10 Private Houses for Christmas Safaris
The joy of a private house for Christmas safaris
One of the best ways to enjoy Africa’s wilderness and beaches with a small group of friends or family is to rent a private house. These houses are always on an exclusive basis and have staff to cater to your every need; the service is second to none. Your meals and most of your drinks are included, as well as all your normal safari activities. You’ll often find there are a few extra perks too. Although it’s too late to book these houses for Christmas this year, we’re posting this now to give you plenty of time to think about the 2016 festive season. If you can organise your accommodation before the busy booking period in the first few months of the new year, you’ll have the best chance of securing the property you want, and spending a fabulous Christmas in Africa.
What to consider The Weather in December / January. The best weather at this time of year is along South Africa’s southern coast and in East Africa, so South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya are all great choices. While these countries are optimum for Christmas and New Year on safari, don’t write off Southern Africa. Over this period the rain, such as it is, typically comes in afternoon downpours every other day, and then the air clears and things are back to normal. How long should you stay? We’d suggest at least three nights at each place, which allows you two full days to enjoy the area. However some locations are more suited to stays of five days or more. It really depends where you are and what there is to do. Over Christmas and New Year you may find some properties ask for a minimum five night stay. Size of house – this depends on the number travelling, but bear in mind that a spare room is better than trying to squeeze in too many. The team at Aardvark Safaris travels regularly with children (from toddlers to teenagers) so please pick our brains as to which private houses suit certain age groups. When to book for Christmas and New Year The general rule for private houses is the earlier you can book the less chance of disappointment. For some popular private houses booking a year in advance is advisable for Christmas and New Year. If you know the number of people involved it’s recommended to get your name down as quickly as you can. Consider how much time you want to spend with each other – do you want the option to escape? I know from personal experience that too much of a good thing can have a downside. With most family festive gatherings, the secret to a successful holiday is to mix up lots of activities with oodles of space. The range of activities on offer at private safari houses varies; we will talk through what’s possible at each location. Expense There are private safari houses and beach villas to suit families of all sizes and budgets. Some are decadent, indulgent and glamorous, and others are cosy with more of a home from home feel. Private houses are often better value for a family than staying in a number of rooms in a safari lodge or hotel on a non-exclusive basis. And you don’t have to talk to anyone you don’t know! Here are our recommendations of private houses on safari or the beach over the Christmas holidays: BEST FOR MALARIA-FREE – Kwandwe Melton Manor, Eastern Cape, South Africa – Great for groups of up to eight people and a wonderful family friendly option. Kwandwe is home to some intriguing habitats and good game, including lion, black and white rhino, buffalo, elephant and cheetah. They enjoy regular predator sightings. Sleeps: up to eight in four rooms Activities: day and night game drives, guided bush walks, picnics, sundowners, fishing, or simply relaxing. Don’t just take our word for it: “This place was phenomenal, truly the highlight of our holiday.” Guest feedback.
BEST FOR A HOMELY ATMOSPHERE IN ONE OF AFRICA’S FINEST SAFARI AREAS – Acacia House, Masai Mara, Kenya –This is a very affordable way to safari if there are five or six of you. With a dedicated safari vehicle and guide you can be flexible over the activities you choose. Guests are also welcome to participate in the Rekero Trust community development projects, including computer training. The waterhole in front of the house is visited by a range of wildlife so you can game view while relaxing on the verandah or by the pool. The Rekero guides were also utilised by the filmmakers of the BBC documentary The Hunt for their intimate knowledge of the Masai Mara and individual animals such as Malaika the cheetah. Sleeps: up to six in three rooms Activities: game drives, visits to local villages and schools, bush picnics, sundowners. Don’t just take our word for it: “The whole visit to our second home was enhanced by brilliant guiding, attentive staff, very comfortable surroundings and excellent food. We are looking forward to our next visit in July!” Guest feedback March 2015
BEST FOR CHIC SAFARI HOUSE STYLE Cottar’s Private Homestead, Masai Mara, Kenya – This stylish private house has great pool and sleeps up to ten. Located in a 22,000 acre concession in the Masai Mara in Kenya, you are guaranteed good game viewing, incredible guiding, house staff who pay attention to the finest detail, and first class cuisine. This is a real gem and perfect for two families travelling together. Sleeps: Up to ten in five rooms Activities: Day and night game drives, fishing, guided walks, cultural visits and sundowners. Don’t just take our word for it: “For those who find themselves hooked on Africa, there comes a time when they want something different …… Calvin Cottar and his safaris come with the kid of pedigree and promise that is hard to resist.” Financial Times
BEST FOR WILDLIFE VIEWING OFF THE BEATEN TRACK Kiba Point, Selous, Tanzania – Kiba Point is a real Aardvark Safaris’ favourite and is the outstanding sister camp to Sand River Selous. Set on a rocky outcrop it has stunning views over the Rufiji River. Taken on a private basis only, the house has four large, en-suite, stone and thatch rooms, each have their own plunge pool. There is a large communal area with a dining room, bar and swimming pool. There’s plenty of wildlife close to the house and wild dog sightings are a particular highlight in this area. Sleeps: Up to eight in four rooms Activities: walking safaris, boat trips, game drives, sundowners Don’t just take our word for it: “Freedom to ‘just be’ in the heart of Africa.” Nomad Tanzania
BEST FOR OVER THE TOP LUXURY Singita Serengeti House, Serengeti, Tanzania – This lovely house is possibly the most luxurious private safari house in Africa. Guests are accommodated in great comfort and can enjoy the large dining and lounge areas, ample decked areas with day beds, a 25m swimming pool and a private tennis court. Sleeps: up to eight in two spacious suites Activities: game drives, bush walks, star gazing, mountain biking, croquet, archery. Experienced riders can visit Singita Sasakwa’s equestrian centre which is just a few minutes’ drive from the house and enjoy guided rides out onto the Serengeti plains. Don’t just take our word for it: “Singita Grumeti reserves ranked no. 1 in Middle East, Africa & Indian Ocean,” Readers’ Travel Awards 2014 (UK) Condé Nast Traveller Magazine
BEST FOR OLD FASHIONED AFRICA Laragai House, Laikipia, Kenya – There is something about Laragai that warms the soul in an ‘Out of Africa’ way. The house sleeps 16 and is ideal for families as well as groups of friends travelling together. There are all sorts of mod cons to keep teenagers happy as well as those who can’t quite leave the digital age behind. However the scenery, location and wildlife are incredible and this is a true country retreat. Fully staffed, Laragai is very spoiling and guests have the flexibility to pick and choose how to fill their days. Sleeps: up to 16 in eight bedrooms Activities: Day and night game drives guided bush walks, fly fishing on Mount Kenya, bird watching, mountain biking, tennis, horse riding, hikes and visits to the local tannery. Helicopter day trips north to Lake Turkana can also be arranged. Don’t just take our word for it: “An amazing experience at Laragai House. We enjoyed impeccable and super-friendly service from staff members hired from local communities, super professional camp management, wonderful meals, and expert game viewing and guiding.” Guest feedback.
BEST FOR INDIAN OCEAN Vamizi Private Villas, Mozambique, The villas at Vamizi sleep between six and 16 people and this is a great spot to simply relax on the beach or enjoy world class diving and snorkelling. There is excellent fishing around the island and professional guides are on hand to accompany guests into the island interior either on foot or by vehicle. Sleeps: Six private villas sleeping from six to 16 Activities: windsurfing, dinghy sailing, paddle boarding, and kayaking. Wildlife includes turtles, dolphins, birds and seasonal whale-watching, spa treatments Don’t just take our word for it: “In an archipelago just off the coast of Mozambique, the owners of this beachside retreat have created a spectacular lodge that typifies barefoot luxury, while sustaining and conserving the island’s rich heritage.” House and Garden, July 2015
BEST FOR COSMOPOLITAN CAPE TOWN Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa. Ellerman House private villa is a great base in Africa’s funkiest city which is at its best at Christmas. In the heart of Bantry Bay there’s great access to trendy Camps Bay, Cape Point, Robben Island and all of Cape Town’s attractions. You could stay here for a fortnight and do something different each day. Sleeps: Up to 10 in five rooms. Activities: World class restaurants, beaches, shopping, sightseeing, Winelands Don’t just take our word for it: “Winner of ‘World Travel Awards’ Africa’s leading luxury villa 2014“
BEST FOR GARDEN ROUTE EXPLORING Kurland Villa, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Kurland Villa, close to the fabulous beaches of Plettenberg has a magnificent location with forest clad mountains as a backdrop. Its six huge en-suite bedrooms, massive entertaining space, large verandah with spectacular views, and its own team of staff, make Kurland Villa ideal for a family or a group of friends wanting the ultimate in privacy and luxury. There’s access to all of the activities and facilities on offer at the Kurland Estate. Sleeps: Up to 12 in six bedrooms Activities: horse riding, mountain biking, polo, walks, a pool, spa and a gym, and of course the numerous seaside activities at Plettenberg Bay Don’t just take our word for it: “We had our own chef and butler and the owners did everything they possible could to make our stay memorable. They provided us with quads (especially popular with the boys) and bikes, arranged for a van for trips to the beach (5 minutes away) or town and arranged for us to go riding at short notice. Similarly, whenever we asked for something for the house or a special wine, it was there as soon as they could get their hands on it.” From the villa guest book.
BEST FOR A MARINE SAFARI Grootbos Villa, Eastern Cape, South Africa – The endemic fynbos vegetation makes this a particularly special place to visit and the walks, drives and horse riding on the reserve are hugely enjoyable. Picnic excursions to the nearby beaches are great fun and the private guide and vehicle allows complete freedom to explore the reserve as well as further afield. Sleeps: Up to 12 in six bedrooms Activities: walking, riding, nature drives, boat trips to Dyer Island, shark cage diving, whale watching by boat, scenic flights, golf, and quad biking Don’t just take our word for it: Included in The 101 Best Hotels in the World, Tatler Travel Awards 2014
The Aardvark Safaris team has lived and worked in Africa, many have taken their own family to luxury African private villas and safari houses. We can arrange everything to make your family celebrations or Christmas safaris special. All you need to do is email us or call us and tell us what you’d like to see and we’ll do the rest, giving tips and advice, and then putting together a full detailed itinerary.