Category Archives: Luxury

Our Top Ten Island Getaways in Africa and the Indian Ocean (Part 2)

Brrr, this hasn’t been a warm summer so far has it? Are you dreaming of some proper sunshine and some beautiful far off beach where the water is the temperature of a warm bath and the sky is always a perfect blue? Well forget the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, Africa has some truly gorgeous island getaways just right for escaping our typically British wet summer or at any time of the year.  Way back in January we covered the first five of our top ten island getaways and now it’s time to reveal the next five.

Some are tiny with just a handful of rustic hideaways whilst others are much larger and more established with lots of luxury hotels, fantastic water-sports and world class restaurants.  All of them have sublime scenery; some have dramatic rocky coves whilst others have dreamy beaches with white sand and turquoise waters. Here are the next 5 in our favourite top 10 as voted by the Real Africa team.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar is still commonly known as the Spice Island (although its official name is Unguja or Zanzibar Island). It is the largest and most populated island of the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. The African island has been for centuries an important trading centre, a melting pot of African, Indian and Arab influences. Zanzibar’s major attraction is Stone Town, with its whitewashed colonial houses, charming shops, bazaars, mosques, shady squares and intriguing courtyards. Stone Town is a very atmospheric, exotic, exciting and historical town where you can catch glimpses the sea and boats plying their trade in and out of the bustling port. Many buildings are crumbling away and there are tiny alleyways to wander down, bustling markets and the smell of spices fill the air. Another big attraction are the beautiful white sandy beaches lapped by the turquoise sea. The coast of Zanzibar is truly spectacular and all the beaches are stunning from rocky coves to huge stretches of perfect palm backed soft white sand. There are a wide range of hotels here with small boutique five star options such as the fabulous Baraza Resort to larger more family friendly options. There are places to choose for their seclusion and tranquillity and places to go for fabulous food and nightlife. Many of the larger resorts offer great water-sports facilities and fabulous excursions such as dhow cruises and dolphin safaris.

The  Seychelles

The Seychelles are being included as a group of islands, mainly for the reason that I cannot pick one over the other! There are several islands where we offer a fabulous beach getaway; from the larger Mahe and Praslin to the smaller private islands of Bird Island and Denis Island.  Once a hideaway for pirates and Arab merchants the islands now a popular tourist destination with many different hotels and resorts. Its white sandy beaches  are among the most beautiful in the world and you may well have seen these iconic beaches in photographs before. The palm trees, soft white sand, huge granite boulders and turquoise waters are truly perfect. The Seychelles also have substantial expanses of tropical forests with birds such as the endemic Seychelles Bulbul. You can chose from quiet little boutique hotels perfect for a honeymoon to large family friendly resorts with fantastic water-sports across the Seychelles and all the islands have something different to offer. The snorkelling and scuba diving is wonderful with coral reefs providing a home to a huge range of marine life. We like Praslin for its pretty scenery and its glorious beaches but all the islands are fabulous. If you are looking for luxury, romance, style and the most incredible white sandy beaches on a private island – then Denis Island is the place for you! We also offer hotels on La Digue, Mahe, and Bird Island.

Funzi Island, Kenya

Funzi Island is a tiny island off the coast of Kenya sitting in the middle of the gloriously warm and crystal clear Indian Ocean. It is easy to reach being only 15 minutes by air from Mombasa. This is the place to come for a true Robinson Crusoe style getaway. Although this is barefoot luxury not basic! If you want to stay on Funzi Island you will stay at the lovely Funzi Keys which nestles peacefully in the private white sands of its own peninsula. Designed to blend unobtrusively with its idyllic beachfront setting and to reflect the influence of the local culture and coastal architecture, the accommodation consists of nine spacious sea front cottages set along the high-water line and eight sea view cottages, all constructed of stone and thatch with large netted windows open to the balmy sea breezes. Surrounded by water and superbly located on a west-facing beach with glorious views of the African sunset, this remote and exclusive hideaway is the perfect place to escape from the outside world in style.

Nankoma Island, Marelli Islands, Lake Malawi, Malawi

Nankoma Island is one of many different islands on Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is like a beautiful inland sea due to its enormous size. The waters are crystal clear and warm and perfect for swimming in. You will find many different white sandy beaches around the lake and islands as well as rocky coves, laid back beach bars, expensive boutique hotels, tiny rustic lodges and bustling towns.  There is something for everyone here and it works perfectly as a beach extension at the end of a safari in Malawi. Tucked away on Nankoma Island, a part of the Marelli Island archipelago, is the Blue Zebra Island Lodge. The lodge is a simple, eco-friendly place with rustic safari chalets which are great for those who want to make the most of the location for water sports and scuba diving and who are looking for a laidback informal type of holiday. For those who don’t want a safari tent you can also book a larger more private wooden style chalets called the Kingfisher, the Cormorant and the Fish Eagle. It is also a great place for families.

Mauritius

Mauritius is a huge island and country in its own right. It is a beautiful, lush green island that offers the visitor lots to see and do. There are national parks to visit, mountains to climb, waterfalls to gawp at, hiking trails to explore and bustling markets to shop in. The scenery and wildlife of Mauritius are wonderful and this is a great family destination. Port Louis is the beautiful and atmospheric French Creole capital with lots of French colonial architecture but also many foreign influences as befits its place in the Indian Ocean between Africa and Orient. There are lots of wonderful restaurants, shops and galleries across the island so you will never be bored.

But of course, Mauritius is most famous for its wonderful coastline and amazing beaches. White sandy beaches backed by palm trees and the soaring volcanic peaks. And the water is crystal clear and warm with wonderful coral reefs and abundant marine life meaning this is a fantastic place for snorkelling and scuba diving. If you are looking for somewhere lively then you should head north to Grand Baie, where you’ll find a lively restaurant and bar scene. If you love water-sports and windsurfing and kitesurfing then the north is the best part of the island for you. The east coast is best for beach lovers and the south-west corner is a family favourite with calmer waters and some excellent diving and dolphin-spotting too. We offer the Constance Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius, a wonderful luxury beach resort on the East Coast. Set in beautiful tropical gardens of almost 20 acres and 158 acres for the golf course, the hotel is surrounded by lush greenery making for a tranquil retreat. The beach itself is protected by an offshore coral reef making it ideal for swimming and water sports.

So now you can dream all about tropical islands in Africa and the Indian Ocean. You can find out much more on our lodge library at the top of the home page where you can find all our beach retreats or follow the link here. Or you could give us a call and let us know just what kind of place you are dreaming of and we can fix you up!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

Unusual Places to Sleep – Star Beds

In Africa you can find some really unusual places to sleep including treehouses, rustic cabins, cruise boats, luxury trains and most excitingly of all – star beds. The star bed is a relatively new phenomenon but it is proving incredibly popular and I can see why. It combines the excitement and atmosphere of camping with the luxury and comfort of a safari lodge.

Star beds are the name given to beds out in the open, giving you the opportunity to sleep with nothing between you and the African night sky. Due to low light pollution in Africa the stars are incredibly bright and clear and you can see far more than here in the UK.  The African night sky is one of the most under-rated marvels of this amazing continent and one of the most incredible aspects of the unique nature of the African bush. This is truly a magical, once in a life time experience and definitely one for a memorable honeymoon!

Real Africa has several places where you can enjoy a night or two under the African sky in a star bed:

Tswalu Game Reserve, South Africa

Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, covering an area of over 100,000 hectares in the vast Kalahari wilderness. Tswalu takes conservation as its absolute priority which means numbers are kept low with a maximum of thirty guests at a time.

The Malori Sleepout is the name of the star bed at Tswalu.  Imagine sleeping in 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. You sleep on a raised platform with a thatched overhang for protection should it rain.  You can choose to sleep under the thatch or further along the deck where it is completely open to the night sky. The bed itself is luxurious with lovely linens and there is a private outdoor bathroom close by. The Malori deck was built to maximise the stunning surroundings and the bed has panoramic views of the vast plains of the Green Kalahari and its famous sunsets. You will be provided with sundowners and also a supper so that you can enjoy this space on your own. This is also available for families as the lodge can provide extra camp beds for the children.

Nkwichi Lodge, Lake Malawi, Mozambique

Nkwichi, is a halcyon paradise hidden on the pristine Mozambican shores of Lake Malawi. This is the place to come if you want to sleep out under the African stars but on a beach rather than in the bush.  This is a truly tranquil and remote spot. With 8 secluded beaches set on 4 kms of Rift Valley coastline, Nkwichi is the perfect setting to discover a lost world on the shores of one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. The best way to enjoy the unrivalled beauty of Lake Malawi is Nkwichi’s ‘Lake of Stars’ Bed’. Set on a deserted, virgin beach  or on a private rock island close to the shore with Fish Eagles soaring overhead, this is the perfect way to soak up the glory of an African night-sky. Again you will be looked after with all the comforts of the luxury lodge at hand but with the peace and tranquillity of your own private outdoor location.

Loisaba Wilderness Lodge, Kenya

The two sets of Star Beds are unique to Loisaba. The first and original set are located among a kopje of rocks in one of the eastern valleys overlooking the “Kiboko” waterhole. The second and newer set is located about 8 kilometres further south on the banks of the Ewaso N’giro River. These are perched on stilts above the river below and are reached by footbridge from the opposite bank. Each Star Bed dramatically designed, handcrafted wooden raised platform, and partially covered with a thatched roof. The homemade “Mukokoteni” (uniquely designed bed on wheels), can either be wheeled onto the open deck area for a night under the stars, or left under the shelter of the roof. All the beds have complete “four-poster” insect netting. The Star Beds are normally reached by one of many options; on foot, horse, camel or vehicle and with two sets now in place create a unique opportunity to travel between them both and the lodge as part of a Star Bed Expedition.

Guests are guided and hosted by a team of traditional Samburu and Laikipiak Maasai warriors. Food is prepared in traditional camp kitchen on an open fire.  Both the Kiboko and Koija Star Beds comprise of 2 double sleeping platforms and one twin platform. Each double platform is designed for 1 or 2 people. The family platform accommodates 4 people (sharing bathroom facilities). Each platform is en-suite and has a large camp-style shower. The platforms are sited to ensure complete privacy.

If you are looking for a truly unique experience and you fancy camping under the stars but in total comfort then give us a call and we can book one for you!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

Wildly romantic honeymoons and romantic escapes

As we gallop towards Valentine’s Day we thought it a fitting time to focus on some romantic holiday ideas. Whether it’s a honeymoon you are deliberating or simply a romantic escape to celebrate a special milestone, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here at Real Africa.

Undeniably romantic, Africa offers starry skies, wonderful candle-lit camps and incredible barefoot beach retreats. Add to that a bounty of wildlife and culture and you have the perfect romantic escape.

Ultimate off -the-beaten-track romance – it has to be Botswana

The Okavango from the air

Many of the lodges and camps we use in Botswana are small varying from 4 tents (Zarafa) to a dozen or so in the Delta and even in Chobe National Park, our preferred lodge, Muchenje, is hidden away in the quiet Forest Reserve in the west, on an escarpment overlooking the Chobe River and far from the crowds associated with Kasane. There are only 11 chalets, all with private decks and wonderful views over Chobe.

Chobe is an excellent option if you want to experience the natural wonders of Botswana but are on a tighter budget. You can combine Victoria Falls with a side-trip to Botswana’s Chobe National Park for a safari, which can easily be accessed on tarred roads from The Falls. This makes a great week long itinerary, and a stay at The Falls is romantic in itself. Chobe is impressive – it has the densest concentration of wildlife in Africa and is famous for its huge herds of elephants. To see a sample itinerary click here.

Another way to experience Botswana on a budget is to travel out of the peak season which runs from April to October. There is a safari special called Five Rivers which we get every winter and is offered on our newsletter and website for travel Nov to March – it always fills up within a week or so. There are also a number of lodges owned and managed by the same company which can be combined to make a cost effective itineraries  – these include Ker & Downey, Kwando, Footsteps Across the Delta and Desert & Delta among others.


But if you really crave isolation,  then it has to be Duba Plains (pictured above) on the western side of the Okavango Delta,  reputed to be the very best place to observe lion, and said to be Botswana’s most remote camp amidst a 77,000 acre reserve. Before last year there was a very large pride and you could often see lion and buffalo going head to head.
The camp advise us that the lion pride has now splintered so although you have a good chance of seeing big cats the real joy at Duba Plains is being at a traditional rustic tented camp in a remote and very beautiful part of the Delta with guides that really know their stuff. That’s what you pay for.

Mombo Camp, and Little Mombo (possibly Botswana’s most expensive camp) sit on Mombo Island on the northern tip of Chiefs Island in the Delta. This offers the best all year round game viewing. There are only 9 tents at Mombo (plus another 3 at Little Mombo). You’ll see big herds of game as well as an excellent chance of observing big cats – there are 7 prides of lion in the area.

Honeymoon idea: embrace adventure and join the Selinda Canoe Trail, exploring remote waterways and fly-camping on deserted islands beneath the stars. Combines brilliantly with a couple of nights in a luxurious lodge in the Delta.

New horizons – Zimbabwe

Yes, Zimbabwe is back on the holiday map and feedback from our senior consultant Lily who was there last year is that it promises a sensational trip for those with the time and budget. The infrastructure and distances involved means that most areas are best accessed by light aircraft, and the camps are certainly pricey due to their remote nature, but having said that, some have already established a reputation for superb guiding and warm hospitality.  Mana Pools is considered a real gem in southern Africa. You can explore by 4×4, by boat on the Zambezi and also walking. Please do ask to speak to Lily if Zimbabwe is of interest. You can see some sample itineraries and lodges here.

Honeymoon idea: Looking for a once in a lifetime experience? Consider Singita Pamushana, part of our Ultimate Collection.

Zambia – camping – but not as you know it!

For those who want a pristine environment then staying at a mobile camp in Zambia’s South Luangwa is as close as you can get. The camps are taken down at the end of the dry season in October leaving very little impact on the environment and put up again in April/May time. Sightings of wildlife in and around camp are excellent and these mobile camps naturally have a different feel to them.

Camps can be combined in a safari circuit – each one is different in its outlook and construction so they combine really well. You can even enjoy bush walks between them.

We all have our favourites camps but tend to use Robin Pope and Norman Carr properties for most of our clients. You can find out more here.

Honeymoon idea: enjoy the thrill of a big game safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa and then crash out on the shores of beautiful Lake Malawi for lazy days in the sun. See our Valley & Lake itinerary here.

Other suggestions for getting off the beaten track in Africa…

Have you considered Mozambique? Ibo Island Dhow and Lodge Safari

Being partial to boats, being barefoot, water and islands the Ibo Island Dhow Safari is right up there on my wish list. If you like your holiday to have a balance of activity and downtime then this combination of dhow and lodge safari could be perfect for you.

Ibo Island lies in the incredibly beautiful Quirimbas Archipelago in Mozambique. The crystal clear waters lap sun-drenched white sand beaches.  Beautiful coral reefs teem with life from turtles and rays to spectacular reef fish such as parrotfish, groupers and batfish. Common, bottlenose and spinner dolphins can also be seen while humpback whale sightings are good between June and December. Turtle nesting generally occurs on beaches between October and February.

This 7 night module ex Pemba includes 4 nights island hopping and 3 nights at Ibo Island lodge itself. You island hop on a traditional Arab 12 metre dhow looked after by a Mozambican skipper, crew and chef. The dhow has been modernised and has an engine as well as sails giving lots of flexibility. You don’t sleep on board but camp ashore in some wonderful deserted spots.

Days are spent barefoot, exploring by kayak, swimming, snorkelling and sailing and by night you star gaze and cosy up by the camp fire to feast on freshly caught seafood prepared by the chef. The crayfish comes highly recommended! Ibo is one of 32 islands in the archipelago so there is no shortage of beautiful beaches and sand banks to explore.Camping ashore involves comfortable 2 person 3x3m walk-in dome tents with safari style stretcher bed with 2 in memory foam mattress and  insect screen. Mobile eco camp bathrooms are set up for you, with  traditional bucket showers and bush loo.

Ibo Island Lodge won the Best Marine Safari Property Award in the 2014 Safari Awards. The lodge itself, where you spend the final 3 nights, comprises three historic 150 year old mansions which have all been lovingly restored to their former glory. The luxury lodge sits in lush gardens with a pool. Each of the ensuite air-conditioned 14 rooms have been individually designed and enjoy wide airy verandahs to soak up the ocean views. The roof top restaurant is a wonderful place to enjoy a sundowner and watch the sun set. The island, which was an important trading post and which our senior consultant Lily has been lucky enough to explore is a real fairytale destination with a 200 year old historic town, 16th century fort,  crumbling ruins, wonderful architecture and small communities. The island’s interesting history as a result of being split between Portuguese and Omani-Arab rule for several centuries means there are many interesting forts and buildings amidst the fig trees and bourgainvillea to explore.

You can join scheduled departures with a maximum of 7-10 guests. There are also private departures (please ask) so as well as appealing to groups of friends and families, this is a great option for a honeymoon or romantic break. You can choose to lose yourself amidst a group or set sail exclusively.

You can see a day to day itinerary and find out more here.

Honeymoon idea: this 7 night dhow and lodge safari works brilliantly well when paired with South Africa since flights to Pemba naturally route via Johannesburg – depending on how much time you have, you could add  a 4×4 safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, staying in a beautiful tented camp like Honeyguide Mantobeni. The best time to safari in Kruger is during the dry winter months between May and November – and this is also the optimum time to be island hopping in Mozambique. There are many wonderful properties in Mozambique, some can be accessed more readily than others, for example Machangulo and White Pearl. Please do ask us for details.See a sample South Africa and Mozambique itinerary here.

Kenya – the quest to get off the beaten track!

Alex Walker’s Serian sits in the private Mara North Conservancy, bordering the famous Masai Mara National Park. For a stylish safari which embraces authentic Africa then Serian is a superb choice. Many of our clients combine Serian with either Borana on the Laikipia Plateau and/or Saruni Samburu further north – both fabulous and very much off the beaten track.  Our In Style sample itinerary combines Tortilis Camp in Amboseli with Borana in Lewa Downs and Serian in the Mara and can of course be adapted to suit you.

We also offer a week in the Mara for those who don’t want to move around too much and for whom the primary focus is wildlife.  You can combine Alex Walker’s  Ngare Serian camp with the Nkorombo mobile camp and a night in the ‘Nest’ – a treehouse overlooking the river – a fabulous safari combination. Serian also employs local Masai guides which enhances your experience with a cultural element. See a sample itinerary here.

Ngare Serian is a permanent camp set up on the Mara River with just six specious marquee  guest tents on hardwood decks. You access the lodge by a rope bridge.  The Nest suspended in an Elephant Pepper tree, is a treehouse over a salt lick on the Mara River, which you can walk to, guided by a Masai guide. The Masai keep watch from a distance while you enjoy fairytale privacy, game viewing, supper and a night under the stars. The treehouse is equipped with night vision camera, safari bathroom and a very comfortable nest for two. The Nkorombo mobile camp offers a different experience again, with just 5 traditional Meru style tents with ensuite facilities consisting of a bucket safari shower and flush loo. The salt lick harbours a variety of wildlife including black rhino, leopard and lion and gets you really close to the action.

Honeymoon idea: ask us about pre-booking a dawn hot air balloon flight over the Masai Mara, settling back down on the plains after an hour’s flight to a champagne bush breakfast.

There are more economical options in the private concessions bordering the Masai Mara. Karen Blixen Tented Camp sits on the banks of the river with 26 ensuite tents for example. You get all the benefits of being in a private concession but can keep costs down by staying at a slightly larger camp.

Very few visitors to Kenya get to explore the north – both Samburu and the Mathews Range  offer a fantastic experience and wonderful options for you. These areas offer a different more arid landscape, the Samburu people and their culture and a stay here combines perfectly with the big game of the Mara. Sarara Camp is our most northerly camp and really embodies off the beaten track.

Tanzania – Southern Parks and Islands

For a first time in Africa then Tanzania’s Northern Circuit is hard to beat, giving you that dense concentration of animals, diverse landscapes and a superb choice of camps and lodges.

But if you long to get off the beaten track and to see a quieter Africa then the Southern Parks of Selous and Ruaha can reap real rewards. We recommend you spend longer in each destination, 4 nights is a good amount of time in each park,  as the wildlife is certainly more challenging and unpredictable being spread out over a vast area. The best wildlife viewing is usually during the dry months of May to November time when wildlife concentrates around the water sources.

Ruaha is actually Tanzania’s largest national park. The mighty Ruaha River snakes along the southern border, with baobabs and floodplains fanning out from the river. You also have rolling hills. You fly into Ruaha from Dar es Salaam, a 3 hour flights, and then enjoy game drives from the camp/lodge you are staying at which can normally be accessed within an hour of the airstrip. This gives you an idea of the remote nature of the camps.

In Ruaha, if you really want to embrace the wild and remote nature of Ruaha, we recommend the small mobile tented camp, Kwihala by the Mwagusi Sand River. With just 6 tents Kwihala combines understated luxury in a very wild and beautiful environment. You have lots of comfort and a high level of service but its not flash or over the top. Tents have ensuite bathrooms with safari bucket showers (hot water!) and flush loo. Part of Asilia Camps, Kwihala gets incredible feedback with guiding at an exceptional level. You are unlikely to come across other safari vehicles and the area feels truly untamed. You can explore on foot, and enjoy game drives by day and night. This sort of rare environment does come at a price but you really do have a special experience.

If you prefer something more permanent and slightly less wild feeling, then the long established and more affordable Ruaha River Camp, run by the Fox family, would be our recommendation. It was the first camp in the park and gives you a very personal service even though perhaps looking slightly dated these days. There are 20+ individual stone and thatch riverside Bandas set over a hillside looking out over the Great Ruaha River and linked by two central mess areas. The bedroom and bathroom are really spacious. The Foxes’ children were raised here and so they are geared up for family stays. The location is really good with wildlife attracted to the river and it is not uncommon to find elephants strolling amidst the camp. Ruaha River Camp tends to be a more realistic option for many of our clients seeking the remote reaches of the southern parks but not wishing to completely blow the budget.

You can fly from Ruaha to the Selous, Tanzania’s other southern star. Selous Game Reserve is twice the size of the Serengeti with the Rufiji River at its heart and creating a network of swamps and channels. Virtually all of the lodges are in the northern tip of the reserve. We tend to use Rufiji River Camp, just inside the gate and again the original camp built by the Fox family, because of its superb location right on the river. You can explore by 4×4 here and by boat, a wonderful option. The camp is smaller than the one in Ruaha with just a dozen or so tents strung along the river bank with great views.

We also offer one of the newer lodges in the Selous, Azura Selous, formerly known as Amara Selous when it opened in 2010. There are only 8 tented rooms and the feel is smart and sophisticated. The location on the river is good although the camp is situated further west than the Rufiji Camp which is in the plum position for the densest wildlife. We know that Azura are keen to make Azura Selous a real beacon for expert guiding and hospitality and we look forward to seeing how they develop the camp. The manager is a keen photographer and knows where to go when!

See a sample southern Tanzania itinerary here.

Just as the Southern parks are less explored than the Northern parks, so is the southern coast and islands. Zanzibar attracts the vast majority of visitors attracted by the Spice Islands lush interior, atmospheric Stone Town with its magical architecture and markets. Very few people seem to make it to the quieter island of Pemba and Chumbe, both reached via Zanzibar but a very different prospec, or to the wondrous beaches and islands further south and accessible from Dar es Salaam.

Lazy Lagoon is a beach resort set on Bagamoyo island in the Zanzibar Channel around 80 km north from Dar . You reach the island by boat. It hit the headlines when Boris Johnson holidayed here and subsequently floated out into the Indian Ocean on his lilo! There are only 12 private beach bungalows or bandas with thatched roofs right on the beach with super ocean views – a great place to unwind.

While the alternative Mafia Island is accessed by a flight from Dar and is the Africa of old with sandy streets, overgrown ruins, few visitors and surrounded by a sensational marine reserve. We are fans of the laid back and rustic tree houses at Chole Mjini, or for more traditional comforts,  Pole Pole. Many people forget that you can enjoy white sand beaches lapped by the Indian Ocean at exceptionally good value by heading to the beaches south of Dar. This maximises holiday time by cutting out long journeys and makes great use of your budget. We love Protea Amani Beach and Ras Kutani.

Honeymoon idea: explore Pemba and enjoy the best of barefoot luxury with a stay at Fundu Lagoon. The small and laid back island of Pemba is Zanzibar’s sleepy and very beautiful neighbour.

South Africa Desert Dreaming – Tswalu Kalahari

South Africa offers a myriad romantic choices suitable for all levels of budget – from small guesthouses with individually styled rooms and lush gardens in the heart of the Cape winelands (we like Wedgeview and Akademie Street) to cool tented camps in Kruger, like Honeyguide Mantobeni.

There are places just perfect for romance, for that special occasion, like Grootbos on Walker Bay, or Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse in the Drakensberg Mountains with its sumptuous food. Very much off the beaten track in the midst of the Kalahari is Tswalu Kalahari, a very special safari lodge. Tswalu has it all – it has the dramatic landscape, it has the wildlife. Service is impeccable, food delicious and the 8 suites at The Motse are beautifully appointed with open fires, indoor and outdoor shower and private sundeck overlooking a watering hole.  It is so off the beaten track that many would struggle to pinpoint its positon on a map…

Honeymoon idea: combine the Kalahari with the Cape for a week of pure luxury. See sample itinerary here.

We want to be alone…

Africa’s most exclusive destinations

The number one question at travel shows from prospective clients looking at honeymoon options is: will it be busy? In answer, it depends very much on your budget and the season you wish to travel. Africa has plenty of places where you can escape the crowds; the most exclusive destinations being Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Here you can really relish space. Camps are small, with only half a dozen or so tents,  and are located in remote and vast wild areas which need to be accessed by a light aircraft more often than not.  The emphasis is on the quality of experience with guiding exceptional.

Avoid the crowds and travel in the Green Season

If you are happy to travel out of peak season you can look forward to a real treat. The rains in Africa are often referred to as the Green or Emerald Season and although you can expect thundery showers every afternoon (perfect siesta time…) you can also expect to see wonderful dramatic skies, nursery herds, with many of the animals having calves and pups at this time of year , and a lush landscape with flowers on the plains and trees in fruit. To get a flavour of the Green Season check out this new’s post on Zambia.

Seek out quiet corners

Even in the world-famous Masai Mara in Kenya, it is possible to find hidden gems – there are private concessions surrounding the main national park where visitor numbers are strictly monitored.  These concessions, which you fly-in to, have a handful of small secluded camps tucked away along a river’s edge or in a quiet grove, like Alex Walker’s Serian. In the Mara North Conservancy for example,  there is a ratio of just 1 guest to 350 acres allowing the camps here to offer a premium safari experience and a chance to escape the crowds associated with certain times of year in the main national park where larger lodges operate at maximum capacity.

We would urge you to be realistic in your expectations and to discuss your requirements fully with us so we can advise accordingly – if you are heading to East Africa to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration then do not expect to be alone!

Please note: all of the suggestions made here can be tailored to suit you and to make a complete itinerary including flights from the UK.

To find out more about any of the properties or holiday ideas here please call us on 01603 283 517.

Because many of the camps and lodges detailed are very small, the most important thing is to contact us as early as you can in order to avoid disappointment!

By Sara White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Top Ten Island Getaways in Africa and the Indian Ocean (Part 1)

Are you sitting at work dreaming of escaping to a tropical island in the sun? Forget the Caribbean, Africa has some truly gorgeous island getaways just right for escaping the cold winter or a wet summer. Some are tiny with just a handful of rustic hideaways whilst others are much larger and more established with lots of luxury hotels, fantastic water-sports and world class restaurants.  All of them have sublime scenery; some have dramatic rocky coves whilst others have dreamy beaches with white sand and turquoise waters. Here are the first 5 in our top 10 as voted by the Real Africa team.

Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, Tanzania

Mfangano Island is found at the eastern end of Lake Victoria and it is one of the team’s favourite islands. The island is a great combination of beautiful scenery, laid back African atmosphere and great wildlife. You can while away many hours just relaxing on the island watching the incredible birdlife or going fishing for your supper. It is also home to one of our favourite camps run by the team behind Governors Camps.  Mfangano Island Camp is a luxury, island hideaway lodge lapped by the waters of Lake Victoria, shaded by giant fig trees, and a secluded atmosphere. There are beautiful lush gardens set on a private bay with enormous boulders which sit at the water’s edge providing a perch for cormorants or giant monitor lizards to sun themselves. You will feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life on Mfangano.

Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Our intrepid explorer Lily nominated Ibo Island as one of her favourites having travelled to Mozambique last year. Ibo Island is part of the famous Quirimbas Archipelago which nestles in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of northern Mozambique. Once Mozambique’s mighty trading centre, Ibo Island has remained all but forgotten to the outside world for almost a century. Wander around this colonial little island town and hear tales of pirates and prisoners, turtle shells and silver. Explore old forts and ancient romantic buildings where you can almost feel the history come to life. Ibo is home to some wonderfully majestic historical architecture, some beautifully restored and some left as atmospheric ruins. Add to this almost dazzlingly white sandy beaches and warm turquoise waters, mangrove swamps and quaint fishing villages, giant sand dunes and lush greenery and you have a real paradise. Mozambique and the waters off Ibo Island are also famous for their pristine coral reefs and incredible marine wildlife including manta rays, rare dugongs, a variety of dolphins and all sorts of species of whales. We offer holidays to Ibo Island Lodge which is an award winning beach hotel with a fantastic location and stylish luxury accommodation.

Pemba, Tanzania

Pemba is a small island off the coast of its larger and more famous neighbour Zanzibar. Its remote location and small size has meant that it remained an untouched and pristine island of great beauty and history. The lush mosaic of forests, swamps, mangroves, and gently undulating hills combined with stunning hidden beaches and quiet lagoons makes for a serene and beautiful island getaway. The history of the island is told in the scattered ruins of mosques and tombs hidden away in the forest, some of which date back to Arab colonisation in the 17th century.

Likoma Island, Lake Malawi, Malawi

Likoma Island is another very popular destination amongst the team.  It is unusual in that it actually sits in Mozambican waters but is still part of Malawi. Likoma has a gentle, pretty landscape made up of rolling grassland dotted with trees, secluded coves and beaches and stunning views over to the mainland. There are a handful of hotels on the island but very little traffic as there are no paved roads and people travel by boat.  The waters here are crystal clear and warm making it perfect for snorkelling, diving, kayaking, fishing and sailing. The waters of the lake are also home to wonderful birdlife and the whole atmosphere is very peaceful indeed. We offer stays at the wonderful Kaya Mawa which is a 5 star luxury lodge with incredible views, secluded beaches and gorgeous rooms. It was voted by Conde Nast as one of the top ten most romantic places in the world.

Mafia Island, Tanzania

Another small island off the East African coast and part of the Zanzibar archipelago, Mafia Island is a proper Robinson Crusoe desert island. It is a place to get away and soak up nature in all its finest. Mafia Island’s coral reefs are renowned as an excellent, world-class diving destination. Scientists have confirmed that Mafia has some of the richest reefs in the world, with an unparalleled variety of hard and soft corals and diversity of tropical fish. If you are not one for diving you can explore the island’s nature trails and discover the hidden ruins of lost buildings reclaimed by the jungle. However it is really the gloriously pristine white sandy beaches lapped by gentle warm waters which you tend to have all to yourself that attract most people to Mafia Island. It is wonderfully peaceful and calming and a perfect place to relaxing. We offer a fantastic little rustic retreat called Chole Mjini if Mafia Island sounds the place for you.

If you fancy turning your daydreams into reality then give us a call and we can fix you up!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

 

 

 

Modern and Stylish Places to Stay in Africa

It’s not all thatched cottages and safari tents in Africa you know. There are plenty of uber-cool modern and stylish hotels for those of you looking for something a little less colonial and a little more 21st century.

Namibia:

Namibia is home to some of the most unique landscapes in the world. With plunging gorges, towering sand dunes, vast salt pans and a truly dramatic coastline this is the country for unusual scenery. It is also home to some unusual and unique accommodation. The modernist architecture really fits in with the sometime harsh and dramatic landscape around it where as something quaint and cosy would stick out like a sore thumb. A great place to stay if you like modern architecture is the Fish River Lodge. Set right on the edge of the famous Fish River Gorge (the second largest in the world after the Grand Canyon) the hotel is made up of 20 individual square shaped single level lodges offering both privacy and fantastic views to the guests. The rooms are furnished in a modern style with beds angled to view the gorge and its incredible sunsets. The main building is also modern in style with a large viewing deck and swimming pool all making the most of the breath-taking view.

Rwanda:

In the forests and mountains of Rwanda you can find the wonderful Shamwari Nyungwe Forest Lodge. This stunning luxury lodge, built to blend in with the surrounding environment, is situated in a tea plantation on the edge of the Nyungwe closed canopy rain forest. The decor is stylish and modern with all the comforts of an international hotel. The views from its elevated position are to die for including from the plentiful terraces and the fabulous infinity pool. This hotel makes an excellent base for hiking into the mountains to see the monkeys, chimps and mountain gorillas that live in this lush, green wilderness.

Mozambique:

Another place where you would not expect modern style accommodation is on an island in Mozambique.The White Pearl Resort Ponta Mamoli is a stylish, luxury, modern hotel. Nestled in a sheltered bay on Mozambique’s Lagoon Coast, poised amongst the dunes on timber stilts, their luxurious suites have been sensitively designed to take advantage of their beautiful natural setting. Cool, clean lines, contemporary furniture and a palette inspired by the surrounding coastal landscape, make for a stylish but relaxing beach retreat. This hotel really is for those looking for incredible contempory design in a stunning beach location.

South Africa – Cape Town:

And of course in the upbeat, exciting city of Cape Town there are plenty of modern options and even across South Africa you find wonderful modern places to stay. Hand-picked by our South Africa Manager we have several stylish and modern places to stay. In Cape Town you can stay in the Sugar Hotel and Spa which is centrally located in the heart of this vibrant city. A sophisticated mix of raw brick, woods, stainless steel, porcelain tiles and glass creates a modernist vibe at the hotel.

If you are looking for somewhere self-catering in Cape Town then are plenty of options including the sleek Lawhill Apartments. These are located right on the V&A Waterfront and every luxury apartment is designed for comfort offering the freedom of self-catering with the service of a hotel including a reception desk. All the apartments have their own balcony with luxurious outdoor furniture from which to enjoy the views of the marina, the canal and the One & Only Hotel. The communal pool and gymnasium are also made available for the enjoyment of all guests.

South Africa – Garden Route:

Further along the beautiful Garden Route you can find the stylish Quarters Hermanus (see photo at bottom)right on the historic harbour of the whale watching town of Hermanus. The hotel is white and clean lined with a lovely restaurant overlooking the waterfront and the guest rooms all have mountain or sea views. The hotel is located right in the centre of Hermanus which itself is the centre of the whale watching tourism industry and is a very pleasant and lively resort.

And further along the Garden Route is the stunning Robberg in Plettenburg Bay (see the top photo). The Robberg offers a variety of different accommodation including self-catering apartments and villas all built in a white clean lined modern style. Ideally located just five minutes from the bustling restaurants, galleries, coffee shops and bars of Plett’s Main Street, the Robberg is a tranquil beachside haven. This understated, private retreat boasts 5-star luxury accommodation, and is ideally situated, right on the Robberg’s beautiful Blue Flag Beach.

These are just a handful of some of the modern and stylish accommodation that can be found across Africa; from the big cities to sleepy towns, from the deepest bush to the highest peaks, from the verdant jungles to the beautiful beaches you can find somewhere modern and stylish to stay.

Posted by Ruth Bolton