23 African Lodges Where Animals Roam Free

Most of Africa’s flagship wilderness regions, and all areas that we recommend to clients, are completely wild, free, and unfenced. What does this mean? Besides the outermost borders, there are no barriers preventing animals from roaming freely between designated areas of wildlife conservation – namely, the government-owned national parks and private game reserves.

Although animals are still free to roam around the parks and reserves, lodges that provide for larger guest numbers and those travelling with young children provide extra peace of mind with fenced off accommodations. But if you want to experience the wildest Africa – where lions roar a stone’s throw away from your tented suite and elephants drink from your swimming pool – there’s nothing better than opting for an unfenced safari lodge or camp.

Staying at one of these accommodations means that there’s nothing stopping the wildlife from roaming around the property you’re visiting. Expect to see anything, from lions walking around the paved pathways and elephants strolling through the main lobby to zebra grazing five steps from your tented suite or gorillas knocking on your front door. If you’re hoping to catch some incredible moments of wildlife up close, we know some of the best places to get it.

 Important note: Unfenced lodges have very strict child policies and guests need to be accompanied by an 'askari' (guard) or member of staff when walking from one part of the property to another, especially at night. While the animals in these areas are more conditioned to human presence, the lodges take every precaution to ensure guest safety at all times.

 

1. Royal Malewane
Thornybush Private Game Reserve, South Africa

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Part of the Royal Portfolio, the award-winning Royal Malewane is located on Thornybush Private Game Reserve within the greater Kruger region. The lodge exudes the romance and beauty of a bygone age, offering personalised service and sensational game viewing, further enhanced by having one of the best guiding teams in Africa leading the way. But the highlight of this opulent getaway is watching juvenile elephants drink from the plunge pool just metres away from your private suite.

2. Singita Sabora Tented Camp
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

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Singita Sabora Tented Camp is situated in an untouched wilderness area of the Grumeti Game Reserve. Spanning 350 000 acres in northern Tanzania and forming part of the route of the Great Wildebeest Migration, this unfenced camp gives you the thrill of knowing there isn’t much separating the comforts inside from the elements and wildlife outside. When you aren’t out on exciting game drives, enjoy time on the tennis court surrounded by the African wilderness – the vervet monkeys might even help 'keep score'.

3. Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp
Bwindi National Park, Uganda

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Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp is nestled deep within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This World Heritage Site in southwest Uganda is home to just over half the world’s last surviving mountain gorillas and, due to its superb location, it's not unusual for gorilla families to visit the camp itself. Sanctuary Gorilla Camp serves as the perfect base for gorilla-trekking expeditions and also offers activities such as nature walks to admire the area's volcanoes, jagged valleys, waterfalls, lakes and dramatic mountain ranges.

4. Governors' Camp
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

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Governors’ Camp sits in the riverine forest along the banks of the Mara River, its waters teeming with birdlife, hippo and crocodile. Found in the heart of Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, this camp is a magical escape in one of Africa’s most popular safari destinations. Governors’ has front-row seats to the annual Wildebeest Migration, which is easily the camp’s biggest draw. But it’s not the only one. You won’t have to leave your tented suite to view big game. A multitude of wildlife, from big cats and spotted hyena to hippo and giraffe, can be seen strolling by on their way to the river – proving that the safari experience doesn’t stop when the game drive ends.

5. Somalisa Expeditions Camp
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

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Somalisa Expeditions is nestled among a grove of acacia trees deep in Hwange National Park. The park’s famously populous elephants meander past the camp at all hours of the day, drinking from the nearby watering holes and having mud baths in front of the raised deck where you’re able to photograph and observe them in their natural habitat. Watch how the little ones pick up speed the moment they sense the water, trotting along excitedly while the adults keep watch and bring up the rear.

6. Kwetsani Camp
Okavango Delta, Botswana

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Kwetsani Camp is located on an island covered with palm, mangosteen and fig trees in the private Jao Concession. The accommodation consists of spacious treehouses raised on stilts beneath a shady canopy of trees and overlooking the wildlife-filled floodplains. Keep an eye out for sitatunga, red lechwe and elephants making their way past camp. And for an unforgettable Okavango Delta experience, sleepovers can be arranged at one of the game-viewing hides.

7. Ol Pejeta Bush Camp
Laikipia Region, Kenya

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Ol Pejeta Bush Camp is situated on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in Kenya's Laikipia region. Thanks to a popular salt lick on the opposite river bank, with wildlife often wanders in and around the camp. The Ol Pejeta private conservancy is home to the last three remaining northern white rhinos in the world – named Sudan, Najin and Fatu – as well as about 40 rescued chimpanzees. It’s also home to a mind-blowingly rich array of African game and over 200 migrant and resident bird species. In fact, this conservancy boasts one of the greatest game-to-area ratios of any reserve in Kenya.

8. Sable Alley
Okavango Delta, Botswana

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Set in a private wildlife concession bordering the famous Moremi Game Reserve, this tented camp overlooks the permanent water and green floodplains of an especially game-rich area in the Okavango Delta. Elephant and buffalo herds are often seen in front of camp, and the surrounding woodlands are home to the rare, elusive and beautiful sable antelope after which Sable Alley was named.

9. Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge
Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

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This luxury lodge in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve is set on the edge of a ravine and overlooks a riverine forest. The wrap-around glass walls in each suite afford you spectacular views of the Groot Marico River, as well as the surrounding bush and its many inhabitants. Guests are also given the unforgettable opportunity to sleep under the African sky on a raised hide hidden deep in the bush, surrounded by flickering lanterns.

10. Hyena Pan Tented Camp
Okavango Delta, Botswana

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Tucked away in the pristine Khwai Private Reserve and positioned between Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park, Hyena Pan’s enviable position makes it a meeting point for almost every type of African wildlife that you can think of. And from its elevated position among mopane trees, the luxury suites of Hyena Pan overlook the lagoon of the same name below, providing the perfect vantage point for watching elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, wild dog, kudu, red lechwe and antelope interact with their natural habitat.

11. Kanga Camp
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

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Set in a private concession within Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, Kanga Camp offers a truly authentic experience in this untouched wilderness. The camp overlooks the Kanga Pan, a regular watering point for a range of game and birds. Being the only known year-round water source in the area, Kanga is a hub for wildlife and a delight to explore on foot. Elephants, wild dogs, African fish eagles and storks are just some of the species you can expect to see during armchair safaris on the camp’s decks.

12. Phinda Homestead
Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

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Phinda Private Game Reserve is home to some of Africa’s finest game viewing, boasting regular sightings of the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino). And Phinda Homestead is the ideal base from which to explore the 70 560 acres of unfenced bushland. The luxury exclusive-use villa provides all the finer things in life – delivered by a personal butler. But the villa’s best feature is the unexpected visits you’ll receive from the wildlife passing by. Be sure to keep your camera on hand at all times. You never know when an elephant might appear at your doorstep.

13. Londolozi Private Granite Suites
Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, South Africa

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Londolozi’s Private Granite Suites provides exclusivity, elegance and luxury in Sabi Sands, a pristine reserve known for its abundant wildlife and Big 5 sightings. The suites’ décor and slate colour palette reflect the two most prolific features of its surroundings: granite rocks and elephants. Nature’s gentle giants are frequent passers-by at the ancient Sand River just below Londolozi – perfect for an armchair safari.

14. The Private Hide at The Hide Lodge
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

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It’s not uncommon to see wildlife roaming near The Hide. The lodge is nestled in the heart of the unfenced big game haven Hwange National Park and overlooks a busy watering hole. But if you’re wanting an armchair safari from the comfort of your tent, then we’d recommend staying in The Private Hide. With its close proximity to the watering hole and secluded location, surrounded by bushland, wildlife wanders right up to your doorstep. All you have to do is grab a glass of wine, pull up a chair and enjoy the show.

15. Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge
Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

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Teeming with wildlife and free of malaria, Madikwe Game Reserve has long been touted as one of the best safari spots in Southern Africa – and Jamala Madikwe is no exception. Just a stone’s throw from a watering hole that’s frequented by wildlife, particularly elephant, Jamala brings the game viewing to you. Whether you’re spending your day in a safari vehicle in search of wildlife or enjoying some well-deserved downtime around the luxury lodge, you can be sure that a sighting is never far off.

16. Chiawa Camp
Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

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Slated as the Lower Zambezi’s premier luxury safari property, Chiawa is a multi-award-winning camp that was the first of its kind to settle on the banks of the famed Zambezi River. Teeming with wildlife and raw, natural beauty, Chiawa’s enviable location sits on a walking route favoured by many of the resident game, particularly elephant. Nature’s gentle giants are well acquainted with the grounds. It’s not unusual to see them passing by the mess tent while enjoying a meal or see them wading through the cool water right outside your tent.

17. Somalisa Acacia
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

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When it comes to the perfect African safari experience, Somalisa Acacia ticks every box. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better luxury camp that’s comfortable, stylish and child-friendly, with breathtaking views and, of course, up-close game viewing without leaving the main tent. With a wildlife-frequented watering hole just metres from camp, you’ll be able to cross off most of the animals on your safari checklist before your first game drive.

18. Belmond Eagle Island Lodge
Okavango Delta, Botswana

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Island getaway meets classic safari experience at Eagle Island Lodge. This private island lodge offers the ultimate water-focused safari on a private island in the heart of the Okavango Delta. When you’re not out exploring the Delta’s ancient waterways or traversing the rugged landscape in search of big game, there’s plenty of game viewing to be done from the comfort of this upscale lodge. You’ll be able to take in the spectacular surroundings as well as the passing wildlife poolside or from your private balcony. Keep an eye out for the Eagle Island’s ‘resident’ elephant, who can usually be found enjoying the berries from the nearby trees.

19. Little Tubu
Okavango Delta, Botswana

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Little Tubu is another Delta gem where animals roam free near camp. Nestled on Hunda Island and overlooking a seasonal riverbed, this little slice of safari paradise is no stranger to visits from the wildlife roaming the area. You’ll become accustomed to the sight of zebra grazing outside your door as you wake up, or making way for the elephant passing by the main building.

20. Simbavati River Lodge
Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, South Africa

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With its perch on the banks of the Nhlaralumi River, the upscale Simbavati River lodge offers a stunning view of Timbavati Private Nature Reserve’s untamed landscape and thriving wildlife population. When you find yourself between game drives, you can pop down to the viewing deck for wildlife sightings down at the river. You’ll never have to miss a second of nature in action, because the safari never ends at River Lodge.

21. Bilimungwe Camp
South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

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Located in a little-visited and unspoilt part of Zambia's South Luangwa National Park, Bilimungwe lies on the shaded banks of the Luangwa River. Aside from great sightings of Africa’s classic big game, ‘Bili’ is famous for their resident male hippo, Harry. Having made the watering hole in front of the mess tent his personal playpen, Harry provides hours of amusement. So endearing is he that guests have been known to send him Christmas cards and other greetings.

22. Savute Elephant Lodge
Chobe National Park, Botswana

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As its name suggests, Elephant Lodge is known for its frequent visits from nature’s gentle giants. Situated in Chobe National Park, renowned for its healthy elephant population, you’re guaranteed to see a few wandering about the property. To make your armchair safari more comfortable, each suite stands tall on wooden stilts and comes fitted with a private viewing deck. Grab a drink, pull up a chair and watch as elephants, hyenas and cheetah stop by the nearby watering hole for their daily drink.

23. Mfuwe Lodge
South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

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Each year, between late October and mid-December, staff and visitors at Mfuwe in South Luangwa National Park look forward to a special visit from elephant families that arrive to feast on the fallen fruits of the large wild mango tree in the lodge's grounds. Three generations of the same elephant family return annually to walk through the reception lobby on their quest for their favourite summer fruit. Their unusual dining habits and unique behaviour have been the focus of many TV documentaries, photographic safaris and even children's books.