Lou and I have traveled all over the world and each time I plan a trip I look for places that are unique, sometimes luxurious, sometimes not but I love adventure and soaking up the beauty of the area we are in. These are my top ten overnight experiences.
The first two spots on my list are a tossup because both Bateleur and Ngorongoro are absolutely incredible lodges Bateleur wins the top spot for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s a tent!
1. Bateleur Camp at Kichwa Tembo – Masai Mara, Kenya (www.kichwatembo.com)
Are you kidding me, the number one place that I have stayed in the world is a tent????? Oh, but not just any tent, when we arrived there were giraffes grazing by the runway. As we stepped off the plane we were greeted with cocktails, snacks and hot or cold towels (depending on the temperature). Once we stepped into the “tent” my wife started to cry because it was so beautiful. These tents are on platforms and have full stone in-suite bathrooms. There is a full king size bed that faces with a full view of the Masai Mara, with elephants and water buffalo roaming in the plains.
Meals are served in the lodge but staff is there for your every whim. Each night a hot water bottle is placed at the base of your bed. Mornings before a safari are filled with fresh orange juice, fruit, pastries and anything else because it is an all inclusive resort.
One evening we returned to the lodge from a night safari, after seeing hyenas snacking on a spring buck and the leopard who made the original kill stalking around, the staff suggested that we clean up before dinner. When we walked into our “tent” there were candles and lanterns all over our deck and a table set for two. We spent an evening overlooking the beautiful Mara River and a full moon shining above..
The night before we left the staff held a surprise braii (barbeque) out on the savannah complete with Masai warriors jumping to the drum’s beat. The abundance of wildlife we saw was unparalleled to anything else I have ever seen. Bateleur Camp at Kichwa Tembo is not a lodge; it is an experience.
One afternoon after a tough day of watching beautiful animals in the largest caldera in the world we walked into our room to a trail of rose petals that lead to hot bath and a bottle champagne chilling in a bucket.
3. Lizard Island – Great Barrier Reef, Australia (www.lizardisland.com.au)
Lizard Island is an island in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. There is a central lodge with beautifully decorated cabins around the property. Each evening you fill out a menu that you would like for lunch the next day, shrimp, wine, cheese, beer, sandwiches, whatever you would like because again this is an all inclusive resort.
The next day when you walk down to the beach there is a small boat with a canopy, a small 15HP engine fully stocked with the food and drink you ordered, towels, beach chairs and snorkeling gear.
The island is set up with small secluded beaches. When you and your spouse land on a beach the staff directs the rest of the guests to different secluded beaches so you have total privacy for the day. The greatest coral reef in the world is right off the beach in water 4 to 10 feet deep. You can spend your day enjoying the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef or enjoy the wonders of your spouse in the most relaxing environment on earth.
During the evening meal we asked the lodge to serve us on the lawn. So they set up a private table on the lawn between the lodge and the beach. We ate our lobster by candle light under a mosaic of beautiful stars and the crash of the surf playing in our heads.
4. Kings Camp – Timbavati, South Africa (www.kingscamp.com)
Kings Camp is in an area called Timbavati just outside Kruger Park in South Africa. Batcheluer has the most animals I have ever seen, Kings Camp puts you closer to animals then I have ever been before. We were within a few feet of lions, leopards, wild dogs, elephants, rhino and a whole array of other wild animals.
The rooms are large and luxurious. Our room had a big bath tub and three showers, one inside and two outside in a small enclosed garden. The food was excellent and we were pampered very well.
5. Shipandani Bird Hide – Kruger National Park, South Africa (http://celtis.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/camps/shipandani/)
Kruger National Park has two places that you can spend a night in a bird hide, Sable and Shipandani. Shipandani is over a river bank on top of a pod of hippos. We spent one night at Shipandani, trying to sleep when hippos playing and fighting in the river 20 yards away, grilling steaks to the howl of hyenas around camp and knowing that you are all alone in the African savannah is a surreal experience
6. Cazulas – Almuñécar Spain (www.cazulas.com)
There is a lovely little mansion in the mountains of Spain near the coastal town of Almuñécar, complete with a swimming pool, tennis court, ornamental garden, private chapel and incredible views of the Spanish hillside and valley, for rent ($6100wk low season to $9600wk high season). You can self-cater or they will provide staff, including chef and housekeeping. There are 12 bedrooms in the main house and a rustic little cottage with one more bedroom.
Almunecar is a cute little Spanish village and the coast is about a 25 min drive down the mountain. The property can accommodate up to 20 people, which comes out to $300 per person per week. This is a very cool place!
7. Santorini Greece
We rented an apartment in Santorini. The apartment was perched high up on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Our apartment was high enough and far enough out that no one could see into your deck, you were assured of total privacy. The apartment was decorated beautifully. Walks through the quaint little town of Santorini, renting a scooter and exploring the island and eating the incredible Greek cuisine was tremendously relaxing. There is a whole assortment of rental cottages of all types in Santorini at www.homeaway.com. This is the perfect romantic getaway.
8. Sleeping in the desert – Sinai Desert, Egypt
While in the Sinai Desert tried camping in the desert one night. We were taken by jeep out into the magical world of sand dunes and rock. Once we reached our destination, the middle of nowhere, our guides set up camp and cooked a delicious meal over the campfire. We all sat back and fell asleep under a million stars, maybe even the same place that Moses once stood.
9. Mena House Oberoi – Giza, Egypt (www.oberoihotels.com/oberoi_menahouse/index.asp)
This hotel is bigger and a bit touristier then I usually like but it is beautiful and steeped in history. We had a magic night during our stay at the Mena House, dinner beside the pool with great live music looking right at the Great Pyramid of Egypt
10. Costa Rica, Mal Pais – (www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p309342)
We rented a house on the top of cliffs over Mal Pais, the house has 3br, an infinity pool and a beautiful deck that overlooked an incredible sunset each evening ($2900wk to $3500wk). The house has a very open feeling and is a great place to relax. I would rent a 4WD vehicle because the road to the top of the hill is steep and rough. Hire a personal chef and Rob Essa is one of the best firstname.lastname@example.org. Stop in the massage school for a $15 massage, it is an unusual and totally relaxing experience.
Honorable Mentions –
Hotel Al Moudira Luxor, Egypt (www.moudira.com) – This is a beautiful hotel just off the Nile River in Luxor Egypt. The hotel is full of antiques and the rooms are huge. The gardens and pool area is beautiful. Make sure that you get a massage and take a hot air balloon over the Valley of the Kings.
Casa Glebinas – Mendoza Argentina (www.casaglebinias.com)
We loved our little cottage at Glebinas, Roberto, the owner, was so accommodating and the room was beautiful. Each morning a tray full of wonderful pastries and fresh coffee was on your doorstep.
Lois House – Vipingo Kenya Lou and I love doing home exchanges (www.homeexchange.com) and last year we had the opportunity to exchange with Lois and Ernie. Their guest house sits on the top of a hill overlooking the Kenya coast line. It is super relaxing and there are tons of coral reefs right off the beach. It was an awesome and relaxing experience. Thanks Lois.