Can you forgive us for waxing poetic? It’s not too late to head to Africa, so why not add a bush twist to your Christmas celebrations this year?
If you haven’t yet made a plan for the holidays, we’ve gathered a trio of outstanding ideas for exclusive-use escapes in the wilderness. Watch out for Santa’s sleigh under a sparkling Milky Way like you’ve never seen before, meet with artisans to organise your Christmas gifts and let talented chefs take the heat in the kitchen while you watch red-nosed reindeer – or the African equivalent – by the waterhole.
If you can’t travel this festive season, do consider bringing a touch of Africa to Christmas, wherever you are. By ordering gifts directly from the terrific artisans we’ve chosen to highlight – all of whom ship internationally – you’ll be making an immeasurable difference. Not only will you find original, ethical and beautifully made items that you can’t buy in your local stores, but by buying from these companies you will make both the recipient and the maker’s festive seasons all the more special.
Dreaming of a Blue Christmas in Malawi?
With its cool, chic interiors, and myriad watersports, Kaya Mawa lodge on Likoma Island offers true barefoot luxury, where sweeping golden beaches bounded by rocky headlands shelve beneath the almost impossibly clear, turquoise waters of Lake Malawi. Add in the privacy of a private house, and this idyllic spot makes for the perfect family escape, whether your preference is for aquatic activities or peaceful lounging.
Four delightfully quirky houses – Yofu, Ullisa, Madimba and Mainja – offer small families a gorgeous space to hang out together, with all the benefits of the laid-back lodge available just a stroll along the beach. Further round the island by boat, Ndomo Point House is a four-bedroom villa sleeping 8, with a full complement of staff for the ultimate house party.
Watch the sun rise over the water from the bougainvillea-framed deck; enjoy dappled shade in the beachside pool. Sip cocktails, exchange gifts and chat on the lantern-lit terrace or take to the crystal-clear water to snorkel or dive among the cichlids, kayak, fish or learn to kite-surf. There’s plenty to do to work off the award-winning food.
Buy some ‘Katundu’!
Kaya Mawa has always had strong community ties. Former lodge owner Suzie Lightfoot founded the design workshop Katundu – meaning ‘possessions’ – in 2006 to inspire, train, employ and empower local women on the island. Fashioning highly original, artisanal home décor accessories, this team is a class act. Far from your average market stall handicrafts, these are highly desirable, design-store calibre products, made with passion, meticulous care and a firm eye on ethical and environmental responsibility.
Katundu utilises local resources from recycled glass bottles to the metal from old water tanks, alongside natural materials such as baobab pods and dhow wood. These talented artisans focus on the fine details of design, creating an extraordinary range from mesmerising copper disc chandeliers and tumbled glass jewellery to delicate, hand-beaded textiles.
International shopping and shipping is easy from their website, and all Likoma Island visitors have the chance to participate in their engaging workshop tours.
Guided Adventure in Namibia
Fancy an adventure? Want the joy of getting off the beaten track but not the map-reading, self-catering or driving? How about a privately-guided, overland safari across Namibia’s finest landscapes and wildlife reserves, complete with stays at exclusive tented camps and luxury farmsteads?
We know just the trip, and it’s perfect for a family, a group of friends or two couples in search of adventure. It would be hard to experience more of Namibia’s raw wilderness in a more comfortable way on any comparable safari of the same length.
Climb the russet Namib-Naukluft dunes from Camp Sossus; kayak alongside Cape fur seals in Walvis Bay; enjoy an oyster brunch on the Skeleton Coast; study the ancient Twyfelfontein rock engravings; track black rhino from Huab Under Canvas. And for the grand finale, get your cameras ready for Etosha Heights Private Reserve: from lion and cheetah to gemsbok and white rhino, there is wildlife aplenty in this reserve on the boundary of the Etosha National Park.
Check out our Black-faced Impala Safari and chat to us about the benefits of having the same guide with you for your whole trip.
Shop for stylish San crafts
The ramshackle wood carving market in Okahandja is undoubtedly Namibia’s best curio mart for buying everything from life-size giraffes to games, trinkets and furniture. But for something really special, the wonderful Omba Arts Trust at the Namibian Craft Centre in Windhoek is on a different level. This admirable organisation supports more than 400 mostly San women in the rural communities of Namibia, allowing them to earn an income from traditional crafts with a contemporary twist.
The skill, quality and traditional artisanship evident in their artwork and handicrafts will delight style gurus and crafts aficionados alike. Here, traditional crafts meet glossy-magazine chic and high-end design quality. These are products patiently crafted by the women of Namibia’s far north, and deservedly displayed in art galleries, luxury boutiques and homes.
Omba offers statement jewellery painstakingly created from tiny ostrich egg discs, beautifully embroidered textile art, striking monochrome lino prints and some of the finest basketry we’ve seen in Africa (and we’ve seen a lot!).
With a new website launching this month, it’s now easy for international shoppers to browse their original art and handicrafts. And aside from buying something truly beautiful, if you want some insight into the vital importance of the resulting income, take 5 minutes to watch this video on the impact of Covid-19 on this talented workforce, and their contagious joy at returning to work.
Luxury Family Retreat in Zimbabwe
Want to really treat yourselves? Under chic, circus-style canvas, Somalisa Acacia is an indulgent safari camp in Zimbabwe’s largest national park, Hwange. It’s beautiful. But for all the roll-top baths, luxurious linens, fine dining, and splash pools overlooking elephant-filled waterholes, it’s the warmth and genuinely friendly vibe that make this a special place for a family gathering. Safari enthusiasts of all ages are truly welcomed with open arms. Come for great guiding, wildlife aplenty and bush decadence.
You might combine your stay with the natural wonders of Victoria Falls, and perhaps even a stay at the stunning Khayelitshe House. Set amid Matobo’s iconic balancing rocks and home to Zimbabwe’s largest concentration of leopards, Khayelitshe also has good rhino spotting.
The Gift of Giving
Victoria Falls has without question one of Africa’s best curio markets, with spectacular sculptures and wooden carvings of every conceivable shape and size. It’s a brilliant last stop on safari to pick up authentic African souvenirs. But in the true spirit of Christmas, there’s another shopping option available to our travellers: the ‘Shop with a Purpose’ excursion. It’s an opportunity to give something back to the local community, have meaningful exchanges with local people, and gain a rare insight into the town and those working to help and empower local people in need.
Selecting from a group of local charities, you’ll be given a list of their requirements and taken by a guide around the local market stalls, often in less visited parts of town, to buy any items you choose from the charity’s wish list, from groceries to practical or educational items. Then you personally deliver the items to the charity and meet with members of the community who directly benefit from their work.
Expert Africa will happily include this trip into any itinerary visiting Victoria Falls: just ask us.