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The farflung wildernesses may not be the first place you’d expect to find some of Mr & Mrs Smith’s favourite boutique hotels, but we’ve braved the bushveld and scoured the savannah to bring you our pick of some of the most stylish safari lodges.
Spotting the signature safari stars is de rigeur in South Africa and the Big Five roll call includes rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo. Less shouted about, but often just as fascinating, are the Little Five. The buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion and rhino beetle are all much tinier than the big beasts after which they’re named, but well worth getting up close and personal with via any of our safari hotels. For the ultimate souvenir, stay at Marataba and enlist the services of wildlife photographer Pete Oxford to ensure you get the ultimate mementoes of your trip.
Whether you’re looking up from a luxury safari camp or on the terrace of a city slicker, South Africa’s skies at night will leave you star struck. The vast open plains of most game reserves are made for admiring what’s above as well as all around, but Royal Malewane makes it especially breath stealing. Graze on the best tucker in the bush such as springbok carpaccio with pickled quail eggs either by candlelight in the boma, or around the campfire. (Supper aside, all of the Singita Lodges organise stargazing safaris too.)
Move over big cats, we’re mad for the mighty pachyderms that are Africa’s largest land mammal. Visit The Crags Elephant Sanctuary and you can go on a walk with the ellies where they actually hold your hand with their trunks. Immerse yourself in their habitat around the clock with a spell at Gorah Elephant Camp. Addo National Park is home to the densest population of elephants, and Gorah is committed to the conservation of animal’s and their habitat.
Cape Town is fast becoming a favourite destination to pop to for some serious beautifying. Not only is express cosmetic surgery a speciality, but it’s also a hub for holistic medicine. A short drive from Victorian-exterior country-style homestead Schoone Oordt in historic Swellendam, is the new Rainforest Day Spa. Applying a natural approach to health and wellness and first-class botanical products has helped made Rain the darling of New York City sybarites too – and they’re a tough crowd to please. To get a pampering truly in cahoots with nature, hit the thatched Wellness Spa at Etali in Madikwe; here you can enjoy an African ritual in soundtracked by elephants at the waterhole and weaverbirds on the window. Meanwhile, at the Bush Spas at Singita Sweni and Singita Lebombo, monkey oranges are the stars of the show – they rub these dried exotic fruits on your pressure points.
Whether backdropped by lush untouched forests or taking a canopy tour through Tsitsikamma, monkey fans will enjoy all the characters that swing by to say hello along the way. Stay at Grand Café in Plettenberg and they can organise a guided trail through the mountains and fynbos at Hog Hollow on horseback. Or sign up for a whirl at Tsala Treetop Lodge and you can make like a glamorous Tarzan and Jane in your own luxe stilted hut in the forest.