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Top 10 private houses to stay in for a Christmas safari in Africa

Nicola Shepherd By Nicola Shepherd
23 May 2021

In my experience, one of the very best ways to enjoy Africa’s most amazing wilderness with a small group of friends or family, is to take a luxury private safari house or villa on an exclusive basis.

These private safari houses in Africa are always on an exclusive basis and have staff to cater to your every need and the service is second to none.  Your meals and most of your drinks are included, as well as all your normal safari activities. You’ll often find there are a few extra little surprises and perks added in too.  

Although Christmas safaris always book up far in advance - sometimes years ahead - late availability does sometimes present itself so definitely worth checking. However I’m posting this now to give you plenty of time to think about the festive season. If you can organise your accommodation before the busy booking period in the first few months of the New Year, you’ll have the very best chance of securing the property you want and spending a fabulous Christmas with your family and friends in Africa.


Mkombe’s House, Lamai, Tanzania

Mkombe’s House is located in the northern Serengeti, set within the iconic Kogakuria Kopjes with views looking out over the Mara River Valley and the Lamai Wedge. Beautifully styled, the mud and thatch house has a fresh, contemporary feel whilst leaving a zero footprint and it is completely self-contained with two en-suite double or twin bedrooms, each with a separate en-suite children’s room. The house can sleep a total of four adults and six children comfortably and there is no minimum age. 

Mkombe’s House has a private guide, with whom you can discuss the options and decide what you’d like to do each day. Game drives are the main focus, but it’s also possible to go out on walks (children over 12 years only), enjoy picnic breakfasts or lunches and sundowners on the rocks. Youngsters often enjoy scrambling around on the rocks around the camps in search of lizards, hyrax and other harmless creatures. Highlights include spending time in your own home in the bush, reading in a shady spot, or having the odd dip in the pool, with great views.


Beho Beho Bailey's Banda, Tanzania

Bailey's Banda is positioned on the hillside overlooking the main Beho Beho camp with stunning views over the hippo pools and into the valley below in the Selous Game Reserve. Bailey’s Banda is the perfect hideaway for those who want to appreciate the bush in complete privacy. 

Staying in Bailey’s Banda is very much home from home, with a well-appointed and luxurious haven for exploring the wonderful Selous game reserve, whether it is in your exclusive safari vehicle, on foot, or in your exclusive private boat on the nearby Lake Tagalala.  How wonderful to have your own private pool, sun deck or relax in the shade of a sun-umbrella not to mention spending the evenings dinning under the stars before settling down in the comfort of your own sitting room to enjoy some music or the sounds of the bush before bedtime.


With two very roomy Beho Beho style en suite bedrooms – one of them elevated up on the first floor level, both with king-sized beds, Bailey’s Banda is ideal for friends travelling together, or families (but still not really suitable for children under twelve years ). The open-plan and open-sided main areas of the banda have many combinations of relaxing and dining areas, together with a sunbathing/game viewing deck and plunge pool.

The Bailey’s Banda comes with dedicated staff, its own kitchen (complete with chef) and exclusive safari vehicle. Game activities are tailor-made to suit each guest and are guided by some of the most qualified guides in East Africa. Highlights include a boat trip, with a walk to the hot springs for a therapeutic swim in the warm mineral waters.


Ol Jogi, Laikipia, Kenya

Ol Jogi is located in the Laikipia Plateau, with views of Mount Kenya and is one of the most remarkable private wildlife conservancies in Africa. Family-owned by The Wildenstein Family for over 40 years, it is a safe haven for the preservation and future development of Wildlife Conservation. Comprising 58,000 acres (270 sq. km) of unspoilt wildlife habitat in the Laikipia District of Kenya, the landscape is unique in its diversity within Kenya.

The conservancy hosts large herds of elephants, antelopes, reticulated giraffe, zebra, leopard, lion, cheetah, small cats, three species of primates and a stunningly diverse array of birds. Its primary mission is the protection of endangered species and therefore provides sanctuary to a large population of black rhinos, over 10% of the world’s Grevy’s zebra and wild dogs.

Ol Jogi gives true meaning to the word ‘exclusive’. There is no other place on the continent where you can have an entire private 58,000 acre conservancy, with as much diversity of terrain and wildlife, entirely to yourself.  Nestled around one of the property’s larger kopjes is Ol Jogi’s Main House, where you stay in a series of luxurious, themed cottages surrounded by tropical gardens, streams and waterholes.


Each of the thirteen individually designed suites feature a dressing room, a generous bathroom, most have a living room and a private outdoor terrace that overlooks the garden and a series of water features where an ever-changing scenery of wildlife come down to drink. You can spend some time relaxing in the bar, then explore one of Ol Jogi’s secrets – a hidden underground tunnel which brings you into a hide at the edge of the waterhole where you can watch the wildlife up close.

This is the best place to get the perfect photograph! Fred (who has been at Ol Jogi since 1991) manages the house beautifully and nothing is too much trouble. You can relax at the end of the day in the swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, Hamman, sauna, or have a wonderful deep tissue massage by the resident masseuse in the Spa. There is also a fitness centre and yoga room, plus a floodlit Astroturf tennis court, a games room equipped with various board games and a piano and a cinema. There are also over 2000 books in the Library including the owners’ extensive Africana collection. The highlight is not just the wine cellar, but how you get to it!


Cottars Private Bush Villa, Kenya

Cottars Private Bush Villa is set in the Masai Mara within a pristine concession bordering the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Loliondo reserve.  Cottar’s Private House combines absolute privacy with discrete and devoted staff, award winning guides and bountiful wildlife.  Calvin and Louis Cottar designed the house and it was built by hand using indigenous materials. 

Set within the same area as the well-known Cottar's 1920's Safari Camp, guests will benefit from the same levels of excellence the camp is known for. The villa is over 10,000 square feet in size, and features a large living room, dining room, a magnificent viewing deck, and five en-suite bedrooms, all with stunning views. Guests staying at Cottar’s Bush Villa can, should they wish to do so, make use of the Cottar's 1920s shop and their other facilities. 


Cottar’s affords the highest standard of professional guiding, sophistication and adventure. This is the only real private deluxe home in the Masai Mara which can be rented out exclusively, boasting a team of dedicated staff.

Guests can go on privately guided game drives, including night game drives, plus bush walks, along with swimming and fishing. Cottar’s Bush Villa is rented only on an exclusive basis, and comes with a dedicated staff of eight. The highlights are swimming in a 25 M lap pool exclusive to the villa, plus cultural interactions with the local Masai community.


Grand African Villa at Okonjima, Namibia 

Okonjima Villa is set on the edge of a wilderness area in 22 000 hectares of private nature reserve, 50 kilometres south of Otjiwarongo in central Namibia and is the home of Africat Foundation. Okonjima’s private Bush villa has just four rooms, accommodating a maximum of 12 guests only. There are two bedrooms in the main building, one has a loft bedroom for two children and the two rooms lie away from the building.

Each room has an organic design and is simply luxurious with a gorgeous bathtub against the window so you can lie in the bath and watch the wilderness beyond, plus your bed can be rolled out under the stars onto the verandah, should you wish.  There is a large waterhole with reeds beyond the boma, infinity swimming pool and private verandah. The chef welcomes guests into the kitchen and guests can discuss and design their menu for the day.


One can track leopard and cheetah with the researchers and experience the work done by the Africat Foundation. Okonjima is home to over one hundred cheetahs, many of whom were separated from their mothers before they learnt how to survive on their own. The Rehabilitation Camp will give these cheetahs an opportunity to learn survival skills such as hunting in a closely monitored environment. Successfully rehabilitated cheetahs are then relocated to parks and game farms.

Okonjima is also the site of a leopard monitoring project with the resident leopard collared and tracked to determine the number of leopard in the area, their movements and activities.  Non "cat" activities include a Bushman Trail where one can catch a glimpse of a day in the life of a bushman and learn how the bushman made rope, fire and traps and lived in harmony with nature.

There is also a guided mountain walk (as well as ordinary walks and trails) which includes identification of animal spoor, information on the local people and spectacular views and, of course, exceptional bird watching - over 300 bird species have been identified at Okonjima. The highlight is cheetah tracking on foot where cheetahs within the rehabilitation are radio tracked (sightings not guaranteed!).


Singita Pamushana Villa, Zimbabwe

The Pamushana Villa is a fabulous five-bedroom villa with a private pool and stunning views located on the Malilangwe Private Reserve, adjoining the Gonarezhou Reserve in south eastern Zimbabwe. The diverse Malilangwe covers 40 000 hectares, and includes open mopane woodlands, riverine forests and open plains. 

Activities include early morning and afternoon game drives plus spot lit night drives along with guided bush walks on the reserve.  There are also two game hides, one is near the river, where you may like to spend a few hours during the middle of the day or indeed in the afternoon to enable close-up encounters.  Fishing for bream, catfish and tiger fish is also possible in the Malilangwe dam.


A boat cruise in the very comfortable pontoon boat is a simply wonderful way to do some bird watching and get up close to the hippo.  Apart from the usual wildlife type activities, you may also like to walk to see some of the Bushman rock art – there are over 100 sites, which offers a fascinating illustration of the rich history of the area. There are also mountain bikes, archery and two clay tennis courts just a few minutes’ drive away from the lodge. 

The staff can also organise volleyball, badminton and there is a fully equipped gym.  If you prefer to take things easy the beauty therapist can be booked for massages and facials. Bush dinners and breakfasts can also be organised in the wilderness. Pamushana is heavily involved in the community outreach projects which are well worth a visit, where it feeds around 19,000 young children every morning. The highlight for the more adventurous is a night sleeping under the African sky in a private hide.


Morukuru Farm House, South Africa

Morukuru Farmhouse is located in the Madikwe Game Reserve, in the North West Province, which is a malaria free reserve. It is a bright and stylish house and this designer oasis has a modern “new bush” appeal and is eco-conscious. Surrounded by lush lawns it invites a deep sense of comfort and relaxation. It sleeps a maximum of 10 guests with five en-suite, double rooms linking to the main areas by a covered walkway.

Children of all ages are welcome at Morukuru and permitted on game drives. A host of activities are provided to keep the children entertained such as spoor tracking, biscuit baking, beading and mini bush walks. A nanny service is available and the camp has a perimeter fence making this a safe haven for children. Activities include game drives, bush walks and fishing, plus safari drumming, massage treatments and the Madikwe Hide. The highlights are the outdoor tub for starlit baths and a large heated infinity pool.


Africa House at Royal Malewane, South Africa

Africa House is located in the Thornybush Private Game Reserve, in the Greater Kruger National Park. It is an elegant house with vibrantly eclectic décor. This exclusive-use house has six en-suite bedrooms each with private outside showers and decks. Plush silk, carved four-poster beds, antique furniture and Persian rugs create an exotic, lavish feel.

The house sleeps a maximum of 12 with six en-suite, double rooms. Children of all ages are welcome and a children’s programme is run by well-trained staff. The children are given a bush backpack and will be kept entertained with fun kitchen activities, a “cubs” spa menu and a junior ranger course.

The flexibility of having your own private guide and game vehicle means shorter game drives may be enjoyed which is more suitable for younger children. Activities include game drives and bush walks. Nearby activities include hot air ballooning, golf and local village excursions. The highlights are superb guiding, getting thrillingly close to the Big Five and indulging in a fabulous array of treatments at the stunning spa.


Singita Castleton, South Africa

Singita Castleton is located in the Sabi Sand Reserve in the Kruger National Park. It is steeped in history and captures the spirit of the original family home. Castleton was designed to combine the elements of a private safari lodge with the rustic charms of a farmhouse.

The main house enjoys attractive living spaces and six cottages are scattered about the grounds. It sleeps 12 guests with six doubles/twins, en-suite - individual cottages. There is also a lovely courtyard and country-kitchen. Children of all ages are welcome at Singita. In the interest of safety, participation of children in any game activities (drives/walks/bike rides) is at the discretion of their guide.

Children’s activities include games, baking with the chef, community visits, plus archery. A mini rangers’ course covers tracking, astronomy, survival techniques, quizzes and much more. Activities include day and night game drives, bush walks and mountain biking. Optional community visits are also available. There is a garden with swimming pool, traditional boma, gym, tennis court and treatment room. The highlights are that the camp overlooks an active waterhole, where game comes down to drink.


Tswalu Tarkuni, South Africa

Tswalu Tarkuni is located in the Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve in the Northern Cape, which is a malaria free area of 110,000 hectares. It is an exclusive private homestead with five luxurious suites and Tarkuni offers a serene oasis with beautiful open-plan central spaces and a covered deck leading to a sala and tranquil poolside deck.

The Tswalu Kalahari Spa offers fabulous treatments and a fun activity is a dune picnic. Tarkuni sleeps up to 10 guests, with five en-suite, double rooms. All children are welcome and the junior ranger programme includes activities such as archery, spoor identification and tracking. Children receive a welcome backpack, plus complimentary baby-sitting which is available around the clock.


Activities include game drives, bush walks and horse riding safaris. You can also bond with meerkats and have the chance to view black-maned lion and desert adapted black rhino, have boma dinners and wine tastings. The main highlight is the sleep-out deck, Malori (meaning ‘dreamer’ in Tswana), which offers guests the unequalled experience of sleeping safely in the wilderness, under the stars.

If you would like to enjoy the exclusivity of a private villa as a part of your holiday or vacation, please do feel to get in touch. There is a splendid selection of luxury private houses, villas and permanent luxury tented lodges across Asia and Africa that make for the most sublime escapism. Or, if you would just like to dream for now, you can do so at our Video Library.

**This blog was first posted on 4th October 2017 and substantially updated on 23rd May 2021**