Making it up as you go along is part of the allure of checking into an exclusive-use property, so what are you waiting for? From milestone birthday bashes to multi-generation family reunions, pick your private paradise. By Jane Broughton
These hand-picked villas in some of South Africa’s most idyllic locations are hard to beat when it comes to life’s true luxuries – masses of space, complete privacy, and flexibility to tweak and plan every aspect of your precious downtime with family or friends.
The Villa at Grootbos, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
It’s not as if staying at one of the two lodges in this private nature reserve is second prize. Groves of gnarled milkwoods, pristine fynbos and glorious ocean views set the scene for a luxurious getaway that is as action packed or as lazy as you choose, enhanced by perceptive service and inspired cuisine paired to local wines. What the villa offers is all this, just with more space (1000 square metres), more staff, complete privacy for parties of up to 12, and its own landing strip. It also comes with a private guide and vehicle, always at the ready to take you on one of the many adventures in nature that make Grootbos such a desirable year-round destination. Activities range from fynbos safaris, nature walks and horse riding to shark cage diving off Dyer Island, boat-based whale watching, and exploring archeologically rich sea caves and long, deserted beaches. Camouflaged in the fynbos, you wouldn’t know that the villa existed unless someone pointed it out. Once inside its contemporary, art-filled interiors, uninterrupted views of the rugged Overberg coastline, known for its prolific marine diversity, ancient history and shipwrecks, draw you outdoors to that mesmerising, misty view.
Villa Two, Ellerman House, Bantry Bay
One of two luxury villas on the same ocean-view property as Ellerman House, the privately staffed Villa Two offers all the benefits of being attached to a small hotel (access to the spa, gym, restaurant, phenomenal wine and art collections) with the advantage of living like a local in one of Cape Town’s most exclusive residential enclaves. It’s a quick drive to Table Mountain’s lower cable way station, within walking distance of Clifton’s four wind-free beaches, and minutes from the city centre and V&A Waterfront. Carved into the mountainside below Lion’s Head, the three-bedroom villa is built on multiple levels with an entertainer’s kitchen and living spaces that lead to an infinity pool and Atlantic Ocean views. A sculptural spiral staircase links the villa to an interactive wine gallery – it’s exclusive to in-house guests – with enormous collections of rare wines and a Dom Perignon cellar.
Melton Manor, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Eastern Cape
Spanning 22,000 hectares in the Great Fish River valley, Kwandwe is proof that game viewing in the Eastern Cape has the same wow factor of more high-profile reserves further north – just without the crowds. With four lodges in remote locations and a maximum of 44 guests on the reserve at any given time, it feels as if you have the euphorbia and aloe-covered hills to yourself. And it’s malaria free. Meaning ‘place of the blue crane’ in Xhosa, the reserve is a conservation victory – former farmland restored to pristine wilderness – and provides regular sightings of all the predators, big cats and plains game along with more unusual porcupine, aardwolf and aardvark.
Melton Manor, along with Uplands Homestead (an original 1905 farmhouse for six), is an exclusive-use lodge with four suites that includes a private butler, chef, ranger and tracker so that you can tailor make your days in the bush depending on the age of your kids, your interests, and the season. Besides twice daily game drives, bush walks, and impromptu picnic lunches and sundowners overlooking the river, are all possible. Back at the house, kids can paint, bake, and safely play games on the lawn as the lodge is fenced.
The Homestead at Oldenburg, Banghoek Valley, Stellenbosch
A winning location for lovers of good food and wine, this 200-year-old farmhouse in a private vineyard is not only midway between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, it is within strolling distance of the tasting room at Oldenburg Vineyards. An inviting eat-in kitchen, leading outdoors onto an oak-shaded terrace, is conducive to cooking and entertaining at home with estate wines and gourmet ingredients picked up at one of the weekend markets in the vicinity. At least a dozen top-end restaurants are within easy driving distance, each specialising in farm-to-table menus showcasing the best of the Cape paired to excellent wines. Elegant and filled with natural light, the house has been carefully restored to create a sleek, neutral backdrop against which the owners’ eclectic collection of art, heirloom treasures and locally sourced furniture, are artfully displayed.
Kurland Villa, Kurland Hotel and Polo Estate, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay
Halfway between the beautiful beaches of Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley, Kurland makes a fine base from which to explore the Garden Route. Besides the hotel, which has gracious country living down to a fine art, there is also the private residence of Peter and Dianne Behr to hire. Bordered by indigenous forests in the foothills of the Tsitsikamma Mountains, it offers a secluded, authentic taste of farm life without skimping on luxury or creature comforts. With a pizza oven, wine cellar and private spa facilities, parents will be happy, while everything about this sophisticated home is kid friendly. The hotel is within walking distance for lavish afternoon teas on the veranda, candle-lit dinners, horses and quad bikes for exploring the farm, tennis, a games room and a spa are on your doorstep. But when it’s peace and privacy you crave the Cape Dutch-style house is your castle – the main house has five bedrooms and an adjoining wing has three bedrooms – ideal for giving teens, au pairs or grandparents extra privacy.