Hotels

Heavenly Hotels - Africa

I call myself a hotel nerd, because I truly geek out when I see a beautiful property. To me the most delightful creations are properties that designers and creatives have put together to offer us travelers and the experiences that we can’t always have the luxury of living and seeing each day. So I’ve decided it’s time that I show you and inspire you, what I get excited about! I’ve selected just a handful of the African countries that I currently work with, that I am completely swooning over. Let the wanderlust run wild!

ZAMBIA - TONGABEZI LODGE

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I have news. I have found the love of my life. It’s a little complicated because Tongabezi is not a person but a place, but I’m sure we can make it work. Well, Tongabezi is gorgeous. The houses are individually styled with furniture and embellishments from all over Africa, ranging from stunning claw-foot bath tubs to tumbling sea-glass chandeliers. Tongabezi also makes all guests feel special since each room comes with a private valet to see to your every need and have bubble baths and champagne waiting for you when you get back from your adventures. And as for exciting, this exclusive spot is in Zambia and only twenty minutes from Livingstone, the adventure capital of the world. It is a short drive from the Victoria Falls, which is one of the natural wonders of the world. Tongabezi also sits right on the Zambezi river amongst the crocodiles, hippos and other safari life. 

Finally, Tongabezi wants to make the world a better place and actively works to make it so. The lodge is extremely eco-friendly, trains most of the staff up from the local villages, and even has its own trust school the Tongabezi Trust School, where over 250 local children get a free education. Who can blame me for losing my heart a little?

RWANDA - BISATE LODGE

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These thatched forest villas are a place that I dream of one day visiting- and staying in. A beautiful mix of traditional and modern decor will surround you in these special accommodations at the Bisate Lodge. In the common areas your gaze will be locked on the magnificent views of the nearby peaks, which you can see clearly from the floor to ceiling windows. Aside from falling in love with the property, the destination and the wildlife from this region, you will be committing to giving back while you’re there as well.

Bisate’s vision of reforestation and rehabilitation means that each guest contributes to biodiversity conservation and local community upliftment – making a far-reaching positive impact on an iconic endangered species: the mountain gorilla.

SOUTH AFRICA - ROYAL MALEWANE

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After staying at La Residence in Franschhoek, South Africa, my heart aches to stay at another property that is owned and designed by Liz Biden. I assure you, she’s poured her heart and soul into each of her properties and it does not go unnoticed. How right they were, when they decided to call their collection of hotels The Royal Portfolio. I’ll even go as far to say that with Liz’s love of design, combined with her husband and families focus on elevated hospitality, these are things that make them masters in the industry. When they say they want you to have a perfect stay, they mean it. Look no further if you’re ready for a delightful, dazzling, and true 5 star stay, at The Royal Malewane. They also won me over with their 3 Crowns of Sustainability, read more about it on their website! A Virtuoso property.

NAMIBIA - SHIPWRECK LODGE

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I can say this confidently- there’s no where else quite like the Shipwreck Lodge. Remote and rugged, completely unique and breathtaking! Head to this property that is backed by towering dunes, near the cold Atlantic for exploring the seal colony and surrounded by endless desert that is better known as the Skeleton Coast. The wildlife sightings are rare, but it’s a remarkable thing when you experience spotting these desert-adapted animals. You’ll have one of the 10 rooms available, but I think calling them rooms is a joke- look at these masterpieces in the photo above.

ZIMBABWE - BUMI HILLS SAFARI LODGE

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Endless game viewing options here! Well placed near the edge of the Kariba Lake and the lodge’s simple proximity to the Matusadona, this is a fabulous place to unpack and unwind and to truly take in the destination you’re staying at. And! Unlike other safari experiences you may have considered in the past, here you may also enjoy a safari done by boat. Cruise down the lake with your ranger and guide, who will share stories about the area as you pass by elephants that have stepped into the water nearby. Sunset cruises are the fan favorite at the Bumi Hills Safari Lodge.

SEYCHELLES - NORTH ISLAND

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Okay, game over folks. Someone has truly created the dream private island, with the dream property to go along with it. If I could thank the owner personally, for not putting as many rooms or villas around the island as possible, I would! This paradise has only eleven…yes 11, villas around the island. 10 of them are Presidential Villas and one is the Villa North Island, which covers 8,000 square feet- and this can only be booked by couples. If you’re ever one of these lucky couples, you will arrive in style, by helicopter of course. Which is only a 25 minute ride from the main island of Mahé.

It doesn’t stop there, for those more active and adventurous travelers, I’d recommend utilizing the North Island’s Dive Center. They offer full PADI tuition and certification. Sign me up! If you’re not so ready to dive into that, the snorkeling won’t disappoint. These unspoiled waters are sure to amaze you and your travel buddy. North Island - a Virtuoso property.

TANZANIA - SAYARI CAMP

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As a born and raised Oregonian, when people mention camping - my mind goes to s’mores, sleeping bags, evergreen trees and sleeping on the ground. Tent camping in Africa done right, will forever ruin you and there will be no possible way to go back to the original camping that you’ve most likely been doing your whole life. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the peacefulness and glorious night skies from your prime location in the remote northern Serengeti. By day you can either enjoy the views from the camp itself, in its lovely swimming pool, hop in the jeep for a game drive or take a walk with a ranger to experience things on foot. Note: glamping also requires really fabulous food and high end service. You won’t be homesick while enjoying your stay at the Sayari Camp.

Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa - Johannesburg

Usually when I start a story with “I felt like I was in a movie!” I mean more of the comedy type. This was something else entirely. After a 30 minute drive from the Johannesburg airport, a quick check in with the gate guards, my driver took me up the driveway, through groves of trees, branches hugging each other overhead making the most lovely of entrances. I leaned forward in my seat, peaking ahead, ready to take in the first glimpse of the Saxon. I believe I said “holy…moly.” My driver said, “yes madam, it’s one very beautiful place, I think you will enjoy yourself.” Please read that last quote with the sweetest South African accent possible. Even he was smiling when he said it. 

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I arrived early in the morning and the hotel was quiet. I sat out on their terrace waiting for my room to be ready, sipping cup after cup of wonderful coffee. Mostly just because I could and I also knew I would need the energy when trying not to nap later. The staff had come by a second time, asking me if I was sure I didn't want a blanket or a heater nearby my table. I laughed because the weather was absolute perfection. Just a light crispness was still hanging in the air, but you could tell the day was still just heating up. For them, the locals...this was chilly! 

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I did a quick 30 minute work out in their beautiful gym, which is not how I would describe the gym I go to normally. Afterwards, I walked passed their pool, which tempted me to take off my sneakers right there and to just jump in. I resisted and checked into my suite. Yes, you heard that right, because The Saxon is an all suite hotel. Each of them have a sitting area with large over stuffed chairs, a desk, a terrace or balcony, large king size beds and the bathroom of your dreams. At least the bathroom of my dreams! 

With this property having a fabulous spa, two restaurants, a bar, the swanky cigar lounge and several different outdoor seating options...I can see why people may just want to add an extra night here to enjoy the hotel and all that it has to offer. 

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Though you can get a little bit of an idea of what the hotel and it's gorgeous grounds are like from my photos, what I would really like to shine some light on, is the service level of the hotel. Whoever trains the staff at the Saxon, they do a vey good job, it's something that really stuck with me after I left the hotel. I was always asked if I needed anything, asked if they could assist me with my bags, they even asked if they could carry my drink from breakfast back to my room for me. These genuine and warm smiles from the staff made me settle in very quickly. Staying in a hotel like this, it could easily go on the stuffy side of things, but the servers, the front desk agents, the room attendants, they are the ones to bring life to this property. 

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I know some interior designers that would go absolutely crazy for these details- crazy in a good way of course!

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The breakfast- which I remember being very annoyed that I wasn't hungry enough to fully enjoy!

The breakfast- which I remember being very annoyed that I wasn't hungry enough to fully enjoy!

This was the first hotel that I stayed at during my time in South Africa. I specifically remember saying to my mom on skype, that this was either the best start to a really good vacation or the worst start, because how could other hotels be as fabulous as this one was to me?! I look forward to sending clients to this hotel and I am confident that they will be well taken care of, just as I was. 

Dubious about Dubrovnik

I wasn't sure I was going to love it, but I was open minded. As the hotel lobby doors slid open, I began walking straight to the back side of the lobby, to where the floor to ceiling windows beckoned me forward. I was halfway there when I realized I hadn't even unloaded my big bag yet, so the view would have to wait just a few more minutes. I decided to quickly check into my room and then go and take the view in afterwards. Fast forward to me running across my room to my balcony, clumsily dropping my bags just past the door when I entered.

From my balcony this was the view to the left of the hotel -->

And this was my view to the right-->

And this was my view to the right-->

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This was the moment that I realized I had overthought things. I completely overthought the fact of what makes this city wonderful-and I hadn't even been inside the city walls yet! I would look passed the crowds, the tourist shops and appreciate what the city is and how it still stands. It's like when people tell me they didn't enjoy Rome...how can you not appreciate Rome?! 

Dubrovnik surprised me. It gave me joy to wander it's streets and it really made me think about the old way of life here. It also made me walk with extreme care- those darn streets are slick, I can't imagine what it's like when it rains there! Something I also underestimated was how big the walls of the town were. I urge you to read up on the history of the walls before heading up to walk the length of them and to circle around the city. They've withstood a great deal and a trip to Dubrovnik requires a walk around on it's walls!

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Get yourself to Croatia during the shoulder seasons (April-May and September to November). Timing your travels can save you money and sanity as I tell my clients! My trip was in October and we truly lucked out with the weather, it was phenomenal. I had packed boots, sweaters, tights and even scarves! What I really needed was good shoes, light pants or a dress and just a cardigan. In the evenings it cooled off, but we still sat out in the squares, enjoying taking our time, ordering dessert just because we were on vacation and a bottle of wine, because we had no where to be! 

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In the evenings it cooled off, but just barely. We took to the stairs which lead us to the next level of the city and walked the alleyway of restaurants that flowed into the walkways. We went from restaurant to restaurant, reading the menus and waiting until we found the one that most appealed to us. We enjoying taking our time, ordering a local bottle of wine, finishing it slowly- after all, we had nowhere to be! Then somehow we always made room for dessert, our excuse for that, was that we were on vacation (calories don't count). Slow travel is the cool, new, hip thing to enjoy, so slip your phone into your purse, sit back in your seat and take in your surroundings. 

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I do wish I had made some time to kayak around in the area. The water is absolutely gorgeous and each day we saw groups of kayakers out and about in the area. 

Some of my favorite photos of the town, yes, two of them involve cats! Croatian cats!

Some of my favorite photos of the town, yes, two of them involve cats! Croatian cats!

The photo below was just nearing the end of our time on the walls, which was as the sun was setting, the light was fantastic. We saw the people from the Windstar cruises getting back in line to head back to their boat for the night. Things really quieted down in the evenings. Apart from the guitarists that take their stand outside of the restaurants and sing love songs to the patrons, hoping for a little tip to be thrown in their hat after each song. 

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I'll end this post with a little game, something that you must find when traveling to Dubrovnik. If you find the strange and oddly placed gargoyle, which is set just a couple of feet off of the ground and on an old wall, here is your challenge: 

You must stand on the gargoyle, facing toward he wall, keep your balance! And take your shirt off. Call me crazy, but legend has it that if you can pull this off, luck in love will follow. Though I'd like to mention that I do wonder when the whole "take your shirt off" thing was added into the legend... 

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