Would it be sacrilegious to go on safari without actually donning a bush hat and boots and stepping out into the heat? Is it possible (or even acceptable) to be ‘on safari’ without even venturing out from the comfort of the lodge? The answer is yes and is known in safari circles as a ‘Sofa Safari’.
Incredible as it may sound, it’s entirely possible to just relax in the beautiful surroundings of your luxury bush suite or hammock on your private deck. From here you can take in the sights and sounds around you, gaze into the bush with your feet up in your thatched chalet or Hemingway tent, shielded from the hot sun by a canopy of trees or the shade of your veranda. This is the Sofa Safari – a lovely way to just ‘be’ in the African bush.
Some of our best-loved lodges are designed in such a way, in other words, with opportunities for passive game viewing. Typically they are located on the banks of a river or overlooking a waterhole so that the animals are attracted to you. If this sounds appealing, you can pass up the game drive and choose to stay in camp. Needless to say, you may well miss out on a special sighting of certain nocturnal or more-difficult-to-spot reclusive creatures like leopard or the shy pangolin. But it will certainly tick all the boxes when it comes to viewing wildlife from the comfort of your armchair.
Come on an ‘armchair safari’ with us as we introduce you to our chosen ten best-loved Sofa Safaris:
1. Jamala Madikwe Safari Lodge – Madikwe Game Reserve
One of our all time favourite lodges is Jamala Madikwe – an elegant, luxurious lodge set in the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve, an easy drive north west of Johannesburg. With a busy water hole directly opposite the main deck, you can quite literally sit on the sofa in your spacious glass-fronted suite and watch the elephants and a wide variety of other animals and birds as they come down to drink. A popular honeymoon destination made even more attractive by the fact that you won’t feel the need to leave your room!
2. Governor’s Camp – Masai Mara
A classic Masai Mara tented camp that was at one time reserved for the exclusive use of Kenya’s governors during colonial times. Being one of the original camps in the area, Governor’s Camp occupies one of the best sites on the edge of the Masai Mara’s expansive game rich plains. Here you can sit for hours letting yourself be mesmerized by the scene before you. Depending on the season, you’ll have front row seats as the Great Wildebeest Migration crosses the nearby Mara River. Of course, thrilling game drives onto the savannah are not to be missed.
3. Gorah Elephant Camp – Eastern Cape
Elephants are the star of the show at Gorah Elephant Camp as they wander past en-route to the nearby water hole performing their entertaining elephant antics. A daily ritual at this lovely tented camp is to enjoy colonial style afternoon tea on the verandah and take in the view of the ancient Eastern Cape landscape. Gorah has the advantage of being the only camp actually within the Addo Elephant National Park. So there is no need to drive around the park to see the famous elephants, they’ll come and have tea with you!
4. Kapamba – Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park
Tucked away in a corner of the South Luangwa National Park, you’ll find a truly authentic little safari camp on the edge of the Kapamba River. Taking the time and effort to travel all the way to this remote region is so rewarding. There is a sense of exclusivity being the only visitors for miles around, and your daily activities are planned around what you feel like doing. Kapamba is an open thatched bush camp under the shade of the sausage and matumi trees – all blending into the landscape. We suggest you head out on foot with your guide – Zambia is known for its walking safaris. Afterwards, you can look forward to sundowners literally sitting with your feet in the water as the setting sun turns the sky and the Luangwa River a beautiful burnt orange.
5. Mala Mala Sable Camp – Sabi Sands
Well loved by past clients for delivering what it promises in terms of quality game viewing, Sable Camp is one of the oldest camps in the Sabi Sands. It has a homely, no frills feel but best of all is its elevated vantage point over the nearby Sand River in the world famous Mala Mala Game Reserve which shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. From the comfort of your deck chair, you can gaze across at the river where there is constant animal action. Besides the resident bush buck, warthog and other common species that like to wander through the camp, it is not unusual to hear lions roaring in the distance or even see leopard come down to drink.
6. Onguma The Fort – Namibia
Unlike any other safari lodge in Africa, this ‘fort’ sits in the vast, desert-like Etosha Game Reserve landscape of Namibia, overlooking the Etosha Pan, which itself is a hub for thirsty animals in this arid national park. Each suite has an indoor and outdoor shower with views that are sure to enchant. The sunset views are particularly stunning at The Fort, and in this heat you’ll find yourself confined to the cool shadows of this Moroccan inspired building whilst having lunch, viewing the game in the distance.
7. The Hide – Hwange Game Reserve, Zimbabwe
The Hide is a long established safari camp with one of the best positions – slap bang in the middle of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park which is famous for its concentrations of big game. It literally has the feeling of a ‘hide’, with its location at the edge of a busy waterhole overlooking the lagoon surrounded by open grasslands. It is wonderful to just sit and relax with a pair of binoculars and your bird book on the shaded verandah and watch the wildlife come and go.
8. Chobe Game Lodge – Botswana’s Chobe National Park
This five star Botswana lodge is perfect for Sofa Safaris, located as it is on the banks of the broad Chobe River in the Chobe National Park with plenty of water to attract animals and a long raised boardwalk to enable guests to appreciate the area from the camp. Chobe Game Lodge is a spacious and down-to-earth camp, one of the original camps of the area, and the views of the floodplains are magnificent. Besides the regular driving safaris and the game viewing that you can do from your deck, you can enjoy boat based safaris on specially modified boats.
9. Chamilandu – Zambia’s South Luangwa
Owned and managed by one of our preferred outfitters, Bushcamps Company, Chamilandu is truly a bush camp – unpretentious and unassuming as it effortlessly blends into the remote bush of this vast wilderness on the edge of the broad Luangwa River. It’s open plan design is such that you can wake up in the morning and just sit and gaze out across the waters at the dawn patrols of animals, taking in the beauty and peacefulness of the African savannah. Or go and sit in the stilted tree-house, with its great wild game viewing vantage point.
10. Toka Leya – Vic Falls, Zambia
With its unique riverside location, situated upstream from the mighty Vic Falls in Zambia, this stylish and contemporary camp has features such as an infinity pool where you can hang over the edge and take in the views of the mighty Zambezi River. You can see for hundreds of meters, with the Zimbabwean bank in the distance and animals routinely grazing in the foreground. Toka Leya is more of a resort than an exclusive remote camp and has is within easy access of all the sights and activities of Livingstone and Victoria Falls.