South Africa is possibly Africa’s most diverse and accessible country when it comes to catering for everyone’s needs, it is an all-year destination and has something for everyone. Whether you’re after a five-star luxury safari with an abundance of game or searching for some of the world’s finest cuisine, which is accompanied by some of the best wine, South Africa can provide you with it all, and so much more.
Whilst many people flock to the Sabi Sands for their safari and head straight to the V&A Waterfront for their Cape Town experience, what they don’t realise is that there is a plethora of fantastic accommodation options off the ‘beaten track’ which sees far fewer visitors and offers a more personal and intimate experience.
Tintswalo Safari Lodge
A hidden gem sandwiched between the Sabi Sands and the Timbavati Game reserve is the Manyeleti Private Game Reserve. In the heart of Greater Kruger, the area is notorious for its open plains and big cat density. Cheetah and wild dog are frequently seen here as are the other members of the Big 5. It isn’t all about the game drives through, nestled in the Manyeleti you will find the beautiful Tintswalo Safari Lodge which feels like a home away from home. With its old colonial style rooms and comfy living areas, your experience is superfluous with every amenity you need.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served on an expansive deck in front of the lodge and is often interrupted by elephants coming to drink and dust bath. The magic of Manyeleti and Tintswalo is the private and intimate experience that is offered from an area that isn’t flooded by visitors. Its relatively unknown status means fantastic value for money and barely seeing another vehicle on game drive is definitely a bonus.
Ngala Tented Camp
The wonder of the Greater Kruger area is that there is so much variety to choose from, whether you’re looking for accommodation in the vast mopane forests that occupy areas North of the Oliphants River or more open and expansive scrub-land in the Sabi Sands area. For those familiar with the Kruger area, you may know of a river called the Timbavati. This meandering water source is a tributary to the major Oliphants River and is home to &Beyond’s Ngala Tented Camp.
Situated on the banks of the Timbavati, Ngala comprises of nine luxury tents, most of which have stunning views over the dry riverbed. The privacy and intimacy of Ngala Tented really embodies the soul of Africa and makes it a must-visit destination in the Greater Kruger. With &Beyond being the only operator on the reserve, game drives are private, intimate and unobtrusive. Couple this with extraordinary game viewing which includes the presence of two wild white lion cubs in the area and you can be certain of an unforgettable stay.
Whilst Londolozi and Singita often steal the headlines in Sabi Sands, what is often forgotten are the smaller and more personal lodges that are on offer and provide a service that is just as good. One of the smallest lodges in the Sabi Sands is Dulini Leadwood. Situated in the Western sector of the Sands and comprising of only four-ultra luxurious suites, this lodge is perfect for honeymooners and couples wanting solitude and tranquility.
From each of the suite’s private infinity pools, the lodge offers stunning views over the Sand or Mabrak Rivers as well as lavishly furnished rooms and beautiful architecture. All three of Dulini’s lodges are in a prime game-viewing area without the large crowds that you may find in the National Parks. Leopards are the main attraction here with these stunning big cats often being seen daily and when you combine this with excellent guiding and an abundance pan-African cuisine, you can be sure of a memorable and fulfilling stay.
Away from the wildlife in South Africa, Cape Town is home to some of the world’s best hotels, restaurants and bars. Whilst the V&A Waterfront rightly attracts scores of visitors, the hotels here are often rather large and certainly aren’t as personal and intimate as the service you would have got used to on safari. If you are willing to branch out from the main hustle and bustle of the Waterfront, then you will find a whole host of wonderful hotel options not far away. Tintswalo Atlantic can be found at the bottom of the beautiful Chapman’s Peak Drive. In a private and secluded bay that can’t be seen off the main road, you can easily drive past here without ever knowing it existed (I have).
Through the swinging gates by Chapman’s Peak you meander down to the water’s edge where a small boutique hotel awaits. Facing the Atlantic Ocean and looking across Hout Bay, views and sunsets don’t get much better. Each room is at the water’s edge and a communal pool with sun loungers and hammocks is the perfect area to relax during the day. The lounge and dining areas are all open plan and extravagantly furnished. The seafood served here is some of the best in the Cape. Prepared daily, a mixture of surf and turf food is served and is delightful to enjoy whilst enjoying the natural beauty of the area. Although you are based slightly out of downtown Cape Town, you are only a hop, skip and a jump away from the penguins at Boulders Beach or the beautiful Cape Point.
Babylonstoren – The Green House
Aside from marvelous city life, South Africa is also host to picturesque countryside including farms and vineyards. There is no better hotel that encapsulates the true rural beauty of South Africa than Babylonstoren. Comprising of a variety of different room categories including their brand-new Fynbos Cottages, Babylonstoren is a contemporary Farm Hotel that captures the essence of stepping back in time and is the perfect place for both families and couples. With plenty of activities to do for children and adult only areas like the spa, Babylonstoren has a little bit of something for everyone.
Built around an old farmstead, Babylonstoren is home to free-roaming farm animals, vineyards and gorgeous fruit and vegetable gardens that are fabulous to walk around. Whilst most people who visit tend to eat in their renowned Babel restaurant, it is the Green House restaurant here that is the real hidden gem. With tables and chairs literally inside a green house, this restaurant is the perfect place to sample some of the best rustic and tasty, home-grown food. With many ingredients picked from the vine that day, the soups, sandwiches and salads are some of the freshest and most scrumptious delicacies in the Stellenbosch region. If you can’t stay here overnight, make sure you pop in at lunch time.
Marc Harris is Managing Director of Africa Odyssey. Africa Oydssey is run by a team of award-winning experts offering tailor-made African safari holidays.