Nothing says ‘luxury’ quite like your own private safari house. Your little cubs can learn from personal guides who inspire young adventurers with new ways to look at the world. So, discover Africa in style with these exclusive villas.
WORDS Amelia Hungerford
Above: Ella Cottar enjoys an outdoors bath.
Serengeti House offers uninterrupted views of the savannah.
COTTAR'S BUSH VILLA
Maasai Mara, Kenya
Contemporary style dominates this elegant residence set among the hills, with pitched roofs and five bedrooms offering extraordinary views across the savannah. Household staff are on hand to organise activities and help you spot the native wildlife, although you won’t need an extra pair of eyes to spot the annual wildebeest migration. For weary bones, the Cottar’s masseuse can drop by, or a personal trainer can provide the most scenic exercise experience available. For kids, however, it’s all about the Maasai Warrior School. Under the guidance of an experienced tracker, children can learn to read the bush: tracking animals, throwing spears, making fires and shooting arrows. They’ll join in a traditional blessing ceremony, dressed to the nines in Maasai style, and jump, dance and sing with the local warriors, finishing with a certificate to affirm their Kenyan credentials (and boast about at Show and Tell).
SINGITA SERENGETI HOUSE
Perched on the slopes of Sasakwa Hill in the expansive 350,000 acre Grumeti Reserves, this exclusive-use retreat is specifically designed to welcome families and friends and create an environment of total relaxation for a carefree stay. Up to eight guests can feel at home at Serengeti House, with two suites in the main house and two garden suites situated on either side with daily onsite staff and management. The property enjoys picturesque views of a watering hole from its perch on the south-east slopes of the hill. Inside, a décor blended of European country designs and African artefacts create a comfortable and unpretentious style. Daily game drives with professional guides provide the perfect opportunity to get up close to Africa’s incredible animals, while evening drives reveal the elusive magic of nocturnal Africa.
andBEYOND PHINDA HOMESTEAD
Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa
The chic Homestead lies in andBeyond’s Phinda Private Game Reserve, a sprawling expanse of 23,000 hectares stretching all the way to the Indian Ocean. In a place where elephant herds watch inquisitively as you swim and endangered sea turtles are bred in safety, you’ll find the Phinda Homestead the perfect luxury family retreat. This four-bedroom designer lodge, arranged around quiet pools and courtyards, is decked out with Zulu trinkets and sleek contemporary furniture. Joss Kent, andBeyond’s founder, is forward-thinking when it comes to families. Families enjoy the services of a dedicated ranger who will customise itineraries to suit children’s needs and interests. Mealtimes can be organised according to tastes and times with your private chef. Twice-daily game drives, included in the rate, allow the kids to get to know the wild heart of the reserve, nicknamed the ‘Seven Worlds of Wonder’ thanks to its seven varied habitats. You may even spot a cheetah or the rare black rhino, hiding amid the savannah. Children are welcome on game drives, but must be 16 or over to enjoy a walking safari.
CHONGWE RIVER HOUSE
Lower Zambezi River, Zambia
By the banks of the Chongwe River, where leather-skinned hippopotamus wade, families can escape to a private world of rustic elegance. Chongwe River House is four king-sized bedrooms’ worth of organic design moulded over a wild wood frame. Your house hostess always has a new game up her sleeve and Chef just loves cooking with little ones – ages seven and over are welcome – so if mum and dad need some time to themselves, rest easy knowing the munchkins are in safe hands.
If your family wants a true adventure, discover untamed Africa with the Luangwa Lion Cubs Family Safaris. Kids can learn the skills of a game ranger, track game and show off their new-found knowledge with a wildlife quiz. Discover Zambia’s vibrant culture with visits to the local school (don’t forget the soccer ball), language lessons and a traditional feast; sitting on the floor and eating with their hands is sure to be a kid’s culinary dream come true.
From above: Phinda safaris to the Indian Ocean
Chongwe River House
From above: Baby cheetahs. Image by Billy Dodson
Kwandwe guests spot a pair of cheetahs
TANGALA HOUSE (TONGABEZI)
Victoria Falls, Zambia
Tangala House, in the grounds of Tongabezi Lodge, is your private escape on one of Africa’s most famed waterways. The Zambezi stretches out before you, teeming with wildlife you can easily view from your private boat. The Tangala chef is on hand to create inspiring meals the littlies will love and will host meals separately if mum and dad want some time for themselves.
Tangala House is perfectly designed for families, with three double rooms and a twin room to accommodate the whole brood, as well as a ‘snuggery’ for board game nights. Gather around the fire and listen to tales of how the zebra got his stripes and how the crocodile got his skin. Kids will quickly discover that Tongabezi’s ‘African bush TV’ is far superior to the electronic version, as well as taking home a few lessons in tiger fishing and bush toothbrush manufacturing.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, South Africa
This Manor in the malaria-free Kwandwe reserve has recently been refurbished into a luxurious private villa with a relaxed colonial style ideal for families. There is a hidden perimeter fence which means the surrounding bushveld is a safe environment for kids to explore and watch animals from a secure location. Interconnecting doors have been added to the two largest suites and there is also a kids’ retreat for reading, playing games and watching TV before bedtime when the excitement of game drives in your own private vehicle tires them out. Under sixes enjoy a dedicated Hooves & Stripes adventure where they can view ‘non-aggressive’ game such as giraffe, zebra, monkeys and warthogs. Littlies receive welcome packs with game spotter books, and rooms are kitted out with the ‘Frolicking Rhino’ range of bath products.
Borana Ranch, Kenya
From a spectacular vantage point on the edge of a plateau, the heated swimming pool at Laragai House offers views across the plains to Borana Ranch. A sprawling, luxurious expanse of eight bedrooms, Laragai House is the ultimate in safari chic. This private home features everything from a gym, full-size electric keyboard and table tennis to croquet, tennis courts and a helicopter landing site. Even the most energetic of children will struggle to be bored, but if they come close, a whole host of activities are just eight kilometres away at the Borana Ranch Lodge. Game drives and bush walks are just the start; trotting along on horseback beside giraffes and impala is an experience the kids will never forget. For the ultimate experience, however, take to the skies with a helicopter safari to Mount Kenya and see Africa’s big game from above.
LUANGWA SAFARI HOUSE
South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
While the Robin Pope Safaris main camp is just one kilometre down the road, guests at Luangwa Safari House will holiday in style with the guarantee of complete privacy – except for the elephants and antelope ambling by – as well as a suite of dedicated household staff to ensure every whim is fulfilled. Do mum and dad want to head out on a dawn safari while the little ones still slumber? Not a problem. The in-house host is on hand to make sure breakfast is served and the morning filled with fun, from baking cookies with Chef to sculpting lions’ and elephants’ heads from papier mâché. Join the children of Kawaza village for playtime – nothing breaks down language barriers like a soccer ball – and dance along with local families to the beat of the drums. Four double rooms with ensuites make Luangwa Safari House a perfect choice for large families, however, they can only welcome children over the age of seven.
From above: Thristy zebras. Image by Billy Dodson
Luangwa Safari House, images courtesy of Robin Pope
From above:Tarkuni Vallia's Helicopter Safari
Beachfront luxury at Ndomo House
Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
Tarkuni Villa lies away from Tswalu’s main Motse village, guaranteeing families a secluded escape among the black rhino, Kalahari lions and meerkats that call the desert home. Soft furnishings in an earthy palette make this five-bedroom luxury villa the perfect hideaway, but you won’t want to spend all the time inside. A private staff will ensure you make the most of your stay in the desert, sampling the local fare with a traditional boma dinner and offering a personal consultation to make sure everyone can do what they want. Do you have a budding botanist in your midst? A reserve ecologist can coordinate a bush walk and explain how Kalahari fauna thrives. Do you want some family time in the heart of the desert? A picnic will be packed so you don’t get hungry. Kids are welcome at Tswalu, and the Junior Ranger programme will make them passionate about conservation, as well as archery.
Likoma Island, Malawi
If your kids’ idea of safari is more akin to fishing and football, skip the game reserves and retreat to Kaya Mawa resort on Likoma Island. This beach resort with an African twist sits on Lake Malawi, a colossal rift lake between Mozambique and Malawi that offers a wealth of aquatic sports all year round. Water babies will love the chance to learn how to waterski, wakeboard and kneeboard, and even tackle the basics of scuba diving or kite surfing. At the end of the day, whether it’s been jam-packed with activities or relaxing at the spa, Ndomo House is a waterside haven to call your own. Four bedrooms accommodate up to eight people in a white-washed villa above the waves. With your own private beach just metres from the stone-rimmed pool and flower-strewn verandah, Ndomo House might lack the big five you’ll see at wildlife reserves, but it certainly makes up for it in lakeside beauty.