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Luxe travel is too often summed up by summers along the Mediterranean Sea and winters in the Caribbean. And to be fair, it’s hard to resist the sparkling ports of the French Riviera and the distinctive allure of Grecian beach towns. But ultimately, there’s an entire world to see, and now might just be the time to branch out. For North American travelers, Africa is a hike, but the majesty of the continent, the uninhabited beaches, and the bucket-list wildlife adventures make the trek worthwhile.
If you’re scouting an adventure—whether a solo stint off the coast of Zanzibar, or a safari for the whole family—there are luxury African retreats to suit every travel palette. From visiting the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to taking in the annual Great Migration, your wildlife expectations will meet their match in Africa. Not to mention that at the best properties in Africa, the amenities are unrivaled. (Think: infinity pools overlooking the local elephant’s watering hole.)
Angama Mara, Kenya
A highly sought-after African safari lodge, Angama Mara is directly on The Great Migration path. The Great Migration is truly a bucket list experience—it’s when more than two million wildebeest and zebra cross the Serengeti in Tanzania on their way to Maasai Mara. The lavish tented suites at Angama Mara have floor-to-ceiling glass windows and provide a gorgeous bird’s eye view of the Maasai Mara. Angama Mara says their lodge is “suspended in mid-air, floating between heaven and earth.”
Hoanib Valley Camp, Namibia
The six canvas tents that comprise Hoanib Valley Camp are fully stocked with every luxury amenity. Not only will visitors safari in pursuit of black rhinos, but the camp isn’t far from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. The camp’s unique aesthetics are influenced by the local Hoanib and Himba tribes. In fact, much of the tents’ accoutrements (like the chairs and tables) are made by artisans from the surrounding tribes.
S.S. Sudan, Egypt
The only water-based luxury property to make the list, the S.S. Sudan is a luxury steamship that travels along the Nile River. Instead of staying at a Cairo resort, you’ll see the Valley of Kings, Aswan, and Luxor from the comfort of the ship that inspired Agatha Christie to write Death on the Nile. You can cruise on the S.S. Sudan with Original Travel, and they’ll orchestrate your luxury 12-day vacation starting in Cairo, sailing down the Nile, and winding up on the Red Sea.
Four Seasons Safari Lodge, Serengeti
The Four Seasons Safari Lodge, an American Express Fine Hotel & Resort property, has every luxurious amenity you could imagine, but it also puts you in the heart of the Great Migration. From free-standing villas to African-inspired spa rituals, and curated, all-inclusive dining experiences, you’ll get jungle seclusion with all the high-end perks of a Four Seasons. The resort is right next to a watering hole frequented by the elephants of the Serengeti, so you can interact with wildlife from the comfort of your personal plunge pool.
Mandarin Oriental Marrakech, Morocco
A Moroccan escape is an essential luxury vacation—the style, the rich cultural experience, and the distinctive architecture are just a few things that make it stand out on the high-end travel scene. The Mandarin Oriental, another American Express Fine Hotel & Resort property, does effortlessly chic in an enviable way. It’s a secluded oasis, while also being in the heart of Marrakech. The eight-bedroom penthouse has multiple private terrace plunge pools, and overlooks the lush olive groves and seemingly endless gardens.
Arusha Coffee Lodge, Tanzania
At the base of Mount Meru, a coffee-lovers paradise awaits at Elewana Collection’s Arusha Coffee Lodge. In Arusha, you’ll find one of the largest coffee plantations in Tanzania, which is why each one of the 30 plantation houses smells like fresh coffee. The luxe-yet-homey cottages are surrounded by flora and fauna and each come with a terrace, fireplace, and rain shower. And Arusha is just an hour flight from Kilimanjaro.
North Island, Seychelles
The pinnacle of private island life—so coveted that William and Kate stayed here on their honeymoon—is Seychelles’ North Island. There are 11 villas on the entire island, each equipped with personal buggies and bicycles. Villa 11—their idyllic honeymoon villa—even has a private deck “located at the furthest point on the island’s eastern coast.” The entire experience can be summed up by their private beaches, personal scuba, snorkel, or yoga lessons, and the bespoke luxury experiences the staff can create to suit your needs.
Lion Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
From lodges to optional treehouse stints, Lion Sands is a choose-your-own-adventure luxury staple in South Africa. Many of the villas, like the Ivory Lodge, come with a treehouse you can visit for an evening, if you’re craving a picnic under the stars, an open-air nap, or a new scouting post from which to spot animals. Lion Sands is about two-hour flight from Cape Town, nestled in Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve.