Published: June/July 2008World Class: Lodges + Escapes

The Next-Level Safari

Africa's answer to the Southwest (elephants included); big perks in little Honduras; and Papua New Guinea with style.

Text by Global Travel Editor Costas Christ
Photograph Courtesy of Dana Allen/Wilderness Safaris
Eco-luxury gets an upgrade in Africa's red-rock desert

Namibia is africa's version of the American Southwest. Just add lions, rhinos, and elephants. But it'd be a mistake to come here expecting the thundering herds and abundant predators of Tanzania's Serengeti or Botswana's Okavango Delta. Namibia's sights are more subtly spectacular: a single oryx traversing some of the world's highest dunes near Sossusvlei or a family of desert elephants descending a canyon trail to dig for water beneath the dry surface of the Huab River. Base your expeditions into red-rock Africa—by foot, bike, or 4x4—at Damaraland Camp, a ten-room hideout situated between the Skeleton Coast and the Etosha Pan, a sunbaked home to flagship species like the rare black rhino and the kudu ($425 per person per night, including meals; wilderness-safaris.com). June marks the start of winter (fleece nights and T-shirt days) and the end of the camp's renovations—expanded canvas-walled rooms, hand-carved tables, and open decks for sipping the perfect G&T. But if you happen to arrive during the rainy season (December to March), don't fret: The entire "season" may consist of a single downpour that turns the stark Namib—the oldest desert on Earth, where the Welwitschia plant can live for more than a thousand years—into an overnight floral display.

Must-Do: Leave the khaki-clad tour group behind. With well-paved and -posted roads (a rarity in Africa), Namibia is the continent's best self-drive safari destination ($116 a day for a 4x4; budget.com).

Greenest Acres: Central America's underrated tropical hideaway

Honduras is Costa Rica circa 1995—with unexplored wilds and beaches free of resort debris. Just stray off the north coast tourist trail and bed down at the Lodge at Pico Bonito, the country's ur-eco-retreat. Set between the 9,000-foot peaks of the Nombre de Dios Mountains and a stretch of empty Caribbean shore, the 22 pine-and-salvaged-rosewood cabins are pressure-release valves for the rugged traveler, complete with four-poster beds and polished wood floors ($180, including breakfast; picobonito.com). Spend your days biking, swimming, climbing, and trekking; your nights listening to the calls of ocelots and jaguars.

Papua New Guinea
Fly-In Anthropology: Oceania, the easy way

Don't let anyone tell you that visiting Papua New Guinea's cultural menagerie is simple. The South Pacific nation hosts some 820 distinct tribal dialects (about one in three languages still spoken worldwide) and one of the worst travel infrastructures on the planet. Thankfully, Tufi Lodge in the Oro Province has its own grass runway ($130; tufi-experience.com). The 23-room retreat's air-conditioned bungalows and seafood barbecues offer a soft counterpoint to days spent kayaking the rias—fjordlike waterways harboring uncharted reefs—and hiking footpaths into dense rain forest with village guides. In June, sit in on the neighborhood sing sing, a local festival that celebrates tribal dance, music, and body painting. You may want to start brushing up on your pidgin now.

email a friend iconprinter friendly icon   |   
Join the discussion

National Geographic Adventure is pleased to provide this opportunity for you to share your comments about this article. Thanks for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Recent Comments
  • No comments have been posted