I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: Africa is the most exciting luxury destination in the world right now. The influx of investment in infrastructure, new flight routes, ground breaking conservation projects, and increased attention from the international media are putting the countries of East and Southern Africa in particular on the tourism map. And in 2019, some absolutely extraordinary new properties are scheduled to open. Not only are they incredibly luxurious, but they’re imaginative, too, and will open up new areas of the continent for the most discerning of visitors.
These are the five openings I’m awaiting with great anticipation this year.
Jao Camp, Botswana (opening June 2019)
Jao Camp is set in the heart of the Okavango Delta, with trees shading the seven stunning tents. The resort perfectly mirrors the beauty of the surrounding wildlife and landscapes in all its natural glory, and when it reopens after a complete refurbishment in June, I have no doubt it will be one of the very best places to stay in Botswana.
What I love about this place is that the natural world is omnipresent and utterly magical. Be sure to have dinner with your loved ones underneath the open sky, as come nightfall it is lit with the brightest stars you have ever seen. Continuing with the night sky theme, you can then sleep outside in a star bed, falling asleep to the gentle squawking and grunting of birds and animals, and awaking with the first light of the sun.
Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia (opening October 2019)
Sossusvlei Desert Lodge boasts the most extraordinary setting in Namibia, seemingly floating between the sand dunes and the mountains. Miles from any form of human habitation, it will be the ultimate wilderness escape.
The landscape here is nature’s adventure playground. Hiking or driving in this part of the Namib Desert you will certainly see ostrich, antelope, and jackal, and nothing beats the adrenaline hit of racing across the dunes by quad bike.
One & Only Gorilla’s Nest, Rwanda (opening late 2019)
Without doubt, Rwanda is going to be one of the hottest destinations for 2019. This tiny country is an absolute jewel, and the opening of the One & Only Gorilla Nest by the end of the year will cement its reputation for luxury tourism.
One & Only Gorilla Nest is nestled at the foothill of the Virunga Volcano Range, one of the last places in the world where you can still see the endangered mountain gorilla in the wild. Gorilla tracking permits are exceptionally limited in number — making it one of the most sought after wildlife encounters around — but spending a few hours with a habituated family group in the forest is something you’ll never forget.
Tengile River Lodge, South Africa (opened December 2018)
Technically, Tengile River Lodge is a 2018 opening, but as it threw open its doors at the very end of the year, I still wanted to include it in this round up. The camp is located near the unfenced border of the Kruger National Park, so it benefits from some of the very best game watching in Africa.
Each of Tengile’s nine air-conditioned, thatched cottages has a private deck and its own lap pool. The cottages seem as if they are floating on the river, and indeed the sound of the water — mixed with the animal noises of the bush — will be your relaxing nightly lullaby.
Mbano Manor Hotel, Zimbabwe (opening early 2019)
Victoria Falls has long been the epicentre of tourism in Zimbabwe, but in the last year or so the town has been getting a major upgrade, with some fabulous property openings nearby. I’m delighted to find out that there will be a new boutique property, Mbano Manor Hotel, opening in the first part of this year. With its 19 beautifully appointed suites, I’ll certainly be recommending it to guests visiting Victoria Falls on a short break, and perhaps also to relax at the end of a thrilling Zimbabwean safari.
I always get a buzz of excitement visiting somewhere for the first time, and that feeling is only amplified when I know that I’m also one of the first guests through the door. Everything is fresh and novel, and the enthusiastic staff want to show everything off. Will you be a travel pioneer this year?
Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive. Africa Exclusive has been creating the finest tailor-made safaris since 1990, specialising in luxurious accommodation in beautiful remote places.