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This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.

With such a wealth of wildlife to see across Africa, it's easy to forget that the continent also has the kind of awe-inspiring natural grandeur that in any other place would be the main draw. The wide expanses of the Masai Mara, the shores of the Indian Ocean in South Africa, the ocher deserts of Namibia, the vertiginous drama of Victoria Falls — any one of these places would captivate the world even without the scores of fantastical creatures nearby. That's why the best resorts in Africa, which center on relaxing amid this stunning scenery, feel so special — they put the focus on slowing down and just being still, 6 a.m. game drive optional. 

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

The properties on this year's list of the best resort hotels in Africa, as voted by readers, have plenty of on-property amenities to keep you entertained, plus natural settings that ensure your chaise lounge will always have a great view. At No. 3 the Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara, you're right on the shores of the Zambezi River, and there's not a bad seat in the house: the balcony bistro tables, spa rooms, poolside loungers, hammock swings, and restaurant seating all face the waterway. And it's clear travelers take note of this prime location. "Views of the Zambezi and the roar of the falls are amazing," wrote one reader of the property. Another mentioned that it's the "best place for gin sundowners on the banks of the river." Voters also highlighted the resort's high-tea experience, as well as the team of staff butlers, who ensure no whim goes unindulged.

A pool at Matetsi Victoria Falls
Credit: Courtesy of Matetsi Victoria Falls

No. 2 the Oyster Box offers a different kind of water view: the Indian Ocean, along South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal coastline near Durban. The resort's 86 rooms, suites, and villas are individually decorated, but share a certain throwback appeal. Details like plantation shutters, floral-brocade upholstery, and vintage botanical prints feel traditional, not trendy, and give the resort a sense of gravitas and refinement. But it's the service that shines, readers said. "We visit a few times every year and have never experienced anything less than the absolute best," wrote one reader. "We love this place, and their team is like family." Another called it "undoubtedly the most exquisite hotel and spa in South Africa." One thing is certain: it's impossible to feel an ounce of stress while reclining on one of the red-and-white-striped poolside loungers, looking out at the Umhlanga Lighthouse and the ocean beyond.

Read on for the scoop on our first-place winner and the full list of the best resort hotels in Africa.

1. Matetsi Victoria Falls,  Matetsi Private Game Reserve, Zimbabwe

Interior of Matetsi Victoria Falls
Credit: Courtesy of Matetsi Victoria Falls

If fresh, breezy design and killer views are what you're after, look no further than our first-place winner, Matetsi Victoria Falls, which one T+L reader praised as "simply stunning in every way." The property's 18 suites and two villas sit on a nine-mile stretch of land overlooking the Zambezi River, just 25 miles from the splendor of Victoria Falls. The prime location, which one guest called simply "heaven on earth," is a gateway to all the activities of river and falls, including whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, ziplining, fishing, and canoeing. For those after a less high-octane experience, there's a full roster of spa treatments, from body wraps to mani-pedis, along with a library stocked with books and games for unwinding on site. The 136,000-acre Matetsi Private Game Reserve has plenty of wildlife should you want to go for a game drive, ATV excursion, or guided bush walk, but after sampling the elevated fare from the resort's team of Zimbabwean chefs, you may be tempted to spend your days poolside, recovering from your food coma. Even in the bush, the Matetsi team goes above and beyond. "Entering a clearing with a natural waterhole we were surprised by a beautiful setting, our lunch table set up under a tree," said one T+L reader. "Our food was delicious, the service superb. And this was the standard for the rest of our trip — Matetsi Magic!" For this year's voters, that stellar service made a major impression. "The most remarkable part of the experience at Matetsi was the warmth and professionalism of the team there," wrote one T+L reader. "The management team goes above and beyond in serving clients, and this ethos permeates throughout the hotel," another enthused. "Even the lady who gave me my COVID test for my flight was top-notch." These days, that's perhaps the ultimate indicator of flawless hospitality.

Score: 97.50
More information: matetsivictoriafalls.com

2. The Oyster Box, Umhlanga Rocks, South Africa

Presidential suite at The Oyster Box
Credit: Courtesy of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection

Score: 96.85
More information: oysterboxhotel.com

3. The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara, Livingtone, Zambia

The Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara Presidential Suite
Credit: Courtesy of The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara

Score: 91.20
More information: anantara.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021.