Southern Africa: Best Properties for Design, Art, Wildlife, Beach & Deserts!
Here we pick our favourite properties in Southern Africa, starting with our top pick for design-lovers: the extraordinary Matetsi River Lodge near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe...
BEST FOR DESIGN: Matetsi River Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Leading the pack in a spate of new safari lodges in Africa is Matetsi Lodge in Zimbabwe, set in a tranquil riverside setting 40kms from Victoria Falls. Owned by Zimbabwean, John Gardiner, who spent more than £7 million on it, Matetsi’s 18 rooms and private villa are designed with modern polish by innovative local architect Kerry van Leenhoff. Breaking away from the classic safari-chic styling, Matetsi’s muted grey suites features Scandinavian-style furniture, abstract artworks and natural materials like stone, copper and wood which give centre stage to the natural habitat. The newly refurbished suites are a triumph of sleek bush sophistication. Each comes with its own plunge pool, a stylish outdoor seating area with uninterrupted views of the wilderness, and wonderfully Zen bathrooms with deep freestanding tubs and a super-powered outdoor shower. The food and wine are both first-class and are another highlight at Matetsi. It has a world class chef, formerly with Singita, and a cellar which stocks wines from South Africa’s finest estates. The dining room is super sexy with earthy tones, clean lines and an open layout which allow guests to enjoy the sounds of the bush. Cool off with a dip into the stunning 66-foot swimming pool, which stretches along the Zambezi River. Huge herds of elephant roam freely across the Zambezi National Park and the adjoining Matetsi Private Game Reserve – an awe-inspiring sight indeed.
BEST FOR ART: Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa
We consider Ellerman House the finest hotel in Cape Town for many reasons: it boasts exquisite interiors, stunning views over Lion Bay, an enviable wine cellar and an effortlessly elegant ambience. But it is its art collection which propels it into a league of its own. Owned by passionate art-lover, Paul Harris, the hotel hosts distinguished and eclectic works from some of South Africa’s finest artists – from old masters to promising lesser-known artists, who Harris is keen to promote. The Ellerman Contemporary Gallery is housed in an extraordinary underground alcove beneath the hotel’s swimming pool, but it is by no means confined to it; exceptional artworks can be seen in every room in the property, including the 12 bedrooms. With nearly a thousand works of art spanning two centuries in their collection, you might find yourself wondering if this is a luxury hotel or a fine art museum. Incredibly, it is both. Guests can take the tour of the collection with an art guide or do a self-guided iPad tour in their own time. Ellerman House also offers personalised guided art tours of Cape Town, visiting some of the city’s top contemporary art galleries, including Everard Read, Zeitz MOCAA, Stevenson, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Salon91 Contemporary Art Gallery, Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery and Kunskamer and Barnard Gallery.
BEST FOR WILDLIFE: Duba Plains Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Duba Plains Camp boasts some of the best wildlife viewing in Africa and is often referred to as the Okavango’s Massai Mara due to the sheer volume of plains game and predators found here. Accommodating a maximum of 14 guests, this tented camp is one of Botswana’s most luxurious yet remotest camps, situated on its own 77,000 private game reserve. The lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard sightings here are close up and thrilling, and the camp’s guides are excellent. Its location is only enhanced by its camp, which blends perfectly into the surrounding bush. Completely rebuilt in 2016, it has been revamped to an incredibly luxurious standard, whilst retaining the feel of an authentic and classic 1920’s safari. Set on raised decking, the camp has stunning panoramic views of the surrounding floodplain and wildlife. The outstanding safari activities available at Duba include game drives (day and night), seasonal boating and bush walks as well as a full syllabus of bush craft skills for younger guests where at the end of the stay, they will become a Conservation Ambassador – ready to go out and tell the world about what they have learnt and what they can do to protect this beautiful environment.
BEST FOR BEACH: Nkwichi Lodge, Lake Niassa, Mozambique
In a remote corner of Mozambique’s crystal-clear Lake Niassa (otherwise known as Lake Malawi), is one of Ampersand’s favourite beaches, home to a very special eco-lodge called Nkwichi Lodge. The name Nkwichi literally means 'squeaky' because its pristine white beach is so clean it squeaks when you walk on it barefoot! Nkwichi Lodge offers back-to-nature luxury at its best, but those looking for a TV or swimming pool should look elsewhere. Here, you have the powder-soft sands and the gin-clear waters of Africa’s 3rd largest fresh water lake mere meters from your chalet. Each of the eight unique dwellings are hidden between granite boulders and thick woodland. They come complete with giant four-poster beds handmade from gnarled tree trunks and some have bathtubs carved out of the surrounding rock. Guests can enjoy private picnics on deserted beaches, guided forests walks and visits to local villages. But days here largely revolve around the lake with activities ranging from canoeing, fishing, sailing, paddle-boarding and snorkelling. These waters are truly kaleidoscopic with up to 1,000 different species of fish reportedly in the lake. For something truly unforgettable, you can spend a spellbinding night sleeping under a blanket of brilliant bright African stars in the lodge’s open-air ‘Lake of Stars Bed’ set on the secluded beach a short walk from the lodge.
BEST FOR DESERT: Wolwedans Dune Lodge, Sossusvlei, Namibia
The best luxury accommodation in Namibia takes full advantage of its greatest asset: the sensational natural beauty of her desert landscapes. After a day hot air ballooning or climbing up the flame-red dunes of Sossuslvei, you can be guaranteed a superb night’s sleep at Wolwedans Dune Lodge where top-notch luxury, stargazing and privacy are assured. Undoubtedly one of the most exclusive camps in Namibia, Wolwedans prides itself on offering its guests the ultimate desert experience, focusing on educational wildlife encounters with expert guides, superb dining, stylish accommodation and warm service. Guests can enjoy scenic desert drives as well as guided walking safaris across this unique and diverse habitat, home to oryx, plains game and a host of fascinating desert-adapted animals. Set on top of the dunes in the heart of the NamibRand Nature Reserve just south of Sossusvlei, the lodge and its 9 tented canvas chalets are built on stilts, accentuating the 360-degree view from their wrap-around verandas. Decorated in a soothing pallet of creams and white, chalets are adorned with handwoven rugs, leather armchairs and untreated wooden floors, and each has its own bathroom, writing desk, comfy sitting area and a hand-carved bed with commanding desert views (sleep with your blinds open to stargaze from bed!). We recommend the Mountain View Suite to honeymooners looking for the ultimate in romantic desert seclusion. The lodge’s facilities include two lounges, two dining rooms, a library, a bar and a swimming pool with soul-stirring views.
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