Africa is most fun when shared with family or friends and there are an increasing number of exclusive-use safari houses where you can do it in style with your own chef, a team of staff to look after you, and a private guide and vehicle to go out and explore.
And if it’s a private house you’re after, how about the house the owners built for themselves? In some cases they even still live there and move out when guests move in
On the banks of the Zambezi River, within striking distance of Victoria Falls, Tangala House is the private home of Ben and Vanessa Parker, owners of nearby Tongabezi Lodge. They realised, way before AirBnB was a thing, that families would like to stay where they lived, and decided to fund their own holidays by letting their four-bedroomed house to visitors, supplying the staff and a guide if required, to make a great holiday base.
When guests are not simply relaxing in the pool, with its views over the Zambezi River, there are countless activities on offer and sightseeing possibilities in the area.
Helicopter or microlight flights over Victoria Falls, bungee jumping off the Livingstone Bridge or rafting in the Zambezi gorge are all available to those looking for an adrenalin rush, while shopping for souvenirs or a boat trip on the river are for those looking for more sedate options.
Robin Pope gave his name to the eponymous safari company in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley and built Robin’s House as somewhere to live with his wife Jo. They no longer live there and the two bedroomed private house is available for families or friends. It looks over the Luangwa River just upstream from one of the Robin Pope Safaris’camps, Nkwali, and is regularly visited by wildlife from the national park including elephants, baboons and even the occasional leopard.
Across the river is the South Luangwa National Park which guests at Robin’s House can explore alongside expert safari guides during the day and even continuing as dusk falls, looking for nocturnal wildlife with a spotlight.
Although the area is rich with predators such as lion, hyena, leopard and even wild dog, walks can be enjoyed with armed guides and scouts providing expertise and protection.
Another couple who move out when guests move in are Peter and Dianne Behr, who established the Kurland Hotel and Polo Estate, close to Plettenberg Bay in South Africa.
The Cape Dutch style villa has eight bedrooms and faces north (ie. facing the sun in the southern hemisphere) on private property alongside the main estate.
Guests staying in the villa have full use of all of Kurland’s facilities and activities including quad biking, mountain biking or riding on the estate or relaxing in the spa. The area is rich in opportunities with beaches, boats, scenic flights, golf and animal sanctuaries nearby.
In the past Singita Castleton was the family home of Singita founder Luke Bailes’ grandfather.
When the Bailes family are not using it for their own holidays, Castleton House and the six cottages within the grounds accommodate up to 12 people and there are also a tennis court, a pool and a gym for guests to enjoy.
The area is host to good quantities of wildlife including the famous Big 5 of lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo and those taking Singita Castleton on an exclusive basis can enjoy game drives in its private area within Kruger’s Sabi Sands, as well as village visits, walking safaris or mountain biking, all alongside experienced guides.
Home of the owners of Kaya Mawa, James and Suzi Lightfoot, Ndomo Point House sits close to the baobab where the Lightfoots were married and a 15 minute walk from the lodge itself on the shores of Lake Malawi, although it should be noted that guests here have a boat and vehicle at their disposal!
With four bedrooms, its own beach and a year-round sunset, the house works for families, groups of friends, or even a couple wishing for exclusivity and privacy.
If guests at Ndomo Point House tire of the beach Lake Malawi is great for snorkelling, diving, kitesurfing and waterskiing. Away from the water it’s a short walk or cycle into the village and bicycles and quads bikes can be used to explore the island.
Richard Smith is Operations Director at Aardvark Safaris.