News & Reviews News Best luxury safari lodges in Botswana

Botswana offers some of the best luxury safari experiences—and some of the priciest, but who’s counting? Beyond the spectacle of cute and cuddly animals killing each other, Botswana’s lodges are conveniently close to each other. A short flight can transport you to entirely new landscapes with different wildlife viewing opportunities.  If you’re “most people” (I know, I know, you’re an individual and beyond the intellect of the hoi polloi) then you would spend 3-4 nights per lodge, so the opportunity to conveniently move around gives Botswana an edge over the competition.  Most lodges are near the Okavango Delta and offer a variety of activities, from mokoro (canoe) rides and boating to traditional walking and vehicle safaris.

Here are the best luxury lodges.

Xigera

The OG of Botswana luxury lodges.  OG meaning OhGoditsexpensive.  However, you do get something for your money, notably the finest lodge in Botswana.  The amount of money spent here is apparent at every moment, particularly around the bar and dining areas, but none more so than the rooms.  The detailing, local art work and design is exquisite.  The rooms are extremely comfortable and spacious, with fantastic food, top-notch service and the joys of air conditioning.  Do not underestimate or disrespect how great air conditioning is on safari.  Just don’t come here expecting a wildlife extravaganza; it’s more about water experiences and the occasional lioness sprinting across the plains. But hey, at least you’ll have the best milkshake of your life while waiting for the game drive.

Jao

Speaking of stunning designs, Jao.  It boasts stunning wooden artistry throughout, offers an abundance of space and has such an elegance to it, without ever distracting from the real showstopper: the views of the Okavango.  Their big focus is around wellness, with a small yet photogenic pool area called “the nest,” and a beautiful spa with near-addictive levels of treatments.  The food is superb too.  Ok, so there’s no air conditioning, which makes it feel like the sun has crashed into your face, but the gorgeous, spacious, open-planned rooms are still a sight to behold.

Like Xigera, it’s more of a chilled experience than a bustling safari heart-pounding thrill.  As a lodge, it’s almost flawless; as a safari experience, it’s more relaxing. If you’re after high-octane adventure, you might want to look elsewhere.

Mombo

Mombo, known as the “Place of Plenty,” lives up to its name with abundant wildlife sightings and luxurious accommodations. Mombo is the perfect blend of luxury and adventure, making it a must for a trip to Botswana.  Whilst it’s approaching six years since they rebuilt it, it still feels very fresh.  It’s not quite at the standard, as a camp, of Jao and Xigera, but in terms of the experiences it far surpasses them.  And isn’t that what safari is all about?  Otherwise, it’s like going to an NFL game because you want a hotdog and then leave.

Let me not make Mombo sound like an abandoned warehouse, though. There’s a lot to be impressed by here, including their pool, spa, and air-conditioned gym. Did I mention I like air conditioning? The colonial-style tented lodges offer breathtaking views of the Okavango Delta, often featuring large groups of animals nearby, such as buffalo. But if you want to see a hunt, there are few better places in the world to do so than Mombo.

Vumbura Plains

Vumbura Plains is all about variety. With a mix of water and land-based activities, this lodge offers everything from serene mokoro rides through lily-covered waters to thrilling day and night game drives, bush walks, boating, birding, and fishing excursions. It’s basically the Swiss Army Knife of safari lodges.  The accommodations are spacious and elegantly designed, with large decks providing panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness. I adored the room design, camp ambience, and our fantastic guide, which led to some excellent wildlife sightings. However, the service was lacking (finding someone was often a challenge), and the food, with its oddly small portions, was the weakest of all the Wilderness lodges. Despite that, I’d still return.

Duba Plains

We come along to one of Great Plains flagship properties.  Duba Plains is definitely now on the rustic scale, and the camp is certainly not at the luxury scale of the above greats.  However, it still makes the list for a variety of reasons.  First of all, it’s really rather pleasant, even if the aesthetic doesn’t scream out and say it.  Secondly, the landscape and exclusive access to it.  Depending on the time of year, you’ll either be in a boat or driving around water so deep you’ll wish you were in a boat.   Known for its incredible lion and buffalo interactions, Duba Plains is a paradise for wildlife photographers. The dining experience is intimate, and the service is attentive, making it a favourite among those seeking a more down-to-earth safari experience​

It’s what you’d expect from a Great Plains property—almost luxurious but not quite. The colonial design is charming but won’t sweep you off your feet. Overall, the facilities and room are nothing special, but the setting, food, service, activities, and wildlife sightings are top-notch. It’s the Great Plains philosophy in a nutshell: not the Ritz, but definitely a solid contender.

Sitatunga Private Island

The new, great dawn of Great Plains properties.  Forget everything I just said.  Sitatunga is the latest in their portfolio and a showcase in how they can apply a luxury aesthetic going forward. The eco-friendly design pays homage to local fishing traditions that somehow inspired the owners, the Joubert’s to new heights.  Yes, a private island is in fact a safari lodge, as it’s surrounded by water from the Okavango. It’s all about kicking back and enjoying the tranquillity, as the activities list seems to have suffered its own version of shrinkflation. Expect boating, canoeing, and walking, not thrilling safaris.

DumaTau

DumaTau underwent a major transformation, essentially being torn down and rebuilt. This complete overhaul brought modernized facilities and enhanced luxury and added a new camp, Little DumaTau, with just four intimate tents. The refurbished lodge features a swimming pool, gym, spa, and stunning views, but the lack of heating (see? I  can talk about something other than air con) made it a challenge. The lodge’s setting by the Linyanti River provides stunning views.

The wildlife encounters were a mixed bag, if that bag was made of tears. The highlight was watching elephants swim, sometimes right from the room and other times up close on a boat. However, other wildlife sightings were disappointing, with only one lion spotted in two days and no wild dogs, despite the area being known for them. The guide’s lack of rapport didn’t help, making the overall experience less engaging than expected. While the setting was beautiful, the sparse wildlife made it less thrilling than hoped.

Not included

Who is a deliberate omission?

Abu Camp has parted ways with Wilderness and is transitioning to Singita and Kings Pool after being downgraded from “premier camp” status by Wilderness.

Not been

I’m always happy to admit I haven’t been everywhere. The other properties missing from this list that might make the cut are Selinda and Zarafa. Why have I not been to them? I’ll tell you all about it in my autobiography, “I have kids? Oh yeah, best get home.”

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 21st May '24

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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