New African Experiences

Elephants South Africa Safari - 04linz/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Photo by 04linz/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

The Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation has a unique collection of art, including the woman reflecting on “all she sees.”

The Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation has a unique collection of art, including the woman reflecting on “all she sees.”

From exploring the wild Serengeti to connecting with history in South Africa, here are some new and rediscovered ways for A-listers to experience the destination.

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This year will be the first safari season for Roving Bushtops, which is quite different from its sister locations, Mara Bushtops and Serengeti Bushtops. Note: Roving Bushtops is on wheels so it can move to follow the great migration, however, guests stay stationary a majority of the time; the camp only changes location if the animals drastically alter their course. Bottom Line? Travelers will most likely find themselves at the camp’s base location at Seronera in Central Serengeti, not far from Moru Kopjes (a highlight of the region). Getting there is easy; it’s only a 20-minute game drive from Seronera Airstrip with flights landing from Kogatende, Lake Manyara, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. 

Once at the camp, guests can choose from the six tents, four of which are “doubles” for families, while two are recommended for honeymooners. Hint: All the tents can be converted to become family units, and during the day their canvas walls can be opened to provide panoramic views. We like the idea of doing the ultimate family reunion and booking all six tents at once. With more than 1,000 square feet of space, each has a king-size bed and an en-suite bathroom, with the shower opening up to the Savannah. There is also a hot tub on the open, wood deck of each “rover,” as well as loungers and a dining room table. One extra bed can be added to any tent, which can also be pushed together to create a larger living area. Note: All tents have wheelchair access. There’s also 24/7 butler service, which could come in pretty handy around sunset when you’re yearning for a cocktail in that hot tub.

Elephants, wildebeests and lions can be seen from the camp. To get a closer look, guests can also opt for private game drives and bush picnics. Another option includes a hot-air balloon ride; one package provides guests with transfers, a pre-flight briefing, about an hour’s trip in the balloon and a bush-style brunch — complete with champagne. We think honeymooners or significant others looking to pop the question will love this.

Roving Bushtops Camp will enter its first season in 2016 with a total of six tents.

Roving Bushtops Camp will enter its first season in 2016 with a total of six tents.

After a day out in the bush, travelers will want a hearty meal. The dining tent will serve dishes on an à la carte basis, which will include Tanzanian specialties and four courses. We suggest sampling the Swahili vegetable platter and Mishkaki with Biryani sauce and sweet potato fondant. Visitors should also treat themselves to homemade mango sorbet. Couples will like the opportunity to eat in the privacy of their tent or at a special meal under the bright, starry sky. Note: Dietary restrictions can be accommodated.

The best time to visit Roving is from November to April, but keep in mind the rainfall predominantly occurs in November, April and May. Tip for advisors: Pitch this safari to your eco-conscious travelers as it doesn’t have a carbon footprint and is fitted with flexible, lightweight solar panels. To book a stay, contact Claudia Stuart ([email protected]).

Bushtops Camps is running a three-day, three-night photography tour at Mara and Serengeti camps this summer. The course is led by award-winning photographer Mark Gee. Amateur and professional photographers will be able to capture wildlife photography on safari drives during the day, and then, at night, they will turn their camera toward the sky to capture the natural stars. The class will be held at Mara Bushtops this June and at Serengeti Bushtops in July.

The Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation’s living room (here) and pool terrace (below) are both places where guests can relax. The pool looks over a private water hole, while the living room has a fireplace.Luxury Travel Advisor is excited to report that a very special experience has opened in South Africa. Located in the heart of the Waterberg Mountain Range, about a two-hour drive from Johannesburg, sits the Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation. The Centre was built for Nelson Mandela by his good friend, Douw Steyn in 2001. This was Mandela’s personal retreat where he hosted family and friends and often wrote uninterrupted. Built on the Shambala Private Game Reserve, the home was closed in 2013 after the former president’s death, but it reopened in 2015. Now, the Centre, which can accommodate up to 12 people, is available to rent out in its entirety. The home has six bedrooms, including the Presidential Suite where Mandela slept.

Pictured: The Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation’s living room and pool terrace (below) are both places where guests can relax. The pool looks over a private water hole, while the living room has a fireplace.

Each bedroom has its own en-suite bathroom, adding to the luxe feel. Families, especially children, will enjoy the undercover, heated pool, which overlooks a private waterhole (hello, animal sightings!). Note: Infants and toddlers can be accommodated, but it is advised they don’t attend safari activities.

The home’s décor is simple in design, playing off of Mandela’s taste, as well as the African setting. It has a thatched roof and its interiors are said to be inspired by Mandela’s childhood in Qunu, using neutral tones and fabrics. Though none of Mandela’s personal items are left in the home, the architecture and décor has not changed since his time there.

The large sitting room has a fireplace, which we hear Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton visited while at the house. Hint: Be sure to arrange for a tour of the home to get the full background on the Centre, then head out into the bush with your guide, either on foot or in vehicles.

Visitors will have a chance to see the “Big Five,” and, for an additional cost, they can book a “Big Five” interaction with a White Lion introduction. We also hear a must-do is a sundowner cruise on the Douw Steyn Dam, that’s a man-made reservoir named after the owner and founder of the Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa and the Shambala Private Game Reserve.

Included in the stay are meals prepared by a private chef, butler service and bush picnics. Contact Adam Beadon ([email protected]) to arrange a customized stay. For more information, visit www.centreforreconciliation.co.za; the home is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.

Just Opened: Leeu House

The intimate, 12-bedroom hotel in South Africa’s Franschhoek Valley opened last month with neutral, calm interiors and high-tech bedrooms (think media hubs, Nespresso coffee machines and heated bathroom floors). The whole venue feels like a relaxed, welcoming country house, thanks in part to the living room and its wood-burning fireplace and great views of the manicured gardens outside. Nice Touch: Visitors will want to take a dip in the 50-foot heated pool and relax on the terrace in the morning. In the afternoon, we suggest booking a bicycle to explore Franschhoek. Foodies will be happy to hear that the area is filled with award-winning restaurants, while our art aficionados will want to visit the nearby galleries and boutiques.

For dinner, Leeu House hands the control over to Chef Oliver Cattermole, who uses local produce for his creative dishes. Guests should order South African vintage wines for dinner or afterwards in the conservatory or on the terrace. Good to know: A spa opens here in June.

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All retreats include twice-daily yoga sessions, daily spa treatments and specially designed healthy “yogic menus” for breakfast, lunch and dinner.