Seven unusual – and wonderful – places to stay in South Africa

February 17, 2020

Quirky, cool, or classy with a twist … Looking for somewhere unusual and memorable to kick off your boots on your next trip? Here’s a selection of choices for a stay full of surprises.

Go to bed in a boulder

The Northern Cape’s starkly spectacular scenery, friendly people and relaxed vibe tend to be an instant balm for visiting city dwellers. But any last cares will certainly melt away the minute you step into a luxurious Namakwa Mountain Suite at Naries Namakwa Retreat on the R355, 27km from Springbok.

Set on the edge of the Spektakelberg, your domed, thatched suite, partly carved into rock, and boasting a private patio and exquisite views, will make you feel you’ve become one with the beautiful natural surroundings. 

Adding to the calm is the wildlife – such as gemsbok and springbok – roaming the unspoilt wilderness around you, the abundant vegetation and the big skies.

Find more information here.



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Flee to the forest

Imagine kicking back in a thatched chalet hidden in a riverine forest with a mountain stream cascading past.

You can get all this and more at the Serenity Mountain and Forest Lodge, boasting four comfortable hideaways in a valley 12km from Malelane, Mpumalanga, not far from the Kruger National Park.

Apart from the abundant, ancient forest trees you’ll be gazing at, you will see birds, butterflies, dragonflies and game. If you’re looking for romance, too, choose the honeymoon suite with its private deck. There are two lake-view suites, and a two-bedroom chalet with private boma as well.

Find more information here.



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Commune with nature in the bush

Most South Africans like to head to the bush every now and then, but spending a night in the wild in a tented camp with the great expanse of night skies above and the sounds of the wild accentuating the silence is a real bonus.

Book a spot in the Spekboom tented rest camp in the Eastern Cape’s Addo Elephant National Park, and take a real walk on the wild side. The tents are located in the fenced area of the Spekboom hide.

Of course, the majestic pachyderms roaming the park are the stars of this particular show, but you may also spot lion, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal and many other animals.

Find more information here.



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Release your inner desert dweller

The award-winning !Xaus Lodge in the Northern Cape’s Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is already pretty famous among those in the know, but if you’re looking for somewhere utterly unusual and remarkable to escape the rat race, this is it. (How’s this for an address: 91st Dune, off the Auob River Road, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park?)

Overlooking a large salt pan and waterhole in the desert, the eco-friendly lodge is the result of a land settlement between the government, South African National Parks (SANParks) and the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities.

While SANParks manages the park, the communities run the lodge and its 12 individual chalets. Be warned: there’s no cellphone, Wi-Fi or television signal here – but there’s plenty of game, birds and stars to admire.

Find more information here.


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Take to the treetops

A log cabin ... A deck overlooking a pristine forest ... An outdoor Jacuzzi ... Add privacy to this heady cocktail, and what’s not to love?

If you agree, don’t waste time: book a stay at the Treetop Chalet – Harkerville Forest, set in the Garden Route National Park near Knysna, for the ultimate, relaxing escape.

The well-equipped, self-catering cabin has two double rooms and sleeps four. You can braai (barbecue) on the deck, watch birds, and hike down myriad forest paths after lunch (or cycle, if you prefer).

Find more information here.


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Snooze on a cruise

Why be restricted to one place when you can drift along the Vaal River in a fabulous floating home?

You will find your Cruise-n-Snooze houseboat safely moored on a tranquil lagoon off the main river at Windsor on Vaal near Vanderbijlpark in Gauteng. From there, you can set out to explore more than 50km of navigable waters at your leisure. (You’ll be skippering the boat yourself – training will be provided beforehand if you need it.)

The boat comfortably sleeps four, and comes equipped with bedding, cutlery, crockery and utensils. Survey the passing scenery from a folding chair on the roof – and when the sun sets, light up the (small) barbecue.

When you’re not fishing, birdwatching or swimming, stop off at one of the many restaurants, bars and even spas along the riverbank.

Find more information here.


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Pull out the stops on a glamping holiday

There are a number of AfriCamps dotted around the country (particularly the Western Cape), but a glamorous two-bedroom tent with a large living room, equipped kitchen and wood-burning fireplace right on the Sabie River at Hazyview, Mpumalanga, surely rates among the best.

AfriCamps at Mackers offers boutique “glamping” – you don’t only have a magnificent river view, you also have a comfortable sofa on your deck from which to admire the vista. There’s an inviting swimming pool on the property to cool down in, and your shaded tent home is surrounded by lush indigenous vegetation. 

At night, listen to the sounds of the wild from the comfort of your bed; during the day, take a hike to see the waterfalls and rapids along the river.

Find more information here.


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