Our 8 Favorite Family-Owned & Run Properties

Some of our favorite properties in Africa are those that are family-owned and run. This doesn't mean that they are the smoothest, slickest, most luxurious properties. Instead, these are places have that extra touch of quirkiness and soul that we love. They are run by people who are passionate about Africa, about their country and about conservation and community. They know the wildlife and the people of their area intimately. They are inviting you into their home as welcome guests. It also often means that there are children and pets running around making the properties perfect for families traveling together. Clients always come back raving about these properties and with a real feeling of connection as a result of getting to know these extraordinary people. Below are some of our favorite properties across Africa which are family-owned and run.

Lewa Wilderness, Laikipia, Kenya

Lewa Wilderness Lodge in Laikipia is in a beautiful hilly setting in the Lewa Wilderness Conservancy and has been the home of the Craig family for generations. Lewa Wilderness Lodge is a great property for families and active travelers with horseback and camelback riding, hiking, and swimming in addition to game drives. The management, staff and guides are all excellent. One of the highlights at Lewa Wilderness Lodge is a pre-booked bi-plane ride (only possible when Will Craig is in camp). The low-flying biplane is an even more thrilling wildlife experience than a hot air balloon over the Mara.

Ol Malo, Laikpia, Kenya

Ol Malo is another great example of a family owned and run property in Kenya's Laikipia area. We love Ol Malo for it's stunning setting and unique design and for the multi-generational Francombe family that runs the property. Ol Malo Lodge is hosted by Kenyan-born Rocky and Colin Francombe. Colin and Rocky moved to Ol Malo in 1991 and carved a future for themselves and their children in a harsh a rugged area of Northern Kenya. Today their son Andrew and his wife Chyulu help Colin and Rocky with running and hosting guests at the nearbyOl Malo House. They were married on the property in 2011 on the edge of the cliffs with Mt Kenya and the stunning north as the backdrop and recently welcomed their first grandchild. The family does everything from hosting meals, to horseback riding excursions to flying guests up to Lake Turkana in their helicopter!

Kinondo Kwetu, Diani Beach, Kenya

Kinondo Kwetu is just an hour and half south of Mombasa on the pristine Swahili Coast. The name means "our home or our place at Kinondo" in Swahili, and with its sense of true hospitality, you’ll see why Swedish-owners Ida and Filip Andersson chose it. We love that this small boutique hotel mixes chic Scandinavian contemporary design with traditional Kenyan arts and textiles.

Truthfully this whole list could be properties in Kenya, which has just an astounding number of owner run properties that are souful, quirky and fun. Here are just a few others in that we love and fit this bill: Sarara, Borana, Richard's Camp and Che Shale.

Serian Mobile, Serengeti, Tanzania

The Serian Camps in Tanzania and Kenya are some of our all time favorites, for their style, great locations and for their owner Alex Walker. A fourth generation Kenyan and child of a professional hunter, Alex spent his childhood in forest and bush learning from local trackers. A highly respected guide and maker of wildlife documentary films, Alex has made the East African bush his home and this influence is felt in the small details around his camps. While he splits his time between his camps in Tanzania and Kenya, you are most likely to catch him at his mobile camp in Tanzania which moves annually from the southern to the northern Serengeti, following the Wildebeest migration.

Chem Chem Safari Lodge

Chem Chem Safari Lodge sits in a private concession bordering Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara in Tanzania. The property was opened in June 2011 is owned and hosted by Swiss/French couple Fabia Bausch and Nicolas Negre. Fabia has a business background; Nicolas was formerly a professional hunter in the Selous. They had that idea of creating a new conservation area with a beautiful lodge at it's center. Today, from Chem Chem Safari Lodge, Fabia and Nicolas share the concept of the "slow safari" with guests, helping them to really immerse themselves in the wildlife and people of this small part of Tanzania. They also own Chem Chem Bushcamp.

Tafika Camp, South Luangwa, Zambia

Tafika Camp provides guests an authentic safari experience in the game-rich Luangwa Valley of Eastern Zambia. We love Tafika (and it's satellite walking camps) for the setting, the game-viewing and the wide variety of activities (from game-drives, to walking, to cycling to village visits). We also love constant involvement of the owners - John and Carol Coppinger and Bryan Jackson (who offers privately guided safaris and teaches clients to take better safari photos).

If we are being honest, South Africa is one of the more challenging safari destinations to find these family run and hosted properties that we love. Don't get us wrong, South Africa is great in other ways, but this is not the country's strength! That said there are some to be found. Here are two owner run properties in South Africa that we really like and that consistently get rave reviews from our clients.

Ant's Nest and Ant's Hill, South Africa

Ant's Nest/Ant's Hill is Ant and Tessa Barber’s unique bush home, situated on a private game reserve in the Waterberg, between Johannesburg and the Limpopo River. This fun yet luxurious home-hosted property is great for families and known for horse-back riding and its annual game census which guests can participate it.

Tanda Tula, Kruger Area, South Africa

Tanda Tula is a consistent favorite with our travelers to South Africa. Due in part to it's East African tented style, in part to it's setting one of the most game-rich areas in South Africa and in part to Don and Nina Scott and their dedicated team. Built-in 1976 on family owned land in the heart of the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve which borders Kruger, Tanda Tula Safari Camp was first East African styled, luxury tented safari camp in South Africa. Today, Tanda Tula consists of two exclusive tented camps both: Tanda Tula Safari Camp and Tanda Tula Field Camp. Both camps are owned and managed by Don and Nina Scott, together with their passionate and dedicated team.

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Kimi Christopulos