All the winners and runners-up in the popular 2016 Tusker Awards

in 2016, the Safari Index launched its inaugural Big Tusker Safari Awards. The Big Tuskers celebrate the ultimate safari destinations and experiences in Africa. In the safari world, a “Tusker” refers to an elephant that has remarkably large tusks, with a “Big Tusker” being the biggest of the Tuskers. Big Tuskers are rare in the wild today, not usually seen with the larger herds. The Big Tusker Awards represent a similar concept- they celebrate safari destinations and experiences that stand out and provide unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

There were nine awards categories in the Big Tuskers, with a winner and runner-up being crowned in each. Winners were chosen by participants submitting their votes through the Safari Index awards page. The following safari lodges, camps, and destinations are the Big Tuskers of the safari world for 2016…

Ultimate Safari Destination

Shamwari Game Reserve

Shamwari Game Reserve is situated in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, a malaria-free region. This Big 5 reserve is made up of a variety of habitat types, combining to provide a refuge for an abundance of wildlife species. Open plains, rolling hills, acacia woodland, and riverine habitat make up the reserve, with the Bushman’s River flowing through it as well. This attracts a host of birdlife species, including the distinguished African Fish Eagle. A number of luxury lodges are found in special “rural” zones in the reserve, helping to reduce their environmental impact.

Ultimate Life-Changing Safari Experience

The Hide Safari Camp

The Hide Safari Camp is located in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, a vast reserve of over 14000 square kilometers of pristine wilderness. This luxurious camp can accommodate everyone from families to honeymooners to small groups, featuring deluxe safari tents, as well as a private safari home. The camp also features a unique underground game-viewing hide, set right on the doorstep of a busy waterhole, as well as a delightful wine cellar. Guests can look forward to thrilling wildlife encounters with the reserve’s plethora of game species, which includes the famous African Big 5.

Ultimate South African National Park Camp

Mosu Lodge, Mokala National Park

Mosu Lodge is located in the newest national park in South Africa, Mokala National Park. The reserve is situated in the Northern Cape province of the country, and features vast open plains and dolerite hills that are home to a variety of birdlife and wildlife species, including buffalo and both black and white rhino. Mosu Lodge offers comfortable and affordable accommodation. The lodge is made up of 15 air-conditioned, well-furnished bungalows, some of which are self-catering, and one of which has facilities for the disabled. Facilities at the lodge include a swimming pool, restaurant and bar, and conference facilities. A host of activities are on offer to guests, including hiking, guided game drives, 4×4 trails, and birding.

Ultimate Family Safari Camp

Jock Safari Lodge, Kruger

Jock Safari Lodge is found on a private concession in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, in a region known for exceptional game-viewing. The lodge‘s 12 spectacular suites overlook a riverbed, and feature private pools and outdoor lounges. The lodge also features a smaller private lodge, called Fitzpatrick’s, that is the perfect retreat for families or small groups. Fitzpatrick’s has its own pool, WiFi access, and lounge with TV. The lodge has special children’s activities, as well as a junior ranging training program for kiddie’s game drives. A babysitting service is also available for an additional cost.

Ultimate Romantic/Honeymoon Safari Experience 

Mnemba Island Lodge, Zanzibar

Mnemba Island Lodge is an idyllic beach resort, located on Mnemba Island, off the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania. This tropical island paradise is the ultimate getaway for couples and honeymooners. Featuring 10 beachfront cabins, the lodge accommodates just 20 guests in cabins that open onto white sand beaches. Each cabin is designed using wood and thatch, giving it an authentic feel, with en-suite bathrooms, private verandas and ocean views. Enjoy romantic beach walks and sunset views, before dining at night on the beach under the stars. During the day, explore the Indian Ocean by going snorkelling, diving, kayaking and deep-sea paddle boarding. Enjoy private dinners in secluded forest clearings, or relax in your private beach sala, attended to by your personal butler.

Ultimate Luxury Game Lodge

Shamwari Eagles Crag, Eastern Cape

Shamwari Eagles Crag Lodge is an ultra-luxury lodge, tucked into a valley in the Shamwari Game Reserve in the malaria-free Eastern Cape of South Africa. The lodge‘s 9 magnificent suites all feature private decks with private plunge pools, indoor and outdoor shower facilities, and minibars, amongst other amenities. The lodge itself boasts a range of superb facilities that cater to your every need, including a central lounge with a fireplace and TV, as well as a wellness retreat/spa with a steam room, sauna and hydro bath. Enjoy game drives in the Big 5 reserve, as well as visits to the Rhino Centre and Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

Ultimate Unique Safari Experience

Bushmans Kloof

Bushmans Kloof is a unique safari lodge, located in the Cedarberg region of South Africa‘s Western Cape, a World Heritage Site. The area is home to over 130 sites of historically significant San Bushman rock art. Visiting these is an unforgettable experience, where one feels as though they are travelling back in time. The reserve is also known for its spectacular floral blooms in August and September of each year. Bushmans Kloof offers an oasis-like retreat in the heart of the wilderness. It features luxurious accommodation with numerous modern amenities, as well as a range of first-class facilities that include four pools and a world-renowned health spa.

Ultimate Weekend Safari Destination

Nambiti Hills Game Lodge, KwaZulu Natal

Nambiti Hills Game Lodge is located in the Nambiti Private Game Reserve in South Africa‘s KwaZulu Natal Province, perched on a hillside and providing gorgeous panoramic views. The 5-star lodge has 8 luxury suites, each positioned for privacy and featuring wooden verandas and stand-alone bathtubs with views. There are numerous spots to relax and unwind at the lodge– around the pool or sunken fireplace, enjoying dinner in the semi-enclosed boma on a hill, or with a treatment at the spa. Enjoy Big 5 game-viewing on game drives, or embark on a cultural and historical tour of the region.

Best Value Safari Experience

Quatermain’s 1920s Safari Camp, Eastern Cape

Quatermain’s 1920s Safari Camp is a small safari camp, found in the Amakhala Game Reserve in the malaria-free Eastern Cape in South Africa. This intimate camp accommodates just 6 guests in 3 classic safari tents, each featuring en-suite bathrooms, outdoor showers and private wooden decks. True to its name, the camp exudes a historical charm, providing a genuine tented safari experience. Enjoy game drives out in the Big 5 reserve, as well as other activities that include fishing, boating, and historical tours. Return to camp for a delicious meal cooked over an open fire, before spending the night gazing at the stars in the wilderness.