Where to go for Africa’s best private houses
Africa is at its best and most fun when you share it with family or a group of friends. The increasing numbers of exclusive safari houses provide perfect accommodation for these types of holidays, and offer private guides, completely flexible activities and dining, and even specially tailored menus if you wish. Here are some of our favourite private safari houses:
All the toys – Leobo Observatory, Waterberg, South Africa
Set in a private reserve in South Africa’s malaria free Waterberg, this extraordinary safari house is super cool. Equipped with its own private vehicle and guide, Leobo’s also got quad bikes, horses, an off-road buggy, mountain bikes, clay pigeon shooting, fishing tackle, and an observatory equipped with two NASA grade telescopes.
Sleeps: Up to nine in four huge suites.
Serengeti sanctuary – Mkombe’s House, Serengeti, Tanzania
One of very few safari houses in the Serengeti, the canvas walls peel back to admit the breeze and reveal the fabulous views. Wildlife drives scheduled around the family routine are the main focus, but bush walks (suitable for over 12s), picnic breakfasts and lunches are all on offer. When not out exploring the exceptional wildlife, there’s plenty of space to relax in a shady spot or enjoy a dip in the pool.
Sleeps: Up to ten in four bedrooms.
River-side magic – Time + Tide Chongwe River House, Lower Zambezi, Zambia
On the banks of the Chongwe River just upstream from its confluence with the Zambezi, this dramatic safari house is a glorious spot for two families holidaying together. Elephants splash in the river, plains game and birds are all around, there’s a private boat and game vehicle to explore the local area. Island picnics, sleepouts, school visits, fishing, canoeing, bush suppers, and walking safaris mix with relaxing by the pool or just admiring the view from the verandah.
Sleeps: Up to ten in four rooms.
Lakeside family fun – Ndomo Point House, Lake Malawi, Malawi
If escaping from the ‘real world’ features on your holiday list then here’s one to consider. Tucked away on Likoma Island in the middle of Lake Malawi is Kaya Mawa – beloved by all who visit. Just down the beach from the main lodge is Ndomo Point, the most stunning house and perfect for a lazy few days pre or post safari – or even a holiday in its own right. While away the days on its own stretch of beach, by the swimming pool, or on one of the sunny terraces. The island is easy to explore on foot, by bike or quadbike. Take to the water and you’ll find excellent scuba diving, kayaking, water-skiing and kite surfing.
Sleeps: Up to eight in four bedrooms.
Safari and more – Sirikoi House, Lewa, Kenya
A quite exceptional location, surrounded by the 68,000 acres of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, makes Sirkoi House a real safari gem. The wildlife in this World Heritage wilderness is prolific, with a host of endangered species in evidence. Black and white rhino thrive and visitors can expect regular sightings of leopard, cheetah and lion. That’s not all as the usual safari activities can be complemented with horse riding, helicopter excursions, fly camping and quad bike safaris. The elegantly appointed house is a perfect retreat for families looking for an independent escape to a magical patch of Africa.
Sleeps: Up to eight in three rooms.
Safari house chic – Cottar’s Private Homestead, Masai Mara, Kenya
Stay at this stylish private house in a 22,000 acre concession in the Masai Mara in Kenya, and you are guaranteed good wildlife viewing, incredible guiding, house staff who pay attention to the finest detail, and first class cuisine. Day and night game drives, fishing, guided walks, cultural visits and sundowners are all on offer, together with a great pool. It’s a real gem and perfect for two families travelling together.
Sleeps: Up to ten in five rooms
Remote private hideaway – 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 magical views over the Rufiji River. Each of the large en-suite stone and thatch rooms has a plunge pool and there’s 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. Fun for families with older children for walking safaris and boat trips as well as vehicle based game drives.
Sleeps: Up to ten in four rooms
Up in the trees – Jackalberry Tree House, South Luangwa, Zambia
If you’re after something a little different then this two bedroom tree house in the heart of Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is a good shout. The three main decks are about eight feet off the ground, built around a clutch of ebony trees. Two bedrooms sit either side of the ‘lounge deck’ which is a perfect spot from which to view the wildlife wandering past – oblivious to your presence! All the usual safari activities on offer.
Sleeps: Four in two bedrooms.
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. Enjoy walking, riding, nature drives, boat trips to Dyer Island, shark cage diving, whale watching by boat, scenic flights, golf, and quad biking
Sleeps: Up to 12 in six bedrooms
Home from home – Acacia House, Masai Mara, Kenya
With a relaxed atmosphere in one of Africa’s finest safari areas, Acacia House is a particularly good choice for families travelling with younger children. The dedicated safari vehicle and guide allow complete flexibility over activities which include local village and school visits, and bush picnics. The waterhole in front of the house is visited by a range of wildlife so you can view Africa’s iconic animals while relaxing on the verandah or by the pool. Several of the guides worked with the filmmakers of the BBC documentary The Hunt and know the area intimately.
Sleeps: Up to six in three rooms
Elegant exclusivity – Tswalu Tarkuni, Kalahari, South Africa
If it’s exclusivity you’re after, then Tswalu Tarkuni surely hits the button. Once the owners’ family home on the glorious Tswalu reserve it is an elegantly understated, tranquil and luxurious homestead sitting at the end of a private valley. Sunny decks flow off the suites where day beds can be made into evening star beds for guests who want to experience the thrill of sleeping under the vast Kalahari skies. Children are well provided for with two sets of bunk beds and separate nanny quarters. The heated pool is great for safari downtime. Among activities on offer are helicopter flights, wildlife drives, bush walks, rhino tracking, star-gazing, horse riding.
Sleeps: up to 10 in five suites.
Beach bliss – Alfajiri Cliff Villa, Diani Beach, Kenya
Perched on a coral cliff above the pristine sands of Diani Beach, Alfajiri Cliff Villa is one of East Africa’s most stylish bolt holes. Panoramic ocean views from the turret suite, flowing fabrics and East African artefacts ooze wow factor.
Sleeps: Up to eight in four bedrooms.
Taking the teenagers – Luangwa Safari House, South Luangwa, Zambia
We’ve a really soft spot for Zambia’s South Luangwa Valley. You’re never far from something fascinating to watch – lion and leopard sightings among the best in Africa. With so much on offer, from boating (in the ‘green’ season) and walking to day and night wildlife drives, it’s a perfect choice for a proper family safari adventure. This superb safari house is an excellent spot for an indulgent, private break. Sitting on the edge of a lagoon frequented by impala, giraffe and countless other species, it’s the sort of place you might find yourself watching a herd of 20 elephants over lunch. There’s plenty to do, with the added bonus of an underground hide for up-close wildlife viewing.
Sleeps: Up to 11 in four bedrooms.
Big five safari – Jaci’s Sabi House, Sabi Sands, South Africa
This wonderful home from home is set close to prime wildlife viewing areas in the famous Sabi Sand reserve. With the Big Five all present, and plenty more besides, it’s a top spot for a spectacular and exclusive safari. Children of all ages are welcome and the guides will do their best to spot favourite animals. There’s even a ‘pups club’ hamper which includes safari activities galore and pillow treats each night.
Sleeps: Up to six in three bedrooms.
Any questions on family safari holidays?
If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.
We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.