And now for something completely different…
Step inside a lightkeeper’s cottage, tree house, hammock camp and something like an igloo. This is our pick of unusual hideaways …
1. Namibia – Rostock Ritz, Khomas
Namibia has to be one of my favourite places to visit, mainly because it feels so different in some ways, so familiar in others. Rostock Ritz fits into the former category, perched on the edge of a desert plain, the mountains in the distance and a beguiling canyon a short four-by-four drive away.
The lodge itself is, um, peculiar in that it looks a bit like an arrangement of igloos, but it is comfortable and very unique. The swimming pool is spectacular, with breathtaking views over the desert – and swimming pools can be very useful in this part of the world.
About 240km from both Windhoek and Swakopmund in the direction of Solitaire, Rostock is a convenient stopover, or a destination in its own right. There are a number of walking trails and scenic drives, with rock art, birdlife and incredible scenery the major attractions. There is also a campsite if you’re on a tighter budget but still want to explore this fascinating area. And if driving seems too arduous, you could always land your plane on their private airstrip. – Stephen Smith
2. Eastern Cape – The Cobhouse, Alicedale
While driving from East London to Port Elizabeth we detour to Alicedale, a small settlement on the banks of the Bushman’s River. We’re intrigued to find The Cobhouse, on a farm a few kilometres out of town, in the remote Cacadu district.
Suitably charmed, we spend the night in the house – with a choice of three cosy en-suite bedrooms. It’s self-catering and electricity-free, an enchanting retreat for a party of up to ten to get back to nature. Guests can visit surrounding game reserves and golfers can enjoy a round on the Bushman Sands Golf Course.
The house is wonderfully cool in summer, and we’re assured that on a cold evening all we’d need do is light a crackling log fire in one of the wood-filled fireplaces. This is a happy, restful place to spend a few days. – Olivia Schaffer
3. Northern Cape – Orange River Houseboat, Upington
The Orange River is the lifeblood of the arid Kalahari and Nama-Karoo landscapes of the Northern Cape, and the lush vegetation of this green belt provides the perfect setting for relaxation and contemplation of life, the universe and everything. We arrived in the heat of the day, in quite a mellow mood after a visit to the fabulous Bezalel Estates, where wine tasting progressed to a sampling of the single barrel, pot-stilled brandy Bezalel is famous for. We were met on the bank and taken out to our home for the evening – a secluded houseboat under canvas in the middle of the Orange River, with 360-degree views.
It’s fully kitted out with a double bed, crisp white linen and a down duvet, an eco-toilet and hot showers. We soon made ourselves at home, firing up the braai and breaking out the bubbly from the well-stocked mini-fridge. As the sky changed colour, we thought about heading out in the canoe provided, but instead drank a toast to the evening, and to our day on the Kokerboom Food and Wine Route, from the divine deck. As we did so a pair of fish eagles serenaded us. – Lisa Martus
4. Eastern Cape – Great Fish Point Lighthouse, Sunshine Coast
Since lighthouses have been automated, a handful of former lighthouse keepers’ cottages have been turned into self-catering accommodation with a unique maritime theme. I chose to stay at the Great Fish Point lighthouse cottage because it’s the most remote.
The lighthouse is nicknamed ‘Man with the Tuxedo’ for obvious reasons. You get there via a rutted road through nature reserves, to a high point that has views of long sandy beaches punctuated by rocky headlands. There’s a braai, pool and play area on the terrace of the spacious twin cottages, each sleeping six. Birdlife in the dune forest is abundant, and the beach is isolated.
Fishing is good here but sea swimming is best done at nearby Kleinemonde beach. Bird guide Anne Williams’ beach walks are fascinating, and beach rides with Three Sisters Horse Trails are invigorating. And come evening, the wink from Tuxedo signals sundowner time. – Marion Whitehead
5. Eastern Cape – Speekhout Tree House, Baviaanskloof
Hidden in a secluded Baviaanskloof valley is a cute hobbit-like tree house tucked into a dense thicket. The main building has been built into the boughs of an ancient sprawling wild peach while the outdoor picnic and braai area below is enclosed by ferns, bromeliads and other verdant plants. The tree has been allowed to grow up through the floors, into the rooms and through the ceiling and, like the inside of a yacht, the house (which sleeps six comfortably) has been designed to conserve space yet be warm, cosy and functional.
There is a fully-equipped kitchenette built onto the trunk, and an outdoor shower on an elevated deck. There is also a skylight above one of the beds which, when opened, affords you a view of the boughs and the stars. The floors are wooden and earth coloured, the roof is canvas and bamboo and the beds are tucked around branches that flow through the indoor living area.
The house feels as alive as the tree is. If you had a tree house when you were a kid, you will fall in love with this place. Bilbo Baggins, eat your heart out! – Dale Morris