5 top tables under the African stars

There can be few things in life more spellbinding than gazing at the Milky Way stretch endlessly out into the inky black of the African night sky. In the northern hemisphere we seldom get to experience anything like it. Away from the omnipresent light pollution of the north, Africa offers glittering night skies that will literally take your breath away.

While you might say this is about as good as it gets, we believe a good dose of excellent food can always add to the pleasure. Forget Michelin’s amateurish 3 stars, we are talking about several thousand star meals! Join us as we look for the best tables from the beaches of Mozambique to the world’s oldest desert and little bit of everything in between.

&Beyond Benguerra Island Lodge

Languishing on the shores of the Indian Ocean is &Beyond’s sumptuous Benguerra Island Lodge, a true tropical island paradise. Mozambique has remained under the radar in comparison to its more famous Indian Ocean counterparts like Mauritius and the Seychelles, and consequently tends to be a little more laidback and intimate, perfect then for a romantic meal under the stars.

Before the main event though, why not enjoy a sundowner drink from the gorgeous Dhow Bar, celebrating the end of another trying day lying in the sun and swimming in the azure waters. Thirst suitably quenched it is time to take your seats at your table, shoes strictly unnecessary. Background music is courtesy of the gentle waters slumping onto the beach beside you and the occasional whisper of palm fronds. Dine on Mozambique’s famous seafood washed down with a crisp South African white wine as the skies above sparkle, this couldn’t possibly be any more romantic if it were scripted by Hollywood.

Tongabezi Lodge

If you would rather dine on the water than next to it, that is easily arranged as well. Heading to the great Zambezi, a short distance upriver from the cascading Victoria Falls, you’ll find the exquisite Tongabezi Lodge. Strung out along the banks of the river Tongabezi’s charm lies in its quirkiness, but that doesn’t mean any compromise on luxury. Here being in the “Dog House” is something you aspire to and being in the Nut House is a source of pride. This wonderful sense of fun extends into everything they do at Tongabezi, and for a lucky few can mean dinner on a raft in the middle of the Zambezi River.

For years now guests from around the world have been celebrating significant moments in this most unique of settings. The “sampan” is a wooden raft moored out in the river. While this might not sound appealing in the harsh flight of a Zambian day, everything changes with the setting of the sun (and anyone who has experienced a Zambezi sunset will know they are spectacular).  You are boated out to the raft to take your seat at a candlelit table for two as the sun sinks and the sky shifts from bright blue to pink to orange to indigo and finally pitch-black speckled with the light of a thousand stars. Each course is rowed out to you by canoe as you are ever more enveloped into the magic of the African night filled with the sounds of grunting hippos and the gentle gurgling of the river.

Lion Sands

If the idea of being on the water is not your cup of tea (or more likely your G&T) how about floating above the African savannah in a dream tree house? The superb Lion Sands portfolio of luxury lodges straddling South Africa’s Sabi Sands and Kruger National Park offer guests a selection of drool worth lofty perches for a truly unique dining experience. What’s more, this dining experience comes with a bed, so it lasts the whole night.

3 unique treehouses are scattered amongst the pristine wilderness of some of the finest big game territory in Africa, each one holding the promise of an adventure never to be forgotten.  Your guide will drive you to your treetop hideaway at sunset where a candlelit picnic awaits, replete with china plates and crystal glasses of course. Wine and dine up high as the stars make their first appearance in the night sky and the bird song gradually fades. As the moon and the stars begin to dominate the heavens, revel in the distant sounds of whooping hyenas and roaring lions as you settle into your four-poster bed for an unforgettable night.

Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge

For those who prefer their feet on terra firma, replete with a meal fit for any high-end London restaurant, head a little west to the exquisite Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge. Life at Jamala is all about opulence; whether it is besides your villa’s private plunge pool, enjoying a sofa safari or celebrating the end of another glorious day in Africa with sundowners in the glow of a crystal candelabra in the middle of the bush!

Nowhere though is Jamala’s attention to detail and penchant for indulgence more evident than dinner. Take your seat in the open-air boma at a table decked with starched white linens, fine china tableware and more crystal than you could shake a stick at! You know you are in for a special meal, and the lodge’s renowned chef Nico Verster will not disappoint. Well, you don’t win the award for best safari cuisine in South Africa by accident. This is dining at its finest, in a gorgeous setting with that incredible African night sky weaving its magic above.

&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge

Heading still further west, venture into the Namib, the world’s oldest desert. Your destination is the impossibly cool &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge. Recently reopened after an extensive rebuild, Sossuvlei Desert Lodge has redefined the meaning of sophistication in Namibia. This is the perfect place for those seeking to explore the towering dunes and beguiling beauty of Sossusvlei in the lap of contemporary luxury.

As with most things in life though, less can definitely be more. Strip away all the bells and whistles and let the beauty of nature and space be the ultimate in luxury, as you take your seat at a table in a desert fairy circle. Dine in enchanting sandy circles that dot this achingly beautiful landscape, simply lit with flickering candles that mirror the sparkling lights above. There are few places anywhere that can compete with Namibia when it comes to viewing the night sky in all its glory, and there can be few places better in which to do so than at a table in the middle of the nature.

If the experience of a fairy circle dinner whet your appetite for a more in-depth heavenly body experience, never fear, the lodge has it’s very own on site observatory with in house astronomer!

Once you have dined out in Africa, no ordinary table will quite be the same again.

Warwick Blow is owner of Safari In Style. Safari In Style uses more than 50 years of personal experience to create tailor-made unique journeys through Africa’s finest safari destinations.

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

Comments (13)

  1. Devin says:

    That Tongabezi Lodge would be my first choice! I’m all for enjoying nature but I know myself and I’d like to feel safe and secure at night. So that looks best, luxury wise. Dining on the beach looks incredible too, I must say!

    • Warwick Blow says:

      Hi Devin,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Tongabezi is an amazing property, very laid back luxury, although the new &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is taking things to the next level in the middle of no where!



  2. Ted says:

    “Forget Michelin’s amateurish 3 stars” is so true of Africa. Most foodies know that Africa is under represented when it comes to Michelin stars, probably because of geography. Michelin send inspectors out for a number of visits, to ensure the consistency of their judging. So I’m afraid that the distances involved in Africa and the time it takes to travel make it less than economic to keep an eye on places.

    • Lorraine Berry says:

      I can see where you are coming from. I’ve had some fantastic meals in Africa and wondered why the restaurants don’t get greater recognition. I suppose it’s a trade off between simply breath-taking natural settings and the reality of getting the inspectors and reviewers there. But that never worries me when I’m enjoying a great meal.

    • Warwick Blow says:

      Hi Ted and Lorraine.,

      Thanks both for your comments.

      My personal take on it is that often the cuisine in Africa is not necessarily as refined as in say Europe or Japan etc, but I think that the quality in an average restaurant in South Africa beats the average quality in most European or American restaurants. All that said, Africa can’t be beaten for some of the best settings in the world!



  3. Marie Sutula says:

    Sounds pretty relaxing. I also like the ‘quirkiness’ of the Tongabezi Lodge, what a lovely retreat and you can’t help but laugh at ‘being in the Nut House is a source of pride’. I imagine they’ve named different parts of the lodge then? I love that, sense of humour and a little lightness, which definitely makes it stand apart from the crowd. The ‘tree houses’ are really sweet too on the Sabi Sands, very novel. Never been to Africa but I wouldn’t say no. Looks like they’re going all out for tourists to make the stay luxurious and comfortable which is what I’d want if going somewhere a little more remote. Some truly beautiful places here and of course the natural beauty is hard to rival.

    • Warwick Blow says:

      Hi Marie,

      Thanks for the comment. They have 5 “cottages” which are the closest they have to “ordinary” rooms – all facing the Zambezi. Then they have different houses which are each completely individual in design and much larger than the cottages. The Garden, Honeymoon, Tree, Bird, Dog and Nut houses!

      Lion Sands were actually the real pioneers of luxury tree houses in South Africa and wow…what an experience they provide – I don’t think you would get much sleep though with all the incredible sounds of the bush at night surrounding you!

      If you ever want to visit Africa we would be more than happy to help.



  4. John says:

    One of the consequences of all this time at home is that it’s making us slow down and think about what we want to do. Now that I’m not having to rush about I’m reading things properly.

    One big decision that I’ve made is that I want to stay at the Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge. I can definitely do crystal, opulence, sundowners and starched white linens.

    • Steve Nicholson says:

      It’s when life’s so busy that you only have time to look at the pictures that you have to worry. Enjoying not racing round the world for business.

    • Warwick Blow says:

      Morning Gents,

      It is amazing how we are all seeing things a little differently right now!

      John…..all I can say is if you get a chance you have to go, it really is one of those special places. One of my recent clients there wrote on return “Jamala really did offer us everything we could imagine”. I have been lucky enough to travel around a lot of Africa and few places can match it for the incredible attention to detail and level of personal care.

      If you ever want to go let us know and we would be more than happy to help.

      Enjoy your isolation and happy reading and getting lots of inspiration for future travels!



  5. Jason R. says:

    I haven’t been out in quite a while now due to the pandemic. Even my backyard in the city doesn’t have enough space to enjoy the outdoors or even look up to see the stars. I miss having the expanse of the outdoors, the beaches, the countryside. My lungs crave the fresh air, my body the sun’s warmth. These places reminds me of all the things we are all missing because of this crisis we are all facing. Yet, it also gives me hope, that many things will remain and that Mother Nature will welcome the more conscious us with open arms. I am pretty sure we are all going to look and treat our planet with more respect and wonder from now.

    • Warwick Blow says:

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for the comment and I certainly hope that you are right, that once this passes we will have a new respect for nature and our planet. Although I should probably say return to respecting earth as we once did, long ago. Wishing you well during these times!


  6. Gemma says:

    The setting at &Beyond’s Benguerra Island Lodge looks so idyllic and romantic. Are you familiar with Kisawa also? It’s a new resort on the island that sounds particularly special.

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