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Brave New World

These new openings across Southern Africa prove that a hotel is more than merely a place to lay your head.
Image: The Silo, Cape Town Image: The Silo, Cape Town

The Silo, Cape Town

British architect-designer Thomas Heatherwick has transformed an old grain silo in a gritty part of the Waterfront into the continent’s most incredible urban hotel. Snuggled up in your room, you feel like you’re in a swish James Bond lair, loafing in the bosom of unrestrained luxury, surrounded by owner-decorator Liz Biden’s assemblage of eclectic furniture, fine fabrics and handsome artworks. The roof – where there’s a sunset-facing pool (for guests) and a bar serving light meals (open to the public) – affords exhilarating views from the top of what was once the tallest building in sub-Saharan Africa. Sharing premises with the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa which opens in September, guests will enjoy access to the greatest gallery in Africa. Meanwhile, there’s a sizable in-house art collection, an impeccable spa, and the velvet-bedecked Willaston bar to enjoy. Service is genuinely delightful – at R12,000 a room there’s no need for fake smiles.

Bisate Lodge, Rwanda

Having read our gorilla trekking story on page 25, it’ll be worth waiting for Bisate to launch on 1 June. Under the aegis of conservation groundbreakers, Wilderness Safaris, it’s set to be the most impressive place to stay anywhere in the vicinity of the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. These beautifully conceived forest villas are unlike anything you’ve ever seen, with a unique architecture and imaginative interiors. Situated on a hill with views of the Bisoke, Karisimbi and Mikeno volcanoes, the focus will be on treks to one of the ten habituated gorilla families, but guests will also be able to visit the ‘Twin Lakes’ of Ruhondo and Burera and the lava tunnels of the Musanze Caves, take excursions to Iby’wacu cultural village and the research centre established here by Dian Fossey. Guests can meet members of the Bisate community, discovering something of the local way of life, and there’ll be in-house Rwandan tea- and coffee tastings.

Bosjes, Worcester

This striking chapel with its undulating roof and parabolic arches is the result of a collaboration between London-based Steyn Studio and local TV3 Architects. The chapel is the highlight of Worcester’s newly opened Bosjes, a family farm that’s been transformed into an enchanting countryside getaway. While the chapel is a commanding wedding and lunch venue, there’s a thoughtfully designed B&B guesthouse, Die Skuur, with five rooms decorated by interior designer Liam Mooney whose clean lines, elegant linear oak furniture and restrained, earthy palette is offset by his choice of statement-making colour fabrics. Everything’s beautiful – with fireplaces and a pool, and marvellous farm breakfasts – but the real magic extends to the enfolding Slanghoek and Waaihoek mountains. There are wonderful walking trails with the chance to spot ostrich, springbok and zebra while hiking through the mountains.

King Lewanika, Zambia 

Designed by acclaimed lodge architects, Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, the six villas at this new safari camp are bounded by the Luambimba and Luanginga rivers. Here, in the upper Zambezi flood plains, the seasonal deluge results in a sprinkling of woodland islands that make Liuwa Plain National Park a spectacular wilderness environment where the world’s second-largest wildebeest migration happens in October and November. The are also great herds of red lechwe and tessebe, zebra and buffalo, with impressive cheetah and wild dog numbers, and the reserve is known for unique animal sighting such as witnessing hyenas hunting in teams of up to 50 animals. The lodge is only open April through July and late-October to December.

Miavana Island Sanctuary, Madagascar

Accessed by helicopter and set on a protected island, Miavana is Madagascar’s first ultra-luxury five star lodge. It’s on Nosy Ankao, the largest of a private five-island reef-enclosed archipelago off the mainland’s northeast coast. The sanctuary has 14 huge villas  – the smallest are 450 square metres – all with direct beach access, plus private pools and eco-friendly cooling systems. Villas are outfitted with snorkelling gear and there’s also reef and wreck scuba diving, plus guided turtle-, whale- and dolphin-watching, and kayak excursions, kite-surfing, and fishing (deep sea and fly). Half-an-hour by boat and you’re within the mainland’s Loky Manambato Protected Area where you’ll spot lemurs and rare golden-crowned sifakas on guided forest walks.

Hallmark House, Jo’burg

It’s all about urban views – and enjoying instant access to the spirit of rejuvenation and inner city buzz that’s made Maboneng the talk of the town in recent years. Occupying two floors of a 15-storey block built in the 1970s as a diamond-polishing centre, this 46-room hotel is modern and upbeat, with cool, funky urban interiors by  Malica Design. The building’s rejuvenation is by David Adjaye, whom Time magazine recently named the world’s most influential architect. The rest of the building is given over to residential apartments. Balconies afford tip-top city views, and down below lie Maboneng’s art galleries, weekend markets, theatre and independent cinema. The precinct is abuzz with inner city walking tours, café culture, boutiques, yoga studios, a brewery, and numerous restaurants, including one on the ground floor and – up on the roof – another, The Grande.

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