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Africa is full of incredible unexplored destinations and secret adventures that are just waiting to be discovered. Based on our extensive travels across the continent since 1998, these are our top picks of hidden gems in East and Southern Africa.

Hidden Gems in East Africa

Tanzania

Tanzania

1. Rubondo Island

Boating safari on Lake Victoria in Rubondo Island National Park, Tanzania.
Explore Rubondo Island by foot, 4×4 vehicle or boat | Rubondo Island Camp

Unspoilt and remote, Rubondo Island is a floating rainforest on the southwestern corner of Lake Victoria and one of the most unique places to visit in Tanzania. Except for a handful of park wardens and staff at Rubondo Island Lodge, the island is uninhabited by humans, making it an important refuge for chimpanzees, forest elephants, giraffes and rare sitatunga antelope.

The camp is the only lodge on the island and offers activities like guided nature walks, game drives and boat cruises on the lake. While on Rubondo Island, guests can join a conservation team’s project to habituate chimpanzees to humans. This unique experience involves a guided trek to track the chimps where you can get a chance to observe them from as close as 15m for up to 30 minutes.

Where to Stay:

Tanzania, Tanzania
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Rubondo Island Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Bird watching Boat excursions Boat-based safaris

2. Ruaha National Park

Spot wildlife on game drives in Ruaha National Park | Jabali Ridge

At 12,226 square kilometres (7,457 square miles), Ruaha National Park is a southern Tanzania hidden gem and one of the biggest parks in the country. Even though only 1% of Tanzania’s visitors take the time to visit this untouched national park, it offers some of the best sightings across the continent.

Ruaha is home to the largest elephant population in East Africa (around 10,000 of them) as well as a healthy concentration of big cats, holding 10% of the global lion population, as well as cheetahs and leopards in smaller numbers. Its lesser-trodden paths make for intimate and uncrowded sightings, with the dry season inviting game to drink from the Great Ruaha River, after which the park was named.

The lower number of visitors means there are fewer lodges located in Ruaha than its counterparts, making you feel as though you have the whole park to yourself. Experience the magic of Ruaha on foot during a guided walking safari, or get a one-of-a-kind bird’s eye view from a hot air balloon. However, you choose to see it, Ruaha promises not to disappoint.

Where to Stay:

Tanzania, Tanzania
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Jabali Ridge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Bird watching Bush dining Bush walks

3. Fanjove Private Island

Fanjove-Island-Aerial-View
Aerial view of Fanjove Island | Fanjove Island

From a distance, the island of Fanjove off the coast of Tanzania almost appears as a mirage with its picturesque landscape of white sands and palm trees behind crystal waters, but oh is it real!

The petite private island promises true seclusion and exclusivity with only six individual suites, each thoughtfully placed just a minute’s stroll away from the shore, where you can excitedly watch humpback whales and bottle-nosed and spinner dolphins gracefully swimming by.

To put its size into perspective, as the smallest of the Songo Songo Archipelago islands, you can circle the entire island on foot in under an hour, making it perfect for an undemanding barefoot afternoon walk.

Where to Stay:

Tanzania, Tanzania
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Fanjove Private Island

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Boat excursions Canoeing Fishing

4. Mwiba Private Concession

Enjoy Mwiba Private Concession from the lap of luxury | Mwiba Lodge

Romanticised depictions of a safari come to life at Mwiba Private Concession. Even with its prime location in the southern Serengeti, Mwiba only ever hosts a handful of travellers at a time –one of the many perks of retreating to the unexplored parts of Africa.

Upbeat days call for taking your designated private safari vehicle out to the bush, with your personal guide, as and when you please; cultural walks with the local Hadzebe tribe, helicopter excursions for aerial views of the vast Serengeti plains, and thrilling night safaris.

Slow days invite you to truly indulge in staying at one of the most luxurious lodges in the greater southern Serengeti – watching from the infinity pool as elephants drink from the Arugusinyai River not far off.  As you get ready to end the day, retire to your king-sized bed in one of the luxury tented suites, or spend the night out under the stars fly-camping.

Where to Stay:

Serengeti, Tanzania
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Mwiba Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Bush dining Cultural visits Game drives
Kenya

Kenya

5. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Rhino-River-Camp_Spa treatments
Enjoy nature walks with the Maasai | Rhino River Camp

Forming part of the Mount Kenya World Heritage Site, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a frontrunner in community-based conservation in northern Kenya. Testimony to this, local communities act as a first line of defence against poaching, supplying crucial information to park rangers before any potential poachers set foot in the reserve.

The snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya is visible in the north, and the Big 5 conservancy has a diverse range of habitats including forest, acacia woodland, extensive natural springs and fertile grasslands (Plus, Prince William has often been spotted in Lewa, very occasionally with wife Kate Middleton).

Where to Stay:

Kenya, Kenya
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Kitich Forest Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Bush dining Cultural visits Guided walks
Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Porini_Amboseli_Camp_exterior-tent Elephants enjoy a wallow in the waterhole. Dramatic skies in Amboseli. The mess tent. porini-amboseli-camp-gallery-image-26-14450030491 Porini Amboseli Camp_porini_0301 Tent interior.

Porini Amboseli Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Cultural visits Full-day safaris Game drives
Kenya, Kenya
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Rhino River Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Biking Bird watching Bush dining Fishing
Masai Mara, Kenya
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Cottar's 1920s Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal tracking experience Bird watching Cultural visits Fishing
Samburu, Kenya
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Sarara Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Bush dining Fly camping Game drives
Uganda

Uganda

6. Mgahinga National Park

Track chimps in the sunken forest of Kyambura Gorge | Kyambura Gorge Lodge

Located in the southwestern part of Uganda in the Kisoro district, Mgahinga National Park is the smallest national park in all of Uganda, sized at 33.9 km2 (13.1 sq mi). It’s also home to two rare and endangered species as well as several other mammal species.

The park was initially formed to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit it. Its dense forests are home to several unhabituated gorillas and just one habituated family, the Nyakagezi family, which only has about ten members with numbers rising and falling over the years.

A stay at the Gahinga Lodge provides you with the perfect gorilla trekking base camp for the gorillas of Mgahinga as well as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch a glimpse of the rare golden monkey – although this sighting cannot be promised. With no more than eight people trekking the park daily, it’s an intimate experience in one of the most unique places to visit in East Africa, Uganda.

Where to Stay:

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
The main lodge area for guests to relax and enjoy Lush surroundings at Kyambura Gorge Lodge Kyambura-Gorge-Lodge--Lion-Research-Safari---Tree-Climbing-Lions The Deluxe Room at Kyambura Gorge Lodge Kyambura-Gorge-Lodge---Kazinga-Channel-Boat-Cruise Sunset over Kyambura Gorge Lodge A range of forest trails at Kyambura

Kyambura Gorge Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal tracking experience Bird watching Boat excursions Cultural visits
Uganda, Uganda
The lodge lounge and dining area lit up at dusk. Sundowners with incredible mountain views. Sunrise view Lodge walkways The Nkuringo gorilla family Misty forested mountain views Romantic dining with elevated views

Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda
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Mount Gahinga Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Cultural visits Guided walks Hiking

Hidden Gems in Southern Africa

Zambia & Malawi

Zambia & Malawi

7. Kafue and South Luangwa

Lookout for unusual guests at Shumba Camp | Shumba Camp

The Kafue River forms the western border of Kafue National Park, a huge area in central Zambia. Here, the plains game far outnumber visitors and where there are plains game, predators are sure to follow. Head to Kafue to discover untouched Africa with only a handful of lodges to cater for guests.

Shumba Camp

Home of the original walking safariSouth Luangwa is an untapped premier wildlife destination and another of the few national parks in Africa where you are permitted to explore on foot. It is known for having the continent’s best safari guides, many of whom grew up in the area, so you are guaranteed to learn a lot and have a highly personalised experience.

When it comes to walking expeditions, this is big game viewing at its most adventurous and you may have to forgo some modern luxuries like Wi-Fi or air conditioning. That said, tented camps are fully furnished and equipped, and you will be rewarded with possibly the most authentic safari experience in Africa.

Where to Stay:

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Chindeni Chindeni Chindeni Enjoying the spacious, African interior of the private rooms.
The tents have luxurious four-poster beds, a lounge area and are extremely spacious. See a member of the big 5 from the lodge.
Chindeni

Chindeni

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walking safaris Night drives
Kafue National Park, Zambia
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Chisa Busanga Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bush dining Cycling safaris Game drives Guided walking safaris

8. Lake Malawi

Enjoy a waterside holiday on Lake Malawi | Kaya Mawa

One of the most unique places to visit in East Africa, Lake Malawi combines the very best of a vacation in the tropics with the very best of Africa unexplored. Think sunny skies, warm sands, and pristine waters with no crowds or queues. Scuba dive amongst the largest amount of freshwater fish species of any other lake in the world, or stay above and explore the waters by traditional canoe with a local guide.

On dry land, you can spend your days simply kicking back – relaxation is synonymous with Lake Malawi’s ’beach life’. Explorers can venture to the island by mountain bike, go bird watching or visit Liowonde National Park for a local big game safari.

For couples, the intimate setting of Kaya Mawa Lodge entices you to indulge in romance and luxury. Known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique, Lake Malawi sits between the three countries (Malawi being the third) as the third largest freshwater lake in Africa. This hidden gem is both a place of wonder and the ultimate African beach holiday away from any kind of bustle.

Where to Stay:

Lake Malawi, Malawi
Each suite has a beautiful en-suite bathroom, including a bath with a view!
Just another perfect evening on the shores of Lake Malawi, complete with a private dinner for two.
The lodge is set right on the beach, with easy access for snorkelling, kayaking and swimming.
The lodge is fully PADI certified and has two in-house qualified dive instructors.
Honeymooners will love the peaceful environment of Likoma Island, where there is plenty of space to relax, unwind and celebrate.
Spend time relaxing on the main deck in front of the lodge, or enjoy a swim in the plunge pool.
Enjoy a private dinner or lunch on the little island just off the beach, or go snorkelling in the bay.

Kaya Mawa Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Biking Bird watching Boat excursions Fishing
Namibia

Namibia

Damaraland, Kaokoveld & Skeleton Coast

Explore Namibia’s arid landscape in style | Hoanib Valley Camp

Damaraland in Namibia is best known for its incredible rock art, some of which dates back 10,000 years. You will be equally mesmerised, if not astonished, at the region’s soaring mountains, bottomless gorges and ancient calderas as far as the eye can see.

As featured in the BBC series Earth II, the desert lions can be found in the northern Palmwag region of Damaraland. Elephants here are physiologically and behaviourally adapted to life in the desert – they have longer legs to travel greater distances, a lighter mass, and are extremely sensitive when feeding on the scarce vegetation (as opposed to their savannah cousins that are very destructive when feeding, thinking nothing of knocking over a tree or gouging baobab bark).

Although the Kaokoveld and Skeleton Coast couldn’t be more different, they are equally evocative. You can fly for miles over both without seeing much in the way of so-called ‘civilization’. Roads and buildings are rare. The Kunene River feeds the Kaokoveld, which is all the way up north above Etosha National Park, while the cold air from the Atlantic hits the hot air of the desert, causing beguiling fogs to settle over the Skeleton Coast. The ghosts of sailors past can be detected along this strip of coastline, which is home to seals, whales, dolphins and thousands of pelagic birds.

Where to Stay:

Damaraland, Namibia
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Damaraland Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Day tours Guided walks Local village visits
Damaraland, Namibia
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Desert Rhino Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Animal tracking experience Bird watching Bush dining
Kaokoveld, Namibia
This wonderful eco-camp was built in the remote Sesfontein Community Conservation Area in Namibia’s Koakoveld. The lodge is surrounded by the never-ending dunes of the Namib desert. Sleep soundly, in the large spacious tented accommodation - perfect for families. Witness the spell-binding Namib Desert landscape. Enjoy a delicious breakfast spread before heading out on you adventures. A giraffe keeps watch as her youngster feeds. A remarkable desert oasis with majestic African elephants.

Hoanib Valley Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Cultural visits Game drives
Botswana

Botswana

10. Kalahari Desert & Okavango Delta

Take in the views of Okavango Delta’s floodplains from the daybed | Duba Plains Camp

The Kalahari Desert is as fascinating as it is vast – extending into South Africa, Botswana and connecting with the Namib Desert in Namibia. It is a semi-arid landscape where you will find iconic red sands, and so much more in Botswana’s Central Kalahari: black-maned Kalahari lions, rare pangolin and big game like oryx, habituated meerkats, dazzling night skies experienced on desert sleepouts, an annual zebra migration, horse-riding safaris, San rock art and fantastic off-the-grid accommodation.

The Okavango Delta is one of the most popular places to visit in Botswana but there are still places deep in its centre that are accessible to a select few. Water levels tend to be deepest here and some lodges can only be accessed by boat. Traditional 4×4 game drives are replaced by mokoro or canoe safaris, giving you a completely new outlook on the wildlife.

Where to Stay:

Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
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Tau Pan Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bush dining Day tours Full-day safaris Game drives
Makgadikgadi, Botswana
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Jack's Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Fly camping Game drives Guided walking safaris
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Make your way to the main deck for evening drinks & shared safari stories. Take in the views of Okavango Delta's floodplains from the daybed | Duba Plains Camp There are only 5 suites at Duba Plains plus a grand 2-bedroom suite with its own guide, butler & chef. En-suite facilities consist of a flush toilet, double basins, indoor & outdoor showers plus a luxurious bath. Duba Plains Camp has a classic riverside setting under shady trees; your suite has unfettered Okavango views. Your private lounge is where you can write, recharge batteries & download your photographs. Choose between sun & shade on your private deck, complete with plunge pool & loungers.

Duba Plains Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walks Mokoro trails
Mozambique

Mozambique

11. Quirimbas Archipelago

Relax on a paradisical island off the coast of Mozambique | Ibo Island Lodge

This little-explored archipelago off the coast of Mozambique consists of 27 coral islands, many of which are uninhabited. Accommodation in the Quirimbas is limited to a handful of lodges so you won’t be hard-pressed to find your own private slice of Indian Ocean beach bliss. Some ultra-luxe accommodation is even located on its own private island. On Ibo Island, you can enjoy the rich culture of Mozambique, as well as exquisite natural wonders including one of Africa’s largest mangrove forests.

Where to Stay:

Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique
Nature-lovers can explore the island's tidal pools which attract rare birds, waders and migrants.
Water-based activities include sailing trips, paddle-boating, snorkelling, scuba diving, water-skiing and more.
Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort & Spa lines the shores of the Indian Ocean, just off the coast of Mozambique.
The resort is set on a small private island and offers beach chic accommodation at the water's edge.
The main lounge boasts spectacular views of the aquamarine ocean, and is ideal for relaxing with friends and family.
Each villa has sea views as well as a private plunge pool.
Have the pleasure of watching the sunset every evening over the dazzling horizon

Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort & Spa

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Dhow cruises Fishing Kayaking Sailing
Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique
Fiery sunsets are best viewed from the main lodge deck, where you can also order a refreshing sundowner. Make the most of Mozambique's beautiful sunsets with alfresco dining at the lodge. Ibo Island Lodge on Ibo Island in the Quirimbas Archipelago near Pemba in northern Mozambique. Colourful and exotic interiors speak to the island's eclectic history and cultural influences. Spend lazy days relaxing at the poolside and enjoying the cool ocean breeze while staff tend to your every need. There are a host of exciting watersports to try, as well as snorkelling and boat cruises. The beachfront is just a stone's throw away, offering guests exquisite ocean views from the lodge.

Ibo Island Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Beach activities Bird watching Boat excursions Cultural visits
Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

12. Matusadona National Park

Game drives in Matusadona National Park | Fothergill Island

Grassy floodplains and mopane woods welcome you to Matusadona National Park, a wilderness gem on the southern shore of Lake Kariba. Often described as rugged’’, it is this quality that adds to the park’s allure, inviting you out on walking safaris with expert guides and rangers.

As home to all but one of the magnificent big five (with rhinos being the missing member) and the second largest lion concentration in Africa (preceded only by Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater) the opportunities for sightings are many. Large elephant and buffalo herds can be seen throughout, while rarer species such as the Africa Wild Dog are also present.

A visit to Matusadona is not complete without a boat ride on the waters of Lake Kariba, where crocodiles and hippos rest, coming to the surface to bathe in the sun. The dry season calls diverse animals to gather at the beautiful lakeshore in large numbers, making this the ideal time to visit.

Where to Stay:

Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe
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