When travelling on safari in Africa, you may want to stay somewhere a bit different from the run-of-the-mill safari lodge or campsite. Luckily there are loads of options for quirky and unusual places to stay – take your pick from island treehouses, a fairytale castle or a private aquarium!
Star bed, Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique
There’s nothing more romantic than sleeping under the stars, which is why Nkwichi Lodge, on Lake Malawi in Mozambique has made the experience one of their “room” options. Their “Lake of Stars” bed can be set either on a deserted beach surrounded by baobabs or on a private rock island close to the shore with fish eagles flying over you. Whether you choose to sleep on the beach or on the island, your night under a sky awash with shooting stars will surely be one of your most memorable.
Chole Mjini, Mafia island archipelago, Tanzania
Live out your tropical island castaway fantasies at Chole Mjini, on a tiny mangrove-lined island in the Mafia island archipelago off the coast of mainland Tanzania. This family-run no-electricity eco-lodge consists of seven treehouses open to the elements, with open walls and thatched roofs. They’re spread out in the lush grounds of the property, and each is built around a different tree – one around a baobab – and all of them have views of the sea (some are so close to the ocean that you can hear the tide trickling back to the sea through the mangrove roots). Fill your days with scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming with whale sharks, sailing, whale watching and exploring Popo Park, the world’s first fruit bat nature reserve.
Castle in Clarens, Free State, South Africa
Live out your fairytale fantasies in Rapunzel’s Tower, a self-catering guesthouse just outside the charming Free State town of Clarens that looks like it’s straight out of the pages of a storybook, complete with a turret, life-size mural paintings depicting scenes from Rapunzel, lavish palatial décor, plush embroidered bathrobes suitable for royalty and a bathtub suspended 12 metres off the ground.
Under Sea, Manta Resort, Zanzibar
Get up close and personal with marine life in your bedroom at this underwater hotel in Zanzibar. Moored 250 metres off Pemba Island, the room sleeps just two people, and has a deck at sea level with a lounge, as well as a rooftop deck for suntanning. Downstairs below the water level is the bedroom, with a double bed surrounded by four glass walls, offering 360-degree views of shoals of tropical reef fish, as well as a few resident bat fish and a trumpet fish named Nick which are always swimming around the room. By night, the underwater spotlights around the room attract more unusual species such as squid.
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya
How about sharing your breakfast with a giraffe? At Giraffe Manor in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, this is a daily reality. The property is set on 140 acres of forest and is home to a herd of giraffe, who are free to wander up to the manor house and poke their heads through the windows in the hopes of being fed a treat, before they retreat to their forest sanctuary.
Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve, Cederberg, South Africa
Sleep in a cave or on the rocks under the stars at Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve, set within the beautiful Cederberg area of the Western Cape, a few hours’ drive from Cape Town. The 10 luxurious cave suites are far from roughing it, with big beds, ensuite bathrooms and glass-walled doors looking out onto private terraces. If the weather is good you can sleep under the nighttime canopy of stars on a bed set up for you on a private rocky outcrop far from the lodge. When you wake up from your cave or open-air slumber, spend your days on the nature reserve hiking, discovering ancient rock art and going on guided 4×4 trails.
Ngepi Camp, Zambezi Region, Namibia
In the Zambezi Region (formerly known as the Caprivi Strip) in northern Namibia lies one of southern Africa’s most famed camps. Ngepi is an oasis for overlanders on long journeys – the camp has a lovely river setting, a croc-proof swimming pool for cooling off in, good food in the restaurant, an open-air bar and a range of accommodation options, from riverside camping spots to family bush huts and treehouses set right on the river, with an open wall so you can lie in bed looking out on the hippo-dotted water. What’s really special about Ngepi, though, is its quirkiness. There are funny signs all over the camp (like “Please keep on the grass”), and the toilets are probably the most memorable you’ll ever come across. Take your pick of ablution spots from the double-storey Poopa Falls, the Royal Throne (with its spectacular river view from the “throne” seat), and the Garden of Eden, a loo set within a wild garden.
Naries Namakwa Retreat, Northern Cape, South Africa
In the heart of Namaqualand, close to Springbok in the Northern Cape is a country retreat with a difference – here you stay in domed suites that look like round granite koppies, similar in style to traditional Nama dwellings, with spacious interiors and fantastic views from their hilltop perch. Be sure to visit during the spring months to see the famous carpets of wild flowers spread across this semi-desert region.