5 of Africa’s best eco-lodges


Africa boasts an incredible selection of stunning places to stay, from beach resorts on otherwise uninhabited islands to stylish boutique hotels in thriving cities. Eco-tourism is defined by The International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people”. This has motivated us to seek out Africa’s best eco-lodges.

The difference between an eco-lodge and an eco-hotel is largely one of context: eco-lodges tend to be in remote wildernesses, and it is arguably therefore even more important that they have minimal negative impact on the environment. Their eco-friendly credentials vary, but Africa’s best eco-lodges tend to use renewable energy (in particular solar power), conserve water, recycle waste, build positive relationships with the local community, and take a long-term, sustainable approach to business. Some lodges have sought internationally recognised green certificates and awards, but others are simply proud of pursuing eco-friendly best practice locally, and will talk to you with enthusiasm about what they do.

There are many inspiring eco-lodges across Africa, but here are 5 of our favourites.

Old Mondoro, Zambia

Family-owned Old Mondoro takes guests back to the bush in the Lower Zambezi National Park. It’s a small camp with a light footprint on the land, a green electricity system, and close partnerships with NGOs Conservation Lower Zambezi and Pack for a Purpose. Game drives are available in purpose-built vehicles, but guests are also encouraged to explore the park under their own steam, on foot or by canoe. There’s a 100% catch and release policy for anglers, and the pontoon boats use for river safaris are environmentally sensitive, too.

Kicheche Bush Camp, Kenya

The ultra low impact Kicheche Bush Camp has received a gold rating from Eco Tourism Kenya, something of which the staff are understandably proud. Each of the six tents has its own solar powered lighting system, guests are served fresh, organic produce from the kitchen garden, and the camp’s waste policy is based on the four Rs: reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle. The Kicheche Community Trust supports a local school and medical centre, and guests can visit these in Aitong Village.

Nsolo Bush Camp, Zambia

The four chalets at Nsolo seem to blend into the landscape: they’re constructed from sustainable timber, grass, and reeds, all of which are traditional local building materials. The shade of the evergreen trees keeps things cool, and solar panels provide all the camp’s power. Visitor numbers here are restricted so as not to worry the wildlife: in fact, the lion, leopard, and wild dog seem completely unfazed by visitors, so the viewing opportunities are spectacular.

Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique

Nkwichi is a slice of paradise on the shore of Lake Malawi. The lodge works closely with the local Nyanja community on development and conservation issues, ensuring that the pristine environment is protected for future generations to enjoy. All of the activities at the lodge are eco-friendly: you can canoe or sail in a dhow, paddle in the water, and snorkel to look at the tropical fish. In the evenings you will sit around the campfire on the beach, and gaze up at the stars.

Camp Kalahari, Botswana

Camp Kalahari is a tented camp, so its footprint is only temporary: there are no permanent structures here at all. There is no electricity — lighting at night is by lantern — and there are hot bucket showers to reduce water consumption. This may make the camp sound a little basic, but that’s part of its charm: you are going back in time to the earliest days of safaris. The focus here is on the wildlife, on walking and horseback riding across the breathtaking lunar landscapes of the Makgadikgadi Pans. You can also meet with the San bushmen who call this remote part of Botswana their home.

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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5 African beach paradises you never knew existed


For many of us, paradise equals sunshine, sand, and surf. Cocktails and sunsets are an added bonus. Sun seekers typically head to the Caribbean or Southeast Asia for such pleasures, but if you really want a sublime beachside experiences, and especially one where you’re likely to have the beach to yourself, you need to consider Africa. Madagascar alone has more than 4,000 km of coastline; and South Africa has beaches stretching along both the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.

Baraza, Zanzibar

Conde Nast has rated Zanzibar’s Bwejuu – Paje Beach as one of the 30 best beaches in the world. So isn’t it time you went? You can walk from the beach out onto the reef wearing special reef shoes which wont damage the coral, snorkel beneath the waves to spot the marine life, and sail, kayak, or surf along the coast to fully appreciate its unspoilt beauty. The Baraza Resort is inspired by Zanzibar’s mixed cultural heritage: it’s a fusion of Arabic, Swahili, and Indian design, complimented by world class service.

Azura, Mozambique

Have you ever dreamed of staying on a private island? Now is your chance. Quilalea Private Island is just off the coast of Mozambique. It’s uninhabited, and completely surrounded by the Quirimbas Archipelago Marine Sanctuary, so unrivalled in peace and privacy. You can dive straight from the main beach, kayak through the mangroves, or lie lazily in a hammock strung between two giant baobab trees. The island is available for exclusive use, in which case you’ll have nine villas and 86 acres of island to yourself. Only the birds — of which there are 60 different species — will disturb you. Robinson Crusoe, eat your heart out.

Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius

Luxury and fine design are seamlessly blended at Le Prince Maurice on the eastern coast of Mauritius. The pristine beach lined with shade-giving palm trees surrounds a rocky island in a small archipelago. Wooden jetties link the islands, and you can sit out over the water on the veranda of your thatched beach villa, created with feng shui principles in mind. It’s one of the few places in the world where the golf course runs down to the beach (watch out for your balls!), and when it comes to the time to cool down, you can swim in both the pool and the lagoon.

Mumbo Island, Malawi

It probably hasn’t occurred to you to seek out a beach in a landlocked country. But Lake Malawi is a vast area, a national park filled with islands and plenty of sandy beaches. Mumbo Island is without doubt the most exclusive retreat: just 14 guests can stay at any one time, and it is rated as one of the most sustainable lodges in Africa. In the calm, clear waters of the lake you can enjoy some of the best fresh water snorkelling and diving in the world. Comfortable tents are built on wooden decks out over the rocky cliffs, with views across the water. Walk down onto the beach to swim, or pick up a kayak and paddle your way around the island, spotting sea eagle and fish as you go.

 

North Island, Seychelles

OK, so you might actually have heard of North Island: it’s the most exclusive property in the Seychelles. But we’re including it in our list of African beach paradises because the levels of luxury, of privacy, and of style challenge preconceptions of what Africa has to offer. You won’t find a more stunning spot. Take a guided walk along the shoreline, and your guide will tell you about the Noah’s Ark Island rehabilitation programme, the means by which turtle and other native wildlife are being protected. Sail out into the crystal clear waters to fish. Catch your own supper, then let the chefs cook it for you on the beach as you watch the sunset with a glass of cold white wine in hand.

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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10 of the best star bed experiences in Africa



 



It’s time to experience the wilderness at its most exciting: laid bare beneath a canopy of stars. Whether you are out on safari in the plains, the delta, or the desert, nothing beats sleeping outside. You’ll be surrounded by the noises of nocturnal animals, and otherwise the world around you is completely still.

Star beds are designed so you can make the most of the great outdoors, whilst still being safe and comfortable. They vary from tensioned hammocks to four poster beds on wheels, covered by a mosquito net. A candle or lantern will provide your nightlight, and when you turn it out and lie back, every single star in the sky shines unforgettably bright.

Having travelled the length of Africa to seek out the most exceptional star bed experiences in the continent. Here are our favourite 10:

Samara Private Reserve, South Africa

The Samara Private Reserve covers 70,000 ha of malaria-free land in South Africa’s Great Karoo, home to Samara Karoo Lodge.

The star bed here is set atop a wooden platform, and you and your loved one will sleep in a bespoke four poster bed. You’ll arrive at dusk for a picnic dinner and drinks, and to watch the animals descend to the Milk River to drink. As night falls, you’ll be left alone to gaze at the stars (identifying them with the help of a selection of star books), then fall asleep, warm beneath the softest of mohair blankets.

Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa

Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve. Visitors can see black maned lion, desert black rhino, cheetah, wild dog, and playful meerkat. The lodge’s sleep-out deck, Malori, means “dreamer” in the local language. It’s thatched design is inspired by a weaver’s nest, and the partial roof will protect you from inclement weather. The bed rolls forwards into the open, however, so you can choose to look out at the stars, or to lie directly beneath them, as the feeling takes you. This is the epitome of barefoot luxury.

Sanctuary Baines Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Sanctuary Baines Camp is one of the smallest and most exclusive camps in the Okavango Delta, with only five suites, surrounded by papyrus beds. Each of the suites has a private deck, and your four poster bed can be wheeled outside for a night beneath the stars, cooled by the natural breeze. For an added treat, you can also bathe outside as there’s also a star bath on the deck. Lie and soak in the bubbles, lit only by lanterns, and listen to the rustling and roaring of the nocturnal creatures a stone’s through away in the trees.

Ruckomechi Camp, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Ruckomechi Camp at Mana Pools is known as the elephants’ favourite camp as they come right into the camp to eat pods from the albida trees. The star bed here is situated close to a well-frequented waterhole, and so in the morning you’ll be in for an early start. The birds will start singing at dawn in the surrounding acacia and mahogany trees, and once they’re awake, the elephant and other animals will quickly follow. Enjoy breakfast in bed soaking up the wonders of the Rift Valley, as the elephant serenade you with the sounds of the morning ablutions.

Abu Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Magnificent and wild, Abu Camp is within a pristine ecosystem. By day you’re encouraged to join the elephant herd, walking amongst them and learning about their behaviour. It’s an unforgettable experience. The night is no less exciting, however, as you can opt to leave your elegantly furnished safari tent behind to bathe and sleep beneath the stars. You’ll have a free-standing copper bathtub out on the deck, lit by lanterns and candelabra. It’s a place of absolutely peace where you’ll want to meditate, pray, or simply count the stars before drifting off into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills, Kenya

Ol Donyo Lodge neighbours Kenya’s Chyulu Hills National Park in a 275,000 acre reserve owned by the Maasai people. Mount Kilimanjaro looms on the horizon, and giant elephant still roam freely. The haunting call of the leopard cuts through the otherwise still night time air. Each room at the lodge has its own roof terrace, and it’s here that you can sleep out in style. Safe, private, and unbelievably beautiful, you might well find yourself wanting to sleep up here every night of your stay.

Loisaba Star Beds, Kenya

The Loisabia Conservancy is in the Laikipia region of Kenya, and it’s a place abundant with wildlife. It sits on the edge of Kenya’s most important elephant movement corridor, and as these are community-owned lands, you’ll also see local pasturalists moving through with their livestock flocks. The Loisaba Starbeds overlook the Kiboko Watehole, home to a family of hippo. Your gracious hosts here are Samburu and Laikipia Maasai Warriors. They lay on huge four poster beds, handcrafted and set upon raised wooden platforms. The accompanying bathrooms are equipped with beautiful brass fittings and running water, so all your creature comforts are there.

Nkwichi Lodge, Lake Malawi, Mozambique

David Livingston called Lake Malawi ‘The Lake of Stars’, so surely there can be no better place for stargazing. Nkwichi Lodge is a luxurious beach lodge, a leader in sustainable tourism, and, if we’re honest, it’s a little slice of paradise. Guests stay in intimate chalets and houses along one of Nkwichi’s eight private beaches. If you opt for the star bed, however, you’ll have a beach to yourself, or even your very own island! Beds can be set right on the lake shore, where the lapping of the waves on the sand will be your lullaby.

Wolwedans, Namibia

Wolwedans is a desert retreat in Namibia’s NabibRand Reserve. The desert camps have the breathtaking desert scenery as their backdrop. It’s a pristine, wild environment where you can see oryx and springbok, jackal, aardwolf, and 170 species of birds. Opt for the vast Mountain View Suite if you want to sleep out one night in the desert. Possible only in summer (otherwise it’d be too cold), the star bed is outside on your private verandah. You therefore have the majesty of the star filled sky before you, and the comforts of your suite just behind.

Kapama, South Luangwa, Zambia

Known as Africa’s Eden, the Kapama Private Game Reserve covers 13,000 ha of savannah and riverine forest. The peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains line the horizon. The Big Five are all found in the reserve, and so too are 40 other species of mammals. The Kapama star bed is wonderfully romantic. Your personal chef will serve you a five-course dinner in the wilderness, and you’ll dine in a ring of lantern light. You’ll then be left alone with only the star studded sky for company, the place entirely your own until dawn.

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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5 unforgettable silver wedding anniversary holidays



 



Twenty-five years is an incredible milestone that should be acknowledged in every marriage. You’ve put a lot of time, patience and love into your marriage, so it’s about time you both treated yourselves to a well-earned celebration holiday! This is your opportunity to reminisce about the wonderful moments in your relationship, appreciate everything you have both been through and accomplished throughout the years.

The couples that can look back on their lives from a twenty-five- year-old ship are few and far between and should be celebrated in the most grandiose of ways. Continue your journey together and start a new chapter. It’s time to plan that once in a lifetime trip that you have been keeping tucked up your sleeves for an auspicious occasion… You can even spruce things up with a renewal of your wedding vows, to make your celebration even more memorable! Here are five of the most unforgettable holidays that should be on the bucket list for any silver wedding anniversary.

1. The Maldives and Sri Lanka

Unrivalled luxury, palm fringed picturesque white sand beaches and turquoise waters as far as the eye can see… there is nowhere in the world that does castaway desert islands better than the Maldives! Exceed your highest fantasy-island expectations and splash out on a candlelit dinner on your own private sandbank in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Pair your stay with a visit to neighbouring Sri Lanka for a dose of colour, culture and epic scenery. Spend your days exploring the cultural triangle, cycling through local villages, discovering the breath-taking national parks and meeting the local elephants.

Maldives and Sri Lanka

2. Island hopping in French Polynesia

If you are after a laid back beach-based holiday but worried about being marooned in one place, an island-hopping adventure is an excellent alternative. The enchanting islands of French Polynesia, otherwise known as the last Paradise on Earth, lend themselves perfectly to a quintessential South Pacific island hopping experience. For pure Polynesian perfection, our favourite islets include Moorea, Bora Bora, Taha’a, Tikehau and Rangiroa!

Island hopping in French Polynesia

3. Thailand

A melting pot of rich culture, spectacular scenery and dramatic coastlines, there is so much to be discovered in Thailand. Explore Thailand’s spiritual heritage in the Golden Triangle and the ancient city of Chiang Mai, with its splendid stupas, saffron-robed monks and luscious jungle. Then kick back and relax with a stay in one of Thailand’;s most awe-inspiring coastal regions – whatever time of year you are looking to travel, there will be a beach swathed in sunshine, waiting your arrival.

3-thailand

4. Safari and beach in South Africa and Mozambique

The nostalgia and original spirit of safari takes me back to a golden era of romance. Epitomised by its endless horizons, the sheer abundance of wildlife, vast open plains and early dawn choruses of birdsong and lion roars, Africa is everything you imagine it to be and more. Spend an exquisite few days on an enthralling safari in South Africa, then let the beach bring you gently back to reality in a haze of delicious spice island romance in Zanzibar.

Safari in South Africa

5. Sail and stay in the British Virgin Islands

Relatively remote (only accessible via a flight from Antigua and Barbados) the British Virgin Islands feel like an idyllic secret to those who are lucky enough visit. Home to some of the world’s most beautiful hideaways, the possibilities for adventure are endless in this treasure trove of 60 paradise islands. Sail through the archipelago and discover the hidden gems of the Caribbean…

Sail and stay

James Bell is Managing Director at The Turquoise Holiday Company.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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Mozambique Trip Report | Just Back From


Aerial view of Azura Quilalea – Azura Retreats

March 7, 2017 | By Andrew Harper Staff

Our web designer, Tiffany Stewart, recently took a five-day trip to southern Africa, where she spent four days at Azura Quilalea Private Island in Mozambique and one day at Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa in South Africa. While it took her two days to get there, she appreciated every minute of the solitude she found while relaxing on the private island in the Quirimbas Archipelago.

View of the water from the helicopter ride to Azura Quilalea

Photo by Tiffany Stewart

Overall impressions: Azura Quilalea is just as beautiful as all the images make it out to be. The ocean, as you fly over it in your private helicopter, is cerulean blue as far as the eye can see. The property has really thought of everything, from your greeting at the Pemba airport, to bringing you a cool cloth and water for your hike from the helicopter landing pad to the resort itself.

Favorite moment: The dinner provided under the giant baobab grove on one of our last nights on the property. The trees were lit with soft lamps, and the chef had prepared an elaborate three-course meal. We ate under the stars while the bats pollinated the giant baobab flowers overhead.

View from the pool where we spent most of our time

Photo by Tiffany Stewart

You can’t stop thinking about: The amazing swimming pool that overlooked the ocean. We spent a majority of our time there, discussing politics and reading. So much so that they served our lunch poolside. I also enjoyed our sunset sail aboard a traditional 40-foot dhow (sailing vessel). It reminded me very much of my island home of Jamaica and my former life there.

Insider’s tip(s): While staying at Fairlawns, don’t miss out on the four-hour spa treatment plus lunch for $150. It is a deal not to be missed! Also, ask the Azura chef if you can take home a bottle of the famous piri-piri sauce, made from hot peppers. It tastes amazing and goes well with just about everything.

Lobster, lamb and shrimp dinner under the baobob - Photo by Tiffany Stewart
Lamps surrounding the baobob tree - Photo by Tiffany Stewart

Favorite meal: The one served under the baobab trees. It was a dish for seafood and meat lovers alike, consisting of lobster tails, grilled prawns, lamb chops and stuffed crab.

Day-trip or activities: The hotel offers a plethora of activities for guests. While we spent most of our time in the pool, many guests take advantage of the archipelago’s marine sanctuary, which has some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world. Azura also has a fully equipped fishing boat for those who want to fish for marlin, sailfish and tuna.

Surprising fact or tidbit: The island has a very low tide in the mornings, so if you are awake early enough, you can actually walk out into where the middle of the ocean used to be.

Brought back/souvenir: We were able to snag a bottle of the piri-piri sauce for each of us, and I still have some left over. Fortunately a little goes a long way!

What to pack: Bathing suits, cover-ups, caftans and sunglasses.

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