BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (TheStreet) --For many people, any safari would be a luxury, whether contained within as few as six mobile tents or offering all the trappings of a traditional luxury resort, complete with stunning architecture and cutting-edge amenities. These international safaris maintain grandeur regardless of size and offer some of the most ridiculously cool travel experiences, whether mild or wild.
Most African safaris are accessed through two points of entry: Nairobi and Johannesburg. The latter is the most frequented by top-end luxury travelers, who arrive in South Africa with Big Five aspirations and some unexpected realities. You get what you pay for in Africa; smaller and more affordable camps often share park rights, meaning cramped Land Rovers and crowded game sightings often shared with vehicles from other lodges. Pricier safari options come with less congested land concessions, with only a handful of neighboring lodges -- if any -- sharing. It creates a more isolated game drive that doesn't feel like your safari truck is on a conveyor belt.
Safaris offer some of the most ridiculously cool travel experiences, whether more mild or wild.
One such exclusive lodge is the uber-luxurious Sabi Sands Game Reserve Tree Camp by
, which has a Ralph Lauren vibe and looks like it could be the backdrop of a
Town & Country
fashion spread. It's authentic, though; the staff includes grandchildren of the founder, who've called the area home for their entire lives, and they're a cool bunch of professionals who mix jobs as trekkers, greeters and evening hosts to barbecues and fireside chats.
Further northeast of Sabi Sands is Kruger National Park, where Singita Game Reserves offer its
. A spectacular series of post-and-beam bungalow rooms edged in glass face a dramatic watering hole for slurping lionesses and herds of elephants as well as another poolside watering hole for humans only. Although Lebombo has many such luxuries -- even Martha Stewart is a fan -- its real genius is in getting guests as close to the wild as possible. Lebombo is home to a rare mountain biking experience that allows guests to head out into the bush with on-staff rangers to mix adventure into daily game drives.
In terms of wildlife experiences, The Great Migration in Tanzania ranks up there as one of the world's best. Africa's largest natural wildlife migration is also big business for large-scale hotel operators, including
, which operate glitzy Serengeti locations (there are even more companies on the way).
is a less obvious choice, often preferred by second- and third-time safari travelers, that tries to bring customers closer to nature. Its Serengeti Safari Camp features no more than a dozen guests at a time housed within vintage East African safari tents that let in the 2 a.m. shrills of traveling hippos and the occasional lion kill. Staff, often with post-graduate degrees, avoid the obvious photo ops for rare and often-isolated game viewing that makes you feel like the only explorer in the Serengeti. The company also offers a selection of expeditions that pick up and move each night to get as close to the migration as possible -- fortunately, with staff doing all the heavy lifting.
Those in search of the world's wild Bengal Tiger population are often surprised to find they have to travel to the inner reaches of Asia and choose between only a few luxury providers. The number shrank again recently when C&C Africa and Taj Safaris merged and formed
. Known mostly as the largest provider of African wildlife camps, the company also operates four relatively unknown India-based luxury safaris offering firsthand encounters with the rare Bengal tiger.
Getting to India's Kanha National Park and & Beyond's
starts with travelers making their way to Delhi, then onto a once-daily flight to Jabalpur and finally to the park, another half-hour or so away. The reward is an architectural lodge of extreme beauty and impressive location -- along the beds of the Banjaar River. The bungalow suites have canopy rooflines and intimately arranged terraces, as well as interiors with a wink of handmade whimsy. Twice-daily game drives prove that spotting a tiger is far tougher than tracking a pride of lions. Guests will pass animals such as leopards, wild dogs and swamp deer before ever finding their desired predator enjoying an afternoon splash in one of the hidden riverbeds, but it's worth the 8,000 mile-plus journey.
For those that love the idea of a safari but not the idea of fist-size creepy-crawlies,
on Australia's Kangaroo Island is perhaps your best remedy. Southern Ocean Lodge is known more for its structural eye candy than its equally worthy wildlife. It's an opulent, boomerang-shaped resort wrapped in glass, so it has infinite views of the crashing Southern Australian shoreline if guests dare look away from the actual building. Known more for guests such as Michael Kors than Bear Grylls, the lodge also lacks the regimented early mornings of traditional safari camps, which usually begin at 5 a.m., while days at Southern Ocean Lodge typically begin at a more liberal 8:15 a.m., with trips to area sea lion preserves followed by a sociable lunch and late afternoon of spa treatments or a private yoga session. In early evenings it's back into the wild for "Kangaroo's and Kanapies," combining champagne and appetizers while watching various gatherings of kangaroos and wallabies in the most carefree of safari cocktail settings.
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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.