We’re almost a quarter of the way through 2023, and that means the season of long weekends is nearly upon us. And happily, both locally and beyond our borders there’s no shortage of new destinations to escape to. Whether it’s a safari sojourn with an artistic bent or a new way to discover one of South Africa’s pristine marine protected areas, you won’t go wrong with any of these authentic escapes.
In the heart of the malaria-free Madikwe Game reserve, Molori Safari is synonymous with opulence in the wilderness, with just five spacious villa-suites sharing this extremely exclusive lodge. When the lodge needed a refurb, art-loving owner Ivor Ichikowitz brought in the talented duo of Megan Hesse and Andrea Kleinloog, who opted to incorporate the organic floor spaces and circular nature of the loge architecture into the revamp.
The result? A remarkable collaboration with five contemporary South African artists whose work was reinterpreted as a series of striking rugs, each woven by a local textile mill. It’s a perfect example of intuitive design adding cultural depth to the safari experience.
Thornybush Game Lodge
Since its opening in 1961, Thornybush has become a byword for unforgettable South African safaris, combining unpretentious bush luxury with some of the best game-viewing the Greater Kruger region has to offer. But even grande dames need a wardrobe overhaul every now and again, and a major refurbishment now has Thornybush Game Lodge looking better than ever.
The latest redesign was done by Caline Williams-Wynn of Artichoke, whose deft touch with colour and texture brings a deeply modern aesthetic to the lodge.
Aside from the reimagined suites, an enlarged pool area, and revamped bar, a wonderful new addition is ‘The Library’; a tactile space of art, reference works, artefacts and cabinets filled with curiosities that offer guests a new perspective on the bushveld landscape.
While winter may be peak season for spotting Southern Right whales, there’s never really a bad time to visit De Hoop Nature reserve, a three-hour drive from Cape Town. And there are few better boltholes than Morukuru Beach Lodge – or the exclusive-use Ocean House nearby – which perch neatly on the dunes of Koppie Alleen. And Morukuru has recently expanded the reasons to visit. First is the launch of the De Hoop Camino, a self-guided slackpacking trail that links Morukuru with another luxury lodge in the reserve, offering a luxury version of the famous Whale Trail.
Then there’s the opening of Bites Beach Café, which has seen the historic fisherman’s cottage at Koppie Alleen revived. By day it’s a laid-back beach bistro open to the public, but the real magic happens at sunset. After dark it’s open exclusively to guests at Morukuru, dishing up a fine-dining menu of African cuisine given a contemporary twist. Set atop far-flung dunes, with the Indian Ocean as a backdrop, it’s an unforgettable destination for dinner this Autumn.
Onguma Camp Kala
It will feel like another world altogether, but in truth, it’s little more than a half day’s travel to swap the streets of Joburg or Cape Town for the unabashed wilderness of northern Namibia. And in the private Onguma Nature Reserve, bordering the iconic Etosha National Park, the remarkable new Onguma Camp Kala certainly ups the ante for desert luxury.
With the design – by acclaimed studio Fox Browne Creative – taking its cue from the ubiquitous termite mounds of the area, just four exclusive guest suites boast unrivalled space and comfort. Think private plunge pools and a wood-fired hot tub for those cool desert nights. Each suite even boasts its own shaded ‘sala’: a daybed between game excursions, or a starry sleep-out at night. Throw in an interactive ‘show’ kitchen at the main lodge, ground-level photographic hide and a dedicated yoga deck, and you have all the makings of an unforgettable wilderness escape.
Tintswalo at Siankaba
March through to May is prime time for admiring Victoria Falls as it thunders down into the Batoka Gorge. Post-Covid there’s been a flurry of hotel development on both banks of the Zambezi River, with no end of beautiful luxury boltholes to choose from. One of the most exciting is the new Tintswalo at Siankaba, which marks this innovative South African brand’s first foray beyond our borders.
Tintswalo at Siankaba is a luxury tented camp located on two densely forested islands a 30-minute drive upstream from the Falls. The property enjoyed a complete refurbishment in 2022, reopening with just seven under-canvas suites pitched right on the edge of the Zambezi River. Wooden walkways wind through the indigenous forest, linking each suite to the spacious communal areas and memorable riverside dining area. Leaving the island, expect days filled with adventure, from viewing the Falls to tiger-fishing expeditions and sunset cruises.