From ultra-luxurious safari lodges with spas to treehouses under the stars, South Africa offers some of the continent’s most stunning properties and experiences. Perhaps go wine tasting on a private train, dip in the pool alongside elephants in Kruger National Park or relax at a spa retreat overlooking Table Mountain. Here, we’ve rounded up the ultimate luxury lodges and hotels the country has to offer.
1. Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, Cederberg Mountains
Shaded by the dramatic peaks and ancient red-rock scenery of the Western Cape’s Cederberg mountain range lies this spectacular retreat. The ultimate in authentic luxury, Bushman’s Kloof is all timber-beamed rooms, suites and private villas, the likes of fireplaces and four-poster bed a wonderful contrast to outside’s remote wilderness.
It makes for a wonderful base for twice-daily safaris with a difference. Alongside sunset and sunrise game drives, there’s the chance to enjoy guided rock art tours of 10,000-year-old paintings, returning to four garden-surrounded pools and a spa that was voted the country’s ‘Best for Luxury Wellness’. It’s all finished off perfectly with seasonal dishes that are served al fresco among the fig trees, the distant roar of wildlife your accompaniment.
2. Dulini River Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Kruger National Park
For adventure, romance and more than a touch of luxury, this eight-suite lodge is ideal for away-from-it-all indulgence. Open terraces overlook the riverbed, home to passing animals like the famous Sabi Sand leopards, alongside private plunge pools, outdoor showers and shaded decks. Then, both morning and afternoon game drives are, naturally, included, as are freshly-prepared, all-inclusive meals.
And, rest assured, your personal butler is on hand throughout, helping to arrange everything from interpretive guided bush walks to wilderness dinners and bush breakfasts.
3. One&Only Cape Town
For the ultimate Cape Town stay, this luxury One&Only property lies resplendent in a coveted location; it’s just moments from the stylish boutiques and chic cafes of the city’s famous V&A Waterfront. Plush, balcony-adorned bedrooms enjoy Table Mountain or pool views, but its crowning glory is its spa that’s surrounded by its own island, vaunting an outdoor-indoor pool and sprawling treatment rooms.
Cape Town is a city renowned for its food and wine, and One&Only is host to a stylish bistro, bar and even a world-renowned Nobu. Of course, further afield, the city is also an excellent gateway to those famous South African Winelands for world-class tastings.
4. &Beyond Tengile River Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Kruger National Park
This luxury &Beyond offering is situated in the exclusive Sabi Sand Game Reserve and is the ultimate in sustainable luxury. Private lap pools and floating suites that look over the river provide a stylish base, but what really stands out is its sustainability ethos; the lodge uses environmentally-friendly solar power, and used construction materials to create the al-fresco showers and sunken lounges.
Exploring Kruger National Park is, naturally, top of the agenda, which you’ll visit twice daily on included tours, spotting the Big Five alongside birdwatching trips and bush walks. Then, finish the day with luxe treatments in the spa, the perfect prelude to sundowners and gourmet dining.
5. Great Fish River Lodge, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Eastern Cape
Head to the remote, malaria-free Eastern Cape and you’ll find the Great Fish River Lodge, one of the region’s most stylish properties. From private decks overlooking the river and thatched-hut suites, reached from private wooden walkways, you’re perfectly placed to explore on twice-daily game drives as you drive through the wildlife-rich Kwandwe, knowledgeable guides on hand throughout.
After days spotting the Big Five, from rhino the elephant, return to your safari-chic indoor-outdoor showers and plunge pools before sundowners along the river and ultra-fresh dining in the outdoor, fireside boma.
6. Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek, Winelands
South Africa’s world-famous Winelands are home to some of the world’s best varietals and this hotel, happily, puts epicureanism front and centre. Excellent dining – think sumac-spiced springbok with creamed spinach gnocchi and lime-cured salmon trout – is paired with the likes of tastings in the wine cellar and vineyard bike rides, and there’s even the chance to indulge with a complimentary, gourmet picnic basket on hiking and horse riding excursions.
Then, soothe any sightseeing aches back at the main ranch, the likes of spa indulgences and poolside cocktails with mountain views on offer. It’s all done with a base in luxe, minimalist rooms splashed with colourful local art that look above the vines, alongside charming lounges and plunge pools.
7. Lion Sands River Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Kruger National Park
Part of the prestigious Lion Sands hotel group, the Lion Sands River Lodge is a particularly wonderful choice for a honeymoon or big celebration. Expect gorgeous, safari-chic aesthetics, with standalone bush-view bathtubs and exposed-timber features alongside outdoor showers, plunge pools and private sun terraces.
Head out on expert-led safaris twice a day – encapsulating your memories forever at the lodge’s wildlife canvas printing room – before returning to the all-inclusive, open bar and full-board fine dining right by the river. There’s even the chance to rent your own private treehouse for an unforgettable under-the-stars experience, falling asleep to the sounds of the bush.
8. Rovos Rail
While not technically a lodge, Rovos Rail is one of South Africa’s most stylish and iconic accommodation options, self-styled as ‘one of the world’s most luxurious trains’. Winding along the dramatic scenery of the Karoo – South Africa’s barren, semi-arid desert – guests are invited to dress up for dinner in the private lounges for five-star meals – think fresh, local game – before returning to gleaming dark-wood suites, complete with double bed and ensuite. We recommend starting at Pretoria to experience the mighty rush of the Victoria Falls at the end of your journey – a most memorable finale.