Tatler - Travel Guide 2016
December 2015

Angama Mara, Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya

It’s big on drama, this place. The location alone — on the Oloololo (try saying that after three G&Ts) escarpment, 1,000 feet above the Maasai Mara — will knock your little khaki shorts off. This striking new lodge has big names behind it: owned by safari legends Steve and Nicky Fitzgerald; designed by Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens (Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and North Island); and swanked up by South African super-stylist Annemarie Meintjes. The tents are big and beautiful, with roll-top baths, beds roomy enough for a rollicking family of warthogs, and a 35-foot glass wall and terrace with rip-roaring Rift Valley views. Dine on bites in the bush; at communal tables in the restaurant, at a lantern-lit barbecue in the forest, or — for romance on a stick — take tea for two on the very spot where Streep and Redford picnicked in Out of Africa.

Finch Hattons, Tsavo National Park, Kenya

Finch Hattons has been around the block — 25 years, since you ask — but a spiffy new overhaul has brought it bang up to date. Just 17 tents now, centred around some hippo pools, which means you can spot leopards while brushing your teeth. Calling them tents, by the way ,is like calling the Taj Mahal a tomb — accurate but misleading. They’re huge, tiered, fancy as anything, with polished wood, copper fittings and handmade textiles. And somehow cool and breezy even when it’s blisteringly hot (with no air-con, they need to be). You’ll be tempted to skip game drives and stay put on your on your private deck spotting turtles bubble up, pied kingfishers zipping about and the beady eyes of crocs. The formal dining room is still there with its seven courses, silver candlesticks and chandeliers (no joke) but there is now also more laidback dining -- and food is excellent throughout, thanks to the brilliant Isaac Muhika.

Little Chem Chem, Lake Burunge, Tanzania

Chem Chem Lodge launched the concept of the ‘slow safari’ a few years ago — no tearing around ticking off the big five here, thank you very much — and now it’s introduced its equally understated baby sister. Little Chem Chem is just that: small, with only five tents. The grounds, though are anything but — 62 square miles, on the fringes of Tarangire National Park, home to oodles of elephants and absurdly big baobabs. This area used to be prime hunting territory (the last lions were shot more than two years), but that’s all changed, thanks to the formidable team of Fabia Bausch, a former Swiss banker, and French professional hunter turned conservationist Nicolas Negre. Join him in the bush catching puff adders as easily as we catch colds, or judging the age of a baby elephant from a tiny trumpet heard half a mile away. The style is bygone safari, but you won’t be roughing it: tents are light and spacious, with verandas, rocking armchairs and sumptuous beds. Take your time, watch the bush, do it slow.

Singita Ebony Lodge, Sabi Sand Reserve, South Africa

There was a collective howl from loyal Ebony Lodge regulars when they heard of the refurb, but the rest of us thought, ‘Yeah, fair enough.’ It was about time for a makeover for this 22-year-old matriarch -- Singita’s flagship in the heart of the Sabi Sand -- and, after three speedy months, the place has polished up sensationally. They’ve built split-level terraces for dining, knocked down walls to let in the dazzle and chucked out the heavy drapes and tartan in favour of new geometric tribal patterns, oversized masks, pots and sculpture galore. The rooms have massive decks, private pools overlooking the Sand River and a nifty set of watercolours for recording the moment (so much classier than Instagram). Singita is still doing what it does best: game drives that deliver, stellar guides and conservation on the quiet. But also impossible menus -- I want it ALL, you will wail -- paired with proper wine, massages at midday and wine-tastings by night courtesy with super-sommelier Chantelle Gous. Old-timers and newbies rejoice. Singita has done it again.

&Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, Moremi, Botswana

What’s the world’s cutest animal? The pangolin, of course. You’ve got to love those sweet little anteaters, with their weird shell-like backs. They’re the inspiration behind &Beyond’s latest creation in Botswana, in the Okavango delta, which has some of the best game-spotting on the continent. Soaring curved beams clad in higgledy-piggledy cedar tiles represent the little chap’s ribs and armoured shell, but there are gaps everywhere to let in the breeze and take in the views. Twelve thatched rooms sit among wild palms and fig trees, and each has a plunge pool, wood-burning stove and an organic, curvaceous interior. This is architecture to marvel at — and to make you smile.