South Africa’s pride and joy is her wildlife heritage, with millions of guests visiting each year for life-changing safari experiences. As a travel journalist I’ve had the immense privilege of visiting many of our beautiful lodges, and now am excited to help arrange stays for you at a discounted rate. Simply email me and let me know where you’d like to stay, and I’ll get the lodge to contact you with a discounted stay!
1. GONDWANA GAME RESERVE, Western Cape
Gondwana is an 11000-hectare private a four-hour drive from Cape Town, not far from the start of the famed Garden Route. There are various accommodation options – my favorite is the flagship Kwena Lodge: a modern and luxurious twist on the traditional Khoi-San dwelling. Each of the suites offer spectacular 180-degree views, have skylights for star gazing, feature clay pot fireplaces, and have deep baths to warm you upon returning from an evening Big 5 Game Drive. Read my full review here, and email me here to arrange a discounted stay.
2. SANBONA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE, Western Cape
For 5-star luxurious lodgings, three hours from Cape Town, look no further than the 54000-hectare Sanbona Private Game Reserve. Various plush accommodation options will keep you safe and sound in between the game drives. My accommodation recommendation is the enthralling Dwyka Lodge for a tented stay in a dry ravine. Read my full review here, and email me here to arrange a discounted stay.
3. ULUSABA PRIVATE GAME RERVE, Kruger
Ulusaba is Sir Richard Branson’s piece of wilderness in Kruger – home to two distinct lodges. Rock Lodge is perched magnificently with breathtaking views over the surrounding bush. Safari Lodge, which would be our home for the stay, is a few minutes’ drive away and occupies a prime position alongside the river.
4. SASEKA TENTED CAMP, Kruger
In the heart of one of South Africa’s most abundant wildlife hotspots, awaits a new luxury safari camp that is causing jaws to drop. If unbridled luxury, innovative styling and wild nature are your checkboxes, then Saseka Tented Camp should be a definite honeymoon consideration. The camp opened in March 2019 and offers a rather unique safari option for discerning travellers.
5. 7 KOPPIES, Franschhoek
The farmhouse is distinctly homely, but with modern brushes subtly colouring both décor and design. As you walk out of the Provence-styled kitchen, you cross a manicured lawn leading to the pool, and after that you gaze over kilometers of winelands. All of the outside spaces are effortless and stylish extensions of the natural space that surrounds the farmhouse.
6. Morukuru De Hoop, Western Cape
The Morukuru Family offer stays in either the 5-bedroom Beach Lodge or exclusive use 4-bedroom Ocean House. From their elevated positions, both offer uninterrupted views over the fynbos-covered dunes to the ocean below. The service is personable beyond belief and the spaces luxurious beyond imagination; its easy to see why Morukuru has scooped up some of the most prestigious international travel awards.
7. MONT ROCHELLE, Franschhoek
A short drive from Cape Town is Mont Rochelle: this 5* Franschhoek hotel is Sir Richard Branson’s Vineyard in South Africa. Towering mountains form a formidable presence in the background and the famed vineyards in the foreground – and all a short drive from the scenic town.
8. WEST COAST VILLAS, Western Cape
Britannia Bay is a quiet West Coast village with a 5-kilometre beach, lined with pristine white beach homes. From the luxurious Bordeaux on Britannia (think Mykonos meets Marrakesh, with classic West Coast simplicity) to the Stepping off the sand The Beach House is ready to embrace you in her luxurious arms. The Provençal-styled villa The Beach House at St Helena Bay…
9. MARATABA LUXURY LODGES, Limpopo
Marataba Luxury Lodge is set in 23 000 hectares of the Marakele National Park, a mere 3h30-drive from Johannesburg. Since there are no other lodges the sense of isolation is heightened. Spending three hours driving through the bush, and not seeing another person, makes you feel like everything is waiting for you alone. Safari Lodge is the larger two lodges – with tents a short walk from the lodge, all featuring verandas with prime views, over-sized bathrooms and outdoor showers. The smaller and more remote Mountain Lodge is truly an intimate bush retreat with only five eco suites – the architecture and furniture all angled to take full advantage of the breath-taking views below.
10. ROVOS RAIL
For over 30 years Rovos Rail has been offering guests the opportunity to explore Africa by rail. What this family-owned company has achieved is nothing short of remarkable, overcoming all odds to establish a world-renowned private railway, often touted as the ‘most luxurious train in the world’. Rovos offers several journeys from its stately home-base of Capital Park in Pretoria. Cape Town, Durban, and Victoria Falls are all different options – even an astounding 14-day journey to Dar es Salaam if the purse allows.
11. AQUILA, Rawsonville
Aquila is Cape Town’s closest Big 5 Reserve, only a two-hour drive from Cape Town. The 10000-hectare conservancy is perfectly geared towards visitors who have a shorter travel time. Their half-day safaris include a scrumptious meal, and I wholeheartedly recommend their beautiful spa. Various overnight options are available, and also horseback options. Aquila can also arrange transfers from Cape Town.
12. MORUKURU MADIKWE, Limpopo
If it’s an isolated experience you’re after, it doesn’t get any better than an exclusive use rental. It’s you and your party, and it’s you who gets to call the shots. The Madikwe lodges are high-end and perhaps the most exclusive of these are the three Morukuru Family properties – the sister lodge of Morukuru Family in De Hoop which only recently scooped up the award for the top lodge in Africa by Condenast. Three separate exclusive use homes sleeping 4, 6, and 10 people respectively. The reserve covers an impressive 75,000 hectares, making it the fifth biggest in the country, a drive just short of four hours from Johannesburg.
13. Simbavati Waterside, Kruger
Barely an hour away in the park, and in the same lodge collection, Simbavati Waterside is a newly refurbished lodge that was given a complete overhaul during Covid. The result is a beautifully outfitted lodge with a series of free-standing rooms arranged around the lake. The rooms are breathtaking; enticing biophilic-inspired designs and textures along with the large animal canvases adorning the walls – all photographed in the vicinity of the lodge. There’s also a Media Room which doubles up as an office space. A short walk from the main lodge area, and the pool, gym, and spa provide space for clearing the mind. While bomas (outdoor fire pits) are a dime a dozen with safari, Waterside elevates the game with the edition on a pizza oven for bush-themed Italian dining.
14. Simbavati Homestead, Kruger
In a private concession of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Simbavati Homestead offers a unique stay: all the trimmings of a luxury bush escape, except that you’re not in a conventional lodge, but rather a home that is entirely yours. The self-catering element means you also save costs, and everyone gets a turn to cook – and yes Homestead is fully serviced so no need to do the dishes. The house is supremely spacious, with five unique bedrooms, and then a bar, an open-plan kitchen, dining room and a lounge. Ideal for just a couple, a group of friends or an extended family gathering. With the outdoor dining table straddling the veranda, we couldn’t resist eating all our meals within eyesight of any passing (equally hungry) wildlife. The garden also sports a pool, viewing deck and boma. Along with the keys to the Homestead, you’re assigned a guide and tracker to take care of all your safari needs.
15. Victoria Falls River Lodge, Zimbabwe
And then for one of the most wildly decadent stays, our grand finale was two nights on a private island on the Zambezi River – in a treehouse. This is none other than the Victoria Falls River Lodge. The lodge is divided into a camp on the mainland and then a private island in the Zambezi itself. The communal lodge spaces and then treehouses are all connected by raised walkways. These offer safety from the animals that roam freely below and give a scenic vantage point to see the island. On our stay, we safely observed elephants and hippos exploring the island below the walkways – both creatures swimming across to the isolated island – making your walk home a safari in itself. Included in your stay are the daily sunset cruises, safaris in Zambezi National Park and then on the mainland wildlife spotting or simply. Two of the treehouses sport star beds, and it was here where I drifted off each evening, lulled to sleep by the wild soundtrack of the bush.