Where you stay during your trip is critically important for your experience. South Africa is far from the “end of the world” when it comes to infrastructure and comfort. It offers luxurious, exquisite and exclusive accommodations which are still completely authentic and great representatives of local style and architecture. The charm of South Africa has a lot to do with its wilderness and scenery, so the best places to stay are usually the ones which had this in mind when they were founded.
Here are some of the tried-and-tested suggestions if you’re planning to spend your vacation in South Africa
Gansbaai: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Grootsbos consists of two stylistically different lodges and a luxury private villa, all in the beautiful landscape covered with native vegetation – milkwood and fynbos. It is a true 2,500-hectare private nature reserve, where guests from around the world come to enjoy their own piece of wilderness (at least for a while), with the possibility to safely explore the areas flora and fauna.
Besides enjoying the charming and elegant interior and the marvelous exterior, during your stay, you’ll be offered a menu of locally farmed meat, fish and exotic fruit served at the lodge and the villa-related restaurants and bars. Many of the offered fruit, herbs, and vegetables are locally grown by local women and is a part of the hotel’s Growing the Future project.
Besides very friendly and professional staff, you can engage with a team of super-fun nature guides. The hotel is kid-friendly, and only the Forest Lodge has a lower age limit of 12 years.
Franschhoek: Boschendal Werf Cottages
From nature reserve, we move onto the luxury farm concept, sort of like those Tuscany is well renowned for. Boschendal offers some amazing views of the rugged, carved mountains to go along – it doesn’t matter which direction you’re facing since the whole premises are surrounded by them. Don’t worry that you’ll feel isolated because of it – it is a central spot for exploring the Cape Winelands, 15 minutes away Franschhoek, and a bit over an hour from Cape Town.
This is a very well worked-out combination of 2000-hectare working farm, charming colonial Dutch architecture coupled with the rustic interiors. Two types of cottages are offered: Werf Cottages are adorned in traditional South African farmhouse décor with a contemporary streak, and they are a short walk away from the farm’s historic three centuries old werf, shaded by old and beautiful oak trees. The werf is also circled by the deli, farm, coffee shop and Werf Restaurant, all for your convenience. The other option is the Orchard Cottages complex – one- to four-bedroom cottages, better equipped for a more self-catering oriented vacation. They offer a splendid farm dam-style swimming pool and outdoor patios with barbecues. They are a 2km drive from the werf facilities though.
Don’t be fooled that “the farm” is all about that. The territory of Boschendal is huge, and is a home to all the iconic African megafauna – lions, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, and hippos – in the as-iconic landscape.
When it comes to dining, Boschendal Farm is not a full hotel, but still, the options are great; the restaurants offer delicious meals prepared with fresh and very South African local ingredients. The farm is also renowned for its picnics – served on tables under the oaks or on the lawns. The farm’s main restaurant is Werf Restaurant: with more than two-thirds of ingredients sourced within 30 kilometers of the farm, and cooked with trademark generosity.
And it’s all child-friendly, though the Orchard Cottages are better suited for large families.
Hluhluwe: Thanda Safari Lodge
Thanda Safari Lodge is a place that pays more tribute to the traditional Zulu art and architecture than to the colonial style we often meet throughout the South Africa. Thanda is different – it consists of the nine mini Zulu villas, in style of the traditional Zulu boma huts, with huge balconies equipped with plunge pools and outdoor showers. The interior is laced with the traditional artwork such as Zulu necklaces and other ornaments, sculptures and furniture. Each hut has a traditional fireplace which can be lit in the winter.
The view is wonderful and the smell of acacias is always present in the air. There are game drives twice a day, and you can also book photography lessons for a very entertaining, rewarding and humane safari.
The staff is discreet and quiet, but always around somewhere and ready to help and very enthusiastic to talk about the game drives and wildlife. The food is also amazing and seems to be present all the time – from coffee and biscuits at sunrise before the first game drive, to breakfast of smoked salmon, banana pancakes and a buffet of stewed fruits, to amazing lunches such as springbok salad in a balsamic dressing saturated with almonds. You can also opt for a traditional braai in the outdoor boma with a seemingly endless selection of finely-charred meats, all before the open fire.
The place is family and child-friendly, and even has special activites such as the Bucks and Bugs club and the Junior Rangers Course to keep children entertained.