Best hotels and hostels in Southern Africa

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Okavango Delta

    Vumbura Plains Camp

    One of Wilderness Safaris' flagship properties, this regally luxurious twin camp is on the Duba Plains in the transition zone between the savannahs and swamps north of the delta. Although divided into north and south sections, with separate eating and other common areas, this is essentially a single lodge. It inhabits the Kwedi Concession and the wildlife viewing is superlative. The rooms, arrayed along the shores of an expansive floodplain that has water for most of the year, are supremely luxurious and represent a refreshing change from the traditional safari look – everything here has a stylish contemporary feel and the massive, split-level rooms are simply gorgeous. They are some of the largest rooms in the delta. Gloriously comfortable beds, open-sided showers (as well as outdoor showers), wooden floors, a sunken sitting area with plush cushions and wildlife field guides, and large terraces right by the water are just some of the highlights. Floor-to-ceiling glass on three sides creates a wonderful sense of light and space without compromising on privacy. Rooms also have their own private plunge pools. This is one of few camps to offer both full water-based activities (including mokoros and motorboats, although availability depends on water levels) and wildlife drives. When it comes to the latter, there are good chances of sighting leopards, lions, African wild dogs, red lechwes and abundant birdlife over the course of your stay. Other activities include scenic helicopter flights (30/45/60 minutes per person US$445/565/695) and hot-air balloon rides (one hour US$430 per person). The public areas – the restaurant, bar and cushioned seating areas – face the setting sun across the water, and even the 'public' loo has a view. Whenever you visit, and whichever part of the camp you find yourself in, you may never want to leave.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Okavango Delta

    Sandibe Safari Lodge

    This riverine forest retreat is the architectural jewel of the Okavango Delta, as well as one of the premier safari camps anywhere in Southern Africa. Service is warm and welcoming, the accommodation is exceptional in its style and comfort, and the location (next to the famed Chitabe concession) is one of the best anywhere in the delta. The newly built main lodge building rises from the water's edge like an apparition. Built to resemble a pangolin in pine and cedar, its effect is utterly breathtaking, feeling at once a part of the surrounding woodland (the main building is open-sided and a magnificent place to relax) and utterly indulgent. When we had dinner here, a spotted hyena wandered past just metres from where we sat. Attached to the main building is one of the delta's best gift shops. There's also a spa and massage area, and a gym. The rooms, too, have a style all their own. Built to resemble golden weaver nests, they are curvaceous things of beauty. Open fires are just the ticket in winter, and everything is beautifully designed – we loved the copper washbasins and playful sense of perspective. Expansive private terraces with plunge pools overlook the water, and there's plenty of space to spend an afternoon just taking it all in while your private butler brings you the drink of your choice…yes, every room has its own designated 'butler' who will cater to your every whim. This sense of elevated levels of very personal service is something of an &Beyond hallmark. The wildlife watching here is first-rate – we saw lions and leopards alone on just an overnight stay. There's also wi-fi in both communal areas and the rooms.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Okavango Delta

    Jao Camp

    Part of Wilderness Safaris' portfolio of premier camps, Jao is a special place that combines Asian style (the public areas and the rooms were inspired by a Balinese longhouse) with a very African feel (jackalberry and mangosteen trees, liberal use of thatch). Rooms are uberluxurious and the staff are extremely professional and attentive to your every need. This place is an experience as much as it is a lodge and it does things that no other lodges do – it has a first-class wine cellar you're welcome to browse, a small gym, arguably the best gift shop we saw in the delta, a real tree-house feel that comes from an award-winning design that incorporates elevated walkways, and a high vantage point overlooking the water. The rooms, with perfectly sited outdoor day beds on the long terraces, feel like your own extremely large delta hideaway. Wooden furnishings, nightly hot-water bottles placed in your bed while you're at dinner, marvellous beds, yoga mats, a mini library in your room – this is one place where you'll almost certainly want to spend an afternoon or morning in camp. If you do so, you might be really lucky and have the elusive Pel's fishing owl perch right outside your window. Calling you out are the activities, from mokoro or motorboat excursions on the skein of waterways, to wildlife drives led by expert guides in search of lions, leopards and even sitatungas, not to mention rich birdlife. Unusually, there is a small entertainment room with wi-fi connectivity for those who really must stay in touch with the outside world.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Malawi

    Mkulumadzi Lodge

    Romantically reached by a suspension bridge over a croc-infested river, this extraordinary lodge is a fusion of African tradition and boutique chic. The eight chalets are artfully blended with the bush, with grass roofs, step-in rain showers and windows offering widescreen views of the Shire River as you flop in a sunken, candlelit bath. Then there's the main lodge, its high thatched ceiling strung with contemporary lights and ballasted by columns of leadwood trunks, driftwood art installations, and a kidney-shaped pool outside – not that you'll be doing much swimming, given the friendliness of the local elephants who wander into the lodge. Dinner is eaten communally, and glorious it is too. Run with warmth and efficiency, the camp offers morning walks to a hide close to the river (well situated for spotting black rhinos coming for a dawn drink), riverboat safaris, cultural village visits, and of course wildlife drives to spot hippos, civets, bushbucks, abundant elephants, crocs and more. Rates include drinks, all wildlife-watching activities, and transfers to/from the reserve airstrip. Mkulumadzi is 11km north of the gate via Mkulumadzi Rd.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Lake Niassa

    Nkwichi Lodge

    For setting, service, romance, proximity to nature and integration with the local community, Nkwichi Lodge can rival anywhere in Africa. Gracing the shores of Lake Niassa, its seven hand-crafted bungalows seem to spring naturally from the rocks and foliage, and come equipped with private outdoor baths and showers built into the bush. Several look out onto their own white-sand coves. There are also two private houses, each with lake views, private chef, and lots of space and privacy. The lodge lays on activities aplenty, including canoeing, multinight wilderness walking safaris, and visits to the lodge’s demonstration farm. It is linked with the Manda Wilderness Community Conservation Area, a privately initiated conservation area along the lakeshore that also promotes community development and responsible tourism. The surrounding bush is full of ospreys, palm-nut vultures, Pel’s fishing owls, fish eagles and 200-year-old baobab trees. Nkwichi is only accessible by boat from Cóbuè or Likoma Island (Malawi). Transfers (45 minutes) can be arranged with reservations.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Okavango Delta

    Kwetsani Camp

    This highly recommended camp has the usual high levels of comfort, but there are some very special selling points. The recently overhauled rooms, elevated high above the water, are simply stunning, while the camp manager, Dan Myburg, is a top-class photographer who can help elevate your photography above the usual even in just a few days. The five rooms sport a striking, contemporary look, with whites and steely greys making a refreshing change from wood and wicker. Of all the camps in Wilderness Safaris' classic portfolio, those here come the closest to getting an upgrade into the premium class. The public areas sport a modern bar alongside the wooden terrace, and safari prints and throws beneath the shady sausage tree. Like the rooms, these public areas are places to linger. The pool sits down at floodplain level, while Dan can proffer advice on photographic techniques or postprocessing down in his studio. You'll also find a good mix here of water- and land-based activities.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Zimbabwe

    Rhino Safari Camp

    One of the best camps in the country, this is remote, wild and everything you want from a safari experience. Its simplicity in design is genius; it blends beautifully into its surrounds, with sandy paths and a rustic charm mixed with subtle luxuries. The thatched, stilted chalets have magnificent views and delightful outdoor bathrooms. Food is exceptional, featuring home-baked goods served under the stars by the camp fire. The staff is friendly and super passionate, with hosts Karl and Jenny going to great lengths to make you feel at home. Its head guide, Peter (who helped set up the original camp), is a bona fide character with unsurpassed knowledge of the area; he can also arrange fossicks for dinosaur fossils and semiprecious stones. There's no electricity, but there are paraffin and solar lamps, limited wi-fi and camera batteries can be charged. No children under 12. It's located on a peninsula at Elephant Point, where lions and elephants are often spotted.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Malawi

    Kaya Mawa

    Remember Scaramanga's pad in The Man with the Golden Gun? Kaya Mawa, set on an amber-coloured beach lapped by turquoise water, is the ultimate location to live out your inner Bond. Its cliffside chalets, cleverly moulded around the landscape, are so beautiful you'll never want to leave. Imagine plunge pools, the gentle lap of waves and the quiet appearance of a waiter with a bottle of chilled Champagne. Tempted? You should be, for this is one of the finest boutique experiences on the continent. The bar-restaurant is somewhere between a tropical idyll and a Bedouin dream. Dinner is set by candlelight on the beach, staff are almost elfin in their diplomacy and discretion, and the food is dreamed up by a chef who trained under Jamie Oliver. The spa has treatments including facials, grapeseed-oil massages and reflexology, and activities such as diving, snorkelling, kite surfing, waterskiing, kayaking, sailing and mountain biking are on offer.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Kruger National Park

    MalaMala Main Camp

    While very comfortable, Main Camp doesn't offer plunge pools, throw pillows or chic interiors. And it doesn't care – everything here is about providing ultimate wildlife experiences. Key is the relationship its guides have fostered with the animals over decades (MalaMala was the first photographic safari reserve in the country). At 135-sq-km, it also dwarfs the other reserves. Guests are encouraged to dine with their safari guides at each meal, which promotes even more understanding of the environment, wildlife and South Africa – it also makes activities feel much more personal. Apart from anything else, it's considered one of the best places in Africa to see leopards, with other sightings, Big Five and otherwise, all likely as well.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Mozambique

    Coral Lodge

    If they gave out six stars for hotels, Coral Lodge might just qualify. Everything gets top marks, from the setting (an idyllic beach with its own natural diving lagoon) and the rooms (the beds have built-in air-con) to the service (akin to having your own butler) and the business ethics (most staff hail from the local village of Cabaceira Pequena). Accommodation is provided in 10 beautiful beachside chalets, and prices include all meals (yes, they're exquisite), drinks, massage and water activities. The lodge even has its own desalination plant turning seawater into drinking water. To cap it all, the place isn't remotely snooty. Non-guests are welcome to use the restaurant and the lagoon.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Victoria Falls (town)

    Victoria Falls Hotel

    Built in 1904, this historic hotel (the oldest in Zimbabwe) oozes elegance and sophistication. It occupies an impossibly scenic location, looking across manicured lawns (with roaming warthogs) to the gorge and bridge. You can’t see the falls as such, but you do see the spray from some rooms. Taking high tea here at Stanley's Terrace is an institution. Don't expect five-star amenities or service, however, as it's more about character and history. There are several restaurants to choose form, including the lavish Livingstone Room with seven-course degustation menu ($US45), and the Jungle Junction serving African dishes accompanied by cultural performances (7.30pm nightly).

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Chobe National Park

    Zarafa Camp

    Make no mistake: this is one of the premier properties anywhere in Africa. As ecofriendly as it's possible to be out here, Zarafa's tented villas are utterly gorgeous – and as we've come to expect from Great Plains, the attention to detail is exemplary. Zarafa has as its focal point a splendid ebony tree that once provided shelter for the respected wildlife-documentary film-makers Dereck and Beverley Joubert. The wildlife watching out here is like immersing yourself in a National Geographic wildlife film (indeed, this is where many were filmed), and the massive rooms feel like the ultimate safari experience brought to life.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Sea Point to Hout Bay

    Ellerman House

    Imagine you’ve been invited to stay with an immensely rich, art-collecting Capetonian friend – that's what the vibe is like at the Ellerman House, an elegant mansion overlooking the Atlantic. The rooms are studies in tasteful design, with heated floors, studded headboards, ocean-facing bay windows and original artworks. Beautiful gardens and oodles of luxe services and conveniences are all on hand. The mansion and its more contemporary-styled pair of private villas house an incredible contemporary art gallery. Two deluxe spa rooms have double sliding wooden doors opening to a pool deck.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Botswana

    Woodlands Stop Over

    A wonderfully tranquil place, 15km north of town off the road to Maun, Woodlands is easily the pick of places to stay around Francistown if you have your own wheels. The budget chalets are tidy, the bungalows are nicely appointed and come with loads of space, while the immaculate campsites are Botswana's cleanest and a wonderful respite from dusty trails. Anne and Mike are welcoming hosts and the grounds are filled with birdsong. There's no restaurant, but there are prepackaged meals available as well as braai packs for use on the barbecue areas.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Kruger National Park

    Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

    Subterranean bliss, Earth Lodge is unlike any other lodge in Africa – where else can you look up though a skylight to an elephant looking down at you? Using sloping topography brilliantly, its ultramodern rooms, open communal areas and private plunge pools are flooded with light. The super-thick walls and polished-cement floors are dotted with artwork and natural materials. It's an architectural triumph and supremely comfortable (plunge pools are standard), as well as wonderfully remote. In short it feels like paradise.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Sea Point to Hout Bay

    Tintswalo Atlantic

    The only hotel in Table Mountain National Park has been rebuilt with its secluded seaside charm intact following a disastrous fire in March 2015. Luxurious Tintswalo hugs the edge of Hout Bay beneath Chapman's Peak, with an unbroken view of the Sentinel towering over town, and whales passing in season. Savour the location over lavish meals in the terrace restaurant, which is connected by a boardwalk along the water's edge to the pool and tropical-themed rooms.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Okavango Delta

    Mombo Camp

    Ask anyone in Botswana for the country’s most exclusive camp and they’re likely to nominate Mombo. The surrounding delta scenery is some of the finest in the Okavango and the wildlife watching is almost unrivalled. The rooms are enormous and the entire package – from the service to the comfort levels and attention to detail – never misses a beat. It's situated (with its sister camp, Little Mombo) on the northwest corner of Chief’s Island.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Bazaruto Archipelago

    &Beyond Benguerra

    This is perhaps the most intimate of the archipelago lodges, with lovely, well-spaced beach chalets ('cabanas') and villas (' casinhas '), fine beachside dining under the stars and a good selection of activities. The entire lodge is open design, with open-air showers, luxury bathtubs with views, and private infinity plunge pools. It's well worth the splurge, if your budget allows. No children under eight are accepted.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Quirimbas Archipelago

    Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort

    At Medjumbe you're essentially on your own private island. You and a dozen other lucky devils are accommodated in detached villas, each with its own plunge pool and sundeck. The villas are elegant-rustic, the food exquisite, the service fit for a king (or queen) and the sunsets hallucinogenic. Diving, kayaking and lazing around are all heartily encouraged. Guests usually fly to Medjumbe on private charters from Pemba.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Western Cape

    Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

    This superb luxury choice set on 25 sq km includes horse riding, hiking, local excursions and excellent food in the price. Each of the free-standing cottages has an outdoor shower on the deck. The Grootbos Foundation runs a number of environmental and community projects – ask about the Progressive Tourism Package.