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The top five luxury African safaris for a Christmas to remember

Travel writer Sophie Ibbotson checks out the best places to spend Christmas on safari.

In the midst of this long, hot summer, it can be hard to imagine a time will come when the days are short, cold, and quickly turn dark. Fortunately, you don’t have to endure them: all you need to do is to escape to warmer climes!

And where better to spend Christmas than on safari. Africa boasts some of the most luxurious lodges and camps in the world, perfect locations where you can spend time with those you love and form unforgettable memories together. When you can watch lions before breakfast, track chimps through the forest, or dive beneath turquoise blue waves, Santa Claus barely gets a look in. Here are five of our absolute favourites.

Christmas with a difference in Botswana

Gomoti Plains Camp boasts stylish accommodation

Without doubt, Botswana is Eden on Earth: everywhere you look in the Okavango Delta, there are elephants and rhinos, buffalos, hippos, and giraffes. Christmas will be a massive affair at new luxury lodge Gomoti Plains Camp. Staff are encouraged to bring their families with them to work, and everyone will join in the Christmas Eve bush dinner and traditional games and football. Gammon and turkey will both be on the menu on Christmas Day, and you’ll dine outside in the sunshine, whilst being serenaded by the glorious camp choir.

Chimp tracking in Uganda

Chimp tracking is one of the highlights of a stay in the Kibale National Park

Uganda really is one of East Africa’s underappreciated treasures, a destination of awe inspiring landscapes and rich biodiversity. There’s a huge array of primate species, and though it’s the mountain gorillas which tend to get the column inches, wildlife specialists Journeysmiths are adamant it is the chimps which deserve your attention. Kyaninga Lodge is superbly situated for chimp tracking in the Kibale National Park, which boasts one of the highest concentrations of primates in Africa, and the lodge’s owners are committed to giving back to the local community.

Family adventures in South Africa

Rhinos at the Ants Nest

With babies or young children in tow, it’s a good idea to choose a malaria free safari so you don’t have to worry about taking tablets. Ants Nest in the Waterberg Game Reserve near Johannesburg has wildlife of all shapes and sizes — from long necked giraffe to leathery skinned rhinos — and you can ride on horseback as well as hike and take game drives. The lodge accommodates just 12 guests, which makes it a great option if you’re travelling with extended family and want a luxurious property for exclusive use.

A cultural encounter in Tanzania

The Hadzabe people are indigenous to Tanzania

The grassy plains of the Southern Serengeti are home to the indigenous Hadzabe people, skilled hunter-gatherers who dress in bark cloth capes and patterned skirts, and adorn themselves with rainbow coloured beads. Check in at Mwiba Lodge, and you might well be lucky enough to be invited on one of their walks, hunts, or honey gathering expeditions. It’s an extraordinary way to learn firsthand about the Hadzabe’s traditional way of life, and will give you a completely different perspective on Tanzania.

Romantic retreat in Zanzibar

Diving with dolphins is a popular treat when staying in Zanzibar

Not all safaris are on land! This Christmas, consider an island escape in the Indian Ocean. Kilindi on idyllic Zanzibar is a beachside paradise originally designed for ABBA’s Benny Andersson. In the Minai Bay Conservation Area you can snorkel and dive amongst the dolphins, and swim through the shoals of tropical fish which have made the coral reef their home. Combine your marine safari with an excursion into the nearby Jozani Forest, where you can spot endearing creatures such as colobus monkeys, bush babies, and tree hyraxes. It’ll certainly be a Christmas with a difference!