Gone are the days when luxury travel meant only pampered opulence and staid leisure for the very idle rich. Welcome to Now!…when the wealthy—and not so wealthy—are out and about, reaping the travel rewards of unforgettable experiences in very far away places, complete with unexpected levels of service and comfort. Few corners of the world deliver such dividends better than the game-rich and culture-laden lands of Africa.
And in 2015, Africa guarantees her guests top-of-the-line ways to move about, including private aircraft transport between safari camps; helicopter rides for aerial surveys; hot air balloon outings for bird’s-eye views; the latest in 4x4s; and what has been called the most luxurious train on earth, South Africa’s Rovos Rail, carrying guests in beautifully resorted Edwardian-era cars that run on track weekly from Cape Town to Victoria Falls, and points in-between.
Today’s travelers are also taking to the lakes and rivers for their wildlife viewing, moving quietly about in propelled native craft and self-propelled kayaks. Tops in waterways travel is AmaWaterways’ Zambezi Queen, specifically designed for safari river cruising on the Chobe River in Botswana’s wildlife-rich Okavango Delta; the cruises form the centerpiece of AmaWaterways’ deluxe tours combining several Southern Africa countries. And, believe it or not, the up-market, bound-for-Africa set is booking that most active of holidays, the walking safari, which got its start in Zambia and is growing in popularity with today’s more active travelers.
Most certainly, the deluxe level of safari lodges and camps sets the scene for client expectations of luxury, service and wild herds gathering just beyond the plunge pool on their terrace. From the get-go in the early 1990s, two characteristics have distinguished andBeyond lodges: The focus on conservation and the mastery of an interior design of understated elegance that bespeaks luxury in the African bush. Joss Kent, andBeyond’s CEO, points out that his company owns and manages 33 world-class lodges in seven countries, and “we pride ourselves in creating incredible guest experiences and are renowned for the caliber of our guides and lodge management teams.”
Just opened in 2014 are the andBeyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in Botswana, where each nest-like suite has a private plunge pool, and the andBeyond Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp in Kenya, where tents are outfitted with a “loo with a view” and the starting rate of $380 seems uniquely affordable for a luxury safari lodge.
defining the luxury experience in africa
According to Lucille Sive, president, Lion World Travel, “Luxury means being able to completely relax while every wish is being catered to, but still enjoy to the fullest the immediate environment. [In Africa, this means] total comfort in bush accommodations seamlessly blended with an authentic bush experience that permits getting up-close to the animals and learning more about the culture of the people through personal encounters.”
Steve Born, vice president, marketing, the Globus family of brands, adds that “it’s all about the ‘pinch me I’m dreaming moments.’ Africa in and of itself is a dream come true, but combining the wonders of the wildlife with exclusive inclusions—we call them ‘Local Favorites’—brings the experience to another level, with luxurious elements also including those amazing lodges and small group ambiance.”
keep an eye on…
Sive points out that “Mozambique is one of the best-kept secrets, a perfect complement to a Southern African safari, and with its hundreds of miles of incredible beaches and stylish little romantic resorts, it’s definitely a great honeymoon destination.”
Born adds that, “Certainly up-and-coming is Botswana, which we offer on our Monograms’ Wilds of Botswana & Victoria Falls package, as well as an extension on our Globus’ Splendors of South Africa & Victoria Falls. Often, we’ll use an extension as a measure of popularity and operations before adding a core tour. Once added, we are committed to a destination’s star power.”
“I think it will be South Africa,” says Sive, “as it has the best infrastructure and has so much to offer a first-timer to Africa. However, I believe that Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya will remain high on people’s bucket lists.” Born, too, thinks that South Africa and Kenya are at the top of the list for most travelers, pointing out that, “What’s hot is Kenya, and it will remain hot, as it has the staying power of the ultimate African safari destination. Between Globus and Monograms, we have six 2015 vacations that include Kenya. South Africa continues its strong growth for us as well.”
new luxury programs
“We have some really nice new luxury itineraries,” says Sive, pointing to “The Pearl of Africa with Rovos Rail; The Art of Travel with the accent on accommodations with incredible art; and The Royal Treatment—the name speaks for itself. The gourmet entry is Ultimate South African Wine and Food Experience, which visits some of the lesser known vineyards favored by connoisseurs.” The last itinerary includes Cape Town, Cape Winelands, and Sabi Sabi Sands-Kruger National Park, with accommodations in the Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge; priced from $9,200 pp dbl.
Globus, meanwhile, has debuted the 14-day Kenya Private Safari with Gorilla Trekking under the Monograms lineup. It’s a Nairobi to Entebbe itinerary that takes travelers into the wild in Amboiseli, Samburu, Nakuru and Maasai Mara national parks and reserves in Kenya. Then it’s off to Uganda to spend two days gorilla trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to almost half of the world’s population of mountain gorilla. Priced from $7,749 pp dbl.
africa with goway
Who’s the winner of the off-the-charts luxury tour prize of the year among new tours out in the Africa marketplace? Probably Goway, with its 32-day Cape to Cairo Ultimate Journey of a Lifetime, an epic itinerary that starts on a train in South Africa and finishes on a Nile cruise in Egypt, and includes many life-changing, “bucket list” experiences.
“Holidays of a Lifetime is traditionally our ‘extraordinary’ category brand, but I believe we have raised the luxury ante to an ‘Ultimate Journey of a Lifetime’ with this program,” says Bruce Hodge, president and founder of Goway. “We will ride the rails aboard the most luxurious train in the world, the Rovos; will stay in such iconic hotels as Mena House by the pyramids in Cairo and the legendary Victoria Falls Hotel; watch the famous Serengeti migration in the ‘best seat in the house’ at the Serengeti Under Canvas camp; go on game drives in the Selous Reserve, the largest on the continent; trek with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda; explore monolithic rock-hewn, World Heritage site churches in Ethiopia; and see the pyramids along the Nile in Egypt.”
Hodge, Australian-born and an avid traveler for whom only Ethiopia is a new destination, will accompany the Cape to Cairo Journey, departing Jan. 16, 2016, and priced at $44,500.
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue-archive):
Rwanda & Uganda: In the Footsteps of Gorillas (July 2014)