Travel

These exclusive-use safari villas are among the best in Africa for a family or group holiday

Business Insider SA
Singita Malilangwe House. Image: Supplied.
Singita Malilangwe House. Image: Supplied.
  • If you don't want to mix with other guests on your next safari, you can book an exclusive-use villa.
  • These usually come with a private butler, a dedicated safari guide, and an in-house chef.
  • You'll find them in most of the continent's top safari destinations.
  • Here's what to expect from some of the best exclusive-use villas in the Sabi Sands, Phinda, Tswalu, and several leading African safari destinations.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

If you'd rather avoid other guests on your next safari, and have a propensity for private chefs, butlers, and lavish surrounds, then booking an exclusive-use villa for your next holiday may be an option. 

These typically luxurious houses are ideal for large families, those with young children, or travelling groups who want to stay together rather than be spaced out between rooms in more traditional lodging.

Although luxury safari lodges offer high levels of privacy for all guests, these villas take a personalised holiday to the next level. And with a crew of staff dedicated to your group, you can choose exactly how you want to spend your days in the bush. A personal butler will take care of your every need while at the villa, an in-house chef will prepare meals to your group's exact requirements, and a private safari guide or game ranger will handle the wildlife aspects of your trip.

Costs for the experience vary depending on the villa; in some cases, it's cheaper or not dramatically more expensive than per-guest rates spread across multiple rooms. In others, lodges go all-in to make it a one-of-a-kind exclusive escape with a premium price tag. Ultimately, though, this is the best way to experience a safari or bush break in Africa if you're travelling in a group - or simply want to kick the luxury and exclusivity up to the next level.

Here's what to expect from some of the best exclusive-use villas throughout South Africa and other leading safari destinations on the African continent.

Tarkuni Homestead, Tswalu

Tarkuni Homestead in Tswalu offers an exclusive-use home with five guest suites, sleeping up to ten people, under a single roof. Each suite has a private deck, but the homestead has several areas for communal gatherings. It contains a collection of original South African art and has a full bar, snack pantry, and spa treatment suite. Outside is a plunge pool, fire pit, and boma surrounded by an indigenous garden.

Tarkuni
Tarkuni. Image: Supplied.

Phinda Homestead, Phinda Private Game Reserve

Phinda Homestead is an exclusive-use private villa that comes with a dedicated ranger and tracker team, butler, and private chef. The villa is located on the edge of a forest in the northern section of Phinda Private Game Reserve. It is used primarily by families and small groups looking for exclusivity and privacy. The homestead has four private bedrooms and multiple communal spaces where guests can gather. There's also an interactive kitchen, gym, and spa.

Phinda Homestead
Phinda Homestead. Image: Supplied.

Cheetah Plains, Sabi Sands

Cheetah Plains in the Sabi Sands offers three opulent private villas that each accommodate eight guests. Each villa offers an exclusive safari experience. Villa guests have private accommodation with a shared living space with a formal and entertainment lounge, living room, dining room, swimming pool with deck, an outdoor boma, and chef's kitchen. There's also a wine gallery, tasting room, and bar in each villa's shared living space, plus a minibar and coffee station in each suite.

Cheetah Plains Mvula House
Cheetah Plains Mvula House. Image: Supplied

Castleton, Sabi Sands

Castleton is a luxury lodge in the Sabi Sands that was once the home of Singita founder Luke Bailes' grandfather. Castleton emphasises old farmhouse charm, complete with original antiques and classic refurbished furniture, underpinned by luxurious facilities. The property includes a Bocce court, tennis court, wine cellar, country-style kitchen, fitness centre, yoga pavilion, and spa treatment rooms. There's also an outdoor boma for evening fireside meals, and guests can access the wildlife-rich Sabi Sands through a personal guide and private vehicle.

Castleton
Castleton. Image: Supplied.

Tintswalo Manor House, Manyeleti Game Reserve

Tintswalo Manor House is located in the private Manyeleti Game Reserve, with dropped fences to the Kruger National Park. The four-star house has five rooms that up to ten people, and has a fenced garden with views onto an active water hole. There's a large swimming pool, lounge, kitchen, outdoor patio, boma and bar, and the rate includes all meals, house beverages, two daily safari activities with private guide, plus a chef and butler. It's also a popular option for travelling families, with a personalised children's programme on offer.

Tintswalo Manor House
Tintswalo Manor House. Image: Supplied.

Sarili Private Lodge, Shamwari

Sarili Private Lodge in Shamwari offers a luxury exclusive-use option for safari goers to the Eastern Cape. The five-bedroomed lodge is on the banks of the Bushman's River and comes with personal staff including a manager, private chef, and ranger. Meals and selected beverages are included in the price, and it's possible to arrange in-room spa treatments. The lodge has satellite television, WiFi, a lounge with fireplace, and indoor and outdoor dining options.

Sarili Private Lodge. Image: Supplied.
Sarili Private Lodge. Image: Supplied.

Mara Bush Houses, Mara North Conservancy, Kenya

Mara Bush Houses are three-roomed, fully-staffed houses in the Mara North Conservancy, adjacent to the Masai Mara in Kenya. The homes are designed for groups or families who want an exclusive private safari while in Kenya and offer the freedom to create a personal itinerary. Guests can opt for slow mornings and leisurely breakfasts, or a full day of game drives through the wildlife-rich surroundings. Each house includes an open-plan dining room and lounge and comes with a manager, chef, and private guide.

Mara House
Mara House. Image: Supplied.

Malilangwe House, Pamushana, Zimbabwe

Malilangwe House is an exclusive-use villa in Pamushana, Zimbabwe. It's positioned on a sandstone ridge with panoramic views and includes five lavish rooms, each with a private deck. Communal facilities include a large rim-flow swimming pool and interactive kitchen, and the house comes with a host, private chef, butler, and guide. Malilangwe House also offers family-centric activities like cooking interactions, star gazing, board games, arts and crafts, movie nights, tennis, and bush walks.

Singita Malilangwe House
Singita Malilangwe House. Image: Supplied.

Jabali Private House, Ruaha National Park, Tanzania

Jabali Private House in Tanzania's Ruaha National Park is an exclusive-use villa surrounded by a forest of ancient baobabs and diverse wildlife. The house has three bedrooms, a communal lounge and dining area, and a private swimming pool with panoramic views. A dedicated team looking after guests includes a private chef and guide with a vehicle. Guests can customise their daily itineraries to their desires and add activities like long lunches, night drives, or bush walks.

Jabali Private House
Jabali Private House. Image: Supplied.

Okavango Spirit, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Spirit offers unique exclusive-use accommodation aboard a houseboat in Botswana. The boat floats on the Okavango Delta and offers eight private en-suite cabins with sliding doors and private decks. The upper deck has a communal dining area, and the boat also has a lounge, bar, and sundeck for other group gatherings. The boat is moored on the banks of the Delta, with the chance of spotting birds, hippos, and crocodiles, and a tender boat offers the opportunity for closer wildlife viewing.

Okavango spirit
Okavango Spirit. Image: Supplied.

Kataza House, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda 

Kataza House in Rwanda has two heated plunge pools, multiple fireplaces, and large timber-framed windows that offer dramatic views of the surrounding Volcanoes National Park. The house sleeps eight in four rooms and has a fitness centre, wine cellar, cinema, massage treatment room, and interactive kitchen. There's also an on-site Akarabo Garden with fresh produce for a farm-to-table dining experience. The location in Volcanoes National Park is famed for the nearby gorilla trekking, which most guests include in a stay at Kataza.

Kataza House
Kataza House. Image: Supplied.

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