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Top 5 ultra-luxurious safari lodges in South Africa

If you are looking to treat yourself to celebrate a special occasion or just because you feel like it, going on an ultra-luxurious safari might just be the ideal solution you’re looking for. While you’ll find a vast array of high-end safari retreats, there is just a very small bunch of lodges you could consider ultra-luxurious. Let’s have a look at some of them. Royal Malewane, Thornybush Game Reserve If celebrities are the perfect indicator to find ultra-luxurious places, then look no further. The amazing lodge hosted the likes of Elthon John, Richard Gere, Nicolas Sarkozy, Bono,…just to name a few. Set in the Thornybush Game reserve, it gives you some of the best game viewing out there. To top it off, the Royal Malewane will provide you with the best service, culinary delights from morning till the evening, an award winning bush spa and amazing accommodation which is in line with the eclectic style you’ll find in all the Royal Portfolio properties of which Royal Malewane is part of. The added bonus here is that you have the most experienced team of rangers and trackers you’ll find in the whole of Africa, just to make sure you’ll have the most memorable safari experience. And the spa is the perfect place to relax between two game drives or just to pamper yourself a little bit more. Londolozi, Sabi Sand Game reserve This family-run business is one of South-Africa’s original and goes back almost a full century. Today, the ultra-luxurious Londolozi camps are part of Relais & Châteaux. There are 5 camps all lines up next to each other on the banks of the Sand River. While all 5 are top notch, the one that sticks out most is the Private Granite Suites. Set on huge granite rocks, the beautiful designed suites give you uninterrupted views over the river, where elephants regularly pass by. The sunset river bar and sunken cocktail lounge are perfect spots to look out for any wildlife which roams around the camp. The Healing House is the latest addition to Londolozi and it’s a place where can connect with the natural world on another level, going from guided meditation to intensive bodywork and yoga. Here, you’ll find something for everybody. Ivory Lodge, Lion Sands Game Reserve This lodge is just one out of 4 lodges which are located in the Lion Sands Game Reserve, and they’re all part of the famous More portfolio. There are only eight one-bedroom villas and 1 two-bedroom villa which are all making use of a lot of glass, wood and concrete to give it a very clean and contemporary look while still blending in with the surroundings. Personalized service is a given, as is the great wildlife viewings and wonderful gastronomy. The More portfolio is known for its tree houses and at Ivory lodge you can elevate your safari experience by sleeping under the stars in one of the two tree houses. Of course there is once again a beautiful spa which enhances the experience and makes sure you’ll feel relaxed after your stay. Ulusaba, Sabi Sand Game Reserve Sir Richard Branson has his own private game reserve in South Africa called Ulusaba. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that it received many awards in the past, as it is located in one of the best parts of South Africa to see wildlife. But that doesn’t mean the lodge itself is any less impressive. There are two lodges, though the Rock Lodge is the most luxurious and impressive. Located on top of a hill, it gives you impressive views over the landscape. Each room is reflecting different African tribal influences, giving it their specific style. The views are of course all around, even if you are enjoying the outdoor pool. And don’t worry about the colder winter months as the pool is heated of course. South Africa is also known for its wines, hence why there is a proper wine lounge which will give you the opportunity to indulge in some of the local finest wines. Ideal to top up that glass and go outside to admire the milky way. The Motse, Tswalu Kalahari The Kalahari is an unforgiving place where wild animals roams free and you’ll find little signs of human life. The ideal location to escape everything and soak up the wide landscapes, the tranquility and to reload your batteries. The Motse has only 9 suites, instantly giving it that private atmosphere. Its style is African safari chic mixed with some stunning contemporary furniture pieces, giving it an authentic, yet up to date look. During those colder winter months you’ll be happy to know that every suite has its own fireplace. The night sky will also warm your heart, as it will be lit with millions of stars which are visible due to the low light and air pollution in this part of the world. Currently they are renovating The Motse to keep it among the best lodges in South-Africa when it reopens in June.

Kristof Eyckmans

Kristof Eyckmans is a travel writer from Antwerp, Belgium. He’s been living all across the globe and while he loves wildlife and nature, he can still enjoy a good urban jungle.

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  1. I suppose that it was inevitable that sooner or later safaris would marry in meditation and relaxing treatments. With the Londolozi camps being part of Relais & Châteaux group it seems that First World luxury is blending with the beauty of the African Safari.

    1. It was indeed something that would only be a matter of time before wellness (in all its forms) married the African luxury safari experience. But what is more beautiful than trying to find your inner peace when being surrounded by the beauty of the African bush? Match made in heaven.

  2. How about that for a bath with a view? :) Londolozi has several luxurious lodge option to enjoy, but in my opinion this is by far the most amazing one.

  3. I think safari first-timers are surprised by how much downtime there is on safaris. So the idea of wellness, meditation and yoga is a great one. Makes great use of the time.

    1. There is indeed a lot of downtime which some people didn’t anticipate before going on a safari. Wellness could be a perfect solution indeed, though I always enjoy a nice long lunch, some time at the spa, a little nap in the shade,…..life can be good during that downtime :)

  4. As an introvert, the Motse Tswalu Kalahari seems like heaven on Earth! It looks stunning and it sounds like the perfect place to connect with nature in the purest form. I can picture myself chilling out there with coffee and a great book :)

    I also like that you shared a family-run business. I think it’s amazing that the Londolozi Sabi Sand Game Reserve has been around for so long. Whenever I’m able to make it to South Africa, I’d love to give my support and take everything in. What’s your favorite dish in SA?

    1. All of the above mentioned lodges are family run. They all have several properties in different locations as they are among the people that know what guests are looking for + do an amazing job providing just that.

      I don’t have a favorite dish in SA, as there are so many wonderful food options in this amazing country. Paired with a nice South African wine you will not leave the table hungry.

  5. Don’t underestimate the importance of rangers and trackers in contributing to the success of your safari. It’s good to see that Royal Malewane are investing in their staff.
    One of the things that has pleased me on safaris is when we have a young lad, 16 or 17, tagging along as an apprentice. It must take years for them to pick up all the skills they need to graduate as a great tracker.

    1. You are very right and i’m glad you iterate the importance of a good ranger and tracker. While all of the lodges above are investing in their staff, Royal Malewane does have the most experienced one indeed. To give you an idea: there are only 4 master trackers on the African continent, of which 2 are working at this lodge.
      But being an ultra-luxurious lodge, all of the above mentioned lodges have amazing teams to make sure you see as much wildlife as possible.

  6. These are definitely luxurious accommodations! It’d be nice to try at least one out during a trip to South Africa. I don’t mind roughing it but I wouldn’t also mind pampering myself on my next safari trip too. It’d be nice to get to relax in any of these accommodations after going on game drives during the day. Looking forward to reading more of your travel posts!

    1. Thanks Ana. More travel posts coming up soon.
      Anything specific you would like to see covered?

  7. I can do ultra-luxurious. For 11 months of the year I race around at work grabbing coffees and sandwiches so when I finally get away I feel that I deserve my little bit of luxury.

    And to think that the first time I went on safari I was worried that the accommodation would be too basic. Our lodge was simply sumptuous.

    The thing is that luxury is addictive. Once you’ve experienced it going back is very difficult. Luckily for me most of the lodges keep pushing the boundaries of ultra-luxurious.

    1. You’re absolutely right. All too often people tend to believe that going on a safari equals roughing it, yet they couldn’t be more mistaken if you set yourself up for a stay at one of the many luxury lodges.

      As you say, it’s addictive but experiencing both ends of the market make you appreciate the top tier even more.

  8. All of the luxurious safari lodges you mentioned are truly divine. Especially the bush spa, is at the perfect place to get yourself pamper. I would love to try Royal Malewane, Thornybush Game Reserve. It looks beautiful and sounds like the ideal place to reconnect with nature in its purest form. I am excited to read more of your travel posts.

    1. The Royal Malewane is truly a magnificent place to stay at. Every detail, from the game drives to the service and from the insane suites to the mouthwatering food that is served to you…it’s just pure perfection.
      Hence why so many return guests come here cause you know it’s up there among the best and the owners make sure that level of luxury and service is run in all their properties around SA. They are even opening up a new lodge next to the Royal Malewane in the coming weeks so you really need to check it out soon!

    2. If you are excited to read more of my travel posts, just click on my name right below the title and you’ll get all the posts written by me (and yes, a lot of them involve luxury travel in Africa which I’m sure you’ll like).

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