Stylish Safaris Take Cues From Top Designers

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. ( MainStreet) -- From this year's Louis Vuitton Men's Spring/Summer catalog to the latest Michael Kors collection, designers derived much of their fashion inspiration this season from the African bush. But with African safaris hitting the mainstream and becoming more accessible to everyday travelers, those looking for more discerning Out of Africa glamour are ditching the traditional lodges in lieu of a new breed of mobile camps that have to be seen to believed.

Like a caravan version of the Orient Express, Uncharted Africa has been traversing Botswana's Kalahari Plains for more then a generation. With four permanent camps in Botswana including the venerable Jack's Camp with tented library and pool pavilion among the Makgadikgadi Pans, Unchartered Africa hosts a series of custom safari expeditions that are some of the most luxurious in the industry. Itineraries include routes through Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve and Okavango Delta in addition to extensive access throughout the Kalahari Desert.
A canopy of stars, African wildlife, South African wines and tent interiors by Boyd Ferguson of South Africa's firm Cecile & Boyd's define the Singita experience for the savvy safari-goer.

One- to three-night treks include morning and evening game viewing with sightings that range from the magnificent Kalahari lion and leopards to native giraffe and wild dogs. (Some trips are even led by owner Ralph Bousfield, a documentary filmmaker and son of the Jack's Camp namesake.) A collection of vintage safari tents and antique wares makes for a glamorous backdrop to indefatigable desert predators that seem eerily equal footed when separated by just a simple canvas tent under the vast desert night.

Boho-glam Beho Beho in Tanzania's less traveled Selous Game Reserve hosts one of the region's most unique safari experiences, away from the tourist strum of Ngorongoro Crater in the Tanzanian interior. Built for seasoned safari travelers that have "been there, done that" throughout Africa, this is a spectacular safari lodge mixing tribal glamour with local craftsmanship and custom experiences that can be as simple as a 9 a.m. safari drive or as adventurous as a 5 a.m. sunrise game walk in one of the largest and wildest game reserves in the world.

While in camp at Beho Beho, guests enjoy traditional thatch-roof bandas with hardwood floors and walls that open to wide-open views of the Selous Reserve. But for those staying for more than three nights there's an additional perk -- namely the famous Bush Nights, when intrepid guests stake out their camp by foot (surrounded by a senior guide and armed footmen, of course). After an afternoon trek, guests arrive to a stunning mobile camp with a Thousand and One Nights theme of canvas tents and outdoor lounges arranged with North African wares, antique rugs and Moroccan lanterns that burn the night oil.

But even chicer are the Chanel-clad adventurers that rest up two or so nights at Singita Sasakwa Lodge before making their way deep into the private Grumeti Reserve for one of the grandest and newest mobile safaris in Africa. Known as Singita Explore, it lets modern-day adventurers depart in an armada of Land Rovers that roll out over land that's home to the Great Migration stocked with chilled Moet and shiny silver service. With celebrity admirers from Martha Stewart to Elton John and Michael Kors, Singita has evolved into what many consider the leading luxury safari operator in the business.

Singita commissioned its designers to create a mobile camp of custom tents where guests don't have to compromise on luxury just to sleep under the stars. Tent interiors were designed by Boyd Ferguson of South African design firm Cecile & Boyd's, and all are ornamented in leather and canvas with polished steel accents. The mobile safari accommodates two to a dozen guests at a time and is an ideal add-on for those already visiting one of Singita's Grumeti lodges that include Faru Faru and Sabora Tented Camp in addition to Sasakwa Lodge.

With exclusive rights to more than 340,000 acres of Tanzania's Serengeti, guests are immersed in an African landscape that manages to be both removed and opulent. Nights are spent sipping South African wines by the firelight as a canopy of stars and the occasional passing satellite sets the stage for lion calls and the occasional hyena heckle. Despite the grand style, an adventurous and casual spirit prevails that never feels too detached from the bush -- with just the right amount of designer bling to woo even the fanciest of travelers away from the lodge and into the wild.

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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.