Leobo Private Villa Observatory South Africa
Image courtesy of Leobo Private Reserve

An Emerging Trend Offers Privacy, Exclusivity, & Flexibility

Not long ago, the basic expectation of African travel was fairly simple: getting up close and personal with the “Big Five” of African game while stationed at a comfortable, well-appointed group camp.

But as the continent’s tourism industry has grown and diversified, our services have grown to a customized model catering to a wide range interests - wine, walking, and other adventures, to name a few - in addition to the traditional safari experience.


There are now many different ways to “do Africa” and one of the new trends we're most excited about is the the emergence of private villa lodging. In Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and other countries, private villas are offering guests a completely individualized travel experience with total privacy, exclusivity, and flexibility.

Privacy as Luxury

It’s often said that time is the ultimate luxury, but in our hyper-connected world, privacy is certainly not far behind. While some of our clients actively seek out opportunities to meet and interact with other travellers, increasing numbers are craving precious vacation down time and aren’t wild about the thought of sharing a game vehicle or cocktail hour with a group of khaki-clad strangers.

For others, their dream African experience includes their own standalone party: groups of close friends, families with children, or multigenerational families taking the trip of a lifetime. While camps and lodges can successfully integrate these groups into their lodging and activity structure, a private villa maximizes space, time together, and, most importantly, allows for completely individualized attention without set schedules and activities shared with other groups.

Private Villa Amenities

Some of the private villas we are currently booking are completely stand alone while others are affiliated with a nearby camp or lodge. All come with their own complete staff - nothing shared -
which makes private villas the perfect home base for a party to rest, relax, and explore on their own schedule. We like to think of it as a “slow safari” concept, with guests responsible for choosing the pace and rhythm of their unique African experience.

Leogo Private Villa Observatory South Africa Deck
Image courtesy of Leobo Private Reserve

Private villas offer an array of luxury amenities available exclusively to their guests, including a private on-site manager, butlers, chefs, drivers/guides, spa facilities/on-call masseuses, and most of all... total privacy and personalization.

The Observatory Bush Villa At Leobo Private Reserve

Perched along South Africa’s beautiful Waterberg mountains, just three hours north of Johannesburg, the Observatory Bush Villa at Leobo Private Reserve is one of the crown jewels among Africa’s new selection of private villa lodging.

Designed by award winning architects, the undulating curves, low slung thatched roofs, and organic building materials of the villa blend gracefully into Leobo’s surrounding 20,000 private estate. The sprawling residence features multiple indoor/outdoor lounge areas and fireplaces, a mezzanine entertainment center, sunken firepit (wonderful for outdoor dining) heated infinity pool, sunset roof deck with jacuzzi, and - for incomparable Southern Hemisphere stargazing - a research-grade robotic telescope in the villa’s namesake observatory dome.

Leobo Private Villa Observatory South Africa Bath
Image courtesy of Leobo Private Reserve

Three spacious double suites, each with its own luxury bath, as well as a children’s triple bunk room, make the Observatory Bush Villa ideal for up to six adults and three children. Dedicated, on-site staff at the villa include a butler, maid, and private chef who consults with guests on a menu prior to their stay.

While the serenity of the home and surrounding scenery encourage rest and relaxation, the Observatory Bush Villa is also well-equipped for exploration and exciting activities. Guided game viewing can be scheduled, on the guests’ timetable, via Land Cruiser, quad bikes, walking, or horseback. A helicopter is available for heli-picnics or aerial game spotting in the remote areas of the reserve. Guests can also fish, kayak, rock climb, or - for an entirely different experience - camp in a tree-house equipped with a 4-man tent and fall asleep to the sound of wallowing hippos in the dam below.

Mkombe’s House Lamai

Mkombe’s House Lamai is the first and only truly private house within Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, Named in honor of Mkombe Mniko, a beloved guide who connected strongly with children, the house was specifically designed with young travelers in mind.

Mkombes House Private Villa Tanzania SerengetiKids
Image via Mkombe’s House Lamai

 Situated in the middle of one of the Serengeti’s richest mammal habitats, Mkombe’s House is fully self-contained with two en-suite double/twin rooms, each with a nearby secure and en-suite children’s room. The house can sleep a total of 4 adults and 6 children comfortably, with no minimum age. Cots, high chairs, and car-seats are provided for little ones. An in-house chef plans meals together with guests, providing a flexible menu filled with delicious local produce and home baking.

Mkombes House Private Villa Tanzania Serengeti Kids Room
Image via Mkombe’s House Lamai

A stay at Mkombe’s House allows guests total flexibility to plan their days around children’s needs and schedules, with no other guests or set timelines to worry about. A private guide will discuss options and help families decide what to do each day - game drives, walks, picnics, lizard hunting on the nearby rocks (a favorite with kids), or just reading by the pool while looking out over the Northern Serengeti. The solitude of this totally private villa allows guests to completely relax and disconnect, but also serves as the perfect home base for scouting Cape Buffalo, elephants, lions, crocodiles, and the famous wildebeest crossings.

Something for Everyone

Other private villas we’re currently booking include: Thanda Island, a luxury island and marine reserve offering 8 hectares of total privacy off the coast of Tanzania; the Chongwe River House, situated along the banks of the lower Zambezi in Zambia; and other stunning exclusive-use properties offered in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania. Each reflect their own sense of place and book exclusively to ensure a totally private experience.

Thanda Island Private Villa Africa Tanzania
Image via Thanda Island

Rates and Reservations

The complete exclusivity and personalization of a private villa comes at a cost, but also offers a compelling value for group travel. Per nite/person costs vary but even at the upper end are comparable to high end lodges... and uniquely offer the complete privacy of no shared experiences whatsoever during the stay. The reviews we are seeing give these properties incredibly high ratings, signaling that an exciting new way to explore Africa has arrived. Contact us for more information about specific rates and itineraries.

Robin Francis of WAHJ has been providing African travel services for over 10 years and travels frequently to the continent to meet with partners and experience their lodging, amenities, and activities first hand. Partners regard her as one of the most knowledgeable African travel consultants in the US, who has also invested in giving back to the communities she works with. Robin and WAHJ are available for complete travel booking throughout Africa or consulting on bookings made through other providers.