Hidden throughout Africa are luxury accommodations that sit along warm beaches dotted with wildlife, and spacious, tented bungalows with private plunge pools. Access to a Michelin-starred chef, your own personal butler, modern art and Italian, Carrera marble bathrooms and lobbies lit by sparkling chandeliers are all experiences this exotic land offers. African luxury travel means extravagant five-star splendour and upscale sophistication.
Cape Town rests like a glittering necklace about the throat of Table Mountain on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and is home to the high-end elegance of fine estates and vineyards sprawling along the hills outside the city.
Ellerman House, a Cape Edwardian mansion on the cliffs overlooking Bantry Bay is a Relais & Chateaux property that was once a private estate with wide verandahs, pools and suites. Boasting an impeccable collection of modern art, including original paintings and sculpture, Ellerman House offers a five-star study in elegance. From its libraries, drawing rooms and dining rooms open to the sea, the mansion epitomizes Old World sophistication. Ellerman’s two private villas, adjacent to the mansion, are modern, posh and perfect, too.
The Steenberg Hotel & Winery lies on The Cape’s oldest wine farm in the lush green Constantia Valley; a quiet retreat in the shadow of Steenberg Mountain, about 25 kilometers from the heart of Cape Town. Offering a champion golf course, world-class restaurants, a decadent spa and an extensive vineyard, The Steenberg offers unparalleled luxury and modern amenities. With 20 spacious rooms and three individual villa-style suites for extravagant private escapes, it’s all about leisure and stillness.
Franschhoek, a town in the heart of The Cape’s wine lands, is home to one of the most lavish and elegant boutique hotels, La Residence. If you’re still not convinced, trust the hotel’s roster of famous guests like Sir Elton John (or Adrian Brody, Renée Fleming, Richard Gere, Lionel Richie, or Ivanka Trump—they’ve all reportedly stayed at the hotel). The Maharani Suite (Room 11), where Elton John stays when he rents the entire hotel, was decorated to suit his tastes. Persian carpets, Czech chandeliers, French antiques and checkerboard marble floors ornament the halls of this opulent boutique hotel with its private butlers, drivers and service staff. The 4-metre chandelier in the lobby and a restaurant lounge that opens to the vineyards will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a Maxfield Parrish painting, sunset and all.
No bucket-list trip to Africa would be complete without a luxury safari. My favourite for matchless style and service? Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge near Kruger National Park in South Africa and the fashionable Olare Mara Kempinski camp in Kenya. So posh, these chic tented camps offer spacious individual residences with fully-modern bathrooms, fine linens, laundry and turn-down service, king-sized beds, outdoor showers and plunge pools–all surrounding a main lodge. The Land-Rover expeditions, exotic animals, candlelight dinners, sunset toasts and starry skies of a sophisticated safari will thrill the most discerning traveler.
Literary buffs and world travelers will want to visit Hemingways Nairobi, a swank new property set on the lands of the coffee farm belonging to Out of Africa author Karen Blixen (a.k.a. Isak Dinesen). With views of the Ngong Hills, Hemingways’ five-star all-suite hotel embodies the elegant era of Colonial Africa. With a grand sweeping staircase in the lobby, verandahs overlooking the hills, and suites large enough for an elephant, Hemingways is a rare gem. A butler is at your service 24-hours a day to unpack and launder clothes, pour champagne and draw a bath, press suits, polish shoes and even leave a rose and a poem on the pillow. The brasserie at Hemingways offers unforgettable steaks from Chef Barry Tonk, the only chef in Kenya who has been awarded a prestigious Michelin Star.
Human rights hero and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela stayed at The Saxon when it was a private home. It was at this Johannesburg property where he penned Long Walk to Freedom. The hotel sprawls on a verdant walled estate with security suited to discreet royal and celebrity guests such as Oprah Winfrey (there’s even an Oprah Lounge), Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Kevin Spacey and President Bill Clinton, whom have reportedly stayed there. Villas behind the main house are sublime, filled with modern furnishings and plush bedding. A butler sets champagne in silver ice buckets alongside platters of biltong, nuts and dried fruits in your suite, while Molton Brown products grace the bathroom. African art and textiles adorn the lounges and the restaurants, wine cellar, pools and spa are superb.
Forget roughing it. The next time you’re craving an exceptional first-class escape, think wildly luxurious lodgings and a five-star African adventure.