Booking a space on a guided wildlife safari is the way most visitors experience Africa. But there’s another option few travelers know about that offers a more exclusive way to see the continent.
One can reserve their own luxury home deep in the African wilderness with an attentive staff at your beck and call offering the freedom to explore the countryside at leisure. These luxury estates, handpicked by African Safari Company, an agency that specializes in small group travel and custom safaris, are a perfect getaway for those looking for a unique travel experience off the typical path.
1. Tarkuni, Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
Set amidst two rolling mountain ranges, Tarkuni is the Oppenheimer family’s own personal home at Tswalu Kalahari, the ultimate private sanctuary. Recently redesigned to uncompromising standards of comfort and elegance, Tarkuni is an exceptional choice for families or groups of friends. Its five luxurious suites, each with a magnificent en-suite bathroom, accommodate a maximum of 10 guests. The home has its own dedicated team including a host and private chef to ensure a completely personal service. A private vehicle, personal field guide and tracker ensure an equally bespoke safari experience.
2. Relaxing at Tarkuni, Tswalu Kalahari
Tarkuni creates an oasis of serenity in the desert. Its quiet pool and shady salas offer calm and contemplation. Its own traditional boma (fenced enclosure) has seen many star-lit celebrations. And its beguiling charm has led many guests to return time and again to what has become their second home in the Kalahari.
3. Villa Saebin, Cape Town, South Africa
Villa Saebin, set against Signal Hill in the suburban Tamboerskloof neighborhood, takes full advantage of the views of Table Mountain, Lions Head, the Stellenbosch Mountains, and the Durbanville Hills. The vertical spread of five levels has a private study at the entrance level (with a garage underneath) and three guest bedrooms on the level above. The living area on the fourth level includes open-plan living and dining areas, a sleek kitchen with Miele appliances, a yoga room, and a terrace with an L-shaped pool.
4. Bedroom Suite at Villa Saebin
Nights are dreamy in the fifth-level master suite with a roof garden and terrace. Artworks from around the world—a mix of pieces highlighting contemporary African and Asia-Pacific influences—accent the villa. Villa Saebin, which was completed in early 2014, comes with Wi-Fi, a home-entertainment system, and housekeeping service four days per week.
5. Chongwe River House, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
Zambia's Lower Zambezi is renowned throughout Africa for its magnificent herds of wild elephant, exceptional predator viewing and of course the Zambezi River. It's also home to one of the continent’s most spectacular and unique private homes. Chongwe River House sleeps eight in four spacious ensuite bedrooms, making an ideal safari base for a family or a group of friends wanting a private safari.
6. On Deck at the Chongwe River House
Chongwe River House stands on the banks of the Chongwe River, close to the Zambezi, and with a sensational view of the dramatic mountainous escarpment beyond. Many animals come to the Chongwe River to drink and from the deck the game viewing can be as good as any safari activity. The property comes fully staffed with Chongwe’s resident head guide Matt Porter, house managers Scott Simpson and Kim Bailey, private chefs and a full complement of support staff – all of whom are masters at tailoring private safaris.
7. Plunge Pool at Kiba Point
At Kiba Point, each room has its own plunge pool set into the edge of the deck, and there is also a large house pool where you can sink into comfortable sofas and chairs for an afternoon of general laziness. Kiba Point has its own small team of guides and staff, all of whom can help plan outings and activities. Head out every day either on foot, by boat or by vehicle - as you want and when you want.
8. Ol Malo House, Laikipia, Kenya
Ol Malo House is able to accommodate 12 guests with ease. Built of rock and olive wood and featuring a thatched roof, it continues the hand-crafted tradition established by the Francombe family – designed and created by Colin and Rocky, with Andrew, their son, and daughters Anne and Julia. The hub of the house is a large and beautiful sitting and dining room – with open fireplaces – encircled by three en-suite double bedrooms. Separate cottages feature an additional three double bedrooms. Each private and comfortable cottage has arch windows and doors, en-suite bathrooms, and decor inspired by the area’s wild landscape, local flora and the life and culture of the Samburu people.
9. Cottar's Private House at Ol Malo House
The lighting throughout Ol Malo House was handmade by the local Samburu women creating a warm ambience and welcoming atmosphere. A flagstone path leads to a large open area overlooking the infinity pool and incredible wide-open vistas – perfect for al fresco dining. A barbecue area creates a wonderful place in which to end the day under a star-studded African sky.
Julia Nesbitt is the director of sales and marketing for African Safari Company.