Published: November 2008
Top Savanna Lodges
Perfecting the green safari
Text by Global Travel Editor Costas Christ and Kate Siber
Basecamp Masai Mara, Kenya
Key Features: wildlife, local culture, family

Basecamp's backyard teems with wildlife, but the coolest part of staying in this rustic tented camp, a 45-minute flight from Nairobi, is getting to know your Maasai hosts. Gossip with bejeweled, statuesque Maasai women, learn about local trees' medicinal uses, then listen to guides tell warrior stories around the campfire.
+ Doubles from $560; basecampexplorer.com

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Retreat, South Africa
Key Features: luxury, active adventures, wildlife, local culture, family

Bushmans could be the world's largest outdoor art gallery. This 18,500-acre reserve north of Cape Town is home to 130-plus rock-art sites, dating back 10,000 years. The stylish lodge funds environmental organizations and local schools. Fly-fish, mountain bike, and canoe around the starkly beautiful Cape Floral Kingdom, a World Heritage site.
+ Doubles from $460; bushmanskloof.com

Caiman Ecological Refuge, Brazil
Key Features: active adventures, wildlife, local culture, family

Caiman Ecological Refuge, spread across 131,000 acres of the Pantanal wetlands, is equal parts sustainable beef farm and conservation project. Three ranch-style lodges have helped save large swaths of the Pantanal from the ill effects of traditional cattle ranching. But what you’ll notice are the macaws, capybaras, and giant otters on bike, canoe, and horseback rides through the vast, seasonally flooded grasslands.
+ Doubles from $448; caiman.com.br

Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya
Key Features: luxury, wildlife, local culture, family

Owned by local Maasai, Campi ya Kanzi has exclusive access to some of Kenya’s most biodiverse areas between Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks. Learn how to track wildlife in Land Rovers and on hikes, then return to solar-powered cottages made of lava rock and sustainable timber.
+ Doubles from $1,100, plus $200 daily conservation fee; campiyakanzi.com

Il Ngwesi Lodge, Kenya
Key Features: wildlife, local culture

According to anthropologists, Kenya's Northern Frontier District is home to some of the last vestiges of indigenous culture in Africa. Il Ngwesi, an assemblage of thatch huts about a hundred miles from Nairobi, is designed to support the community as an alternative to poaching. Learn how to stalk wildlife on foot by following tracks, scat, and calls with an expert local guide.
+ Doubles from $380; lewa.org

Kleins Camp, Tanzania
Key Features: luxury, wildlife, local culture

With just ten sinfully luxurious cottages on this 24,800-acre reserve, Kleins Camp feels like your own private Serengeti. It also happens to be smack in the middle of wildebeest and zebra migration paths. View uncountable numbers of these peaceful herd animals on bush walks before “sundowner" cocktails overlooking the wooded hills, grasslands, and marshes of the Northern Serengeti.
+ Doubles from $1,080; kleinscamp.com

Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Key Features:luxury, active adventures, wildlife, local culture

Phinda was once depleted farmland, but thanks to outfitter CC Africa, it's now home to seven ecosystems and endangered black rhinos, protected by trained game wardens who were once poachers. The 16 bush-ensconced, glass-walled suites in the reserve's Forest Lodge are ideal perches to tick off the Big Five.
+ Doubles from $764; ccafrica.com

Vumbura Plains Camp, Botswana
Key Features: luxury, wildlife

The Okavango, encompassing thousands of square miles of floodplains, is a paradise for avian species and megafauna. Vumbura, set on the delta's northern edge, has minimalist-chic suites with private lounges and plunge pools overlooking the plains. The lodge also offers the best way to sneak up on those wattled cranes and rare Pel's fishing owls: the mokoro, a traditional dug-out canoe.
+ Doubles from $2,050; vumbura.com

Zibandianja Camp, Botswana
Key Features: luxury, wildlife

The South Africa-based, wildlife-focused Great Plains Conservancy raises funds through tiny, high-end lodges like the newly opened Zibandianja. Located in Botswana's 300,000-acre Selinda Reserve, this was once an active hunting area but now houses a thriving elephant population. Gaze over savanna alive with hippos, lions, and antelope from one of four palatial tents.
+ Doubles from $2,050; selindareserve.com

Amboseli Porini Camp, Kenya
Key Features: wildlife, local culture

Situated in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro amid the innumerable elephants, lions, and gazelles of the private 15,000-acre Selenkay Conservancy, the Amboseli Porini Camp is the Africa of picture books. Snap photos of the continent’s superstars as well as the area’s booming population of birds of prey before returning to one of nine guest tents, with solar-powered lights and Maasai goatskin rugs, among acacia trees.
+ Doubles from $740; porini.com