Africa’s Best Luxury Travel Options

Dinner is served on the outskirts of Sossusvlei Desert Lodge.

Travel to Africa for the most unforgettable luxury safari, tour or honeymoon experience imaginable.

When potential visitors consider ‘Africa’ in terms of travel, ‘luxury’ is rarely the first word that springs to mind. ‘Wild’, perhaps. ‘Adventure’, even. But ‘luxury’? ‘Luxury’ is typically tacked on to remote island resorts in the Indian Ocean, or ritzy hotels in cosmopolitan cities like Paris and New York. The origins of the word date back to unfavorable descriptions of excess, and even lust.

‘Luxury travel’, however, is about more than the thread count on your bedding, or the price tag of the property. It is about intimacy, exclusivity, personalized service and high-quality, bespoke experiences. Indulgence merely seasons the journey.

Luxury travel in Africa speaks less to the hedonist and more to the discerning traveler – individuals who are looking for that rare combination of unique, authentic and comfortable. Regardless of your motivation for travel – a romantic interlude, a safari adventure, an enriching guided tour - there are superb options available to complement your interests.

Luxury Tours

When traveling to a new corner of the globe, the greatest benefit in opting for a guided tour over self-exploration is the insight. Whether you’re partaking in a budget expedition or a luxury tour, the knowledge imparted by your local guide is arguably the most invaluable part of your experience.

In this case, while we’re on the matter of luxury tours of South Africa, you’ll relish the coupling of plush, first-class accommodations with exceptional private guiding services.

An aerial view of Tsala Treetop Lodge in the Garden Route.

Our choice destination for a luxury tour in Africa is South Africa’s ‘Mother City’ of Cape Town. The attractions and activities available to tourists reflect the country’s signature diversity – there really is something for everyone. However, just because you are traveling to a city popular for its tourism, doesn’t mean that you’ll be elbowing through the crowds to tick off the go-to sites. Booking a luxury tour means that your guide will plan your activities for the most optimal experience, so that you need not worry about timing, transport or enjoying yourself.

Attractions typically included in luxury Cape Town tours range from the must-do (Table Mountain, Robben Island, Boulders Beach) to the exclusive (distinguished wine estates like Vergelegen, Hamilton-Russell and Groot Constantia). A luxury tour ensures a holistic experience not limited by the constraints of group or budget tours.

Further down the coast, the Garden Route is also a fantastic luxury tour destination – particularly for families. Here you’ll find activities galore, from wandering through the Knysna forests alongside an elephant to dolphin watching cruises and kayaking adventures. The area is also home to some of the finest golf courses on the continent.

Luxury tours tend to include high quality five-star accommodations – usually in the form of boutique hotels. However, some very unique properties are available to discerning travelers seeking distinction.  Tsala Treetop Lodge in the Garden Route immerses guests in the lush canopy of the Knysna Forest, while Grootbos Nature Reserve provides access to leagues of indigenous fynbos and some of the wildest beaches in the Overberg. Further north, in an outlying part of the Western Cape known as the Cederberg, Bushmans Kloof will appeal to travelers with more specific interests – in this case, rock art. Here you will find some of the best-preserved examples of the world’s oldest art form, all the while savoring sumptuous accommodations.

Our recommended luxury African tours include our 18 Day Ultimate South Africa Tour (a comprehensive guide to the ‘world in one country’, infused with indulgence), the 10 Day Our Fairest Cape Tour (a lavish circuit of the Western Cape’s top tour elements) and, one of our most popular itineraries, the 14 Day Cape Town, Wine, Kruger & Victoria Falls Tour (a combination of Southern Africa’s foremost safari and tour destinations).

Luxury Safaris

A luxury safari in Africa is one of the most sought-after and rewarding luxury travel experiences available in the world today. There really is nothing quite like it – nothing on other continents that you can compare it to that would serve it justice. Many intrepid travelers would argue that luxury travel experiences are inauthentic – that you are not engaging a destination in its ‘true’ form. This is where a luxury African safari totally deviates from the norm.

Twilight falls over the dining area at Kings Pool Camp.

Firstly, the locations of the luxury safari lodges in Africa are by and large remarkably remote. No city lights twinkling in the distance or dimming the brilliance of the night sky, no cacophony of traffic – no real marked signs of civilization, really. Moreover, these lodges and camps are typically unfenced for real immersion. You could not dream of better or more direct access to some of the world’s most storied and pristine wilderness areas.

The second point in favor of authenticity is about numbers – the lack thereof, actually. In order to reduce their environmental footprint and ensure the most rewarding experience possible for guests, the luxury lodges and camps are characteristically small, ranging in capacity from six to a maximum of twenty guests at any given time (this is a ballpark figure that varies from property to property). The open-air 4x4 safari vehicles rarely allow for more than six (occasionally eight) guests, ensuring unobstructed game viewing. Finally, the lodges are scattered in areas with limited traversing rights, meaning minimal traffic around sightings.

In terms of authenticity, we would recommend Botswana, Zambia or Zimbabwe for your luxury African safari. Kings Pool Camp in Botswana’s Linyanti safari area combines a highly underrated safari destination with the ultimate in luxury eco-friendly safari accommodation, while Chinzombo in Zambia’s legendary South Luangwa National Park blends sumptuous lodgings with a traditional walking safari adventure.

For the best value, South Africa and Namibia’s safari lodges are ideal. In South Africa, the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is the undisputed leader in luxury safari destinations, hosting an alluring assortment of plush properties. Our top picks in Sabi Sand are Lion Sands Ivory Lodge – newly refurbished with every modern amenity imaginable – and the intimate lodges of the Dulini Collection (Dulini, Leadwood and Dulini River), the tiniest lodges with the greatest abundance of luxury stylings.

Our own safari offerings range from fly-in packages to specific lodges (like the above), to meticulously planned combination safaris that span several destinations. The most comprehensive of these is the 18 Day Three Countries and Cape Town Safari, which visits prime safari destinations in three different countries and incorporates some luxury tour elements as well. For more region-specific luxury safari travel, we recommend the 7 Day Kruger’s Finest Fly-In Safari (the cream of the crop of the Greater Kruger’s safari lodges) and the 9 Day Botswana’s Finest Lodges Safari (as wild and wonderful as it gets).

Luxury Honeymoons

If you still need convincing that Africa is an inherently romantic luxury honeymoon destination, look to the remote archipelagos off the coast of Mozambique, surrounded by the azure waters of the Indian Ocean in every direction. Look to the dramatic mountain scenery of the Cape winelands and the region’s delectable epicurean spoils. Look to the shimmering Milky Way above the desolate landscape of Sossusvlei in Namibia, where the only thing you’ll hear above the deafening silence of the isolation is – perhaps – your and your loved one’s heartbeats. It’s true – Africa is the luxury honeymoon destination that dreams are made of.

Striking views over the Indian Ocean from White Pearl Resorts.

Unlike popular honeymoon destinations elsewhere in the world, choosing Africa for your honeymoon means that you can combine various elements into one whimsical getaway with your partner. This is also a great way to ensure that both parties ‘get what they want’ out of the experience. A wild and intimate luxury safari experience? Tick! Leisure time on the shores of a remote tropical island? Tick! A sunset cruise a stone’s throw from the Victoria Falls? Tick!

There really is a profusion of romantic destinations to choose from, but a few deserve to be highlighted. One of them is Sossusvlei, a breathtaking outpost in the Namib Desert where you can really tune out from the rest of the world and focus on your new journey with your partner. You’ll honestly feel like you’re amongst the last people on earth. Our choice accommodation in this area is Sossusvlei Desert Lodge. The glass-walled suites and skylights ensure panoramic views of the awe-inspiring landscape.

Then there is Mozambique. It’s tough to bill an entire country as a honeymoon destination, but there are ample island and beach destinations to choose from. What makes Mozambique so attractive as a luxury honeymoon destination is that it is in the very early throes of being commercialized. The ocean waters and sandy beaches are remarkably pristine, the coral reefs barely touched – almost unheard of, in this day and age. For affordability and convenience, we recommend White Pearl Resorts. For the exclusive, private island-style tropical getaway of a lifetime, we’d champion Anantara Medjumbe Island Lodge.

Our recommend luxury African honeymoons include our 16 Day Best of Kruger and Botswana Honeymoon (a lavish honeymoon safari that also visits the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls), the 18 Day Ultimate African Honeymoon (a cross-country adventure that blends the most romantic elements of South Africa, Botswana and Zambia) and the 7 Day East Coast Safari & Beach Honeymoon (the perfect coupling of an intimate safari and beach getaway).

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