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VENTURES AFRICA – There are so many good reasons for holidaying on the African continent, not least that the fact that your money provides a boost to African economies in tough economic times. Perhaps a better reason is this: Africa is home to some of the most prestigious, most exclusive and most luxurious resorts on Earth. This is of course why the world’s billionaires are increasingly turning their attention to Africa when deciding where to escape in style.
Africa has it all: from Cape Town in the south to Marrakesh in the north, this continent is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and engaging places. In places like Mauritius, Zanzibar and southern Kenya one finds the most spectacular coastal vistas. Inland, Botswana’s Okavango Delta has all the gravitas that attaches to one of Africa’s wildest, most soulful places. But these would be mere tourist destinations were it not for the luxury lodges and palatial hotels that transform them into potential playgrounds for Africa’s wealthiest travellers.
EAST COAST, MAURITIUS
Out in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is where the essential elements of paradise – deserted beaches fringed with palm trees, luxury retreats hidden from the outside world – come together most clearly. Having settled upon Mauritius, many billionaires look no further than the Four Seasons at Anahita.
In a woodland settling along the postcard-perfect east coast of Mauritius, and accessible by helicopter transfer from the island’s international airport, the Four Seasons overlooks the turquoise waters of the lagoon in great tranquillity. Activities are plentiful: indulge yourself in the over-water spa; take a private golf lesson on a course designed by Africa’s own Ernie Els; lazily wander the sandy white beaches or spend a day cruising the coast in style before enjoying a dinner of fresh seafood served under the stars. At day’s end, retire to your private villa – or perhaps the presidential suite, set on its own private island – where the attention to detail, fine linens and private plunge pools are the starting points for an overwhelming sensory experience.
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
If the mainland is more your thing, look no further than South Africa, southern Africa’s most prosperous country. It is a country of vineyards and fine dining, and the opportunity to view Africa’s epic mega fauna is never far away.
Close to where two oceans collide and presided over by Table Mountain, within striking distance of cosmopolitan Cape Town yet in a world all of its own, the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa is the last word in exclusivity. This hotel is consistently listed among Africa’s finest and it has won awards for its faultless, impeccable and ever-discreet service. All the rooms have exceptional views and are designed so that sea and mountain are all that you see. The effect is such that, standing on your balcony, it is easy to imagine the world is yours and yours alone. The presidential suite takes things to another level altogether, and offers an inspiring panorama at every turn, not to mention an eight-chair dining room and wrap-around terrace. For unparalleled levels of privacy, reserve not just the suite but the entire floor and the Cape Coast will feel like your own private estate.
OKAVANGO DELTA, BOTSWANA
The Okavango Delta cannot help but stir your soul. It is the quintessential African landscape; an elemental land of rare beauty and one that has somehow survived the relentless march of human progress. Botswana’s luxury camps rank among the most exclusive destinations on earth, the only way in and out of many of them by private air charter. If dramatic wildlife encounters get your pulse racing, staying in the Delta can feel a little like stepping onto the set of a wildlife documentary.
Of all the Delta camps, Mombo Camp is renowned for being the most beautiful and luxurious, a nine-room, stilt-supported palace of hardwood floors, canvas and linen furnishings and perfectly chosen vantage points from which to look out over one of Africa’s most extraordinary panoramas. It is a place of baobabs and beautiful sunsets, of fine dining and cocktails; a place far from the clamour of human civilisation but without the need to compromise on the luxuries and service to which the well-heeled may well accustomed.
SOUTH COAST, KENYA
There is much more to Kenya than the famous Big Five game animals, and the country’s coastline is a rival for any tropical paradise on the planet. South of Mombasa, along Kenya’s southern shore, the beaches are framed with coconut palms and are utterly magnificent. The combination of winning vistas and abundant activities makes this spot ideal for those who prefer a little more action on their holiday. Here one will find a 600-year-old sacred forest and coastal mangroves to explore, as well as a marine park with exceptional snorkelling. You can also rent a dhow, the ancient Arab sailing vessel of spice traders, and set sail for a deserted island nearby.
There is no finer base for such activities than Alfajiri Villas in Ukundu, close to Diani Beach. Described by Conde Nast Traveller as “one of the most luxurious villas in the world,” it is truly an extraordinary place. Choose between the Cliff Villa, Beach Villa and Garden Villa; each an expansive oasis of elite sea frontage. Sunsets and sea breezes perfectly complement the chic and supremely comfortable villas. If you can tear yourself away from the view, the resort offers deep-sea fishing, golf and parasailing among other great activities.
There is just something about Zanzibar – a cachet that comes from its history as one of the greatest trading centres of medieval times wedded to an astonishingly beautiful location off the coast of mainland Tanzania. It has some long, lonely stretches of sand as well as the clamour of aromatic Stone Town, Zanzibar’s main settlement, while activities such as diving, dolphin watching, dhow sailing and even kite-surfing promise a treat for the truly adventurous. The island is small enough to be intimate but large enough to shelter some surprising secrets.
One of those is The Residence, an august and prestigious property that has the air of a private playground for the rich and famous. Four-poster beds inhabit elegant, large and light-filled villas, which open out directly onto the beach – the two-bedroom presidential pool villa alone covers almost 500 square metres. The class and sophistication here is understated but unmistakeable: there’s a stylish wood-and-whitewash colour scheme and an airy sense of ample space, while the clean lines and gentle curves of the architectural design evoke the island’s medieval Omani past. As is to be expected, the resort prides itself on thoughtful service and personal attention.
The royal city of Marrakesh has been trying for centuries to outdo the rest of Africa when it comes to luxury. In the process, they seem to have perfected the art of a refined sensibility, combining exaggerated levels of comfort with an aesthetic that could only come from a rich Moroccan past. As a city, Marrakesh revels in its role as the country’s one-time royal capital and the splendour of its architecture and perfectly proportioned gardens represent the high point of intricate and exquisite Moorish architecture. It is also one of Africa’s most beguiling cities.
Of all Marrakesh hotels, few capture the city’s essence quite like the Hotel Mamounia, which sits adjacent to the superb Koutoubia Mosque and close to the city centre but feels utterly removed from the hubbub of its surrounds. A relatively recent overhaul has resulted in a sumptuous evocation of royal hospitality: interiors awash in marble – often inlaid – while wood furnishings and screens fuse elegance with privacy. Pleasing patios, tastefully conceived alcoves and an abundance of cushions add to this sense of Arabian wonder. The suites are impressive but its secluded Riad d’Honneur private villa is the height of exclusivity. Here, the service most often lives up to the beauty of the surroundings – as you recline on cushions, serenaded by the reassuring sound of water from your own private fountain in your own private gardens, you’ll be treated like royalty. And, most likely, you’ll never want to leave.