If you were to know only two things about me, I love exclusive use properties and moisturising my face with my tears. But one of those facts is not important right now. What is important is when I get a sniff of an African private villa being launched, it is my duty to tell the world in haste. In my mind I’m basically I’m Carl Bernstein.
Africa House is part of Royal Malewane, one of three properties in Thornybush, Greater Kruger, that The Royal Portfolio now owns and manages. Waterside joined last year and sits alongside the excellent Farmstead. Each property has its own style and feel, but share a lot in common, including offering a small number of suites and a single villa designed for groups and families. So, whilst this doesn’t count as a truly exclusive use lodge because other dastardly humans are allowed within several kilometres of you, it’s self-contained with private chefs, guides, vehicles, and trackers. Ideally, they also reserve all the best animal viewings for you. Villas within lodges are never as feature-rich as exclusive-use properties because you have a property nearby that can supplement it. There are pros and cons to both options. If you’re unsociable and miserable like me, you’ll probably want the exclusive use option; if you have built up skills way beyond my capabilities, like making eye contact, then Africa House might be more your cup of tea. All the same, you don’t have to go to the main resort, but the option is there.
Africa House is not new, but it has been completely reimagined and redesigned and now has less in common with Royal Malewane than ever before. They’ve also doubled the atrium in size, which we all know is a great thing – from burgers to <<enter male joke here>> to traffic jams; doubling is always good.
If you’ve not been to a Royal Portfolio property before, they are all individually and uniquely designed, but there is definitely an underlying characteristic to them all, driven by the co-founder, Liz Biden. The sad thing is Cape Town’s The Silo isn’t matched by the service, with Ellerman House remaining by far the best option.
But back to happier thoughts and happier places, as somehow they have managed to master the Greater Kruger. Royal Malewane has, traditionally, been quite, well, traditional compared to their newer properties. That has been thrown out the window here. Bigger, bolder, and brighter are the key themes. This place got a serious makeover that showcases the electric style of Liz Biden. It now fits more closely with The Farmstead than the original Royal Malewane design. If you’re into a sense of place, it has it in abundance….just not the place you’re probably thinking of when safari comes to mind. Still, I like it, which is all that ultimately matters when it comes to writing a blog.
This massive, six-bedroom, nearly 1500 sqm (16,000 sq ft) villa is like a playground for up to 12 people. Assuming you grew up with a gym, spa, pool and team of chefs and waiters at your local playground. Massages are also on the menu – in your room, the double treatment room, or you can use Royal Waters Spa at Malewane Lodge.
Each room has its unique style, with a standout colour that gives it a name. It’s like sleeping in a rainbow and being gently smothered by some Skittles. Right at the heart of this revamped Africa House is the aforementioned new atrium. It’s like your bridge between the wild beauty outside (let’s not forget, this is a conservancy with wild dog, the greatest animal on earth) and the over-the-top psychedelic inside. In this lush courtyard, you’ll find the living and wellness spaces. The major highlight is the long room – a place where families and friends can gather, munch, play, and not be on safari like you damn well should be. It links up with the open-air boma – where coffee, sundowners, and hot, homemade pizza await whenever you fancy. As you might hope, it’s kid-friendly, so your little animals are welcome to spend time looking at animals. There’s even a special program to teach your little ones bush skills.
Africa House looks beautiful and offers another luxurious villa to the growing list in South Africa. I hope to get the opportunity to visit it next year. Having stayed in The Farmstead, I have high hopes.
If you’re after an exclusive-use property, which happens to be on the same conservancy, Kubili House is worth a look. Waterside and Farmstead also offer smaller but equally flamboyant villa options, with Waterside House and The Farmhouse available for up to eight guests.
Africa House is available exclusively for around $20,000 per night.