African resorts in Travel and Leisure Top 100

Aug 1st, 2004, 10:08 PM
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African resorts in Travel and Leisure Top 100

Please excuse this post if it's old news to everyone here (tried searching but the key words are too common.)

This month's issue of Travel and Leisure magazine in the US, contains its annual "world's best" categories. Six of the top ten hotels in the world are safari destination camps in Southern or East Africa.

No. 1 goes to Singita (Sabi Sands), no. 2 is Kichwa Tembo in Kenya; no. 4 is Londolozi; no. 5 is Bushmans Kloof (SA); no. 7 is Mala Mala; and no. 8 is Phinda in KwaZulu. No. 12 in Mombo Camp in Botswana, and no. 13 is the Cape Grace hotel in Cape Town. There were several other SA and Kenyan places mentioned in the top 100 worldwide.

Still looking at all the websites and deciding how much to mortgage the house, and these lists do not help.
Gardyloo is offline  
Aug 1st, 2004, 10:11 PM
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Meant to add, here's the website:

Kiss, kiss, Fodors. Still love 'ya, even if citing Brands X.
Gardyloo is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2004, 06:54 AM
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Yeah, I'm sure that those places are all super-fab, BUT many of us go to Africa to get away from "civilization", and those places all get rated high because they bring "civilization" to the bush. How much of that you want in the bush is the question for each individual traveller.
(And I say this not out of ignorance, but after experiencing great game viewing at 2 of the places listed...I'm glad there are lots of choices, and that we all aren't trying to make reservations at the same places during high season.
tashak is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2004, 06:56 AM
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Thanks for sharing. I personally want both...good game viewing and very nice accommodations, which sounds like it can be done. Some of us are not into roughing it anymore.
newyorkgolfer41 is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2004, 01:11 PM
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Except for "adventure camping" which most would consider roughing it - even mobile tent camping, semi-permanent camps; mid-priced lodges provide a comparable experience to those in the 100 List.

Because the 100 Lists (whether T&L or Conde Nast) are only based on the numbers of people who have visited and participated in such surveys, and even then each candidate (hotel, lodge, camp, etc.) has to have sufficient numbers whether good or bad to make these lists. It's quite amazing to think of how many great properties will never see these lists and for me, that just fine. But it's certainly about time that Africa has finally been recognized and with no less then the majority of the top ten.
Aug 2nd, 2004, 01:26 PM
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I agree that its nice that LODGES in Africa are finally being recognized, but I think comparing a lodge in the Sabi Sands to a hotel in London is comparing apples to oranges. I hardly classify Mala Mala as a hotel. I would advocate a separate category for safari lodges -- they certainly merit recognition.
thit_cho is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2004, 03:23 PM
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I fess up because I've never been to Africa and honestly had no desire to go on a Safari...the zoo has always worked fine for me.
My spouse hounded me for years so I finally caved and said ONLY if we're in a very nice luxury place. Now, I'm the one who is more caught up in the planning and eagerly looking forward to the entire experience... Thanks to much help right here at Fodors.
newyorkgolfer41 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2004, 03:51 AM
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thit_cho - I agree there should be a separate category for accommodations in Africa, if other than a hotel or hotel resort. I had mentioned this to Zagat when they did their first International Hotels, Resorts, Spas.

Apparently when listing room (lodges/camps) rates, no mention was made that these were inclusive of meals and game-drives, etc., besides the prices listed came mostly from travel agents and/or operators and were way off from what client's actually pay.

It was poor planning on the part of Zagat, though their 3rd issue this year, seems more in line with actual prices paid - some indicate rates are all inclusive.

T&L and CN do a better job with categorizing the properties that appear in their lists as they actually have staff visit many of these properties, in addition to readers who have visited; whereas, Zagat is supposed to be based on client evaluations - so beats me why they used all those TAs and TOs.

Only goes to show that "lists" are just that - words of mouth and forums as this are much better resources.
Aug 3rd, 2004, 05:16 AM
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Kichwa Tembo as No 2! That is outrageous especially when its sister camp next door is supposed to be 10 times more luxurious and private. Just shows that these lists are concocted. Here is my shortlist for East Africa - can't say much about South Africa, Zambia. Botswana - Little Vumbura, Kings Pool and Kwara would be tops but then again I haven't been there recently and things must have changed.

East Africa and perhaps Africa overall winner - Finch Hattons Camp. Its location is utterly mesmerizing and in my opinion the best I have come across so far in my travels to Africa. The camp has quintessential, old-fashioned safari style, great comfort, a passionate manager and a wilderness that is sooo wild. Hippos and crocs inhabit a natural pool right in front of your tents and buffalo, hyena, elephant and lions pass regularly through the camp during the drier months. Game on game drives can be difficult to see as it is skittish and the bush is thick but when you do it feels like having another party. This is the only camp that I visit over and over again and the only camp where I could easily spend a week. Simply magical and the best!

Runnerup East Africa - Grumeti River Camp - wild, wild, wild and remote location plus quirky style. A must-visit place during migration time. Managers not so great - lack spontaneity and charm.

Second Runnerup
Wilderness Trails Lewa Downs - great conservation success story, great unpretentious hosts, good accommodation and super habitats and landscapes. Deserves much success.

Joint second runner-up
Rekero camp in Masai Mara - small, charming, close to the ground, brilliant guiding, fun masai host. Being here is like having an open-air bush party every day. Scintillating ambience.

Others worth mentioning
Galdessa Camp. A fab location, nice food and very stylish without overdoing it. Everything about it feels just right.

Governors and Little Governors Camp, Mara Explorer Camp, Serena in Masai Mara, Siana Camp, Tortilis Camp

I wonder if any of these are in the Travel + Leisure mag!
king is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2004, 06:18 AM
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I think a lot of who's on the list has to do with who is the camp's PR person. Knowing the editor can insure the camp will get a good look. I know MKSC need some definite refurb, and it's on the list. No one can say Cottar's or Royal Malawane shouldn't be on that list.
tgfny is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2004, 12:42 PM
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king -

As mentioned above, the lists are tilted to those who respond to the surveys and only the camps/lodges they've visited and number of responses for any one in particular. Apparently KT Bateleur isn't listed, either, because none of the responders have stayed there or there weren't enough votes for this smaller camp.

Those camps you mention certainly deserve recognition, but maybe it's better they not be listed - let them be known to those in the know so we can get space when we want it.

One can't really take these surveys too seriously.
Aug 15th, 2004, 10:19 AM
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I'll tell you one thing...seeing Bushman's Kloof at #5 definitely sparks my interest.

There is a very nice two day itinerary listed on Bushman's Kloof website. Being that it is only a 3 hour drive from Cape Town, I do think two nights at Bushman's Kloof would combine nicely with 3 nights in Cape Town and 2 nights in the Cape Winelands.

The spa at Bushman's Kloof looks extraordinary and the prices appear to be very good for the various spa services.

Being that it is an all-inclusive (except spa services) and is recognized amongst the top 5 destinations in the world, makes it a bargain at about $600 USD per night.

On another note, after reading king's post, I did check out Finch Hattons Camp and it looks like an amazing place at an even more amazing price of under $500 USD per night in high season. However, I guess what helps keep the prices down for East African camps is the fact that visitors arrive with their own vehicles/guides, and I do not expect that the tariffs include the game activities. While I do appreciate having my own safari vehicle, I do think that this would make it harder to connect with other guests, since the only time you would see them would probably be during dinner or glancingly in the morning.

I have my enslaver's consent for the following itinerary, so far:

Cape Town, 3 nts. at Twelve Apostles
Bushmans Kloof, 2 nts.
Cape Winelands, 2 nts. at Le Quartier Francais
Sabi Sand, Simbambili, 3 nts.
Sabi Sand, Mala Mala, 3 nts.

Roccco is offline  
Aug 15th, 2004, 12:30 PM
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Roccco - In response to your comment on Finch Hattons Camp at Tsavo in Kenya, that the $500/nt price doesn't include safari activities??? Of course it does. It covers the morning and afternoon games drives.

Whether guests staying at Finch Hattons arrive via air or by road with their own guide/driver, the rate includes the room, food and game drives; though if with your own guide the rate is proportioned for this activity, but the guests with their own guide pay for these somewhere/somehow in their overall price. It is important to note that some camps insist that their own in-house guides conduct game drives, so in these instances if you have your own guide/driver - they get free time (you as a client, rarely, get a credit for the cost differential of your guide/drivers time). Whether this is the case as Finch Hatton's I cannot say - just an informational note.

And as far as your comment about guests with their own guides versus using camp guides, this isn't unusual in East Africa. Many people travel independently, by road, rather than in groups in both countries. This has its advantage for many travelers as they design their own itinerary - where they go, when they go - not beholden to other vehicle passengers. If they wish to stay out all day, or not to go out at all, that is their decision and other guests have no say.

I've traveled both independently in East Africe, and as in SA (Singita and Honeyguide), shared a vehicle for game drives. While our experience in these instances was a positive one, there are too many stories out there where diverse passengers have different expectations and can inhibit the wishes of others - such as staying longer to watch some animals, where others have had enough and want to move on!

Even with a number of passengers sharing a game drive vehicle, it's not unusual for these folks to have little, if anything to do with one another other then at meals, if that.

I know you have been contemplating a trip to East Africa, so when you get to arranging this you will see that you have many options. And while guests can arrange for private vehicles in SA, at a cost, the experience in East Africa will still be different.

Aug 16th, 2004, 07:44 AM
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That list is bunk! Typical magazine. Rating Mombo behind Mala Mala. Putting Cape Grace in #13. And so on. Waste of all our time to even look at this mess.

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