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South Africa’s most luxurious secrets

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. Dulini Leadwood 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. Tintswalo Atlantic 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. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Marc Harris

Marc Harris is the Founder and Managing Director of Tanzania Odyssey and Africa Odyssey. Marc founded the companies in 1999 after a 2 year stint exploring and guiding all over Africa and still enjoys regular visits to this amazing continent. We are safari experts, long-established specialists in all aspects of African safari itinerary planning and ground management across sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, whether you are dreaming of the ultimate walking safari through the heart of Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park or a champagne breakfast in the Masai Mara, whether you wish to encounter wild gorillas or enjoy the ultimate Indian Ocean island beach break, we will design the perfect itinerary for you.

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  1. Only just this morning and I’d been talking to my wife about a trip to Cape Town next December – yes, we plan a long way ahead, that’s how you get the best flight prices. We thought that looking at our other holiday commitments we’d probably have about 9 nights to play with.

    What’s going through my mind now is 6 nights around the V & A area then maybe finishing with 3 nights of complete get away from it all relaxation at Tintswalo Atlantic.

    1. HI Steve,

      That is great to hear. Planning ahead is certainly the way forward with holidays, especially popular destinations.

      We would love to be able to help you put this trip together. Please contact our South Africa specialist Sam at sam@africaodyssey.com

      Hope to hear from you soon :)

  2. You say that at &Beyond’s Ngala Tented Camp there is a dry river. But is it moist enough to produce some grass to draw the wildlife? Is it one of these African rivers that can be dry for decades until you get exceptional rainfall? Or will it run every year? And if it does run what difference does that make to the game viewing?

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Yes Ngala Tented Camp is situated on the banks of the Timbavati River. It is a dry riverbed, unless there is exceptional rainfall. The underground water systems are spectacular and provide enough vegetation all year round that allows abundance of wildlife to be viewed whenever you go!

  3. Ooo the Dulini Leadwood sounds nice and it has that warm rustic charm about it. Not sure how I’d feel about leopards walking around nearby though, I’d be wondering how safe that was! I’ve heard of the V&A Waterfront before but not Tintswalo Atlantic and the area at Chapman’s Peak Dr. Good shout on that as those lesser known gems can be a treasure to find and I do think it pays to look somewhere off the beaten track a little to find something special.

    1. Hi Amanda,

      All the camps are safe. At night you are escorted to your room.

      Yes it is always great escaping the main tourist areas!

  4. Some of these luxurious accommodation doesn’t even look and feel like you are in South Africa. Dulini Leadwood at first looks like you are in another part of the world, yet the South African touches are there like the thatched roof and animal printed furniture. I would say, luxury camps and tented accommodation within the game reserves have come a long way from the rugged and rustic camping I’ve known when I was little. Times have changed!

    1. HI Belinda,

      Yes there is a great authenticity running throughout the lodges that allows you to escape the everyday hustle and bustle of life yet still be reminded of a true African safari.

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