best villa retreats for families

Best Villa Retreats for Families in December

If you are like most families, you spend a lot of your time hustling around just making life tick along. The balance of school, work, friends, and solitude makes for a lot of juggling and a great deal of stress. Holidays should be the antidote for this, which is why we feel that Slow Travel is such a brilliant approach.

At Bespoke Safari Co., we specialise in creating Family Villa Retreats – a curated, fully serviced, ‘home away from home’ where the family has nothing to do but relax and reconnect, or adventure further afield, using the villa as a ‘home base’ for exploring.

In this spirit, we have created a list of the 5 absolute best villas which are ideally situated for the December holidays. Contact us to add the ‘retreat’ dimension to the villas, so you don’t have to mission back and forth to shops, cooking cleaning etc. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy a stay ideally suited to your needs.


Arijiju Villa, Kenya

In the North of Kenya, on the foothills of mount Kenya, lies the Laikipia plateau, where conservationists are leading the way with ground breaking, ‘big picture’ projects, and wildlife populations are plentiful and protected. One such philanthropist allows guests to take his private house in order to help raise funds for these conservation initiatives.

Arijiju Villa is one of the most beautiful homes on a wildlife conservancy in Africa.  Featured in nearly every renowned glossy magazine from Conde Nast to Vanity Fair, Arijiju exemplifies the pared down, earthy decadence defining the African luxury travel experience.

Arijiju Villa, Kenya

Located in the malaria-free Borana Conservancy, Arijiju has excellent resident wildlife populations so is generally less affected by wildlife migration patterns typical of the Mara. The Conservancy is a progressive collaborative effort of stakeholders who have collectively protected endangered rhino, elephant, lion, and unique bird species among others.

Arijiju curates each guest experience individually, so that activities, food, and pace of the retreat ideally matches the personality of the client. A hidden low-slung Swahili style vernacular informs decadent interiors filled with varying natural textures, double volume steel doors, and lots of cosy nooks. The space leads seamlessly to a courtyard with long wooden tables shaded by the dappled light of lata pergolas, a perfect setting for enjoying the al fresco farm-to-table meals from the resident chef.

A long swimming pool overlooks the surrounding foothills, lined by cushy loungers. Three spacious beautifully designed bedrooms lead into a central courtyard of fragrant flowering plants. Every single possible amenity is considered at Arijiju – the ultimate luxury family villa retreat getaway.

Family X Factor: Games and cinema room | Enclosed garden for safe outdoor play | Private safari vehicle for game drives with children | Lots of shared lounge spaces | Huge swimming pool with lots of places to relax outdoors together | Staff curates meals and stay exactly according to your family.

Melton Manor (Kwandwe), South Africa

Melton Manor is truly one of the best family villas in South Africa. Situated on Kwandwe Game Reserve, one of the more inspiring conservation projects in South Africa, Melton Manor has excellent game viewing year-round. Conservation victories for the reserve include re-introducing cheetah to the area for the first time since 1888 and placing highly endangered rhino under protection, amongst other things.  

Melton Manor swimming pool at night in Kwandwe
Melton Manor swimming pool at night

The guides at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve are excellent, and this goes a LONG way to ensuring a successful and enriching safari experience. In addition to game drives and walking safaris, the guides also curate the children’s safari experience with activities ranging from treasure hunts to fishing and kite building.

Four en-suite bedrooms in the villa overlook the surrounding plains, all within a large fenced area to ensure smaller children are protected from wildlife at all times. The house is beautifully decorated with lots of cosy nooks to settle in with a good book for the afternoon. A huge open plan kitchen and dining area invites parents and children to interact with chefs as they prepare delicious meals. In cooler months, relax by the fire with a glass of red wine in the fully staffed villa and in summer spend the heat of the mid day recovering from game drives with a cool swim in the pool.

Kwandwe Game Reserve (Melton Manor) is definitely a firm favourite villa in South Africa.

Family X Factor: Amazing kids activities | Free babysitting | DVD lounge | Private Safari vehicle | Dining in villa

The Nest @ Sossusvlei, Namibia 

Part of another inspiring African conservation project, The Nest @ Sossusvlei is one of the most unique villa stays in the world (having won Wallpaper* Private Home of the Year in 2018 and receiving several design accolades). Founder Swen Bachran spent his personal fortune removing hundreds of kilometres of fencing and establishing a new conservancy called Namib-Tsaris, near Sossusvlei in Namibia. The aim of Namib-Tsaris is to reintroduce all species inhabiting the area 100 years ago, which is a lofty vision but clearly achievable with the partnerships being forged by the NTC. Home to diverse species of plains game and smaller wildlife, the landscape is a compelling juxtaposition of open savannah, semi-arid riverbeds, and a towering escarpment where G&Ts can be enjoyed at the end of a hard day observing wildlife. 

The Nest @ Sossusvlei was inspired by the sociable weaver bird nest, following the trending concept of biomimicry – a design discipline which explores the way living organisms resolve design challenges. The original design for The Nest @ Sossusvlei was scaled by the owner to become a stunning 4-bedroom villa which truly feels as cosy and nurturing as the inside of a nest.

The Nest Interior
The Nest

Situated at the foot of a ravine, The Nest looks down a riverbed towards the setting sun – an idyllic setting for enjoying drinks by the fire on balmy December evenings. The interior design at the villa is truly bespoke – a stylishly curated collection of mostly African designer pieces. A large sunken lounge with circular sofa is an ideal area for family gatherings, and bedrooms are perfectly positioned for ultimate privacy when quiet time is needed. A stickler for detail, the owner ensures every consideration has been made for discerning clients to have an unforgettable stay at The Nest Namibia.

Outside of the cosy Nest, highly experienced guides take guests on unforgettable adventures. Scenic walks are offered over the savannah and up the plateau, ending with a picnic lunch amongst the kopjes and aloes. Yoga and mountain biking can be enjoyed after an early visit or hot air balloon flight over Sossusvlei dunes. Every single experience at The Nest is curated for the needs of that particular family, assuring an experience that will go a long way towards helping the family unplug and reconnect.

Family X Factor: Resident waterhole attracting resident zebra | Outdoor pool and play area | Adventure activities for all ages | Excellent team of staff | Nurturing and so, so quiet


House in the Wild (Kenya)

The House in the Wild is an incredibly special family villa in a conservancy bordering the Masai Mara. Staying in a wildlife conservancy allows safari travellers to enjoy all of the benefits of being inside a national park, without the crowds typical of those parks. Excellent game viewing can be expected in a conservancy managed on sound and highly ethical principles including community engagement, which is hugely important.

The recipient of several prestigious travel awards, House in the Wild is family owned and operated, lending a genuine ‘home away from home’ feel to the lodge. Travellers who resonate with rustic down-to-earth lodges will love this place.  

house in the wild rhino with children
House in the Wild offers unique animal encounters

Villa in the Wild is the private family villa in the small collection of lodges, set on the banks of the Mara River with a swimming pool to cool off in hot December afternoons and a resident watering hole to witness wildlife right from the veranda.  

Five spacious bedrooms have ample space to host multi-generational families, while the large lounge and veranda invite time spent connecting to one another. All meals are included, and the menu is informed by seasonality, as the house enjoys access to a working farm complete with livestock and organic vegetables.

Kids will have every opportunity to get their hands dirty with the many activities on offer at House in the Wild. This is a truly special low-key safari experience.

Family X Factor: Garden games and tennis | Farm animals | Fishing | Staff curating kids activities

Emily Moon River House (South Africa)

Situated along the calm Piesang River, Emily Moon River House is a stylish yet authentic 5 bedroom gem. The location is unusual for Plettenberg Bay, where holidaymakers flock by the thousands to access the many beautiful beaches. Emily Moon is situated away from the crowds, yet the beach can easily be accessed by car within a few minutes.

Emily Moon river house
The fire pit at Emily Moon River House

The River House is a beautifully designed boathouse opening up to a large wooden verandah with swimming pool and river views forever. Kayaks are on offer for paddling up river to explore, and a large fire pit surrounded by comfy cushions invites evenings sharing stories while cooking supper under the stars.

Interiors at the house are uniquely designed with weathered woods, whitewashed linens, hurricane lanterns, and candles, lending a cosy seaside feel to the holiday home. With the four outdoor showers, families and virtually live outside for the duration of their stay – a huge treat for stressed urbanites.

Emily Moon Lodge has two restaurants hosting evening events, if the family starts to get cabin fever. Further afield, the kids will love Monkeyland, the Elephant Sanctuary, and Birds of Eden while parents can enjoy a delicious al fresco lunch at Bramon Wine Estate. Not to be missed for larger groups or families – a true gem.

Family X Factor: Stylish yet easygoing interiors | Swimming pool and kayaks | Beach nearby | Tons of outdoor adventures nearby for older kids

Interested in exploring further villa options, at every price range? Would you like our help curating a private villa retreat for your family with DIY meals or catering, in-house massage, and so forth – at a fraction of the cost of a 5* lodge? Contact us to start planning!