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A safari, a sundowner – and wireless internet? Indeed. Today’s breed of safari lodges is focusing as much on the amenities as the adventure – think Thai massage rooms and high-tech touches like flat-screen TVs. In Africa alone, a slew of new properties have popped up, while others have unveiled sparkling renovations. We have a hunch the arrival of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa might have something to do with that, but regardless, it’s an enticing array of offerings sure to spark the interest of seasoned safari-goers and bright-eyed newbies.
Here’s a sampling of what’s on tap, including some discounts and rate specials.
Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Rwanda
The first 5-star hotel in the area, this handsome, eco-friendly lodge adds modern touches (wireless internet and flat-screen TVs in every room) to the standard safari lodge offerings. Opened in March, the 24-suites and villas are located on a tea plantation near the largest remaining mountain rain forest in East Africa, where primates are the main draw (the 13 species include the chimpanzee, the acrobatic black and white colobus monkeys and the baboon-like mangabeys). The area, which predates the last Ice Age, is also great for exploring on foot. Guests can walk to the Kamicanovu swamp or hike along an extensive network of well-maintained trails, nestled among 200 different tree species and an array of eye-popping flowering plants.
Another draw? You might not come across another tourist in the area (apart from those staying at the lodge, of course). All-inclusive packages are currently being offered for $400 per person, which includes breakfast, dinner, select beverages, and taxes.
Sanctuary Swala Camp, Tanzania
Following a $1.5 million rebuild, Sanctuary Swala Camp is ready to show off its shiny new facelift. The spruced-up property offers an authentic safari experience in the southwestern corner of Tanzania’s secluded Tarangire National Park, where some of the largest elephant herds in Africa gather. Each of the 12 canvas suites/tents feature a spacious floorplan, indoor/outdoor showers, a personal attendant, and private lounging decks that overlook the river basin, which regularly draws lions, leopards, and bull elephants. The camp is also gaining a reputation as a place to get up close to wild bat-eared foxes.
By day, hop onto a guided 4x4 for tracking tours (a walking tour is soon to be added to the itinerary), and take a plunge in the new infinity pool. By night, enjoy locally-inspired cuisine paired with African wines in the main dining area, which is built on stilts around an enormous ancient baobab tree. The property will keep its 2009 prices throughout 2010: $440 per person per night, all inclusive.
Bilila Lodge Kempinski, Tanzania
Opened less than a year ago, this stunning, 74-room property in the Serengeti National Park raises the bar for luxury (Thai massage rooms and private sun decks) – without a whiff of pretention. If there were any new-property glitches here, they’re already taken care of: Guests raved about the lodge and its staff on several travel review sites. Overlooking the majestic Serengeti plans, the lodge is anchored by handsome stone architecture and a sprawling freshwater pool perfect for cooling off after a private game drive, bush walk or even a hot-air balloon ride, all of which can be arranged by the hotel. The well-appointed suites feature outdoor showers and private infinity pools, but every room has a stunning view of the plains beyond. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the elephants that come up to a nearby watering hole.
Through Sept. 30, take advantage of the Summer Adventure Retreat (two nights for $1,345, including meals, a half-day game drive and a daily spa treatment). You can also save 20 percent with early booking.