A crop of new lodges in Mozambique, the Kalahari Desert, and Ethiopia are opening up some of the continent’s most remote corners and bringing in an unprecedented level of style.
It's a mere 10-minute helicopter ride, over coral-reef-strewn turquoise waters, from Vilankulo Airport to the pale-pink-tinged sands of Mozambique’s Benguerra Island. The star of this 21-square-mile marine national park is the new andBeyond property (pictured below) of the same name (from $695 per person per night, all-inclusive). Each of the 13 suites and villas has its own infinity pool and beachside gazebo, with a low-key safari-lodge vibe that does away with kids’ clubs and fussy dinners. Spend days on a catamaran cruise, horseback riding on the beach, or snorkeling at Two Mile Reef, where you can see tropical fish, turtles, and the endangered, manatee-like dugong. When the tide is low, whiz over for a picnic on Pansy Island, a sandbar covered in seashells.
Tswalu (pictured at top) has long offered a different sort of far-flung escape in South Africa’s untrammeled sliver of the Kalahari (from $926 per person per night, including meals and activities). It’s owned by the Oppenheimer family, who made their fortune in the diamond business. The luxury camp sleeps only 18, meaning you get the private, 250,000-acre game reserve,with its red sand dunes and quartzite hills, practically all to yourself. Now, travelers can also stay at the Oppenheimers’ former home, Tarkuni. Set away from the main property, it has five suites and its own spa, library, and full staff. On guided outings (in a 4 x 4 or on horseback), you’ll see Kalahari lions, cheetahs, meerkat colonies, and (if you’re lucky) the rare black rhino. It’s a seven-hour drive from Johannesburg to this part of the desert, so book the family’s Pilatus jet instead—it cuts the travel time to just 90 minutes.
In Ethiopia, the Limalimo Lodge, which opens early next year, will be the first upscale property to come to the slopes of Simien Mountains National Park, a unesco World Heritage site that could be called Africa’s Grand Canyon (doubles from $300, including meals and activities). Gelada baboons (pictured above) and Ethiopian wolves roam the sheer peaks, wooded gullies with waterfalls, and deep gorges. Guests who stay in the 12-room property pay a conservation fee that benefits the African Wildlife Foundation. Come for mountain hiking, biking, and camping out under the stars, along with visits to historic rural villages, yoga lessons, and traditional foot massages.