As villa rentals expand into more adventurous locales, it's becoming easier to find houses in New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and northern and southern Africa. Sun-seekers are discovering beach resorts such as Trancosa, Brazil, and Uruguay's Punta del Este. Each location has its own set of standards and amenities. In Sri Lanka, for example, houses are fully staffed, right down to the security guards. In Morocco, you will most likely take over a riad (equivalent to a bed-and-breakfast) and the staff that comes with it. South African properties are sometimes like mini safari lodges, equipped with guides and trackers.
Seasonz Travel, best known for its collection of luxe New Zealand retreats (Huka Lodge, Kauri Cliffs), also rents private lodges in the country (as well as islands, such as Great Mercury).
Ampersand Travel, a London-based agency, has a villa collection in Sri Lanka that includes lakeside bungalows, Balinese-style beachfront houses, and restored 18th-century merchant homes, all of which are fully staffed.
Unique Properties & Events doesn't advertise and doesn't list any details of its 120 properties in 35 countries (including Brazil, Morocco, and Kenya). Instead, the company prepares presentations, based on the specifications of each client.
New York's Villas & Apartments Abroad appeals to demanding high-end travelers. The company places clients in houses throughout Australia, Thailand, South Africa, the Seychelles, and Europe.
Sanctuare, synonymous with over-the-top private retreats, has a portfolio that includes Richard Branson's Necker Island and Kasbah Tamadot, his Arabian Nights fantasy in Morocco.
Also worth a look Abercrombie & Kent
Under $5,000 a week
Villa Dubu, Galle, Sri Lanka A 200-year-old two-bedroom Javanese-style house with colonial furnishings, large wraparound veranda, infinity pool, and full staff (chef, pool boys, security). Ampersand Travel; $3,500 a week.
Mill Creek, Queenstown, New Zealand Glass-enclosed estate on the edge of Lake Haye, with two bedrooms, a bunk room for kids, and two dining rooms; high-speed Internet and fireplace are included. Seasonz Travel; $8,500 a week.
Bush Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa Three-bedroom house on a 73,000-acre reserve bordering Botswana; comes with full staff and daily safaris (including guide). Villas & Apartments Abroad; $17,500 a week.
Alfajiri Cliff Villa, Mombasa, Kenya Four-bedroom villa on a private reserve overlooking the Indian Ocean; includes an 18-member staff, massage and reflexology treatments, boat for snorkeling, and car service. Abercrombie & Kent; $28,000 a week.
Sky's the Limit
Motu Tane, South Pacific Private island retreat (10 minutes by boat from Bora Bora) of thatched-roof bungalows with stylish Tahitian-inspired interiors by Christian Liaigre; includes 13 bedrooms, boat, and full staff. Sanctuare; $210,000 a week.