AT THESE ULTRA PRIVATE RESORTS, FANTASIES OF JAW DROPPING SCENERY AND TOTAL SECLUSION BECOME REALITY
BY AMANDA MCCOY
The Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa is a wonderland of biodiversity. Spanning 251 miles of untamed bush, it’s home to a dense population of the “Big Five”: lion, rhinoceros, elephant, Cape buffalo, and the notoriously elusive leopard, plus cheetah, hippopotamus, hyena, and more. It borders the equally prolific Kruger National Park, its native terrain bridging mountains, bush plains, and forests. This is the true African wild private and feral, where some of the world’s most enchanting species roam free, and the Lion Sands Game Reserve is the only resort in the world to have lodges in both.
Of its four lodges, River, Ivory, Narina, and Tinga, the Ivory takes the crown as the most exclusive. Composed of only nine utterly private villas nestled along the banks of the Sabie River, the Ivory lodge puts the wonder of the wild at every doorstep. The eight one bedroom villas each feature a viewing deck, patio, and lighted plunge pool, where guests can seek respite from the hot African sun with views of wildlife drinking from the river. The Fish Eagle Villa, the Ivory’s only two bedroom accommodation, offers a private spa and gym, personal chef, butler, dedicated field guide, and safari vehicle.
If that’s not immersive enough for you, intrepid traveler, then consider an overnight stay in one of the resort’s three remote treehouses, promising an intimate, one on one rendezvous with nature. Illuminated only by the warm glow of lanterns and the sequined sky at night, the treehouses provide an unparalleled perspective of the untamed terrain. The growl of a tiger or faint hum of a zebra becomes an exotic lullaby, soothing visitors to sleep.
Spa services in the open air, elegant dining, and an impressive wine cellar are also laudable mainstays, but the main event is, of course, a safari into one of the most diverse and abundant wildlife habitats on the planet.
Rates start at $1,300 per night. Sabi Sands Reserve, Kruger National Park, lionsands.com
THE FOUR SEASONS AT THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE THAILAND
The Four Seasons, one of the world’s leading ultra-luxury hotel nameplates, might be famed for its high rise suites overlooking urban cityscapes or swanky villas in exotic locales, but this outpost in the Thai jungle offers a totally different experience one in a tented camp. But make no mistake, this is not the kind of tent lining the shelves of REI. The glamorous hideaway features first class amenities like open air hot tubs, expansive decks, hand carved furniture and local décor, spa inspired bathrooms with outdoor rain showers, and breathtaking vistas at every turn.
The Explorer’s Lodge, the resort’s finest accommodation, boasts a tree fringed infinity pool, sprawling veranda with outdoor dining table (perfect for an in villa chef prepared barbecue), a magnificent hand crafted bathtub, and prime sunset views. Deep in the heart of the Golden Triangle, surrounded by the magic of the overgrown bamboo jungle, the spirit of the 19th century explorer begins to take over.
The resort’s spa is spread out over several private outdoor salas, all hidden in the treetops. The holistic treatments are influenced by Asian healing traditions and utilize mountain botanicals to offer full physical and mental renewal. Though the official spa hours are from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, spa treatments after dark are available upon request, when the jungle takes on new life.
For keepsakes, there’s a trading post boutique on site filled with everything from textiles by local hill tribes to handmade silk scarves, plus a mélange of hand crafted curios and homeware. At mealtimes, the expansive wine cellar offers a pre-dinner tipple each evening with cheese pairings, and the restaurant serves tantalizing flavors of Thai, Laotian, and Burmese cuisines.
Concierge is on hand to arrange immersive experiences, from excursions deep into the wild of the Golden Triangle to cultural tours of the nearby cities of Takilek or Chiang Mai, but its most popular trek is the nature walk with rescued elephants.
Rates start at $1,100 per night. 499 MOO1 T. Vieng, Chiang Rai, fourseasons.com/goldentriangle
FOGO ISLAND INN Canada
Secluded on an island off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, this hidden retreat blends rugged natural beauty and modern architectural ingenuity. Perched on a bank of ancient granite, the lodge is externalized by clean, vertical lines and sharp 90 degree angles, giving each of the 29 guest rooms unbroken views of the coast through floor to ceiling windows. Though its design takes a more contemporary approach to Atlantic Canadian outport architecture, thoughtful odes to the community’s heritage are sprinkled throughout the guest rooms and public spaces, from handcrafted quilts to woven rugs.
Considered one of the proverbial four corners of the Earth, the island sees seven seasons, and the local inhabitants will happily explain to visitors how berry season (September 1 through October 31) is objectively different from late fall (November 1 through 30). Each season offers its own menu of outdoor experiences, from guided night hike stargazing and seal watching in the spring, to whale watching and open boat tours in the summer, to snowmobiling and caribou watching in the pack ice period.
Inside the hotel, sip a cocktail and enjoy local music in the bar, then grab a book from the second floor library or browse contemporary works inside the “white cube” art gallery. In the dining room, feast on award winning regional cuisine against sweeping four story views of the roaring Atlantic (where you might just spot an iceberg or a whale spout, depending on the season). And on the roof deck, where the Milky Way shines at night, wood fired European saunas and open air hot tubs provide warmth and comfort as guests get lost in the untamed wonder.
Rates start at $1,500 per night. 210 Main Road, Joe Batt’s Arm, fogoislandinn.ca
LODGE AT KAURI CLIFFS New Zealand
Sitting high on a hillside overlooking the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by rolling landscapes of lush vegetation, the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs is a manicured diamond in the rough and wonderful wild of New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. The resort is only a short 45 minute flight or four hour drive from Auckland, the country’s largest metropolis, but feels several worlds away.
Set on 6,000 acres, the boutique resort and surrounding wilderness is a dizzying juxtaposition of blues and greens, with jagged cliffs, undeveloped beaches, and thundering waterfalls marking just a few of the geographical spectacles. The hotel itself is home to a championship golf course, designed and built by David Harman, which measures 7,139 yards of clifftop real estate and winds through marsh, verdant forest, and farmland. The course is currently ranked number 37 in the world by Golf Digest.
Accommodations include 22 guest suites, each with its own private porch overlooking the ocean, plus a two bedroom Owner’s Cottage and three four bedroom residences. The massive Owner’s Cottage (4,200 square feet) provides the pinnacle of rest and relaxation, featuring an infinity pool, Jacuzzi, sun soaked veranda on its east wing, and a lush tropical courtyard on the west. Sunrises over the vast Pacific are just spectacular here and can be seen from the master bedroom.
Awarded chef Barry Frith spearheads the meals on the property, where seasonal produce and local providers reign supreme, and the fish is often caught and cooked on the very same day. There are ample dining spaces available, many in the open air with ocean views.
In addition to world class golfing, other experiences include an aerial tour of the stunning coastline and capes by helicopter, fishing for snapper and kahawai, guided heritage tours, breathtaking nature walks, quad biking, and a spa hidden in the overgrown forest. Matauri Bay, a globally renowned destination for diving and surfing, is a short three miles away.
Rates start at $1,100 per night. 139 Tepene Tablelands Road, Matauri Bay, robertsonlodges.com/the lodges/ kauri cliffs.