A luxe Southern Africa mother-and-son trip

After a several-year hiatus from South Africa, my mother announced her return to spend a month with me. I took the opportunity to plan a luxurious mother-and-son road trip around Southern Africa, taking in five of my quintessential Southern African experiences.

Babylonstoren, Cape Winelands

Our dream journey started merely 45 minutes from Cape Town, at a destination where the extraordinary is made possible and no dream is too small. Modelled on the early Cape gardens that supplied sailors and onvce rejuvenated them, 331 years later guests now travel from across the world to visit Babylonstoren.

This veritable Winelands’ Garden of Eden is in every way a destination and not just a stopover; there are a plethora of activities waiting to keep you blissfully busy. Our favourites included the Essential Oil Tour to fully appreciate the fragrant flora on the estate, the Sunset Mountain Drive to take in the fullness of the property, and since Babylonstoren is after all a wine estate, the Cellar Tour which includes tasting a tasting of 10 wines and various food accompaniments.

The Fynbos Cottages are perhaps the crowning glory of the farm’s accommodation; set 1 km away from all the farm activity – and replete with golf carts and bicycles for moving about. A string of one and two-bedroom cottages line an elevated ridge, flanked by Simonsberg in the background and the expansive farm below. Plus, there’s a private pool area with both a jacuzzi and a cold pool. Back at the gardens, the hot spa is open to hotel guests or day visitors who book a spa treatment. It includes an indoor/outdoor pool, sauna, salt room and two vitality pools, an authentic marble hammam and a Rasul chamber.

Pure Sea Boutique Lodge, Walker Bay

Heading to the coast and in need of some ocean therapy, the brand new Pure Sea Boutiuq Ldoge was our next stop. Owners Annick and Bjorn migrated here from the other side of the world – particularly seeking the healing benefits of the ocean. Guests can join them in their daily cold-water swims, after which the pool or hot showers eagerly await.

The design is inspired by both biophilic – more than simply a love for nature, it’s a celebration of its healing potential – and wabi-sabi – a Japanese philosophy centred around the acceptance of imperfection and transience. The aesthetic embraces asymmetry, roughness, and simplicity.

From the guest house, the room paths wind like white veins through the fynbos, directly to the private beach. During your stay, I’d recommend booking a beach picnic which the staff prepares, and a tasting with local winemaker Trevor of Lost Boy Wines.

Sala Beach House, Salt Rock

Shifting to the East coast of the country – only 15 minutes from Durban’s King Shaka Airport waits what might be the province’s most plush stay. The recently opened Sala Beach House delivers intimate service and breathtaking decor – all perched directly above the beach.

The barefoot elegance begins in the tropical gardens, then moves to the generously spaced and gently styled communal areas, before settling in the sanctuary of the bedrooms – of which you have a choice: pool rooms, suites, and then a sumptuous villa if you’re visiting as part of a group.


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The spa is undoubtedly worth a visit and quickly helped quell any form of travel fatigue. When you’re able to peel yourself away from the tranquil surroundings of the hotel, the beach is merely steps away – including the famous hole-in-wall. And since this is KwaZulu-Natal why not enjoy the warm water – our stay included swims every morning and evening.

Rovos Rail

If the allure of rail travel tickles your fancy, then look no further than South Africa’s Rovos Rail. Touted as one of the most luxurious trains in the world, Rovos offers routes throughout Southern Africa with every minute a celebration of the luxury of a bygone era. Our choice was the unforgettable five-day journey from Pretoria to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

The journey includes one full day on board, and then two outings in Zimbabwe; firstly a drive through the Motopo National Park, and then secondly a game drive in Hwange National Park – the country’s largest area of conservation.

When you’re soaking in the luxury of your cabin the train offers several communal areas. Continuing the theme of the remodelled wood-panelled sleeper coaches, there’s a 1920s period-piece carriage dining carriage with teak pillars or a slightly more modern 1930s model with large windows. Lastly, there are two lounge cars, a smoking lounge, a bar and a glass-ended open balcony observation car. Truly, one of the most unique ways to experience the African continent.

Victoria Falls River Lodge

And then for one of the most wildly decadent stays, our grand finale was two nights on a private island on the Zambezi River – in a treehouse. This is none other than the Victoria Falls River Lodge. The lodge is divided into a camp on the mainland and then a private island in the Zambezi itself.

The communal lodge spaces and then treehouses are all connected by raised walkways. These offer safety from the animals that roam freely below and give a scenic vantage point to see the island. On our stay, we safely observed elephants and hippos exploring the island below the walkways – both creatures swimming across to the isolated island – making your walk home a safari in itself.

Included in your stay are the daily sunset cruises, safaris in Zambezi National Park and then on the mainland wildlife spotting or simply. Two of the treehouses sport star beds, and it was here where I drifted off each evening, lulled to sleep by the wild soundtrack of the bush.

Comments (9)

  1. Jane says:

    I hope my son reads this post and feels inspired. It would be a dream come true to stay in a treehouse on Zambezi Island.

    • Jared Ruttenberg says:

      Ah Jane for your sake I hoep he does – and it wouldn’t hurt if you sent him the article :)

  2. Ian Gilbert says:

    Some very well-travelled friends of mine booked themselves the luxury of a Rovos Rail journey. They are not easily impressed and they are still talking about this one.

  3. Steve says:

    After this dream trip I expect that your mother was reluctant to head home. After this little holiday I expect she won’t leave it several years before retiring to South Africa.

  4. Brett Gillingham says:

    I’m a little surprised that you didn’t do one of the big safaris. I was expecting to see you call into the Kruger tracking the Big Five. Or have you done a lot of safaris before?

  5. Jared Ruttenberg says:

    Brilliant question Brett. Yes, we’ve both expereinced Kruger before so I wanted something different and unique – and Victoria Falls RIver Lodge was the perfect fit for that – give it a google and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean!

  6. Valerie says:

    What a nice itinerary for a trip. I’ll have to remember this one for my next trip to South Africa.

  7. Elaine Plum says:

    Sheer nostalgia reading this. My parents took me to South Africa as a kid and I’ve been back twice. Undoubtedly I’ve had some of my best holidays in South Africa.

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