The Best of Southern Africa

Southern Africa offers its visitors unparalleled wildlife encounters, authentic cultural connections, and outstanding options for food and lodging. Here are the major highlights you’ll want to include when planning your trip through Southern Africa.

Avoca Road, Thornybush Private Game Reserve, Hoedspruit, 1380, South Africa
Royal Malewane is a five-star lodge located on the 34,594-acre Thornybush Private Game Reserve within the Greater Kruger National Park region. Already quite glamorous, it underwent a refurbishment in 2018 and, in addition to several structural upgrades, now features a kosher kitchen and a gin-and-whiskey bar dedicated to the late Wilson Masiya, one of the lodge’s original trackers. All of the guides at Royal Malewane are certified by the Field Guide Association of South Africa, and most have been working in the Greater Kruger National Park area since the early 1990s. Two are Master Trackers, a qualification currently held by only seven rangers in the world. Royal Malewane is so focused on quality guiding that it even started an apprenticeship program in 2008. Students work for two years under the tutelage of the lodge’s senior team, then graduate and move on to jobs at safari lodges in the region.

Amazing wildlife experiences aside, what makes Royal Malewane unique is its sense of style. Owners Liz and Phil Biden have seamlessly melded contemporary furniture with colonial-style accommodations, all at their family-home-turned-safari-lodge in the middle of the South African bush. In 2019, they plan to open a new lodge on the property called the Farmstead at Royal Malewane, giving guests even more reason to book a stay.
Sesriem, Namibia
The sustainably designed andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge on the edge of the NamibRand Nature Reserve captures the raw beauty of the world’s oldest living desert. The otherworldliness of the environment has been consciously translated into every aspect of the experience. The off-grid design factors in the extreme climate and harsh elements, and the desert’s forms, colors and textures are reflected in sculptural stone and steel lines that give way to soft, organic shapes. Throughout, glass walls slide away to amplify the big-sky views. The 10 guest suites are self-sufficient, solar-powered private retreats, each generating ample energy to run on photovoltaic power for everything from the AC and the deep swimming pools to the water harvesting and recycling systems.

Activities include climbing the world’s highest dunes at Sossusvlei or e-biking along gravel trails to caves with rock art by the desert’s earliest inhabitants. Back at the lodge, dishes that reflect Namibia’s cultural history include venison and Kalahari truffles and fresh seafood from the Atlantic Ocean. With close to zero light pollution, the Namib is one of the best dark sky locations in the Southern Hemisphere. The best way to end any evening is in the lodge’s observatory. You can also fall asleep counting stars, thanks to a skylight above your bed.
C14 & C19 Junction - Unit D, Solitaire, Namibia
“It’s not even a town or a village, don’t call it that; it’s more of a pit-stop, really.” Solitaire, Namibia, the pit-stop Moose McGregor calls home, contains nothing more than a general store, a small lodge, his bakery, and the only gas station for many, many miles. This makes Solitaire an inevitable pit-stop for travelers driving to Sossusvlei from Swakopmund or Windhoek. Sadly, Moose passed away in early 2012. His legendary apple strudel lives on. Solitaire worth a visit even if your vehicle has a full tank.
R360, Upington, 8800, South Africa
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was created through the cooperation of the governments of Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. Their cooperation has united several smaller fragmented parks into a larger border-less area for wildlife to roam. Highlights include viewing predators like cheetah, hyena and black-manned lions, along with bat eared foxes, meerkats, wildebeest, and other species. One of the best camps on the South African side is Kieliekrankie. It’s an unfenced campsite located towards the middle of the park located on the top of a dune. Four self-catering cabins come with a kitchen and outdoor grill. There is a ranger on-hand to help check you in and oversee your stay in the event some curious leopards or jackals come to visit your cabin. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a big park and a lot of the roads are corrugated, so a 4x4 vehicle is strongly recommended (but not necessary). Make sure to stop at Twee Rivieren with your passport if you plan on exiting through Namibia or entering Botswana.
“Zimbabwe” means “the house of stone” and is named after the 11th century kingdom and trading city we now call Great Zimbabwe. This National Monument is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the southeast corner of the country is one place not to miss when driving between Harare and Bulawayo and is only a couple hours from Pamushana Lodge. Walls made of stacked stones balance on top of boulders - the remnants of a Shona king’s fort. Here, look for the shouting cave, designed such that anything yelled into the space will echo down into the valley below. During your guided tour, you’ll also visit the Great Enclosure which is thought to have been a temple. There is not much wildlife in the area (due to poaching), so you’ll want to visit nearby Masvingo National Park to see wildlife while you’re in this part of Zimbabwe.
B4, Kolmanskop, Namibia
Kolmanskop is a ghost town that was abandoned by German miners after the 1920’s. In the 1980’s, diamond giant De Beers refurbished some of the structures and established an on-site museum. After you check in and get your permit, you’re allowed to wander freely through the small village. Piles of sand have accumulated in and taken over some of these colonial-era homes, a good indication of how hard it must have have been for the inhabitants. It’s an excursion that involves some planning beforehand, but it’s so worth the effort. Photographers love getting creative here. Kolmanskop is about 3 hours from Keetmanshoop and 5 hours from the Fish River Canyon, down the dead-end road to Luderitz on Namibia’s coastline, so you’ll want to time your excursion down this way bearing that in mind.
The Old Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7915, South Africa
As soon as you’ve booked your flight to Cape Town, you’ll also want to book your lunch or dinner reservation at the Test Kitchen. The restaurant was named to the “World’s 50 Best” list in both 2015 and 2016, making it one of the most popular spots in South Africa. As you enter the restaurant, you’ll notice chef Luke Dale-Roberts and his team moving around the open-air kitchen like a colony of ants. What first appears to be chaos is actually incredibly organized and intentional, with everyone working their hardest to deliver an unforgettable dining experience.

During a meal here, you can expect to taste a fusion of French, Asian, and South African flavors, with notable dishes including slow-cooked pork belly with wood-roasted sweet potato, smoked chestnut, and orange dashi. At dinner, guests have a choice of a five- or six-course tasting menu paired with South African wines.
Kleintuin Rd, Simon's Town, Cape Town, 7995, South Africa
There’s a different way to see the African wildlife in their natural habitat than a safari and it’s called Boulder Beach. We ventured to the Eastern side of the Peninsula (Indian Ocean) to meet and spend time with the locals, Cape Town‘s penguin colony. Following the wooden boardwalks, you gain access to Foxy Beach, a sheltered cove with soft white sand, crystal clear water, massive granite boulders, and birds in butler-style tailcoats. Its nothing short of an Instagram-worthy photo op but I recommend climbing atop a boulder and spending time to take it all in. It’s impossible to capture how majestic this destination truly is.
Discover the accessible yet remote beauty and space of the Karoo. Drive in or fly by air to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape or from Cape Town to the private conservancy that is Sneeuberg Nature Reserve a vast tranquil destination of plains and mountains of spectacular beauty. ‘Gordonville’ within the Reserve, offers three alluring accommodation options, the superbly restored and decorated ‘Kliphuis’, where you will enjoy supreme comfort and scenic vistas to relax in, or indulge in 4 x 4 trails, mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding with great birding, a range of plains game and the incredible sight of some 400 free roaming Nguni cattle. Charming self-catering options include ‘Karoo Cottage’ also a former farmhouse ‘The Poplars’. A unique option for families and friends travelling together.
Klapmuts - Simondium Rd, Simondium, Paarl, 7670, South Africa
About an hour outside of Cape Town, Babylonstoren is one of South Africa’s oldest werfs, or farmyards. In 2010, Karen Roos, a former editor at South Africa’s Elle Decoration, reimagined the property as a fantasy farm stay with an eight-acre garden that grows 300 varieties of fruits and vegetables. Guests are welcome to help the head gardener prune and plant, and to join the chef in his daily harvest. Some of the 13 laborers’ cottages that have been rebuilt as guestrooms feature kitchens for those who want to pick and prep their own meals.
1d, 364 Voortrekker Rd, Maitland, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
“Ubuntu” is a Xhosa and Zulu word for conveying how, when we support one another as a part of a community, everyone in that community can accomplish great things. Ubuntu Bicycles, located in Salt River, is a bespoke bicycle shop combining the founder’s passion for bicycling and interest in giving back to the community of Cape Town. This social enterprise is transforms used and abused bicycles into something great by employing local artists and grassroots organizations to do custom paint jobs, sew leather seats, and craft custom accessories. The bikes are then sold online and locally in Cape Town out of their workshop. Part of the proceeds from their bicycle sales go back into the Ubuntu Trust, a non-profit arm partnered with other local community organizations to offer funding and support for their causes.
Old Marine Dr, Foreshore, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
Rolling through five countries in 14 days, the opulent Pride of Africa whisks passengers from the tip of South Africa to Tanzania’s largest city. The trip includes two nights at a five-star game lodge, a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, and lectures by an onboard historian. From $10,600. 27/(0) 12-315-8242. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
Northern Park Way and Gold Reef Rd, Ormonde, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
Opened in 2001, the Apartheid Museum powerfully—and extensively—documents the rise and fall of racial segregation in South Africa. Constructed on a 16-acre plot of land, the museum features a unique design—as you head through the gates, for example, you’ll notice separate entrances for whites and blacks. It’s quite an interesting way to start your voyage through the history of apartheid. The back gardens were designed by Patrick Watson and feature an impressive sculpture by William Kentridge. For anyone wanting to better understand apartheid, a visit to this moving museum is a must when in Johannesburg.
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