Here's our pick of the best safari destinations for 2018.
Botswana - Okavango Delta
Why: Wetland experience, concentrated wildlife, unparalleled exclusivity.
The Okavango Delta is the world's largest inland delta - created by crystal-clear filtered waters from the Okavango River flowing into the arid Kalahari Desert - and offers an unparalleled water-based safari adventure.
Botswana is an attractively-stable country that is determined to preserve this stunning area, and since being added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2014 the delta area has grown in strength. It offers incredible wildlife and game spotting in and around the lagoons and grasslands of the region, with large populations of lions, cheetah, leopards, antelope, African wild dogs, hippos plus the biggest concentration of elephant and buffalo in this part of Africa.
Botswana has a high-end, low-impact tourism policy. As a result there are relatively few lodges within the conservation areas that offer an exclusive wildlife experience that is unparalleled throughout Africa.
The waters of the delta tempt visitors with a range of exciting ways to explore: jump in a traditional mokoro dugout canoe and paddle your way through the hazy light of the area's stunning sunsets, or feel the excitement of a game drive as vast thunderstorms crackle in the distance. The guides have exceptional knowledge of the wildlife and ecosystems, and with their superb tracking skills can get you incredibly close to the action - perfect for wannabe wildlife photographers.
Recommended accommodation - Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge: An exquisitely lodge constructed in wood to resemble the flowing armoured shell of a pangolin, it's eight lodges provide guests with exclusive access to over 8000 hectares of frankly heavenly wilderness featuring delta waters and grassy plains packed with wildlife.
South Africa - Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Why: Renowned location, big game.
The 'daddy' of private game reserves in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, the 63,000 hectare Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is, with good reason, the number one safari destination in South Africa. The game and wildlife watching is spectacular and is known to offer sights around every turn, with incredible close encounters possible with an array of animals, particularly the safari 'Big 5'. It's also one of the best locations in the world to catch a sight of the normally-elusive leopard, which are so relaxed you often sight these stunning animals mere metres from your vehicle!
Sabi Sands boasts arguably the best luxury accommodation in southern Africa; it is the destination of choice for those that demand the very best service, guiding and culinary standards alongside the very best of the African bush. Here you'll be able to luxuriate, enjoying every mod-con as the sun sets over the reserve.
Recommended accommodation - Chitwa Chitwa: A wonderful location and aspect overlooking the nearby dam assures guests of unbelievable sunset wildlife views at the water's edge without even needing to the leave your luxurious private deck. Unless you fancy a dip into your personal plunge pool...
Tanzania - Mwiba Concession
Why: Spectacular views, Great Migration, luxury.
The private Mwiba Wildlife Reserve is a sanctuary tucked away in the giant granite outcrops and thick bush overlooking the glorious Arugusinyai River Gorge.
The familiar African savannah hides thirty-three natural water springs that are the lifeblood of the impressive resident wildlife of the Mwiba Reserve, and the local guides will do everything in their power to get you face-to-face with the wild residents.
As a fully private concession you will be the only people allowed to stay, providing exceptional opportunities and flexibility for walking, off-road and night game drives. The concession incredibly also offers private access to the Great Migration route and wildebeest calving grounds from December to March, which is practically unheard of in the Serengeti ecosystem!
Impressive numbers of elephant and buffalo reside in the area, while lions and leopards prowl the bush surrounding the only lodge within the concession: Mwiba Lodge.
Recommended accommodation - Mwiba Lodge: Hidden between imposing boulders and a canopy of vegetation, the stunningly luxurious, beautifully furnished raised-platform suites are a simply incredible base for exploring the Serengeti. The views of the vast reserve are exceptional, and you can even spot native wildlife from the camp's relaxing infinity pool. Local village cultural experiences are within a short drive, and with the Great MIgration providing the biggest mass of life you'll ever set eyes upon the lodge really provides an experience way above the normal.
Zambia - South Luangwa
Why: Home of the walking safari, exceptional wildlife and birdlife, year-round appeal.
Amongst the most fertile wildlife habitats on the globe, South Luangwa Park is such a haven for wildlife you can basically guarantee sighting antelope, giraffe, crocodiles, lions, wild dog and elephants, while the Luangwa river has the highest concentration of hippos in Africa. The area also boasts a large natural population of leopards, groups of the very rare and endangered African wild dog plus an absurd level of birdlife, with over 400 species resident at some point of the year. Brightly-coloured bee-eater birds swarming in the thousands is an unforgettable sight for even seasoned safari-nuts.
Luangwa's appeal is extended by its pronounced weather patterns and distinct seasons that create very different safari experiences as the year progresses.
Recommended accommodation - Chinzombo Camp: Style aficionados will feel right at home in this camp designed by award-winning architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens. Situated on a sweeping bend of the Luangwa River the contemporary, elegant safari villas and spa facilities are set in private wilderness, with captivating walking and game drives led by exceptionally well-trained and accommodating guides.
Kenya - Masai Mara Reserve
Why: Great Migration, Big 5, scenery.
The Masai Mara is one of the most spectacular and beautiful locations on Earth. Golden sunsets bathe the quintessential-African landscape of rolling savanna grasslands in a stunning flame-hued glow that you'll struggle to get out of your mind once you've left.
The Masai Mara reserve welcomes the awe-inspiring wildebeest migration every year: millions of animals follow the wildebeest through the area from July onwards resulting in the most abundant concentration of wildlife anywhere in Africa. View hyena, cheetah, baboons, crocodiles, hippo, gazelle, zebra, impala...the list goes on...and you can consider yourself unlucky if you don't spy most of the Big 5 animals in an extended stay. The Masai Mara is legendary and this is why.
Recommend accommodation - Mara Plains Camp: One of just three camps in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, you'll benefit from a high level of privacy and exclusivity in amongst the clamour for big game spotting. With charming touches like copper baths that conjure thoughts of well-to-do colonial exploration, the comfort of the intimate raised camp and tents provides an beguiling base for taking in this marvel of Africa.
Zimbabwe - Hwange
Why: Elephants, African Wild Dogs
Hwange National Park is the most outstanding and popular safari destination in Zimbabwe. Located on the border with Botswana, the huge park has an impressive range of habitats from woodlands to grasslands and scrub that support a vast diversity of wildlife. The park has one of the largest elephant populations in the world, with groups of over 100 strong gathering around the waterholes providing a frankly astounding sight.
The park also supports large herds of buffalo and antelope that provide a wealth of food opportunities for the predators, but is otherwise best known for amongst the best surviving populations of African Wild Dog, a rare breed of feral dog with large earlobes that can be seen playing and hunting in the is a real draw for visitors.
Recommended accommodation - Linkwasha Camp: This chic tented camp in the stunning Linkwasha private concession provides superb game views thanks to the nearby Ngamo Plains and is supported by excellent facilities and activities, including nighttime game drives and walking safaris.