If you’re like us, and you’ve been getting safari withdrawal symptoms this year, you’ll be delighted to hear that trips to Africa are becoming an option again. As lockdown travel restrictions are gradually lifted, it’s time to start thinking about where to go in 2021. A safari vacation could be just the answer you’ve been looking for to lockdown blues. Plus, with most lodges situated in remote areas, they’re about as safe as you can possibly get. Check out our list of the 10 best places to visit in Africa in 2021!

LAIKIPIA, KENYA

Kenya’s high country has never enjoyed quite as much of the limelight as the Masai Mara – but safari cognoscenti don’t mind at all, as it makes Laikipia even more exclusive. This region is home to some of Kenya’s best luxury lodges, plus ground-breaking conservation projects. These include efforts to save some of the country’s most iconic (and unusual species) like Grévy’s zebra and the reticulated giraffe with its brick-wall pattern, plus tree-planting initiatives and one of Africa’s only all-female anti-poaching patrols. Lodges in Laikipia continue to push the boundaries of safari luxury – be one of the first to stay at Governor’s Mugie House or experience the chic styling of Segera Retreat’s Green House villa.

MADIKWE, SOUTH AFRICA

Regularly rates as one of the best wildlife reserves in South Africa, Madikwe nestles against the border with Botswana. It’s a conservation success story that’s noted for its exceptional game-viewing – including being one of the best places in southern Africa to see endangered wild dogs. Madikwe is especially well-suited to families traveling with young children as the area is malaria-free, and the reserve can be reached in just 4 hours’ driving from Johannesburg (so you can minimize the number of regional flights on your itinerary).

WHALE COAST, SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa’s endless miles of coastline are just as compelling as the national parks inland. Whether your interest is in blooms or baleen whales, you’ll find much to enjoy here. Take a casual stroll around charming fishing villages with working harbors, art galleries, and quaint cafés, or head out to sea on a whale-watching boat cruise. Stay at the brand-new, ultra-stylish Perivoli Lagoon House villa or explore the unique “fynbos” floral kingdom in the unspoiled eco-paradise of Grootbos Forest Lodge.

KIBALE, UGANDA

Kibale Forest is composed of rolling green hills dotted with banana plantations and crater lakes, with a backdrop of the soaring, snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains. This region is one of the best places in Africa to view wild chimpanzees. The chimps are habituated to humans, so they can be viewed at relatively close quarters as they eat, feed, vocalize, and swing through the trees. If you’ve been gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking tends to be a lot louder and more energetic! You can also explore the Bigodi Wetland on foot, in search of the giant (but elusive) shoebill – a giant stork-like bird that can attain a height of five feet. We recommend staying at Kyaninga Lodge which is made up of expansive cliffside, log cabins overlooking a crater lake where you can kayak or take a refreshing dip post chimp trek.

KIGALI, RWANDA

The neat, friendly capital of Rwanda is a worthwhile stopover on your way to view the mountain gorillas. The new villas at The Retreat offer the perfect launchpad from which to explore this hilly city, whether you want to barter in the markets or trace your favorite breakfast beverage back to its source on a coffee tour. The Genocide Museum – which commemorates the terrible events of 1994 – is a must-visit. Although the displays are harrowing, the ultimate message is one of hope for a country that has taken tremendous strides forward.

MASHATU, BOTSWANA

On the banks of the Limpopo River, the Mashatu Game Reserve offers a holistic wilderness experience, including not just superb wildlife viewing (with leopards and elephants among the undoubted highlights). Spend time in the hides waiting for wildlife to come to you, or jump on a mountain bike to explore the rugged terrain. Drone photography options offer a different perspective on the remarkable scenery, while the new Mashatu Euphorbia Villas (located on a clifftop, with amazing river views) is our top accommodation pick.

KAFUE, ZAMBIA

Zambia’s vast Kafue National Park is only accessible for part of the year (it floods naturally for the rest). During the months that the lodges are open, it offers the chance to witness huge herds of grazing antelope, plus the prides of lion that hunt them. Our favorite Kafue lodge is Shumba Camp – named for the local big cats. A highlight of any visit to Kafue is an early morning hot-air balloon flight over the plains – you really can see forever from up there!

GONAREZHOU, ZIMBABWE

Rugged Gonarezhou receives relatively few visitors when compared to some of Zimbabwe’s better-known national parks. In the local language, the name means “the place of elephants” and it’s an appropriately dramatic landscape in which to encounter Africa’s largest land mammal. In addition to a strong conservation ethos, the reserve has successfully engaged with local communities to create a very modern approach to holistic conservation. At the northern edge of the reserve, Chilo Gorge lodge nestles amidst mature woodland and gives you sweeping wilderness views.

MAKGADIKGADI, BOTSWANA

Botswana’s immense salt flats look – at first glance – like the surface of another planet. But take a closer look… You may spot fossils or ancient stone arrowheads, or the tracks of creatures ranging from adorable meerkats to scorpions. Lines of palm trees mark traditional elephant migration routes, while even today, herds of zebra cross the area in search of seasonal water and grazing. The iconic Jack’s Camp (think Bedouin-style luxury with a museum of natural history vibe) is due to reopen following a complete refurb.

MOZAMBIQUE BEACHES

Just a relatively short flight from southern Africa’s wildlife hotspots, the perfect sands and warm azure waves of Mozambique’s coastline are perfect for a pre- or post-safari vacation extension. Impossibly fresh seafood, swaying palm trees, and mile after mile of deserted beach make for one of Africa’s most idyllic destinations, and then there are the islands, steeped in history and romance. Get away from it all in an exclusive villa, or enjoy a sand bar picnic with a side of coral reef snorkeling.

Our favorite beach resorts in Mozambique include:

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