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During times that are both challenging and not, serenity is sometimes nothing more than a state of mind that we can summon if we’re lucky.
If we’re really lucky, serenity can also be a place.
And when the time comes again, we’d like you to have it both ways. A serene frame of mind in a place that is beautiful and private.
Here’s a bird’s-eye look at 10 very private luxury African safari retreats, a mix of grand, exclusive use villas, homes, and camps — as well as a private island, French monastery, and bird’s nest thrown in for good measure — and the reasons why we love them.
What: On the eastern side of Laikipia in Kenya is a real gem hidden within the lush, private Borana Conservancy.
Why We Love It: Arijiju is a private home that embodies the majesty of a 12-century French monastery, its vaulted archways and stone passageways giving way to a landscaped courtyard flanked by three suites, with two more hidden in nearby olive groves. King-size beds, leather desks and indoor and outdoor showers are among the comforts here, and thoughtfully eclectic furnishings like copper bathtubs and Indian campaign desks are balanced by chandeliers, walk-in fireplaces and other grand touches. A terraced pool, game room, library, spa, gym, yoga studio, and tennis and squash courts complete this oasis.
No small thing: If private helicopter is your vehicle of choice, you’re allowed to land one at Arijiju. And what’s accessible from Arijiju is mind boggling… you can spy millions of flamingos on the shores of Lake Bogoria, reach the giant sand dunes of Suguta Valley, the Samburu singing wells, or the montane forests of Mount Kenya. Or you might visit the elusive Pokot tribe, Reteti elephant orphanage, or Turkana Basin, the site of the excavations led by paleoanthropologists Richard and Maeve Leakey and their daughter Louise.
What: Ol Jogi Ranch is a luxury private retreat in the Kenyan bush that you can have all to yourself if you like.
Why We Love It: You can have the 58,000 acres of wildlife conservancy all to yourself, too, amid 300 or so rangers protecting myriad endangered species from 65 rhinos to 5,000 reticulated giraffe and 15% of the world’s remaining Grevy’s zebra population. And Ol Jogi is as like-minded as Micato about arranging insider experiences: A must-do at some point during your stay here is observing the “singing wells” of the nearby Samburu tribesmen.
What: Taking South African safari life to an unexpectedly posh and contemporary level, Cheetah Plains is a statement as much as it is a place, with three exclusive-use bushveld houses designed by celebrated South African architect Stefan Atoni.
Why We Love it: Its wildlife-rich location makes Cheetah Plains especially notable. It’s within the private Sabi Sand Game Reserve, bound by both Kruger National Park and Mala. The wow factors here are the sharply-renovated, scrupulously curated luxurious private homes, each an exquisite amalgam of timber, metal, and stone, with contemporary South African paintings and pieces of furniture that are themselves works of art. Each home has two lounges and a dining area, temperature-controlled wine cellars and outdoor pools, and private suites with their own private deck, double rain shower, and bathtub overlooking the bush, which you can explore in state-of-the-art electric vehicles. There’s also nearby airstrip accessible by private charter, from where whisper-quiet electric vehicles will whisk you to this oasis.
A private butler will tend your every want as will your chef, who will treat you to a private cooking demonstration or two if you like.
What: Kenya darling Segera Retreat has villas that are great and some that are even greater… here’s the skinny on the latter.
Why We Love It: Set up on the Laikipia Plateau, presided over by Mount Kenya, Segera Retreat is a lush oasis with a half dozen raised timber and thatch villas with private gardens that look out expansively at the surrounding savannah. And as worthy as these particular villas are, Segera has a few options that are even more lusciously exclusive: Segera House, with three ultra chic master suites, outdoor dining area and private pool; the Farmhouse, whose roomy ranch-like grandeur belies its modest name… a secluded lounge lit by firelight and a splendid kitchen are perfect spots for families looking to reconnect in style…
… and then there’s the Nay Palad Bird Nest.
Imagine just before sunset being led up a lantern-lit tower and reaching a very large open-air nest with luxe linen-covered beds replete with hot-water bottles. Spending the night under the stars, cosseted like a bird in a deliciously private, quiet nest… well, it’s a real rarity that even the most jaded customer will consider worthy of putting on Instagram. Though we recommend putting your phone away once you reach this roost.
What: An enormous private villa nestled in the also private Thornybush Game Reserve, adjacent to Kruger National Park.
Why We Love It: Kubili is an architecturally masterful, five-bedroom villa with its own butler, chef, sous chef, 24-hour concierge, three swimming pools, a spa and steam room, and an animal–magnet waterhole serenely viewable from the House’s many decks. As one visitor wrote, it’s “like an elephant: strong, overwhelming, sensitive, beautiful, faithful, highly intelligent, unforgettable….” Perhaps even more overwhelming — the good kind of overwhelming — your Micato Safari Director can arrange for private helicopter flightseeing over the grand Blyde River Canyon.
What: This South African gem was once the home of the Oppenheimer family in Tswalu, their private game reserve, the largest in South Africa,
Why We Love It: Tarkuni’s understated elegance eloquently bespeaks the family’s deep African roots. Set between two mountain ranges in the soul-stirring, animal-rich vastness of the Kalahari, recently redesigned Tarkuni has five beautifully appointed suites, each with an expansive deck that can be converted into a star-bedroom, a lovely pool, a dedicated staff (including a crackerjack chef), and unbounded serenity. One of the rare interruptions to your privacy is one that many of our guests welcome: An audience with the reserve’s habituated meerkats.
What: One of the newest safari lodges in the Great Plains Conservation area, Mpala Jena quietly awaits inside a private concession in Zambezi National Park and is within easy reach of Victoria Falls.
Why We Love It: A bit off the beaten track, the lodge has all the handsome and cozy trappings of a classic tented camp, especially the private two-bedroom tented suite with immaculate hardwood and canvas, four-poster beds and leather couches, and a deck that leads to a private plunge pool and campfire area with a quintessential river view.
The wow factor here is not just the view, but how you get to enjoy it: Hidden by the delicious shade of indigenous trees while gazing at the Zambezi, you might at times forget, intentionally, that there is an affluence of wilderness and natural wonder to explore beyond your doorstep. And if a safari by air packs appeal, Mpala Jena is fine base from which to helicopter over the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls.
What: Lovely Zarafa Camp has four superb tented villas our guests have been very pleased to call home, but for that extra oomph of privacy and service, we have a place to show you next door: Zarafa Dhow Suite, a stunning two-bedroom villa.
Why We Love It: The bedrooms on their own would be impressive enough. Each has a cozy copper-topped fire pit, complemented on the other side of the room by a copper claw-foot bathtub and shower… and it’s all arranged in a novel open floor plan, which may not sound like it would work, but it sure does. Beyond the bedrooms are a handsome, ample lounge and dining area as well as deck with its own fire pit, plunge pool, and an exercise bike, if you like that sort of thing. The views of Botswana’s wild waterways are especially exquisite from the lounge and deck and indeed, the camp itself is an ideal base for the start of a safari exploring the Selinda spillway.
What: Within the Serengeti plains, not far from the charming cottages of Sasakwa Lodge, is a very private villa for a family of two.
Why We Love It: Barefoot chic meets contemporary flair, leading to a mash-up of contrasts: Impeccably finished wooden flooring fronted by glass balcony doors, an interior that mixes traditional African art and rugs with a marble fireplace and countertops. Privacy is definitely the name of the game here: A private rim-flow pool as well as a private road, via which equally private dining and spa treatments will be brought to you. And as location is almost everything, Grumeti Reserves, which shares its border with the Western Corridor of the Serengeti, encompasses 400,000 acres of unrivalled, pristine wilderness, a ideal canvas for ogling migrating herds by vehicle or foot.
What: If “Fantasy Island” didn’t have other, over-beguiling connotations it would be the perfect name for this private island on the Zambezi River.
Why We Love It: Five open-sided thatched-roof chalets that crisply conjure Hemingway’s Africa, with wooden decks serving up canopied beds, writing tables and camp chairs, fixtures with copper accents, hammocks, and a bathtub casually stashed in a perfect spot overlooking the Zambezi. Did we mention it was on a private island? And that you can take over all five chalets for your family? Or, you wanted to do an island takeover with a special someone, Micato can arrange for you to have a Sampan dinner, each course gingerly delivered by a canoe.
If you can see yourself at any one or perhaps several of these private retreats, we’ll arrange to bring you there during a Custom Safari, supplying many Micato touches along the way. Contact us however you wish and we’ll get cracking!