Few experiences are more thrilling and rewarding than encountering wild animals in their natural environment. From witnessing the Great Migration pass through the Mara, giraffe and zebra roaming freely amongst the Big Five or huge herds of elephant frolicking in the Selinda Spillway, here is my selection of some of the best places to experience the different slices of Africa that stir the senses and the soul.
Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa
A firm favourite for novices and old hands alike, this is one of the best game-viewing areas in South Africa - you may not even have to leave your bed to get an incredible sight of its namesake animal. With only eight beautifully-appointed glass-fronted suites perched atop a rocky outcrop, thoughtful and attentive touches such as African poetry, weather notes and animal reference guides are placed in your room. Those with a passion for wildlife photography will be able to get various tips from their personal rangers who are all keen photographers themselves - it is not unusual to see all of the Big Five in a single game drive here.
One to watch: Roving Bushtops, Tanzania
Bushtops is going mobile with the launch of this exclusive camp, due to open in January 2015 at the heart of the Serengeti. It promises to combine the glamour of its fixed sister properties with the excitement of game viewing on the move. Set on wheels, the true glory is that if the best game moves on, the camp can follow; tents can also be set up together for families and small groups.
Mahali Mzuri, Masai Mara, Kenya
A year on since its opening and taking a safari in Kenya to the next level, Sir Richard Branson's first East African camp does not disappoint. Stretching the boundaries of what a tent and camp can be, the spacious suites are perched on raised platforms on the side of a lush valley providing sensational views over the rolling plains. Restricting the number of visitors allowed into the area at any one time and leaving as minimal a footprint as possible on the land, Mahali Mzuri provides guests with a natural and authentic safari experience. Appointing the best guides in the area - the majority of the team here are Masai and hail from local communities; Branson himself was made an honorary Masai Elder for his efforts to preserve the land and the Masai culture.
Why go? The open landscapes - it looks and feels like the Africa you see in the movies.
Recently opened: Zarafa Dhow Suites at Zarafa Camp, Botswana
Within the Selinda Reserve, the much anticipated Zarafa Dhow Suites opened in May. One of the largest tents ever built in Africa, constructed entirely under canvas, it is set apart from neighbouring Zarafa Camp and comes with its own staff, ranger and vehicle, offering the utmost privacy. Take the opportunity to refine your photography skills alongside award-winning wildlife filmmakers Derek and Beverly Joubert, who live on-site. Each tent comes complete with a Canon professional camera and zoom lenses.