Bateleur Camp (Masai Mara, Kenya): For pure luxury, this is one of Kenya's top-drawer offerings, with chicly styled tents (and state-of-the-art built-in stone-and-glass bathrooms) and imaginative public areas filled with intriguing artifacts and artworks. In fact, tents are so smart -- with dark wood furniture, built-in wardrobes, rare Maasai beaded leather, and Egyptian cotton linens -- that you'll probably find yourself checking the walls to make sure they're canvas. Over and above the pampering you get from your butler, whose job it is to take care of your every whim (including sorting out your daily schedule), you'll be treated to exceptional guiding by some of the best in the business. And all this within striking distance of some famous Out of Africa film locations -- if that doesn't stir your imagination, there's always the prospect of witnessing an episode from the Great Migration directly from your private porch, complete with a butler-mixed G&T at your beck and call.
Cottar's 1920s Safari Camp (Masai Mara, Kenya): A regular backdrop for fashionable magazine shoots and a popular destination with safari-loving celebrities, this evocative camp just outside the Masai Mara harks back to another era. Re-created here, in fact, is a time when the Cottars established their reputation as the First Family of the safari business, setting up the first fixed camps in Kenya. The big, breezy tented accommodations are beautiful and private, and there's a small wing of two-bedroom suites especially for families. Colonial-era antiques, family heirlooms, and nostalgic objets re-create an era of sublime, gentle luxury -- although game drives are now in modern 4X4s and most guests arrive by light aircraft. Meals are served by waiters in period costume, with candles and lanterns setting a romantic scene. The camp is beyond the reach of the multitudes that drive around the southern part of the Masai Mara, so apart from local tribespeople and cattle herders from across the Tanzanian border, you'll seldom catch a glimpse of another soul.
Joy's Camp (Shaba National Reserve, Kenya): Kenya has recently seen the establishment of several new tented camps that have broken an older mold of generally bland and functional canvas operations. Set within the peaceful, little-visited Shaba reserve (where authoress Joy Adamson lived out her final years), this elegant camp -- with pretty Bedouin-style tents surrounded by a quintessential African wilderness and distant volcanic hills -- is a relaxing place to get attuned to the rhythm of the continent. Whether from your private terrace, the pool, the open-air dining area, or your cleverly positioned shower, you'll be able to watch elephants and buffaloes grazing just beyond the edge of the camp -- and in the morning you might discover evidence that the animals have been tasting the grass just outside your sleeping quarters.
Ngare Serian (Masai Mara, Kenya): Renowned Kenyan safari guide and filmmaker Alex Walker offers a wide range of game-viewing activities from his exclusive new riverside camp that -- with just four smart, simple tents -- is jam-packed with charm and elegance, yet without any over-the-top grandeur. There's no in-room electricity, for example, but your large, multilevel accommodations (including open-plan bathrooms with tub and shower) overlook a stretch of water populated by comical hippos that will keep you entertained all day long. Not that they'll need to, though, since you'll be out discovering the local wildlife on totally private game drives, picnicking in the bush, or tracking animals on foot. And if that sounds like too much effort, you can always settle into the breezy mess tent -- designed like someone's posh indoor-outdoor lounge -- while being served by cool, disarming Maasai butlers.
Oliver's Camp (Tarangire National Park, Tanzania): Located in a remote wilderness area in the eastern section of Tarangire, Oliver's lies at the end of a dirt track that has scenery and game that will have you stopping to take pictures every few minutes. The camp itself is just as beautiful, combining thoughtful and luxurious furnishings with authentic camping facilities (composting toilets, bucket showers), and is one of only two camps that offers walking safaris inside the park; visitors can either complete a few hours' circuit or head off across the plains to overnight at a specially set up (and more rudimentary) fly-camp.
Rekero (Masai Mara, Kenya): In the heart of Kenya's most popular wildlife preserve, there's little to beat the river's-edge location of this rustic, thoroughly authentic camp. Secreted away from the Mara's often-hectic crowds, and almost indistinguishable from the bush upon approach, here you can breakfast in full view of one of the Great Migration's best fording points. Add to this intimate service and impeccable guiding by some of the Mara's most respected Maasai -- professional, articulate gentlemen who not only introduce you to the abundant animals you'll spot within close quarters of this unfenced camp, but also share a deep knowledge of their culture. Your tented digs will be neat, simple, and functional, but the pared accommodations only help make the experience more memorable.
Sabora Plains Tented Camp (Grumeti Private Reserve, Tanzania): "Camping" doesn't get better than this. Each tented "suite" comprises a huge bedroom tent furnished with antiques and custom-made articles, all with brass hinges to indicate mobility (in keeping with its Victorian safari theme), Persian carpets, and cut-glass vases brimful with roses. This is linked to a separate bathroom and dressing room tent to one side, and a separate lounge/library tent to the other, the latter filled with books and games; beyond your wrought-iron outdoor bed is a shaded umbrella-thorn acacia tree. Quite simply the most opulent and beautifully furnished tented camp on Earth.
Sayari Camp (Serengeti, Tanzania): Located on the south bank of the Mara River, in the remote northwest of the Serengeti, Sayari Camp enjoys an unusually lush location in the Serengeti, with rolling parkland interspersed with riverine woodlands, and the river a permanent magnet for a variety of game. After a full refurbishment in 2009, furnishings in Sayari's public spaces are cool and modern -- more urban bar than Hemingway safari -- and the tents now have bathtubs in addition to showers and double basins. With the completion of the pool, this is now -- along with Singita's Sabora Plains -- the best tented camp in the Serengeti.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.