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Top 5 luxury experiences in Africa

Often Africa is left aside when looking for a luxury escape from everyday life. But the dark continent has a lot to offer, and not only for budget travelers but also for the ones that aren’t shy to spend some cash in return for the most exclusive travel experiences out there. Here are a few of my favorite experiences. Rovos Rail, Southern Africa Being the African equivalent of the Orient Express, this luxurious train offers several itineraries, going from a 3 day trip within South Africa, all the way to a 15 day journey connecting Dar es Salaam and Cape Town. The suites are massive and each have their own bathroom (a luxury you don’t even have on the Orient Express). Besides that there is the endless supply of wonderful food, and a drinks menu that revels any bar in the world, including an impressive wine list with wines from some of the best estates in South Africa. The highlight though is the open-air terrace at the back of the train where you can sit down and enjoy the views while sipping from your favorite drink. The service is top notch and everything you can ask for is adhered to instantly. The train stops regularly for excursions and to get some exercise to lose part of the weight you gain from all the amazing food during your journey on board. The whole experience is like going back in time and the occasional gala dinners on board surely enhance that feeling. Be aware, travelling on the Rovos is addictive, but so is chocolate and we all love chocolate too. Bisate Lodge, Rwanda When people hear about Rwanda they instantly think about a dark history, though those days are long gone. The country is rebuilding itself at a record speed and luxury brands are rushing in to secure prime locations in places like Volcanoes National Park. So did Wilderness safaris with Bisate Lodge. The six forest villas are fitting in perfectly with the surrounding forest, though the inside provides you with all the bells and whistles you’ll find at any other luxury retreat at world class destinations. The main attraction here is the mountain gorilla trek which will give you the chance to encounter these rare and endangered species in their natural habitat. An experience only few have enjoyed and one that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It was in this region that Dian Fossey did her research and also is buried. You can visit her tomb which is located next to the grave of her favorite gorilla. The lodge is also very involved with habitat restoration, trying to bring back the indigenous rainforest in order for a natural recolonization to take place. This place is just one of many where you can actually see and experience that Rwanda has turned the page. Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa If there is one place in Africa that knows how to let you experience luxury , it is Tswalu! It is the biggest private game reserve in South Africa and its location is so remote (in the southern part of the Kalahari) that the only comfortable way to get there is by private plane. But not to worry, Tswalu has its own fleet of aircraft and helicopters to fly their guests in and out, but also over the massive reserve. The rooms are beautiful and have everything you can ask for. The game drives are one of the highlights here and having your private guide + tracker + vehicle at your disposal makes the experience very personal. And with a maximum of 32 guests (which are split over 2 properties) you will be lucky if you cross another vehicle. This place is known for its specific wildlife that in most other parts of Africa is almost impossible to find, like the pangolin, aardvark, aardwolf and so on. And as the owners started this whole project in order to protect and rehabilitate this part of the Kalahari, they do everything they can to expand the reserve, bring in more resources for research, work together with the best of the best like National Geographic’s,…. As if that isn’t enough they also started to work together with Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen who’s a Michelin star chef, in order to also elevate the culinary experience to new heights. If you want to be guaranteed to have a life changing and luxurious experience, this is the place to be. Royal Mansour, Morocco Marrakech has always been a magical place, with plenty of hidden riads’, the famous Jemaa el-Fna square and the souks where anyone can get their fix when it comes to shopping. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of this city, the Royal Mansour has been an oasis of luxury and tranquility. The hotel consists out of 53 individual raids’, which are actually private residences. Spanning over 3 floors, each of them are masterpieces and an example of Moroccan craftsmanship. The opulence of it all will leave you speechless. Food is important in Moroccan culture, and you’ll be spoilt for choice with several restaurants serving the best of local and international dishes. The gardens are one of the reasons why the Royal Mansour feels like an oasis, as the span over 1,5 hectares, and the pool area is the perfect spot to escape the heath during summer. In an overload of white, the spa is another must visit when staying here. The iron walls designed in a Moorish style immediately put you in a relaxed state of mind, and that’s even before you get one of the many treatments. It is rare to find a place where everything comes together, but the Royal Mansour somehow makes it seem like it’s the easiest thing on earth. &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania If Noah’s Ark would have landed somewhere on the African continent, it would have been at the Ngorongoro Crater. And on the edge of that crater you’ll find the &Beyond lodge which boosts some amazing views over the remaining’s of the collapsed volcano. To counter those views, the interior is equally stunning and is the perfect mix of a French chateau and a grand African palace. Think fireplaces, chandeliers and silverware. The service is very impressive and adds to the feeling of living in your own castle on top of the volcano, especially the private butler service. The rooms feel opulent and even from your bathroom you’ll be able to look down into the crater. Of course you come over here to enjoy some of the best safari experiences you can find on the African continent, and the &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater lodge will not let you down. Their team of guides provide guests with great game drives on the crater floor, looking for the wildlife that consider this place their personal Eden. The floor is rich in minerals, which attracts a lot of game as it is covered with nutritious grasses. Game drives here are just an absolute treat. As is the wine cellar of the lodge which comes in handy in the evenings to wash away the delicious food and to talk about all those past safari experiences. Do you have any other place which provides some amazing luxury experiences on the African continent? Let me know as I would like to hear about it.

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 maybe losing the plot here but am I right in thinking that Rovos rail do some trips with a golf theme? When they stop for excursions you can head off and play a round of golf – there must be some beautiful courses on offer in that part of the world. The thought of getting back on board and refuelling in their luxurious restaurant car is very appealing.

    1. You are absolutely right. I personally experienced one (they have two) of the specific golf trips on Rovos and it is every golfers dream. Even for the non-golfers (partners or just lovers of the itinerary) it is a great trip as Rovos also arranges excursions for those that don’t want to be on the golf course every day.

  2. A much-needed post! Last year, I had the privilege of undertaking a luxury tour to Africa and had a wonderful time there. But to my surprise, a lot of people in the West are still oblivion to the fact that the tourism industry has gone a long way in most parts of Africa. Family and colleagues found it hard to believe that I actually had a lavish trip (some thought I was joking). Much because of the stereotype of Africa being largely dominated with Third and Forth World countries. Posts like these spread awareness and help people see the continent in a different light. Good going!
    P.S. Definitely going to share this piece with all my friends!

    1. So happy to read your comment as I totally agree with the fact that there are still too many people in Europe and the US that have a completely wrong view on luxury trips to Africa. The experiences you can enjoy on this continent are impossible to find anywhere else and if you look at some other posts I wrote on this website you’ll see there are many options to choose from.
      I’ll make sure to write more about luxury travel to Africa in order for you to share even more with your friends :)

  3. A very timely call on the Royal Mansour, in Marrakech, Morocco after the story in yesterday’s Luxury Travel News. If you didn’t read it then the fact is that Morocco is up there as one of the top 10 destinations to visit for 2020.

    Looking at the picture of the interior of the Royal Mansour, I think we can see a lot of the country’s appeal. In some ways, when it comes to interior design, Morocco is the new India. Moroccans are so good at using colours and textures, putting them into epic sized rooms with high ceilings. Even the most humble riad often tries to look palatial.

    For those of us in Britain although Morocco with its culture and traditions seems a world away it is actually only around a three hour flight from most of the airports in the South.

    1. I agree. Morocco seems like a whole new world which is hard to get to, but actually its just a few hours away and even a great option for a citytrip.
      I personally worked in Marrakech for over a year and the buildings, people and food are just mindblowing.

  4. We’ve never done a safari. I’ve always wanted to but my wife, even though she watches wildlife programmes endlessly, has always resisted. I’m think she’s hung up on ideas from 1940s safaris where you stayed under flimsy canvas and had to dig your own loo.

    If we are going to do a safari and our marriage is to survive the experience then I’ve got to get the choice of lodge 100% right. She insists that she doesn’t want to “rough it”. There certainly wouldn’t be any roughing it at the &Beyond on the Ngorongoro Crater.

    1. Going on a safari will change your life, and I really hope your wife will go along with you cause she’ll be living those wildlife programmes in the live version :)
      And indeed, there are plenty of places where you wouldn’t even realise you’re on a safari. &Beyond Ngorongoro and Tswalu Kalahari are two perfect examples and if you can, try them both. You will not regret it!

  5. I’ve been close to South Africa’s Kalahari and I recognise that red tinge to the sand. It certainly is remote, although I didn’t go to Tswalu, I certainly didn’t cross the path of another vehicle in my few days there. The lodge I stayed in took some getting to by vehicle though I would have loved to have flown in over sand fine after sand dune. Although the food was good at my lodge I doubt that we had a Michelin star chef running the kitchen.

    1. Tswalu is in a league of its own and being located in the Kalahari only enhances the experience. It is insane to enjoy the luxuries it has while knowing the logistical nightmare that goes into it.
      Also their effort to bring back the Kalahari to its former glory is something amazing, and you will be surprised by the amount of wildlife you’ll see when visiting this place. All I know is that I can’t wait to go back one day as there is still so much I want to enjoy at this amazing lodge.

  6. I stayed at the luxury suite of the Nyungwe Forest Lodge during my trip to Rwanda. This was located at the edge of the Nyungwe Forest National Park. I visited the place in summers and sadly due to the peak season all the hotels, villas and lodges near or in the Volcano National Park were fully booked-owing to their limited capacity. Nonetheless, I had a pleasant stay here (though, in my personal opinion, the Nyungwe Rainforest itself cannot be compared with the Volcano). The hotel was equipped with all the 5-star essentials like Spa, Massage and Treatment Parlors, Private Jacuzzi and Deck (in the suite), Conference facilities, Fitness Centre, Outdoor Pool and a traditional African Boma. So, would definitely recommend fellow visitors to check out this place for a luxurious stay if the 5-star lodgings in Volcano National Park are booked.

    1. The Nyungwe Forest lodge (being part of One & Only) is indeed a good alternative in case the Bisate Lodge is fully booked.

  7. With regards to your question of any luxury experience in Africa, I would like to share mine. Last year, I visited the island of Mauritius. Overall, it was a luxurious and fun-filled trip with ample of fascinating things-to-do amidst unwinding on the white sandy beaches. However, one experience that truly left me spell-bound was the vast, tumbling Under-water Waterfall near the shores of Le Morne, Bartas (in south-western part of the island). To witness this mind-boggling phenomenon in the Indian Ocean (that actually defies all laws of Physics), one has to book a private helicopter that flies you to the site of the miracle and as you fly, you will also get to see a range of other stunning views. All in all, the waterfall is definitely one of the wonders not be missed if you are visiting the island.

    1. The under-water waterfall is indeed mindblowing. And the good thing is, it is located near the best spot of Mauritius, being the south western tip of Le Morne. Last time I was there I stayed at the St-Regis Le Morne and I can really recommend it. Also a great place when you stay with kids as they have a dedicated kids club but also an dedicated swimmingpool for adults in order to make both sides happy. :)

  8. I too would love to give a peak into my 15 days luxurious golf break in South Africa. I choose the cities of Cape Town, Cape Whale Coast, Knysna and George as my destination points. Each of these places behold some unique, charming luxury experiences amidst rendering a sporting round of tees. From, luxury cruise tours, snorkeling, deep diving, whale-watching, rafting, surfing and (the most exciting, cherry on top) flying in a hot-air balloon, one can expect to forge unforgettable moments.

    1. The golf courses in South Africa are indeed legendary.
      I’m sure you did Fancourt in George too during that trip. I’ve visited it last year and it was stunning.

  9. Rovos rail, that’s one I’ve not come across before. It does sound pretty luxurious, and it’s good there’s an open air balcony (another feature I’ve not known with a train before either) and your own bathroom if you’re taking a longer 15 day journey. With lack of exercise and all that food, I think I’d step off the train a stone heavier! I’ve seen those Bisate lodges on here before, that’s so fascinating in their design. Definitely can’t forget when you’ve seen those!

    1. All I can say is, I went on the Rovos rail twice and indeed, you will pick up some weight, but the food and drinks are just too good to ignore or refuse. You can enjoy Rovos on short (3 day) and long (15 day) trips so you can choose how much you want to gain :)

  10. Sounds incredible to go to the Tswalu game drive with your own private vehicle and guide and then come back to a lush room for a comfortable evening. Very fancy to get special chopper to take you to the property and the reserve! Do they do package trips for that then, where the cost of the flight in and off the property is included in the cost of the stay, and I guess you’d add the game drives on separately? Certainly seems like the way to do it if you want a convenient and personal experience.

    1. Tswalu does have specials like 5th night free. And places like these are all inclusive, meaning all the game drives, food, drinks, laundry,….is included.

  11. Botswana also has some wonderful high-end lodges and small group game drives where you rarely see another vehicle. Two favourites are Eagle Island and Jao both in the incredible Okavango Delta.

    1. Agreed, and I still want to discover more of the camps in Botswana.
      Next up is &Beyond Sandibe so I’ll make sure to make a new list once I’ve been in order to give this amazing part of Africa some attention too as it is still unknown to most people.

  12. Dear Kristof, your luxury safari lodge guide is awesome!

    Of all lodges shared, i have ever been to Bisate although, of recent 2022 May.
    If i am to choose, One and Only i snow the best safari lodge in Rwanda. But, that doesn’t mean Bisate is any less, still an amazing luxury lodge.
    You should Visit One and Only Nyungwe house, you will agree with me.

    1. The One & Only Nyungwe House is still on my list and next time I’m in Rwanda I’ll make sure to pay it a visit.

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