It’s been said that South Africa has some of the most incredible resorts in the world, and according to the latest Condé Nast Traveler readers choice awards, it’s not just all talk!
Johannesburg, South Africa – For their 33rd annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey, hundreds and thousands of registered Condé Nast Traveler voters weighed in on their favourite resorts in the world… and 8 of them are right here in South Africa!
The Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards are the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry.
“Our 33rd Readers’ Choice Awards represent the first time that you, the voters, made your picks when almost no one was traveling. So the names in this year’s edition are the ones that brought you comfort, that you still connected with long afterward, that got you through the months without travel. These are the enduring gems that can withstand the test of time and the vicissitudes of circumstances. So while it is always an honor to be on this list, in this strangest of years it is a special honor, indeed. Many readers have told us that when we emerge from this pandemic, they want to turn their attention to the classics, whether that means personal favorites or places they know have brought joy to others. If that sounds like you, consider these lists a jumping-off point for what’s next.”
Here are the South African resorts that global trotters most loved most this year.
Number 44 – Phinda Private Game Reserve
This 70,560-acre private game reserve sits in northern KwaZulu-Natal, not far from the Indian Ocean on the east coast of South Africa, and features multiple andBeyond lodges on site: Phinda Forest Lodge, Phinda Mountain Lodge, Phinda Rock Lodge, Phinda Vlei Lodge, Phinda Zuka Lodge, and Phinda Homestead. At Phinda Rock Lodge, expansive views of the surrounding ecosystem from all of the six suites with private plunge pools provide the perfect opportunity to view the Big Five from afar. Meals are served on an open deck—a classic way to take in sundowners and listen to the forest’s percussive sounds, like the chatter of monkeys or the chirping of red Tonga squirrels.
Number 43 – Tintswalo Safari Lodge
Sharing a border with the renowned Kruger National Park, the luxurious Tintswalo Safari Lodge (located on the private Manyeleti Game Reserve) is one of our readers’ favorite places to view wildlife in South Africa. The suites are decorated with rich, Persian rugs, canopied beds, clawfoot tubs, and thatched terraces with private plunge pools that overlook the reserve’s watering hole. When you’re not on a game drive, freshen up with a complimentary spa treatment or go stargazing with local Shangaan guides.
Number 40 – The Bushcamp Company
One of the best of the Bushcamp Company properties, Bilimungwe earns top marks for its location in the southern part of Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. Hippos and elephants are known to wander up to the many watering holes and lagoons adjacent to the camp, while leopards prowl by the Luangwa River that runs near the accommodations. Bilimungwe’s four chalets feel more like treehouses than traditional lodges, but are luxurious, with mahogany furniture, open-air waterfall showers, and colorful textiles, plus private decks from which to see even more game. The team of excellent guides can take you on walking tours in the morning, game drives in the afternoon, or any combination of the two.
Number 36 – Londolozi
Situated within 6 million acres of pristine wilderness, Londolozi has been owned and run by the Varty family for over 90 years. The word londolozi comes from the Zulu language and means “protector of all living things.” Once endorsed by Nelson Mandela, who described it as “a dream I cherish for a model of nature preservation in our country,” it’s one of the best places in the world to see leopards in the wild. Some of Londolozi’s most popular features are its state-of-the-art photographic studio and its Healing House. Breeding herds of elephant and buffalo roam throughout Londolozi, while white rhino and lion concentrations are among the highest on the African continent.
Number 33 – Lion Sands
Set on the banks of the Sabi River, this luxurious resort on 10,000 acres comprises four lodges and a family camp. Ivory Lodge rooms, done in ebony and ivory, have views of the reserve and its animals from private terraces with plunge pools, while the cream and beige rooms at River Lodge have freestanding tubs as well as indoor and outdoor showers. After viewing elephants and lions on open jeep drives, enjoy traditional boma dining. The unique treehouses couldn’t be more romantic—lit by lanterns, candles, the stars and the moon. After a picnic dinner, settle in for a night surrounded by the safely distant sounds of hippos, hyenas, leopards, and lions.
Number 27 – Royal Malewane
It can be hard to make the Greater Kruger National Park—a popular destination for safaris that cover an area the size of Wales—feel exclusive, private, and intimate. But Royal Malewane, in Thornybush Private Game Reserve, manages to achieve that (and then some) with just six Luxury suites, two Royal suites, and the palatial six-bedroom, private chef-included Africa House. Twice daily game drives are led by expert rangers far from Kruger’s crowds, which means you’re almost guaranteed to be able to check off the Big Five before you leave.
Number 17 – Singita Sabi Sands
Singita Sabi Sand includes three well-appointed options—Ebony Lodge, Castleton Camp, and Boulders Lodge—that provide an elegant base from which to bask in natural beauty of one of South Africa’s most renowned game reserves. Boulders Lodge was named after the ancient boulders strewn along the banks of the Sand River, and the rocks provided design inspiration for the resort, too. The 12 glass-fronted suites have artfully pared-down interiors, featuring fossilized tree stumps and other found objects; but you can still expect luxurious, colonial-style touches like private plunge pools and four-poster beds. But the main draw here is, of course, the wildlife. Even when you aren’t on a guided game tour, you can experience African fauna at every turn, whether it’s seeing crocodiles from your deck or hearing hippos snorting outside your room at night.
Number 8 – Morukuru Family Beach Lodge
Say you’re more of a beach bum than a safari enthusiast—don’t worry, South Africa still has you covered. Head to the intimate five-suite Morukuru, about three hours east of Cape Town on the shore of the Indian Ocean. There are white sand beaches, of course, but also access to the De Hoop Nature Reserve with its zebra and bontebok and protected marine area. You can simply chill on the beach or by the lodge’s pool, but we’d suggest letting Morukuru’s friendly, attentive staff fill your day with game drives through the reserve, mountain biking, sandboarding, snorkeling, and more. (All activities, gear, and meals are included.) Plan your trip during South Africa’s winter (July-October) for prime southern white whale watching from shore, from the lodge’s restaurant, and even from your bed.
The 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards are published on Condé Nast Traveler’s website at www.cntraveler.com/rca and celebrated in the November issue of Condé Nast Traveler US and UK print editions.