Thanda Safari Lodge.
Thanda Safari Lodge.
Image: Supplied

If lockdown has you feeling like your four walls are closing in on you, the good news is that the long wait is finally over. As of 21 September, South Africa entered lockdown level one, and with it came the lifting of restrictions on interprovincial travel.

Looking to break free from the cabin fever? We’ve rounded up a list of some of the country’s most exclusive luxury lodges to offer some inspiration as you start planning your first escape.

1. LEKKERWATER BEACH LODGE, Western Cape 

Looking out over 6km of private beach, Lekkerwater Beach Lodge is located on an exclusive part of the De Hoop Nature Reserve, little more than a three-hour drive from Cape Town. Voted one of Time Magazine’s World’s Greatest Places in 2019, Lekkerwater is the perfect mix of comfort and elegance. Here, the scenery is the celebrated feature, with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the stunning blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Each of the seven rooms has a private veranda to soak up the ocean air, if you’re not lounging on the wrap-around deck of the lodge or sinking into comfortable chairs and sofas in the common area.

Lekkerwater Beach Lodge main lounge area.
Lekkerwater Beach Lodge main lounge area.
Image: Natural Selection

Now would be the best time to visit as Southern Right whales gather in the waters of De Hoop between July and November each year. This migration, together with the marine life flourishing in the De Hoop marine Protected Area that stretches for 46km into the ocean, makes De Hoop the ultimate spot for a land-based marine safari.

Lekkerwater Beach Lodge bedroom views.
Lekkerwater Beach Lodge bedroom views.
Image: Natural Selection

The lodge has re-opened on an exclusive-use basis of between two and twelve guests to give peace of mind for visitors wanting to get out and explore in a safe environment. Rates start from R6,900 per person sharing from now to 20 December 2020, then R9,500 per person sharing during the peak season from 21 December 2020 to 9 January 2021.

2. MORUKURU BEACH LODGE, Western Cape 

Morukuru Beach Lodge is perched on Koppie Alleen in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, 1km from the Morukuru Ocean House. Opened in 2018, the lodge is a seamless blend of modern elegance with bright touches and amenities that offer ultimate comfort during your beach escape. Each of the four luxury Ocean View Suites have balconies that offer views over the ocean and fynbos-covered sand dunes.

Morukuru Ocean House's bedroom with view.
Morukuru Ocean House's bedroom with view.
Image: Morukuru Family De Hoop

Guests are invited to explore the natural surroundings through a range of activities on offer, from sand boarding to marine walks, fynbos hikes, snorkelling and, of course, whale watching between July and November.

The lodge was built with sensitivity for its pristine environment and, because of its remote location, is run on renewable, off-the-grid electricity — without compromising on luxurious touches like underfloor heating throughout the lodge.

Morukuru Ocean House's bathroom with a view.
Morukuru Ocean House's bathroom with a view.
Image: Morukuru Family De Hoop

The lodge is available to be booked per suite or on an exclusive-use basis. Rates start from R3,750 per person per night or R35,000 per night for exclusive use that accommodates 10 adults and two children under 16.

3. THANDA SAFARI, KwaZulu-Natal 

Located on a private game reserve 220km north of Durban, Thanda Safari has spent the past 15 years raking up awards. Most recently, it was named the World’s Leading Luxury Private Villa in the 2018 World Travel Awards.

Thanda Safari Lodge exterior.
Thanda Safari Lodge exterior.
Image: Thanda Safari

At the heart of Thanda’s operation is a commitment to wildlife and environmental conservation and the Zulu culture of the province. Immerse yourself in nature on the 140km2 reserve by going on bush walks, accompanying guides on rhino and cheetah tracking or going for a leisurely hippo and crocodile cruise.

Thanda Tented Camp tent interior.
Thanda Tented Camp tent interior.
Image: Thanda Safari

Guests can choose from three accommodation options: nine bush suites in the Thanda Safari Lodge, 15 luxury safari tents in Thanda Tented Camp or Villa iZulu, an exclusive-use private bush retreat ideal for small groups or families looking for an isolated getaway.

Thanda Safari Lodge Bush Villa bathroom.
Thanda Safari Lodge Bush Villa bathroom.
Image: Thanda Safari

Rates start from R2,626 per person sharing per night for Thanda Tented Camp, R4,929 per person sharing per night for Thanda Safari Lodge and R28,694 per night for up to six guests in Villa iZulu.

4. THORNYBUSH GAME LODGE, Mpumalanga 

When it comes to luxury lodges, Thornybush private nature reserve caters to all tastes. Of the 12 lodges in the its portfolio, Thornybush Game Lodge was the first to open its doors in 1961, putting Thornybush on the map and establishing a reputation for world-class game viewing.

Thornybush Game Lodge lounge.
Thornybush Game Lodge lounge.
Image: Thornybush Game Lodge

Despite its many years in business, Thornybush is nothing if not elegantly sophisticated. The 18 luxury suites all have en-suite bathrooms, indoor and outdoor showers and sliding doors that open onto a deck overlooking the riverbed. The two Family Suites offer lounge areas, day beds, and a private deck with a plunge pool.

Thornybush Game Lodge standard suite.
Thornybush Game Lodge standard suite.
Image: Thornybush Game Lodge

Bordering the Kruger National Park, guests are invited to indulge in private dining surrounded by the sounds of nature, breakfasts in the bush, daily game drives and walking safaris and sundowners in the main area overlooking the waterhole and riverbed.

The reopening rate is R3,999 per person per night. 

5. SASEKA TENTED CAMP, Mpumalanga 

Saseka Tented Camp is one of the newest editions to the Thornybush portfolio of luxury lodges. Built on a bend in the Monwana River, Saseka takes glamping to a new level with its impeccable attention to detail and romantic touches.

Saseka bedroom.
Saseka bedroom.
Image: Supplied
Thornybush's luxury lodge, Saseka.
Thornybush's luxury lodge, Saseka.
Image: Supplied

Eight luxury tents offer a private escape, each accommodating two people. Each tent has an outdoor shower with bush views. Glass doors open up to a private deck and pool with views of the riverbed.

Larger groups of up to six adults and three children can be accommodated in the Leadwood Villa with each of its four suites featuring a private lounge, dining area, deck, pool, safari vehicle, and personal chef.

Saseka bathroom.
Saseka bathroom.
Image: Supplied

With babysitting facilities, parents are welcome to enjoy themselves in the spa, relax in the lounge with a drink from the bar, or connect with nature with one of the many bush experiences on offer at the lodge.

The reopening rate is R4,999 per person per night. 

6. TINTSWALO LAPALALA, Limpopo 

The most recent addition to the Tintswalo Group’s portfolio of lodges set in unique locations, Tintswalo Lapalala is situated in Limpopo’s Waterberg region which forms part of the Unesco Waterberg Biosphere Reserve with its mountains, rivers and plains that are home to the Big Five.

Tintswalo at Lapalala luxury tented suites.
Tintswalo at Lapalala luxury tented suites.
Image: Tintswalo Lapalala  

The seven stately tented luxury suites each have their own private plunge pool, fireplace, en-suite bathrooms, and outdoor baths. Luxury family tents accommodate families of up to four people.

The lodge operates completely off the grid and offers low-impact game drives and guided bush walks. The tented suites have been built on elevated wooden decks connected by walkways so as to offer a sustainable, environmentally friendly escape in the middle of the bushveld.

The Palala River flowing through the reserve offers a perfect backdrop for sundowner cruises or riverside picnics. Guests can also indulge in spa treatments or enjoy dinner under the tree canopies. If you have a hankering for the open skies, trade in your luxury tent for a night under the stars on a luxuriously furnished wooden platform.

Tintswalo at Lapalala luxury tented suites.
Tintswalo at Lapalala luxury tented suites.
Image: Tintswalo Lapalala  

At current rates valid until 28 February 2021, two people sharing a luxury tent for two nights will pay R18,500 and a family of four will pay R20,200 for two nights in a luxury family tent. 

7. KARULA AT KAPAMA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE, Limpopo 

Tucked away between the Blyde River Valley and the Kruger National Park lies the Kapama Private Game Reserve. Of its four luxury camps, Karula is the one we have our eye on.

As the flagship lodge on the Kapama Private Game Reserve, its 10 superior villas offer opulent elegance in the heart of lush greenery with wrap-around glass sliding doors that open onto an outside deck with a heated pool, outdoor shower and views over the Klaserie River.

Kapama Karula luxury villa exterior.
Kapama Karula luxury villa exterior.
Image: Kapama Private Game Reserve

The two superior family villas cater to families travelling with children who can settle into the second bedroom of the villa complete with a flat-screen TV, a Wii game console, and movie options.

If you’re not spending your time hiding out in your villa, enjoy a treatment in the Karula spa and wellness centre or relax at the lounge or bar or slip away into the library.

Once travel is allowed between provinces, Kapama’s private airfield makes travelling from OR Tambo and Cape Town International that much easier.

Current rates valid from August 2020 to 30 September 2020 start from R4,500 per person sharing a luxury villa and R10,000 per family luxury villa. Rates, from 1 October 2020 to 19 December 2020, start from R4,800 per person sharing a luxury villa and R14,400 per family luxury villa. During the peak season, from 20 December 2020 to 4 January 2021, the rate per person sharing a superior villa starts from R21,000 and the superior family villa starts from R70,000.

8. KWANDWE PRIVATE GAME RESERVE, Eastern Cape

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve on the Great Fish River offers guests 220km2 of natural beauty in the unspoilt parts of the Eastern Cape. Of its variety of accommodating options, it’s the reserve’s two lodges — the Ecca Lodge and the Great Fish River Lodge — that offer a touch of luxury in the wilderness.

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Great Fish River Lodge.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Great Fish River Lodge.
Image: Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

Overlooking a valley, the trendy Ecca Lodge boasts beautiful views. With only six suites, the lodge offers an intimate escape with expansive wooden viewing decks, private plunge pools and outdoor showers. Three double suites accommodate two adults each and three family suites, which come with a private safari vehicle and game ranger, accommodate two adults and 2 children.

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Ecca Lodge.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Ecca Lodge.
Image: Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Ecca Lodge.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Ecca Lodge.
Image: Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

Perched along the Great Fish River, the elegant Great Fish River Lodge offers nine suites with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open op to uninterrupted views. Each suite has a private plunge pool, a terrace, and an en-suite bathroom with an outdoor shower.

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Great Fish River Lodge.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Great Fish River Lodge.
Image: Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

If you’re not spending time at the lodge relaxing and dining, each day offers guests the opportunity to enjoy daily game drives and nature walks or to track rhino, elephant, and buffalo on foot with an armed ranger and tracker team.

Since re-opening, Kwandwe is offering reduced rates for domestic travel until 15 December 2020. For rates, email reservations@kwandwe.co.za or phone 046-622-7897.

9. MOLORI SAFARI LODGE, North West Province

While Molori Safari Lodge will only be opening in October, it’s a trip worth planning ahead of time. Situated on the Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West, it offers a secluded luxury escape in the heart of the bush.

With views of the Dwarsberg Mountains and Madikwe valley, Molori is not only home to the Big Five but also offers guests the opportunity to see the Super Seven (the Big Five as well as wild dog and cheetah).

Each of the five suites on the property has a Jacuzzi, an indoor and outdoor shower, a fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling retractable glass walls that connect to a private deck and infinity pool.

Molori Safari Lodge private deck and infinity pool.
Molori Safari Lodge private deck and infinity pool.
Image: Molori Safari Lodge

Once you’re fully relaxed, go bush tracking, search for the Super Seven at night, or embark on a wild-dog adventure. Guests can also unwind in the onsite spa, mellow out in the Molori Hide and whisky bar, or enjoy a one-on-one cooking class with a trained chef.

With interprovincial travel opening up, guests travelling from OR Tambo International, Grand Central Airport or Lanseria International Airport can make use of charter flights directly to Madikwe Game Reserve’s private airstrip or private helicopter rides directly to Molori’s helipad from OR Tambo International.

Since re-opening, Molori is offering reduced rates. For applicable rates, contact their reservations team at reservations@molorisafari.com or phone 082-613-5723.

 This article was last updated 22 September 2020.

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