The most astonishing escapes in Southern Africa 

Travel is back and better than ever! It’s time to explore the destinations at the top of your Africa bucket list and satisfy your wanderlust. While a safari and spotting the Big Five can be a trip of a lifetime, it’s certainly not the only way to explore Southern Africa. This multifaceted region is home to one of the most diverse landscapes on the planet – the scorched bush, verdant grasslands, local villages, paradise islands and untouched coastlines. Here, we’ve picked out the latest and greatest hotspots we have our eye on. Where are you going first? 

Sublime scenery at Mount Camdeboo Pods 

Where: Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve, near Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape 

From luxurious off-the-grid hideaways to the dreamiest treehouses and chic cabins – we’ve seen it all in terms of quirky places to stay. But when it comes to finding an unusual address in South Africa, there’s something eternally appealing about retreating to the Mount Camdeboo Pods. Though the Camdeboo Manor is certainly something to shout about, it’s the new series of glass-fronted eco-friendly pods – occupying a front-row seat to the 13,000-hectare private game reserve and landscape beyond – that are set to enchant. Your options for game-watching are many these days, but Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve figures you’ll enjoy it best from the comfort of your bed … and you can now do that. There are two pods, each a 35-minute drive from the Manor Houses – the Eagle’s Flight pod, which has incredible views of the surrounding valley, and the Camdeboo Plains pod perched over the hypnotic plains of Camdeboo. While you’ll be out in the wilderness with nothing but a solid steel frame cladded in a combination of wood panelling, corrugate and glass between you and the elements, you won’t exactly be roughing it. Each well-insulated pod comes outfitted with a queen-size bed that can sleep two adults, an en-suite bathroom with a toilet, basin and shower as well as a kitchenette with tea- and coffee-making facilities. Crucially, the solitude of off-grid living is softened by W-Fi, electricity and piping-hot water. But let’s be real – you’re not sleeping in a wooden bolthole because you’re after amenities. You’re there for the scenery and country air. Our pod, the Camdeboo Plains pod, was light, airy and beautifully furnished with contemporary Scandinavian design. Seamlessly woven into the dramatic, craggy African landscape, it felt entirely otherworldly. The reserve is home to lion, cheetah, elephant, white rhino, Cape buffalo, giraffe and Cape mountain zebra hidden in the golden blades of short grass, but don’t worry – around the pods, there’s a reasonably low fence with electrical strands that will stop one of these from walking through. If the sun is shining, the outdoor living area – including an outdoor lounge and open-air boma – is the place to be. It’s made for dreaming wide and feeling free. The wood-fired hot tub provides an ideal sundowner destination with a bottle of Glenelly The Glass Collection Unoaked Chardonnay and wild skies above. The pod has a fully-equipped kitchenette with a microwave, gas stove and bar fridge, so you could easily stay put all weekend. However, the Camdeboo Manor serves a farmhouse breakfast consisting of delicious bacon, eggs, sausage, croissants and muffins to pod occupants. We might love the buzz of city life, but the Mount Camdeboo Pods – which embody modern escapism – are a brilliant way to truly switch off. Everything slows down and becomes clear for a moment … and that’s the whole point, isn’t it? 

Petersburg Road, Graaff-Reinet 

021 427 5900 

Cultural enlightenment at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge 

Where: 4km from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe 

Africa’s most famous conservation areas – the Kruger, the Maasai Mara, the Okavango Delta, the Serengeti and Etosha – deserve to be explored. But you haven’t experienced the truth of Africa if safari and spectacular scenery are your only objectives. Victoria Falls – known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya or the “smoke that thunders” – is often cited as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Located on the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Vic Falls is dominated by endless bushland and the world’s largest stretch of falling water. As a base for exploration, we’re a great fan of Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Why book? Because you want the greatest cultural experience of all. And because it’s surreal to arrive with elephants gracefully passing by the deck. The tasteful, colonial-style 72 bedrooms and suites – all with their own surprises – are white-walled with thatched roofs. Best bet: A Waterhole-Facing Room, which boasts handmade wooden furniture, a soothing medley of pale earth tones, and a big bed draped in white linen and mosquito nets. You might even open your curtains to find a herd of buffalo having breakfast. Our accommodation was charming – a fantastically comfortable place to be with modern comforts like aircon and good Wi-Fi. Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is all about adventure by day and indulgence by night. While the sun’s up, book a tour of the falls, white river rafting, a helicopter flight, horse riding, a walking safari or a township tour through tour operator Wild Horizons. Or, if you’re really brave, a zipline or gorge swing. Should you tire of activities, you can grab a cocktail at Buffalo Bar and lounge on a sunbed by the outdoor pool to the tune of whirring butterflies. The enthusiastic young barman is adept at pouring inventive cocktails (mango daiquiri or cherry mojito, anyone?) and it’s tempting to surrender to long lunches of pepperoni pizza. Then, come back down to earth with a sunset cruise – a bookable experience including unlimited drinks that shouldn’t be missed. Expect hippos wallowing in the river and elephants walking among the trees while the African sun creates an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colours. The scenes are surreal. Perched above a watering hole, the lodge’s inviting MaKuwa-Kuwa Restaurant excels in comfort food that’s both original and reliably tasty. For dinner, we tried starters like their roasted sweet onion soup, octopus carpaccio and duck fritters followed by grilled beef tenderloin, coffee-braised short ribs and a hunk of coconut-crusted Zambezi bream with saffron and sweetcorn velouté – all washed down with a bottle of Springfield Life From Stone Sauvignon Blanc from Robertson. Another way of finding out about the culture is to book a table at The Boma for an unforgettable night of local cuisine and five-star entertainment. There’s nothing in this world that can prepare you for the majesty of Vic Falls. 

471 Squire Cummings Road, Victoria Falls 

Get sleep during your layover at Radisson Hotel & Convention Centre Johannesburg 

Where: 7.9km from OR Tambo International Airport 

Airport hotels are better known for making long, multiflight trips tolerable than they are for luxury. But all that might be changing. Artfully dressed in vibrant hues and playful patterns, the Radisson Hotel & Convention Centre Johannesburg is so luxurious that you’d never guess it was located 10 minutes from OR Tambo International Airport. Despite its imposing exterior, the 248-room hotel couldn’t be more welcoming – from the swirling pool and the knockout spa to Radisson’s brand of inconspicuous but deeply luxurious hospitality. This polished urban oasis really does feel like a place to fully occupy and luxuriate in. Like the rest of the interiors, the rooms are high-tech and ultra-modern, outfitted with ergonomic furniture and business-savvy features. Layouts vary from snug Standard Rooms with the feel of a glamorous apartment, to the penthouse-sized Presidential Suite for affluent, get-away-from-it-all travellers. We recommend booking a Junior Suite that opens to a small balcony – floors are heated underfoot, windows are heavily soundproofed and bedrooms are a mostly monochrome palette with touches of deep grey and sand. But the hidden pop-up TV and walk-in wardrobe fitted with solid oak hangers were perhaps our favourite surprises. There are four restaurants to suit your every whim – on the lower floor, don’t miss The Avenue, headed by executive chef Darshan Chetty who’s known for his Afro-Asian inspired meals. The menu is as health-conscious or indulgent as you please. For lunch, you might choose fried calamari or a Mediterranean salad, then a beef burger or grilled line fish; for dinner garlic butter snails followed by perfectly cooked rib-eye steak with café de Paris butter. They’ll all be delicious, as are the very drinkable South African wines on the list. The curry of the day hits all the right notes – simple, sensational and wonderfully flavoured with the chef’s blend of spices. Best of all, after you tumble out of bed in the morning, it’s only a two-minute walk to the sprawling Amani Spa. Like an exhale in the middle of Joburg, the decadent respite exudes peace and tranquility from every corner. In addition to traditional services, the spa provides CBD massages, teeth whitening and blow-dries, complete with a sauna, steam room, heated indoor pool, yoga and meditation zone, champagne bar and café. For a full-body chillout, the 60- or 90-minute Himalayan Salt Crystal Ritual is the treatment to try – in which a therapist kneads sore muscles using warm coconut oil and Himalayan salt massage stones. The rubdown is followed by an optional 45-minute session in the salt room. Breathing dry, salt-saturated air is useful in treating a range of respiratory and skin conditions. You’ll walk out of the session and think, “Wow, this is what it’s like to take a full breath!” Insider tip: The hotel offers a complimentary airport shuttle service available 24 hours. 

3rd Avenue, Bredell AH, Kempton Park 

011 100 4436 

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