News & Reviews Africa Best exclusive use luxury safari properties in Africa

Contrary to every Oxfam advert you’ve ever seen, Africa is one of the best places on earth.  As continents go, it’s at least top seven.  Not only do you have some of the best wildlife experiences, but it also offers some of the most luxurious properties.  Blank stares often greet me when I try to explain to the uneducated how excellent African resorts can be, so let me create this fact sheet you can print off and shove down their throats (please use recycled paper, let’s not be monsters), cos I know everyone reading this is sophisticated and agrees with everything I have to say.

This is about exclusive use properties.  Not those old-school safari camps where you have to share your experience with other people.  Yuck.  No, these are properties you can only exclusively book, meaning it’s all about you, you, you.  There’s no waiting for the spa therapist to be available, no sharing vehicles, no having to pretend it was a wild animal that urinated on the sofa, after you accidentally drank fifteen beers.  You don’t even need to find the animals; they can smell your wealth and come to you.

A lot of these properties were never intended to be rented out, they are the owner’s homes, and you can tell they were made with love.  And millions of dollars.  They are no-expense-spared items of love and luxury.

Arijiju, Kenya

Defining the best is never easy, but then Arijiju came along and problem solved.  Based in the exclusive Borana Conservancy, forget about best properties in Africa; Arijiju is one of the best properties in the world.  With five spacious bedrooms, it offers incredible facilities such as a squash court, cinema room and fully featured spa, whilst serenading you with great food, brilliant service and a design so easy on the eye you will want to stay forever.  Often when something feels like it has an unlimited budget, it descends into the tacky.  Here everything is so understated but so stupendously high-end.  Every single part of Arijju is world-class, and that’s not even mentioning the elephants that come and drink from the pool.  Remarkably, it’s also one of the cheapest options on this list.  There’s so many rhinos here you’ll be bored of hearing about their impending extinction.

Singita Serengeti House, Tanzania

One of the OGs of exclusive use villas.  Singita is the king of the safari lodge and has an impressive and ever-expanding list of properties under their Private Villa Collection banner.  Serengeti House has four bedrooms with uninterrupted views of the Serengeti and a nearby watering hole.  With access to 350,000 acres shared exclusively between the Singita Grumeti camps, it’s basically the Mara, just without the fifteen billion people.  It also has the benefit of being near Sasakwa, which I consider the world’s best safari camp.  You have all your own facilities, including a tennis court, gym, spa and 25m heated pool, whilst being able to leech off everything Sasakwa has to offer.  It needs a lick of paint here and there to bring it up to the same standards as the others on this list, but we all end up shitting the bed in old age.  If you time it right, you will be able to see the great migration, and it’s a daily bloodbath.  Yummy.

Ol Jogi, Kenya

Take a deep breath.  Close your eyes.  Ignore the design and hear me out.  Ol Jogi is phenomenal.  Hey, no laughing at the back, I said you have to get past the design.  I’m asking a lot from you, but you will have to trust me.  A ludicrous 12 bedrooms allow up to 24 guests to enjoy one of the most batshit crazy and enjoyable properties I’ve ever stayed in.  There are hidden doorways, fake elephant heads on the wall, priceless paintings and a swimming pool large enough to house the Titanic.  Yet what makes Ol Jogi so enjoyable is the experiences that you literally cannot get anywhere else.  It’s not every day you get to hang around with wild elephants, rhinos and baboons.  I don’t mean in a vehicle, I’m talking about walking up to them on foot.  It does show how foolish animals are though – this elephant could have easily crushed my skull, preventing me from ever writing such drivel ever again, but here I am, wasting it and your time.

Lengishu House, Kenya

Merely minutes from Arijiju, this great property suffers from not being Arijiju.  It does, however, have one extra bedroom.  The views aren’t too shabby either.  Lengishu House is a great property with brilliant food, service and accommodation.  It just can’t compete with Lord King the First Arijiju when it comes to wellness and all the other absurd facilities they have.  The styling feels understated, but the grand scale of the property adds luxury and exclusivity, as you can be in a group but still find yourself alone.  Whilst the cathedral-esq dining area might be the scene stealer, the pool is where I often found myself.  Shame it wasn’t heated, but they do have a dart board and pool table, and legend has it that I was on fire so could have personally heated the pool.  It’s no exaggeration to say that, based on the rules I made up as I went along, I am the greatest player in the world.  Borana has a reputation for being somewhere to go after your main safari, but that is definitely starting to change, and my viewings at Lengishu were extraordinary.

Kubili House, South Africa

An absolutely beautiful property in the Thornybush Conservancy.  Five bedrooms, three swimming pools, a spa and a picturesque setting.  And a Segway.  Whilst you have to share your land with the common folk, the exclusivity, serenity and brilliance of Kubili House make up for it all.  Set beside a dam, you don’t even need to go hang around with the riff-raff to experience some epic wildlife.  It’s a masterpiece of a property, but charges at the same kinda cost as other masterpieces – like how much it would cost to own the Mona Lisa.

Cheetah Plains, South Africa

It’s a 4-bedroom villa, but I hesitate to call it exclusive use.  Yet it’s here, so I guess that ship has sailed.  All the same, you can’t deny it’s a right-looker.  Cheetah Plains has three four-bedroom villas, all near each other.  You’ve gotta book a villa, so it’s exclusive in that regard, as the only facility they share is the gym, and everything else is self-enclosed.  Each villa appears the same on paper but alters slightly with the art, where it’s facing and how it’s all put together.  All of them are freaking gorgeous.  With a dedicated wine cellar near the pool, you don’t even need to go out on safari to have a good time.  Except if you’re a recovering alcoholic, then you probably want to go out.  All their vehicles are electric, which warms the heart, and your bottom from the heated seats.  The biggest issue is the shared land – you need a geography teacher and lawyer to figure out where you can travel.

What else?

I’m always happy to admit I don’t know everything and haven’t been everywhere – I stay well clear of yo mummas house.  So here’s a few that I believe could make the list, had I bothered to visit them or, in the case of Sirai House, allowed to see it.

Sirai House

It looks great.  Their beach property is excellent.  I’d love to tell you more about it and how it offers competition to Arijiju and Lengishu House, but they don’t want me to.

Singita Castleton

Ok, so this is the real OG of Singita.  It’s the former home of the grandfather of the founder of Singita.  It reminds me of that famous quote from Denholm Reynholm: “When I first started Reynholm Industries, I had just two things in my possession a dream.  and six million pounds”.  Probably helped get things going.

Singita Kataza House

This did not exist when I was gorilla trekking in 2018.  I said five years ago that gorilla trekking was amazing, it was a once-in-a-lifetime event, I’m glad I did it, but I’m done.  Yet here we are five years later and I’m returning in 2024, this time to Kataza House.

Tarkuni Homestead

The exclusive use property in Tswalu.  I was recently here, but the villa was booked, so we’ll all have to assume it deserves to be on this list.

Africa House, Royal Malewane

Royal Portfolio are in the same conservancy as Kubili House but offer three very distinct products across their lodges: Royal Malewane, Farmstead and Waterside Inn, with private villa options called Africa House, The Farmhouse and Waterside House respectively.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 1st Jun '23

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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