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5 of the most romantic places to stay in Africa

In Articles, Honeymoons by Ginny Cumming

When it comes to planning a romantic holiday, it often takes Valentine’s Day to spur people into action. At Holidays for Couples, however, we’re always thinking about glam getaways in the most romantic destinations. Case in point: here are five of the dreamiest places in Africa right now.

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Sonop, Namibia

On the southern edge of the Namib desert in the Karas region of Namibia you’ll find Sonop, a new tented camp where you can “live the life of yesteryear’s wealthy explorers from the early 20th century.” This is an intimate camp: there are just 10 tents perched atop granite boulders and overlooking soaring dunes and the sandy landscape of the Namib Desert where leopard, oryx, jackal and brown hyena are just some of the amazing wildlife you’re likely to spot in this 5,600-hectare private reserve. This is luxe living at its finest. In your lavish tent you’ll sleep in a king-sized four poster bed, bathe in a copper bathtub and lollygag on antique furniture. At night, black tie-wearing staff will serve up a “silver service gastronomic experience”, plus there’s a cocktail and cigar lounge, spa, heated outdoor infinity pool, open-air cinema, fitness centre, stables and a private airstrip. Sunsets have to be seen to be believed in this part of the world and stargazing is second to none; while a hot-air balloon trip over the Namib coastal desert is an awe-inspiring experience that will stay with you forever. 

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Manta Resort, Tanzania

You’ll find The Manta Resort on tropical Pemba Island, off the coast of Tanzania – it’s part of the exotic Zanzibar archipelago. But it’s resort’s Underwater Room, located about 250 metres offshore, that will really get your heart racing. This three-floor suite seems to float upon the surface of the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean (in actual fact it’s tethered to the ocean floor). Stay here and you’ll feel like you’re staying on a private floating island. There are two floors above the water, including a terrace that’s perfect for both sunbathing and stargazing. But it’s the bottom floor – the master bedroom, submerged almost four metres below the surface of the water – that gives this incredible place its name. It’s located beside a thriving coral reef and has large windows giving you an almost total 360-degree view of sea creatures all beautifully illuminated by underwater spotlights. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “sleeping with the fishes”! Another plus? The price. There’s an underwater resort in the Maldives where a similar experience will cost you around US$50,000 per night. This dreamy spot in the waters off Tanzania will “only” set you back US$1,900 per night.

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Kubili House, South Africa

On the edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa you’ll find the Thornybush Game Reserve; home to Kubili House. They’ll need to invent a new word for “luxurious” to describe this place. Refined yet rustic, it’s next-level gorgeous. The greatest luxury of all? You’ll have it all to yourself. Booked on an exclusive-use basis, this architecturally designed, 2,500-square-metre lodge is the perfect place if you’re after real privacy and pampering – a dedicated staff, including a butler, guide, tracker, housekeeping team and private chef, will be on hand 24/7 to look after your every need. Featuring five bedrooms, three swimming pools, a spa and steam room, the sprawling open-plan residence was designed to let the scenery take centre stage. It’s located on the banks of the largest dam in the reserve – this is the main watering hole in the region, so the wildlife-viewing opportunities are epic. You won’t even need to go on a game drive if you don’t feel like it – you can watch animal after animal come to drink at the water’s edge from the comfort of the house’s many decks. But game drives (accompanied by your own personal field guide and tracker) are available at any time, so of course you’ll want to venture further afield as well. Or perhaps go on a fun segway safari around the dam, or take one of three fully equipped Land Rovers for a Big Five camping adventure and sleep out in the wild under the African stars.

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Time + Tide Chinzombo, Zambia

This is, quite simply, Zambia’s most luxurious and exclusive safari lodge. Time + Tide Chinzombo is located on the edge of the world-famous South Luangwa National Park, an incredibly scenic park that’s home to four of the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo and elephant; only rhino is missing). The predator action here in particular is world-class: this is one of the best places on the planet if you want to spot (pardon the pun) the elusive leopard. The lodge itself boasts a tranquil riverside setting just across from the park, so all game drives start with a quick transfer on the lodge’s private boat. Back at camp the award-winning property features just six beautiful – and enormous – villas. They’re ultra luxe, combining contemporary decor with colonial accents and organic textures to create a classic safari vibe. Each villa has an elevated deck with sweeping views over the Luangwa River and a private plunge pool, so you can watch elephants, hippos and crocs as you take a dip. And after a day exploring the magnificent bush, you can unwind with an in-villa spa treatment or arrange a ‘sleepout under the stars‘ experience for the night of your life.

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Jack’s Camp, Botswana

Named after Jack Bousfield, an adventurer who stumbled upon the site in the 1960s, this is one of Africa’s most iconic camps. It’s located in the heart of Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans. The Pans are basically what’s left of one of the world’s largest super lakes, which dried up thousands of years ago. Spectacular and endless, it’s like an otherworldly moonscape during the dry season, and then transforms into lush watery grasslands after the rains – complete with enormous herds of zebra, wildebeest, other game and all the predators who love them. The award-winning Jack’s Camp sits on the edge of these glittering salt pans, in a 400,000-hectare private wildlife reserve with just two other camps. A maximum of 20 guests can stay at Jack’s Camp at a time, in 10 sophisticated desert tents. Decorated in 1940s vintage safari style, they feature exotic bedouin furnishings, rare African art and en-suite bathrooms – but no electricity or internet. You’ll love it all the more for that very fact. You’ll spend your time instead going on game drives to see desert wildlife including the black-maned Kalahari lion and the rare and elusive brown hyena, interacting with habituated meerkats, going on walking safaris with Zu/’hoasi Bushmen and, during the dry season, going horse riding or quad biking on the prehistoric salt pans. Back at camp, there’s an Insta-worthy swimming pool under a pavilion, and a museum, library and pool table housed in a gorgeous mess tent.

You can escape to all of these incredible properties with Encompass Africa, an Australian travel company specialising in amazing tailor-made African safaris that get you away from the crowds and the sorts of places generally favoured by bulk-booking brochures. And because they have longstanding relationships with their partners on the ground, including Africa’s best properties, they’re able to negotiate special rates. It means that you’ll pay the same price – often even less – than if you booked the same holiday yourself. Basically, they’ll save you money and do all the work – plus you’ll get exceptional expertise from the team and 24/7 service while you’re travelling. For more information, visit www.encompassafrica.com.au, email hello@encompassafrica.com.au or call +61 7 3266 2377.