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Private Safari Experiences Not Limited to the Rich and Famous!

April 29, 2014 Travel Deals No Comments Email Email

So you’ve done the Tuscan villa, the French gîte, the cabin in Aspen –what next? For the growing numbers of tourists favouring privacy and exclusivity, a private villa on a South African game reserve is a great alternative to scheduled, packaged tours.

For the foreign tourists who prefer to “do their own thing”, South Africa’s multitude of game reserves and national parks offer a wide range of options where guests can set their own timetables and choose to cater for themselves, or have a private chef look after their culinary tastes.

With accommodation ranging from fully-serviced luxury safari lodges, where privacy and exclusivity are the order of the day, to tented camps and no-frills chalets, and South Africa’s diverse scenic beauty – from seaside to winelands to unspoilt bushscapes – the possibilities really are endless.

And the upmarket options aren’t reserved just for celebrities and reclusive tycoons. Families, friends travelling together, and even corporate groups are joining the worldwide trend against bland packaged holidays, overcrowded resorts and the rigid schedules of coach tours cooped up in a bus with total strangers.

They’re choosing more home-like locations, as opposed to separate hotel rooms, where they can socialise and relax together, and they want the flexibility of planning their own itineraries, especially when travelling with children. In addition to exclusivity, these holidays tend to offer great value too.198553_num721438_600x600

The malaria-free Eastern Cape province of South Africa is ideal for families travelling with children, with no need for anti-malaria medication, and the region’s many game reserves often offer special programmes for children including earlier meal-times and shorter game-drives, as well as the sought-after private and self-catering accommodation options.

Lalibela Game Reserve, situated between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth and a stone’s throw from the Eastern Cape’s Sunshine Coast, has recently opened a luxury self-catering villa to cater for families and groups wanting more privacy and flexibility.

“We are pretty relaxed and flexible anyway, but we’re finding that big groups travelling together want not only flexibility but also to hang out together and set their own pace,” said Lalibela marketing head Vernon Wait.

The advantage of the private villa includes a dedicated game ranger who will take guests on game drives and guided walking safaris through the Big 5 reserve at times that suit them – and they can return back to base as and when they wish.

“We loved having the place to ourselves, doing our own thing in our own time, and having a private ranger meant we could tailor our game-drives to what we wanted to see – one day focused on birds and insects, and the next tracking down cheetah, and one day we spent more than an hour just watching hippo wallowing, because we didn’t have to worry about other guests wanting to move on to see other things,” said Tina Jones of Cornwall, after her extended UK and South African family had recently spent a week-long reunion at Lalibela.

For Canadian doctor Tim Booth and his family, the beauty of the private lodge was “feeling like we owned a small piece of the African bush, even if only for a few days”.

While for many people a holiday means getting out of the kitchen and having someone else do the cooking, Booth said he’d relished the opportunity shop for local produce and show off the culinary skills learnt through years of cooking as a hobby.

The villa at Lalibela offers guests the option of running their own kitchen and meal-times, or having a chef come in to prepare their choice of meals.

Surrounded by natural bush and overlooking a waterhole, the private villa sleeps up to ten people in five en-suite double/twin safari tents connected by walkways, with a swimming pool, open air dining deck, kitchen and a braai (barbeque) area.

“Booking the lodge for a large group makes sense, as the rate is much less than for individual bookings, and we’ve had great response already from families as well as small corporate groups looking for an executive break-away,” Wait said.

More about Lalibela Game Reserve:

Lalibela is a Big 5 game reserve on the Eastern Cape coast of South Africa, 90km east of Port Elizabeth, the nearest airport. In addition to the Big 5 (lion, rhino, elephant, leopard & buffalo), the 7 500 ha (about 18 500 acres) reserve is home to other predators such as cheetah, hyena, jackal and lynx, as well as numerous plains animals including giraffe, zebra, warthog, impala, wildebeest, blesbok and various other antelope species. Overlooking indigenous bush and watering holes, accommodation is in a luxury tented camp and cosy safari lodges. The reserve is known for its relaxed informality and warm hospitality, with buffet meals enjoyed at communal tables or under the stars in an outside dining boma.

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