Top 5 places to stay

Whether it’s five star luxury in a hotel or free camping in the wild, holiday accommodation is a big part of the travel experience and it can make or break a trip. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in a wide range of different places over the years, experiencing the extremes of luxury, to the most rudimentary hostel imaginable and I’m developing a list of favourite places, starting with my present top five.

 

Number 1 – The Okavango Delta – bush camping 

Okavango Elephants

Forget fancy hotel and lodges – for me, bush camping is the only way to stay when visiting the awesome Okavango Delta in Botswana. Travelling in quietly by Mokoro canoe reveals wildlife watching opportunities that simply wouldn’t be possible in a 4×4 or plane, giving anyone who is willing to get back to basics a real chance to be at one with nature for a few days.

There is something quite spectacular about camping in the wild and hearing lions roar and hyenas call in the early hours of the morning – scary but overwhelmingly exciting at the same time.  Added to this, few things can top the sight of elephants coming to drink at the river, just feet away from camp.

With no loo, shower or any other creature comforts it it takes guts to give it a go, but our guide was a wealth of information about the local wildlife and habitat, making it a privilege and pleasure to be there.  Using guides from the villages helps to sustain local communities, protecting traditional lifestyles and supporting conservation work.

If you don’t unpack unless you’ve checked out room service and the mini bar, it’s probably not for you, but it’s out of this world if you have a spirit of adventure.

  

Number 2 – The Daintree Rainforest – Cockatoo Hill RetreatRainforest room 

 

We’re constantly searching for special little places to stay on our travels and came across the Cockatoo Hill Retreat quite by chance whilst we were searching for eco tours of the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia.

Our stay was for a special birthday, so we’d been desperately hoping that it would be as lovely as it sounded on their website. Stepping into our tree house room on arrival was almost overwhelming, as it was so utterly perfect, we couldn’t have asked for more.  With a veranda overlooking the forest canopy, the rainforest was alive around us and we knew we’d found somewhere exceptional.

Our hosts Carmen and Gilles looked after us superbly and made a special event forever memorable.

 

 

 Number 3 – Victoria Falls National Park – The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge 

 

Victoria Falls Safari LodgeThe Victoria Falls Safari Lodge was apparently once listed in the Conde Nast list of the world’s best places to stay.  Located overlooking the Victoria Falls National Park, with its own water hole attracting elephants, buffalo and other wildlife for an evening spectacle in the sunset, we could well see why. Guests can stay in the main hotel, or opt for a more economical, but still fairly luxurious self catering Lokuthula Lodge in the grounds of the hotel, with access to the main hotel facilities.

It was a real heart twister deciding whether to include this place in my top five list, because it appears to be incongruously luxurious in a town that has been badly affected by the present economic and political instability in Zimbabwe.    However, as tourism seems to be one of the few remaining sources of income for Victoria Falls and its residents, it felt right to include it, as it was without doubt one of the most spectacular places I have been lucky enough to stay in. 

During our stay we tried hard to put some of our money into the local community by eating at local cafes, buying from independent craft outlets and engaging a local wildlife guide directly.

It was an awesome place to spend a few days and we can only desperately hope that life starts to improve for everyone there.

 

Number 4 – Tsavo National Park – Saltlick Lodge Saltlick Lodge

 

I love Africa, so it’s yet another African one, but then, it is my list.   The guest rooms at Saltlick Lodge are on stilts overlooking the African savannah of Tsavo National Park, so there is always a chance of spotting big game or wildlife from the comfort of your own room and the location is tranquillity itself.

To top things off, the rooms have canopied beds, which although designed to keep mosquitoes out, do add a touch of romance to the already fantastic setting.

The whole point of staying within the National Park is to see the wildlife, so a stay here rotates around sunrise starts and sunset finishes, as these are the best times of day to go game spotting with a guide. It’s all worth it to have the privilege of experiencing such a breathtaking place though.

 

 

Number 5 – Langley Castle – Hexham, Northumberland 

Langley CastleLangley Castle was built in 1350 and is one of the last remaining fortified mediaeval castles in England. Now operating as an independent hotel, it is absolutely steeped in history and if you ever want to plan a romantic surprise for someone, it is pretty much guaranteed to knock their socks off when you pull up at the castle gate.

It is most certainly worth paying a little extra to experience one of the 9 deluxe or feature rooms, which are in the castle itself and therefore have the full majesty of a castle room, such as 7ft thick walls with window seats and four poster beds. Sitting in the window seat of the Percy room, I was momentarily transported back in time to14th Century England, pondering the lives of Lords and Ladies of the realm who had no doubt occupied the very same seat to look out onto the estate’s woodland. 

If you take a pair of sturdy walking boots and explore the surrounding countryside and Hadrian’s Wall, you can retire to the hotel with a sense of smug satisfaction to toast in front of an open fire and enjoy fine dining in the restaurant.

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