There’s so much more to the African experience than a safari. Think island living and loving, where often the space is yours alone to drift and dream in. For me this is the ultimate escape, where time stretches from sunrise to sunset.

It is here where I feel happily cocooned from the slings and arrows that everyday life throws at us, where my family (and sometimes friends too) could, if we felt like it, inhabit a world of our own , where no one else can intrude.

And there’s so much more to islands than shimmering seas and coral reefs. Sometimes we need to be reminded there are also sublime places to escape to in the middle of the rivers, lakes and deserts of Africa – perfect to tag onto a safari or as a standalone sojourn.

Need a romantic hideaway? Want to regroup with your family? Feel the need for adventure? Read on… 


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THANDA ISLAND, tropical privacy off Zanzibar

It’s new and it’s making gentle ocean waves. Thanda Island only opened last year, but has already featured on Conde Nast Traveller’s Hotlist. Want your private island in a marine reserve? This is for you with just one beautifully decorated beach villa – a perfect space for multi-generational families to gather. Grandparents can go for easy ambles and dip into the rimflow pool; the kids can tire themselves out on the tennis court or beach.  Me? Between massages I’ll be snorkeling on the reefs, communing with whale sharks, those graceful giants of the ocean.

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TSARABANJINA, off Madagascar

When the dress code says “barefoot luxury” I know I’m headed for my own special slice of couple paradise. This remote one hotel-island is dotted in an archipelago – a 90-minute boat ride from the tourist hub of Nosy Be, just off the north-west coast of Madagascar. The eco-friendly secluded beach bungalows whisper romance. As soon as I step off my private deck into the powder-soft sand, the stress slip-slides away.


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  • KAYA MAWA, Lake Malawi

One of the most fascinating islands stays for me, Likoma Island combines “a bit of beach/a touch of town”. I love it that you are on a lake but it feels like an ocean with water-skiing, dinghy sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving. This is something for everyone, making it a gorgeous getaway for couples, families, collections of friends – especially after a southern African safari. Pick your moments: be blissfully private some of the time and immerse yourself in the local community  – no surprise Malawians are known as the friendliest people in Africa – at others. It’s a particular joy for me to cycle into town to the local markets and textile workshops. And I always make a point of soothing my soul amidst the grandeur of St Peter’s Cathedral, one of the biggest in Africa.


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  • SINDABEZI ISLAND, Zambezi  River, Zambia – Victoria Falls (Livingstone)

This has to be one of the discerning travelers best kept African secrets.  Seriously, who gets to see the jaw-dropping Victoria Falls AND sleep in luxury in the middle of the mighty Zambezi River which literally teems with game? There’s little to beat drifting in to sleep in your open-sided thatch chalet following a candlelight dinner on the river sand – and this after a sunset cruise. Your lullaby is the grunting of hippos and the nightbird song.  It’s a romantic setting on the silver-screen scale.


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  • KUBU ISLAND, Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana

Sometimes you just need to get that heart racing. I like to call this a “safari cleanser” – something heart-racingly adventurous after being deep in the African bush. It feels like nowhere else on earth: the middle of a salt pan the size of Switzerland. It’s all about space and desolation and a canopy of stars so vast you feel like you are sleeping in a wide-open planetarium. This is you jumping on a quad bike for a 5-night adventure to a startlingly lovely desert camp for the first two nights, then two nights at Kubu Island and a final night back at one of the main camps. The feeling of freedom is cathartic. And  then there’s my particular daily moment of pure bliss at dawn when the salt pans  flush several shades of pink.

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