We each carry our own set of definitions of an excellent escape. For some, it might mean idle sand beaches and tall umbrella drinks, while others answer to a rugged walk into the heart of the land and still others yearn for a romantic canopy bed, a cozy fireplace and a fine glass of wine. Southern Africa has a delightful menu of lodges that capture the spirit of the ideal escape. Here are just a few that we like.
No road leads to Anjajavy L’Hotel! There are a few paths in this very special place that actually has a time zone of its own (an hour different than the rest of Madagascar). The island getaway, a member of Relais & Chateaux, is reached by private plane, which lands in this private reserve. A Paris landscape gardener designed this oasis, a tropical Eden of aquatic plants, papyrus, tree ferns, all kinds of climbing plants and palm trees, all of which offer refuge to humming birds, lemurs, green kingfishers, the fody bird of Madagascar. The forest of sheltering rosewoods and baobabs is home to many animal species such as the famous Verreau lemur (Coquerel’s Sifaka), birds of paradise, the chameleon and the Cuvier oplure (a type of iguana). More than 1,800 vegetal species, mostly entirely local and many medicinal plants. Around the lodge, and farther than your legs can take you, extend the 550 hectares of the private nature reserve of Anjajavy that hosts the tsingy, famous ancient coral remains, scatter the forest and overlook the bay. Activities run from a lazy day on the beach to boating, bird watching and nature walks. You can plan your Madagascar escape to include this lovely property.
Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge is an exclusive lodge with 12 suites as well as the Amber Suite. Each suite is attended by a private butler and is appointed with specially commissioned furnishings, a secluded plunge pool and terrace as well as open air shower. The natural wood sculptures of Geoffrey Armstrong add a powerful magic. Facilities include air-conditioning, ceiling fans, dressing area, minibars, telephone and tea/coffee facilities. The suites are complemented by a swimming pool, the Earth Nature Spa, the underground wine cellar (perfect for private dinners), secluded library and a private art gallery. The Earth Nature Spa and exercise center offers massages, natural therapies or a classic spa. The boma, its walls made from roots and built up piece by piece, captures the drama of an African night. Sabi Sands Game Reserve is considered to have some of the best Big Five game-viewing in the country, sharing an open border with Kruger National Park so animals move freely. Due to a long history of sensitive game-viewing, the animals are mostly relaxed allowing superb game-viewing, especially of leopard. So diverse is its habitat and wildlife that you have an excellent chance of experiencing close encounters with the ‘Big 5’ – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard – as well as many species of antelope, spotted hyena and cape hunting dog, jackal, and a variety of smaller mammals. Go on game drives in open-vehicles with an experienced ranger and a local Shangaan tracker, who work together to give you a deeper understanding of the wildlife and the natural cycles of the bush. Tracking Africa’s big game, the evening safari departs after afternoon tea. After enjoying the bush sunset, the evening holds a sense of anticipation as the rare and elusive nocturnal species begin to hunt. The evening meal is often enjoyed in a ‘boma’ or even in the bush around an open fire, which many guests feel is a particularly evocative treat. Sabi Sands offers the today’s travelers a classic African safari. You can enjoy this lodge on our new South Africa’s Unique Lodges.
Gansbaai, South Africa
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve offers some of the finest land-based whale-watching in the world with sightings of Southern Right Whales that come into the bays to give birth, between July and December, (normally peaking in August and September). Enthralling sightings are a daily occurrence with spectacular breaches and whale songs. Secluded sandy beaches are backed by velvety mountains covered with exceptional and rare fynbos vegetation. The wild flowers are particularly enchanting. Other activities include guided fynbos 4×4 drives, milkwood forest walks, horseback riding, beach visits as well as the optional activities such as whale watching by boat or plane and shark cage diving. A dedicated team including marine biologists and conservationists help you to appreciate what makes this area so unqiue. Walking trails follow the coast for whale-watching, or take you into the mountains. More relaxing pursuits include shopping in local arts and craft boutiques in Hermanus and enjoying the panoramic views of Walker Bay while dining alfresco. Grootbos consists of two lodges, the family-friendly Garden Lodge with one and two bedroom suites and the new contemporary Forest Lodge. Discover this remarkable area of South Africa’s coast during our 11-day South Africa adventure.
Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve, South Africa
In the Kalahari grasslands of the Northern Cape, Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve is the largest private game reserve in South Africa and the historical home of the Bushmen (San) people. The emphasis here is on exclusivity, which is why the entire reserve can accommodate no more than 30 people at a time. This spectacular malaria-free reserve offers a wealth of experiences – explore Tswalu by 4×4, on horseback or on foot. There’s a sense of contentment that comes from being surrounded by so much space, the colors and textures, the myriad sounds and vast silences of the wilderness. You’re sharing the environment with springbok, buffalo, lion, kudu, Bat-eared fox, hyena, meerkat and aardwolf. Bush walks focus on the local vegetation, bush medicines, cosmetics and hunting skills of the San people, while sundowners on the lantern-lit dunes or bush dining at Lekgaba Lookout complete the experience. Other activities include star-gazing, visiting rock paintings, Moffat Mission and the Kuruman eye or focusing on the delightful wild colonies of Meerkats. Explore Tswalu on our 13-day South Africa journey.
Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe
Changa Safari Camp nestles along the shores of Lake Kariba with the Matusadona Mountains in view. This private concession includes some four and a half kilometers/nearly three miles of shoreline that insure that this luxurious tented camp remains a relaxing remote retreat. Picture yourself, as each day ends, sipping a sundowner on the shore, elephants chomping nearby and a fish eagle swooping past; followed by fireside chats and a delicious dinner. Here you set your own pace. Changa is off the beaten track, intriguingly secluded in the heart of a diverse eco-system, partly man-made, partly formed by nature over centuries. The camp is within a small, private concession in the northeastern section of the Matusadona National Park and has just six large, East African-style luxury canvas tents, all overlooking the lake. Each tent has its own en-suite bathroom, with indoor/outdoor shower and outdoor bathtub, all heated by gas that allows for hot water all day. All tents are mosquito-proofed and have fans. The central guest area consists of several thatched structures linked together by raised wooden walkways and decks, and includes a lounge library, dining room, bar, beautiful deck and swimming pool overlooking Lake Kariba. Leopard, lion, hyena and cheetah are found in the area as well as elephant, hippo and a multitude of antelope species. The birdlife here is prolific, with more than 350 species have been recorded. Early morning or late afternoon walks in the company of one of the camp’s professional guides are a special feature of this camp. You also have opportunities for game drives or cruises and fishing in the lake. Enjoy time spent in amazing Zimbabwe.
Did you ever go camping when you were a kid and marvel at sleeping under the night sky? Remember the thrill and wonder of it all? Nature seemed to be all the more present at night – the sounds more mysterious, the smells more exotic, and the stars seemed to shimmer from horizon to horizon. Imagine luxury travel which has you sleeping in a bed on a platform open to the night or above the ground in a treehouse. This is when magic happens, especially for kids and kids at heart, and memories are made.
Kalahari, South Africa
Malori Sleep Out Deck is a luxury king-size bed on a raised deck in the middle of a game reserve, surrounded by the calls of nocturnal animals, with nothing between you and the brilliant stars of the Kalahari night sky… Tswalu Kalahari’s new slee pout deck, the Malori (dreamer in Tswana), offers you the unique experience of a safari sleepout on a magnificent 100,000ha five-star private game reserve. The Malori deck does have a thatched overhang should it rain, but you choose to sleep under the thatch or in the open. The king-size bed is dressed with exquisite linen, and luxury robes and slippers are provided. The deck offers you panoramic views of the vast plains of the Green Kalahari and its incomparable Kalahari sunsets. Enjoy sundowners followed by a delicious meal prepared by the guide – if you choose the guide will leave you with simple instructions of how to prepare your meal, so that you can enjoy the magnificence of the open savannahs on your own. Wake at sunrise to birdsong and the sounds of the early morning in the Kalahari. Tswalu also provide children’s camping beds, so the whole family can enjoy an exhilarating Kalahari sleepout under the stars. Experience Tswalu on our 13-day South Africa adventure.
In the village of Jamtara, near Pench National Park, Jamtara Wilderness Camp has 12 luxury tents surrounded by tall Arjuna trees and an ancient banyan rooted on a dry riverbed. Each tent room overlooks the forest, a perfect backdrop for this jungle experience. Or, you have the opportunity to sleep in their star bed, also called Machaan. Experience a night under the starry sky from your bed on stilts. From star gazing to looking out for nocturnal wildlife, it will be a night to remember. The star bed is set up on one of the villager’s farms. The star bed must be requested during booking and is subject to availability for one of the nights you are there. A guard will be present below and in the morning when you are ready to be taken back to the main lodge, the guard will escort you back. Our Precious Journeys India journey includes Jamtara Wilderness.
At Treehouse Lodge in the Peruvian Amazon, you’ll see the rainforest from an entirely new perspective that most visitors to the Amazon never experience. From the comfort of your treetop bungalow, watch monkeys and birds at eye level morning as you wake up to a jumble wildlife even before you get out of bed. You’ll get a little extra exercise walking up to your bungalow. The entire structure of the treehouse is sealed by mosquito mesh woven so fine that it will not obstruct your view in any way. Additionally, each bed is equipped with another layer of mosquito mesh drapes that tuck in under the mattress. Each of the eight bungalows has its own character, size and shape. Casa Alta Treehouse 6 is the highest treehouse, sitting some 67 feet off the ground. It towers over the jungle providing magnificent views of the surrounding rainforest and is a great place for birdwatching – parakeets, parrots and macaws – in the early morning without even leaving the house. Birds have built several hanging nests in clear view while The Cradle Treehouse 8 is uniquely positioned inside numerous branches that cradle the hut comfortably in the jungle’s embrace. It makes a wonderfully natural home with welcoming branches organically integrated into the space. Standing alone, Treehouse 8 is ideal for those who like a little distance from their neighbors. Further into the jungle, this treehouse brings the sights and sounds of the wild close to you and open to all, you also are surrounded by the night sky. Climb to your treehouse on our Peru – Amazon, Andes & the Coast.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Wadi Rum is home to several Bedouin tribes who live in scattered camps throughout the area. If you want to experience pure nature and exquisite silence, there is nothing quite like sleeping under the stars in the desert on a comfortable mattress. With little or no light pollution, the stars will seem close enough to reach out and touch them. The desert tribes, Huweitat and Mzanah, inhabiting Wadi Rum maintain the warm hospitality, which characterizes genuine Arab culture. Enjoy the hospitality of the Bedouins as you sit by the fire under a starry desert sky. Enjoy traditional Arabian entertainment this evening. If you can resist the call of the stars’ invitation, you can retire under canvas, your private Bedouin tent awaits. Either way, indoors or out, the night will be an unforgettable experience. Come on our Jordan: A Journey Back in Time.
Flinders Ranges, Australia
Arkaba Station Flinders Rangers is a classic, working outback sheep station on the edge of the Flinders Rangers National Park. For walkers, you can enjoy a four-day overland walking safari, one of the best ways to experience outback Australia; and Arkaba provides a most beautiful and impressive setting in which to walk. Set against the backdrop of the Elder Range and Wilpena Pound in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, an Arkaba walking safari is an opportunity to experience the sights and sounds, the scale and the space of the outback in a style that is exclusive and authentic. A team of passionate guides and a few key creature comforts make this an extraordinary bush experience. You have the chance to traverse the ancient Flinders Ranges where 600 million years of geological history provide spectacular backdrops throughout the walk. Your guides will show you secret spots on the 60,000 acre private wildlife conservancy and recount stories of the people, indigenous inhabitants, explorers and settlers, who have created the human history of this area. Camps are set up in spectacular locations on the property and are designed to expose you to the surrounding country. You will have the chance to sleep out under the stars in a deluxe swag or under newly erected shelters. At the end of each day, walkers are greeted by a camp that has been set up in advance, a delicious three-course dinner and a good supply of Australian wines and other beverages. Plan to visit Australia’s Primeval Landscapes.
The day you and your graduate have been working toward for so long has finally arrived…. and likely departed by now. So what is the next step? VACATION!
Seriously, we suspect that you want to make this summer special. After all, this heralds a time of transition – of coming of age when our children quite naturally start moving away from the family and into the larger world to claim his or her own place in it. You want to give them a grand sendoff, an unforgettable journey that everyone will enjoy and remember. Many parents opt for a journey for the entire family. Here are a few sustainable tourism destination ideas for you and your grad.
Racing Formula Challenge
The city of Taupo on New Zealand’s North Island offer a rich variety of activities, including tours via helicopter and 4×4 vehicle, fly fishing, golf at Wairakei or Kinloch International course, horseback riding, nature walks, kayak or boat trip to sacred Maori rock carvings, a visit to Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park, and a walk along spectacular nature trails to Huka Falls. But one of the most thrilling challenges is found at Taupo’s Motorsport Park, which has a state-of-the-art race track facility and hosts a driver formula challenge. The course is tailored to suit the complete novice or the experienced road car driver who wants a taste of what it is like to drive a Formula Challenge single-seat race car. Before you get behind the wheel, your Motorsport New Zealand qualified driving instructor will take you around the track to reinforce your earlier classroom tuition and familiarize you with the racetrack. No experience is required. Choose from a single-seat race car or Holden or Ford V8 race car. Our New Zealand Tours have adventures enough for the entire family.
Overnight in a Bedouin Camp
Wadi Rum is home to several Bedouin tribes who live in scattered camps throughout the area. The main route to Wadi Rum branches east off the Desert Highway about five kilometers south of Quweira and 25 kilometers north of Aqaba. From there, the road extends about 35 kilometers through the desert to end at Rum. The village is home to several hundred Bedouins with their goat-hair tents and concrete houses, a school, and a few shops. It is also the headquarters of the famous Desert Patrol. The desert tribes, Huweitat and Mzanah, inhabiting Wadi Rum maintain the warm hospitality that characterizes genuine Arab culture. It is difficult to resist their friendly invitation to share mint tea or cardamom-flavored coffee in their black tents. Overnight Bedouin Camp in a deluxe, nicely decorated tent with private bathroom. There is another bigger tent that serves as the dining room. Enjoy the hospitality of the Bedouins as you sit by the fire under a starry desert sky and watch traditional Arabian entertainment. Explore Jordan – A journey back in time.
In the company of Orangutans
For animal lovers and would-be zoologists, Tanjung Putting National Park is famous for orangutan conservation. It is also home to four research centers such as Camp Leakey, which serves as a rehabilitation center for orphaned orangutans. Camp Leakey, established in 1971 by Dr. Biruté Galdikas, was named after the legendary anthropologist, Louis Leakey. Here, the young orangutans are taught to fend for themselves in the jungle. Your family will trek along jungle trails, learning about the legendary orangutans. During our Indonesia in Depth, you also explore Indonesia, a country of more than 17,000 islands that encompass a world of cultures, pristine islands, unique and rare wildlife, and adventure activities from exploring cave systems to spectacular diving.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
These fabled islands offer great opportunities for families to explore the unique ecosystems together. You can explore the bay off lovely Garrapatero Beach by sea kayak, spotting marine iguanas, blue footed boobies diving into the depths and countless shore birds. There is also an extensive mangrove system and a fresh water lagoon often inhabited by pink flamingos and Bahama ducks. There are a host of other water-based activities that encompass snorkeling with sea lions or shallow waters full of harmless white-tipped reef sharks. You will find more adventures await in our Precious Journeys The Galapagos Islands: Of Fish & Fishermen
In the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are the legacy of a great lake, larger than Lake Victoria, which once covered most of Southern Botswana about two million years ago. Vast shallow white pans create an extraordinary landscape. Jack’s Camp is an authentic evocation of a classic 1940’s safari camp on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans. This stylish camp offers a classic safari experience with a holistic understanding of Botswana’s wildlife, geology, geography and its people, both past and present. In the dry winter months all-purpose ATV vehicles (quad-bikes) are available, allowing guests to visit the saltpans. For those who want to get back to basics and really get to know the African bush, the camp can arrange a five-day fly camp option to Kubu Island (weather permitting) with quad bikes for parties with at least four guests. You gain a unique appreciation of the Kalahari and an insight into the traditions and culture of the nomadic Bushmen. Discover a different Africa in our Zambia & Botswana: Uncharted Footsteps.