It started as a sideshow over a decade ago, when safari groups like Singita and the award-winning Ellerman House in Cape Town offered guests that extra exclusivity – their own home, a mini-hotel nextdoor where a family or large group could stay together. Fast forward to 2020 – with group and generational travel more popular than ever – and numerous operators have joined the game with some of the most luxurious hotel-homes on earth, with every bell and whistle a wealthy holidaymaker could want.
ocean house & AtholPlace, south africa
Morukuru Family began with two villas in 2005 in Madikwe Game Reserve – River House and Owner’s House – and added a third, where up to 10 staff include a private guide, tracker, chef, butler, hostess, and housekeepers. It now also has the 4-bedroom Ocean House in the Whale Coast’s 36,000-ha De Hoop Nature Reserve. De Hoop offers 51km of pristine white beaches and dunes lapped by the Indian Ocean, as well as limestone cliffs, rock pools, wetlands, coastal fynbos and the reserve is home to more than 260 species of birds. In 2018 Morukuru Family dded the Beach Lodge (the one Morukuru property where guests can take individual suites or the entire villa). After acquiring the AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Sandton, Johannesburg, it added a villa there too.
Royal Malewane & the Silo Hotel, south africa
The Royal Portfolio of Liz Biden offers several villa options at its Royal Malewane safari lodge, including 2 Royal Suites (both are massive and each sleep 4) and the 6-suite Africa House at the main lodge, as well as the Farmhouse (for 8). A more recent addition is its collection of 4 “private residences” with names like Obsidian and Beyond, luxury homes overlooking the sea, where guests have full use of all The Silo Hotel‘s amenities.
Singita Castleton, sabi sand
The well-known luxury safari brand Singita has its own Private Villa Collection now, 7 villas on its properties in the Serengeti, Zimbabwe (including Singita Malilangwe House) and South Africa, that offer guests “looking to spend quality time with loved ones a pristine private setting.” Each villa has its own staff, chef and host, private game vehicle and guide. In Sabi Sand Singita Castleton, also called “a private-use African farmhouse,” was the former home of Singita founder Luke Bailes’ grandfather. It can take up to 12 guests in six bungalows, which also have a swimming pool, wine cellar, yoga pavilion, treatment rooms and tennis court.
Ellerman House, Bantry Bay
Ellerman House has two villas situated alongside the award-winning hotel high up in Cape Town’s Bantry Bay. The 700-square-metre Villa One has recently been refurbished. “Exclusive and privately staffed, each villa offers all the benefits of hotel living with the advantage of complete privacy and flexibility, perfect for multigenerational families or groups of friends.” More recently Ellerman has partnered with Great Plains on a “Private” luxury itinerary taking guests from the Cape Town villas to Grootbos (see below) and then to the properties run by Great Plains, a tented villa on the Okavango’s Duba Plains Reserve to the Mpala Jena Suite in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park and on to the Masai Mara in Kenya.
Grootbos, South Africa
The award-winning private ecoreserve on Walker Bay, near Cape Town – “a fynbos kingdom and ancient forest of Grootbos, featuring 800 plant species, 118 bird species, 29 mammals and 21 amphibians” – has grown since 1991 into two small lodges and two private villas. Some of the amenities, besides the incomparable view, are a landing strip, cinema and wine cellar.
Colina Verde, Mozambique
Colina Verde, “Your Luxury Home in Africa,” is the private home of a family in Europe and takes up to 18 guests in 7 vast suites spread over an expansive house. Lying across a green hill (like the name says), with impeccable hosts, service, food, amenities, and the endless beach of Machangula Peninsula at your feet.
Tangala House, Tongabezi, Zambia
Intermittently the private home of the owners of the nearby award-winning Tongabezi lodge, it sleeps 6, is on the banks of the Zambezi River and 15 kilometres upstream from the Victoria Falls.
The Manor House, Tintswalo Safari Lodge
The Manor House at Tintswalo Safari Lodge is in the Manyeleti Game Reserve, bordering the Kruger National Park, the Timbavati and Sabi Sand game reserves. With 5 bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms, spacious lounge and dining areas and patios, it is a traditionally styled safari lodge. Manor House guests enjoy the services of a private chef and service staff, as well as a dedicated game ranger with safari vehicle for twice daily game drives in the game-rich reserve which is known for excellent sightings.
The Homestead, Phinda Private game reserve
Tucked into the edge of a dappled forest in the north of the 28.555-hectare Phinda Private Game Reserve, lies andBeyond’s Phinda Homestead, a gracious sole-use 4-suite safari villa, complete with a dedicated ranger, tracker, butler and chef. Showcasing one of the continent’s finest game viewing experiences, the reserve has the Big 5 and 436 bird species.
Jabali Private House, Ruaha, Tanzania
The safari company Asilia has created Jabali Private House, a 3-suite residence built between 3 baobabs in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania. The closest airstrip, Msembe, is 50 minutes away.