Accommodation can sometimes be a little bland, anyone who’s ever stayed at any of any of the big chain hotels – no names mentioned – will not know where they are until they look outside; the accommodation is so ‘corporate’. They have their place of course but when you go away, I’ll wager that you want to have an experience to remember, to stay at places of character.
Well if I am right here are five ideas of places that could be of interest to you.
Located in the heart of the Okavango Delta, Abu is truly offers a unique experience with up close and personal interaction with Abu’s own herd of elephants. I was privileged to visit the camp a couple of years ago and met the newest member of the herd, a female called Naledi (meaning ‘starry night’ after the night when she was born) just 5 days after she was born.
The accommodation is pretty amazing in its own right but what makes me put Abu into this list is the unique experience it offers it guest. Having walked with or ridden the elephants through the delta landscape and having had a superb evening meals you have the chance to climb into your overnight accommodation directly above where the elephants sleep and doze off accompanied by the low snores from below – a magical experience. The platform can only take two guests at a time so one to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Namibia is a land of incredible stark beauty with landscapes that stretch into the far distance before adjoining the huge azure skies. Apart from in the main urban centres of Windhoek, Swakopmund and Luderitz, the accommodation is generally of a small and intimate nature and has been built to sensitively blend into the surroundings.
Little Kulala, located a short distance from the edge of the huge dune field that stretches from Sossusvlei to the coast south of Swakopmund, is a mid-market priced lodge which merges seamlessly into the desert landscape which surrounds it. The accommodation consists of 11 ‘kulalas’ each with its own plunge pool and private enclosed outside space.
But what makes this space special, although not unique, is the star bed that can be set up on top of the Kulala to take advantage of the incredible clear nights in this part of the world, with absolutely no light pollution. Get yourself a tipple of your choice, climb into bed and watch the Milky Way, Scorpio and the Southern Cross rise over the horizon.
Off the northern most tip of the largest island within the Zanzibar group of islands is a little gem called Pemba. Reached via a light aircraft flight from Zanzibar Airport the island offers more interesting topography than the main island and my memory of the transfer to Manta was of the sweet smell of cloves drying in the sun along the side of the road – the only tarmac road on Pemba. Strange how smells can form such strong memories!
The Manta resort is located at the very northern end of Pemba and is a five star intimate and laid back resort offering everything you would want and expect from a beach property.
But then it goes the extra mile, and merits an inclusion in my top five, with an ‘underwater’ room.
The ‘room’ located the lagoon well away from the rest of the resort is of three tier construction with a top deck (with a bed if required), a living area at water level and an underwater bedroom. Lights illuminate the area around the structure at night. You in the aquarium tank but you’re the attraction with the fish looking in at you. Quite incredible!
If you like a little ‘old world’ elegance and a more genteel pace of life on your holidays then there can be no better way to travel than by train. Flights will get to your destination quicker but the old adage ‘it’s better to travel than arrive’, fits perfectly the Rovos Rail experience.
From their private station in Pretoria, Rovos operates a number of ‘train sets’ (their phrase, not mine) which fan out across southern Africa with regular two night journeys to Cape Town as well as trips to Victoria Falls (best visited from March to June), Durban and Namibia. More specialised trips include golf safaris playing some of the best courses in South Africa with their crown jewel being a 15 day trip to Dar es Salaam, visiting Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia on route.
The most luxurious cabin is the Royal Suite which is 16 sq metres in size and take up half a carriage. Combine this with superb food, quality wines and champagnes and this has to be the way to travel.
The first time your safari vehicle climbs up the steep slopes and crests the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and you look down 3,000 feet into the crater, teeming with wildlife, I guarantee the word ‘wow’ or something similar with escapes from your mouth.
And your reaction will be something very similar when you enter @Beyond’s Ngorongoro Crater Lodge for the first time.
The setting in incredible with views into the crater and an outdoor dining area from which to enjoy them. The communal areas take you on a roller-coaster ride across eras as well as continents with French baroque fittings, gilt mirrors and wooden panelling blending with tribal Africa.
I’m not even sure how to describe the dining room………….
Each of the suites has butler service, bathrooms with chandeliers and stunning views.