A common area at Elephant House // © 2016 Elephant House
Feature image (above): A Lion Sands treehouse // © 2016 Lion Sands Game Reserve
Although there is no shortage of luxury hotels in South Africa, clients looking to get closer to nature can spend time outdoors without compromising comfort. Whether it’s sleeping under the stars or satisfying a childhood dream of living in a treehouse, visitors will be pleasantly surprised at the array of fun and unique choices they have in the destination.
Clients looking to surround themselves with one of the most majestic animals in Africa will find a sanctuary at Elephant House in Addo Elephant National Park. Although the elephant section of the park was originally established in 1931 to save 11 elephants from extinction, the park is now home to more than 350 of the creatures. Elephant House is an exclusive eight-bedroom lodge situated near the main entrance to the park. The spacious rooms open onto courtyards and private verandas, and the decor features a combination of colonial luxury and African art.
Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve
Located near the Cederberg mountains, Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve has 10 partially man-made cave rooms that have been built into the sandstone rock formations. Also new to Kagga Kamma is the Star Suite — an open-air room for two that comes with a queen-size bed, cozy bedding, a natural rock pool and an outdoor bath where clients can enjoy the stars without any walls or ceilings obstructing their view.
Lion Sands Game Reserve
Located in the heart of Sabi Sand Reserve and Kruger National Park, Lion Sands Game Reserve offers three luxury treehouses where guests can spend a night under the stars in lavish style. All of the treehouses have decks with views of open plains, treetops or Sabie River, and drinks are served along with a specially prepared gourmet food basket at sunset. Chalkley’s Treehouse is designed for two people, while Kingston and Tinyeleti treehouses can accommodate up to four guests. The treehouses must be booked in conjunction with another room within the lodge.
The Santos Express
The Santos Express is an actual train on Blue Flag Santos Beach in Mossel Bay. The decommissioned coach cabins were procured from South African Railways and fitted with necessary plumbing and electricity, and guests have the option of staying in a double compartment or single coupe. Cabins offer stunning views of the water, and there is also a bar and restaurant on-site.
“All of the fittings on our blue train compartments are original and date back to the 1970s, when the train was operational on national lines,” said Anne Barnard, a finance manager for The Santos Express. “We try to restore rather than replace, in order to preserve as much of the original train as possible.”
Tshukudu Game Lodge
Tshukudu Game Lodge is a private game reserve that borders Greater Kruger National Park and combines the comforts of home with a Big 5 safari experience. Guests can stay on-site in one of 12 individual air-conditioned chalets, two African-style tents or four thatched cottages. A nearby swimming pool has a prime vantage point for game viewing. The property also offers incredible views of the Drakensberg mountains and is home to rehabilitated orphaned animals that hang out in the area and sometimes even get up close and personal with guests.
Georgia Shaver, a former United Nations ombudsman, is a frequent guest of the lodge; she has stayed there on four different occasions with her family.
“We were charmed each morning by an early morning walk with a young lioness,” she said. “There was also a pesky warthog that would occasionally wander into a bedroom if you didn’t lock your door, and a cheetah that, if well-fed, was the most docile cat in the world. In addition to the animals, those working for and running the lodge were like family at the end of our stay.”