants can be viewed. We recommend using The Safari Index Africa to find the lodge that meets your criteria. Remember, when using the Safari Index’s search function you can use the detailed search to find the perfect place for your safari!

The Best Game Lodges and Safari Camps In Africa For: An Adventure

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of adventure and the rush of adrenaline. These adventure tours are unique and exciting and are some of the best ways to experience the ‘real’ Africa! They are perfect for people aged between 18 and 35, who are on a budget, but still wish to see a lot in a fixed amount of time.

Tuli Cycle Safaris

Tuli Cycle Tours

Cycling through the Northern Tuli Reserve of Botswana is one of the most enjoyable and adventurous safari experiences on offer. Led by armed and knowledgeable local guides the Cycle Mashatu Wilderness Trail provides a unique opportunity to ride at leisure along ancient elephant migration paths, cycle amongst great herds of wildlife and sleep under starlit African skies in comfortable tented accommodation. Great game viewing can be expected and on bike one gets closer than you would do on foot to the animals without the confines of being in a vehicle. Expect to see elephants, plenty of plains game and the odd predator (lion, leopard, hyena or cheetah) you may bump in to. The riding is taylor made to a groups fitness levels but usually entails a long morning’s ride followed by a scrumptious breakfast. Late afternoons guests embark on a ‘sundowner’ game drive to enjoy the always spectacular African sunset whilst sipping on a GNT or cold beer. The tours have scheduled departures and are 3 nights and 4 days. Although Mashatu is in Botswana it is easily accessible from Johannesburg and Pretoria (5 and a half hour drive) and charter flights are also available.

Kruger Wilderness Trails

Kruger Wilderness Trails

There are thousands of wildlife destinations on the African continent but few of them offer an authentic wilderness experience to tourists. Driving around in an open game drive vehicle the whole time and staying in a luxury lodge is not necessary the real thing. Staying in a rustic, primitive camp and experiencing the African bush on foot is much closer to an ultimate wilderness type of recreation. That is what we offer the more adventurous tourist – wildness, remoteness, tranquility, peace and a big bonus: no other people! Although the trails are conducted in big five areas the main aim of these trails is to have a wilderness experience. There are 7 different wilderness trails to choose from. Being on foot makes you feel part of the environment and not removed from it as you are when you spend your time in a vehicle. It tunes you in to all facets of nature because you can see, smell, hear, touch, feel and even taste wild things. Driving is a visual experience – walking is a sensual experience! There are 7 different wilderness trails to choose from.

Shayamanzi Houseboats

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Shayamanzi River Tours operates two houseboats on South Africa’s fourth largest dam – Lake Jozini. The houseboats have six and ten double rooms respectively, all with huge windows with impressive views on to the water. All rooms are en-suite (however, the toilets and shower areas are relatively small). The smaller boat has electric fans in all rooms, and the larger, more modern boat is fully air-conditioned. These become essential features in the summer months when temperatures rapidly escalate. The upstairs lounge, bar and dining area is a supremely comfortable social zone and provides the base for a jovial time where guests can catch up on sport and news with satellite TV or just laze with a good read. Tender boats ferry guests on boat safaris or on exciting Tiger fishing trips. Various land-based activities can be organised through Shayamanzi’s brother lodge Shayamoya.

 Rio Elefantes Canoe Trail

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This three night and four day canoe trail takes place on the Elefantes River that forms the southern border of the Limpopo National Park (the new Mozambique portion of Kruger). The trip starts a few kilometres down stream of the Masingir Dam wall with a maximum of 8 canoeists along with the guide and a camp assistant. Although the game viewing is not like the Zambezi Valley, guests often see elephant and hippo during the course of a canoe trail. The birdlife is fantastic and guests are woken daily by the cry of the Fish Eagle and the wail of Trumpeter Hornbills. During the day one is kept entertained by the aerial antics of kingfishers and bee-eaters. The days are spent gently paddling open top kayaks down stream while being helped along by the current and stopping at the odd sand bank to have a quick dip to cool off. A couple of fishing rods are offered to guests to try their luck at tiger fishing (bring your own if you are a serious fisherman) and although usually smaller fish are caught a few decent fish between 4 and 8 lbs have been recently taken on the river.

 Limpopo Walking Trails

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The walking trails are conducted in a private concession in the Limpopo National Park by a knowledgeable guide and park ranger. Although the Big 5 are present in the park there are lower densities of game than on the South African side. Fly camps are set up by a camp assistant before guests arrive in camp from their afternoon walk every day. The tents (maximum of eight guests per trail) are simple yet comfortable and the stretchers, mattress and sleeping bags provide for an adequate night’s sleep. A make shift toilet and shower are setup which is a freshly dug hole in the ground with a simple seat and a shower bucket tied in to the tree with a small shower rack to stand on. This helps to provide a truly authentic and wild camping experience. A small canvas wash basin is set up for each tent for guests to freshen up with in the evening and early morning. Food is prepared by the guide and ranger over the open flames. One falls asleep to some interesting night sounds that feel they are only metres away from one’s tent.

The Best Game Lodges and Safari Camps in Africa For: A Primate Safari

The African continent is home to a spectacular array of wildlife, as well as stunning natural landscapes and vistas. Among many magnificent creatures in a diverse range of habitats, you can find the famous primates. These lodges and camps allow you to get up close and personal with our close relatives in the jungles of Uganda and Rwanda. Offering gorilla and chimpanzee trekking, along with various complementary activities (including hot-air balloon trips), these tours provide the opportunity for the experience of a lifetime.

Buhoma Lodge, Bwindi

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Buhoma Lodge commands spectacular views of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. We have created an intimate, top quality lodge offering guests a cosy, relaxing environment. On occasion Mountain Gorillas have even been seen in the garden. The elevated lounge and bar area is cosy with a warm, homely fireplace in the evenings – but is open, so you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the forests, and feel like you are part of the surroundings. Eight comfortable cottages have been carefully built from local materials. Each suite has a private verandah and enormous windows, allowing guests spectacular views of the forest canopy and the Bwindi National Park. The lounge area, complete with bar and dining facilities, is the ideal venue to discuss the day’s activities. Meals are freshly prepared from local produce, offering a balance of international and local cuisine.

The Migration and Gorilla Trekking Tour

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Combine the world-famous wildebeest migration (either calving or river crossings) with mountain gorilla tracking in the wild, and you get this iconic safari. With easy access to the region by plane, you get two incredible experiences that are on most people’s bucket lists in one easy safari. Travel to the vast open plains of the Serengeti- miles and miles of grasslands, as far as the eye can see, to see the wildebeest herds moving in unison for fresh water, grazing, bunching up at rivers, teetering bravely on the edge before leaping into the churning waters, attempting to cross and avoid the crocodiles, ever-waiting for an opportunity to grab a straggler. Once you have had your fill of big game, predators, birds and incredible views, you are taken into the dark forests of Uganda, which are filled with mystery and promise. Take an exhilarating walk through pristine rain forests, with all your senses on high alert, and uncover a family of mountain gorillas. Quietly watch them as they interact, play and eat, while the youngsters romp around on the forest floor, showing off their climbing skills, making mock charges and intently studying your every move. Photographic opportunities on this safari are almost limitless: wildebeest, colourful birds, predators, and breathtaking scenery.

Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp

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Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp is the ideal base for gorilla tracking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest as it is the only luxury concessionaire within the national park. Due to its location within the rainforest, gorillas often come into the camp itself. The camp is frequented by birds, butterflies, monkeys and baboons. Refurbished in 2012, the camp has a bar and dining cottage overlooking the rainforest and a raised natural platform for open-air dining. The mini spa offers a selection of massages and treatments. There are eight tents with wooden floors and decks, and a bathtub looking out into the jungle’s canopy. The main area features a comfortable lounge and bar, as well as the main dining area. The mini spa offers a wide selection of treatments. Located within the National Park, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp offers guests an unrivaled location for the best bird and wildlife viewing in the Bwindi area.

The Safari Index is an online index of safari destinations in Southern and Eastern Africa, showcasing hundreds of game lodges, camps, game reserves and national parks in Africa.