Five of our favourite private houses in South Africa
South Africa is one of our favourite destinations in which to organise extraordinary trips for families or groups of friends, as it offers totally thrilling scenery, amazing experiences and incredible private houses that don't compromise at all on luxury and impeccable service. With more than 25 years’ worth of contacts in the country, we have access to a secret resource of exclusive retreats but, more importantly, we have the back-up and knowledge to make your South African adventure that bit more special.
From Cape Town and the Winelands to Plettenberg Bay and De Hoop Nature Reserve, below we have handpicked just five villas that can form the basis of a holiday of a lifetime.
1 Morukuru Ocean House, De Hoop Nature Reserve
Three hours’ drive south-east of Cape Town lies Morukuru Ocean House, an idyllic four-bedroom hideaway set within De Hoop Nature Reserve, one of Africa’s most scenic coastal reserves. Perfect for a family holiday or a group of friends, activities here include game drives, guided marine walks, mountain-biking, sand-boarding and snorkelling. There are no set schedules and anything can be organised at the drop of a hat, as the villa comes with its own staff, vehicle and guide. We can even arrange for a winemaker from a local vineyard to come and give you an informative wine-tasting.
Between July and October, it is possible to watch southern right whales from Morukuru, as they gather in De Hoop’s protected waters close to the shore. For a truly awe-inspiring experience, you can observe these magnificent creatures from the air in a helicopter right from the house. Dolphins can be spotted all year round, and seals and African penguins are spied occasionally. After a day spent out and about exploring the dunes, rock pools, limestone cliffs and wetlands, you can enjoy an in-villa massage and settle down to sip a cocktail by crafted by your in-house butler. To us, this combination of exhilarating experiences followed by welcome pampering is unbeatable.
2 SKYDANCE, Constantia, Cape Town
With its spacious, enclosed gardens, lush lawns and gorgeous swimming pool (with an electric cover), Skydance is a great choice for families; there’s even an organic fruit and vegetable garden, which can be fun for young foragers. Set in southern Cape Town’s pretty vineyard-covered valley of Constantia, this slick six-bedroom villa lies in a prime location facing Table Mountain and near the gates of the beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens. This is a particular perk if you’re travelling with children, as one of our favourite guides can create an exciting treasure hunt, taking in the canopy walkways and prehistoric cycad gardens (complete with dinosaurs).
Skydance also has some of the city’s best restaurants and well-known wine estates on its doorstep, and we can easily arrange excellent childcare so that you can enjoy these in peace. Just a short drive away from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and a number of sandy beaches, the house is a superb base from which to make the most of everything else the Mother City has to offer.
3 The Residence, Cape Winelands
Situated on the 66-acre Vrede en Lust Wine Estate, which dates back to 1688, The Residence is a tranquil retreat from the bustle of everyday life. Surrounded by vines and with spectacular views of the Franschhoek Valley, this is the Cape Winelands at its best. The six chic bedrooms are all ensuite and have high ceilings, making them wonderfully light and airy. The homely living areas are decorated with warm colours, giving them a cosy feel. There is a lovely garden with a swimming pool.
The villa comes with a full-time manager and a dedicated team of staff to ensure you are well looked after throughout your stay. It would be ideal for families with older children or groups of friends, and is a great base for exploring the vineyards in and around Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl. The popular Franschhoek Wine Tram has a platform at Vrede en Lust, which connects to a few neighbouring wine farms.
4 Fort House, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Eastern Cape
With sweeping views over the dramatic and rugged Great Fish River valley in the malaria-free Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Fort House is a glorious bush retreat. Its elegantly designed four ensuite bedrooms, wine cellar and spa room make it an excellent choice for all ages, from eight to 80. This place is all about the location and sense of seclusion as you look over that vast, flat landscape and your own waterhole.
The reserve is home to bounteous wildlife, including the Big Five, and the game-viewing is great, even from the garden. You may find yourself whiling away the hours with a pair of binoculars by the lovely swimming pool or the traditional boma. The house also comes with its own staff, safari vehicle, ranger and tracker who will take you out on game drives, nature walks and fishing trips. You can even track big game, including white and black rhino, elephant and buffalo on foot from here.
5 Anassa, Clifton, Cape Town
Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and with direct access to Lion’s Head, Anassa’s location on a slope above Nettleton Road in Clifton is fantastic. This safe and private house is also a stone’s throw from both Clifton Beach and Camps Bay, making this a great pick for families and groups of friends who wish to be on the doorstep of two of Cape Town’s best beaches.
Cleverly designed over three levels, this stunning four-bedroom villa is stylish, with all the bells and whistles, but also charmingly understated. Three of the four bedrooms have their own balconies with breathtaking views and all of them have ensuite bathrooms with freestanding bathtubs. One of our favourite features is the tasteful living room, which leads straight out onto the pool terrace. James, the housekeeper, lives on-site and is always on hand to carry out your every need. We can also easily arrange a private chef for your stay. Or if you’d rather embrace the South African way of life, there is a barbecue so you can enjoy your own braai, as you sip local wine and the sun sinks into the ocean.