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If you consider yourself a travel-savvy individual, you’ll know that free WIFI, complimentary water and laundry is among others, a given and that you can look forward to the bite size confection on your pillow every evening. The real question here is “what is a 5 star experience in South Africa?”

Keep in mind that accommodation classification (stars) is not mandatory in all countries and that there isn’t a unified international regulation system… yet. The realities of tourism are very different for different countries in terms of consumer expectations, infrastructure etc. That being said, I’ve compiled what I perceive (according to research) is the most realistic list of what you can expect of a 5 star establishment in South Africa.

Bare basics

Safety – Guests should feel safe when they are on the property. 24 Hour security is mandatory. If they travelled by road, their vehicle must be parked in a safe parking area.

Electricity – Load shedding is inevitable at some point and there should be generators to supply electricity in all the rooms and in the main buildings, such as reception and restaurant.

Telecommunications – In secluded areas, where there is no cell reception, guests should have a phone in their room. Same rule applies to WIFI. If there is no WIFI available in the rooms, guests should have access to internet at a centralised point.

Inspiring architecture – Main buildings should be welcoming and beautiful and appropriately designed for the surroundings. The suites will be spacious and luxurious with aircons and a picturesque view.

Intuitive staff engagement

Not only will you find knowledgeable staff, but they will also be finely tuned into their guests’ needs. They will know when to be helpful and when to provide privacy, they know more than is expected of them.

Travel fanatic, Sareta Schütte, who is also the director of Kilima Private Game Reserve and Spa, a 5 star Lodge which offers beautiful accommodation in Limpopo province, defines her view on the subject: “When I visit a 5 star establishment, I already have a certain expectation that should at least be met. The wow factors for me will be the way I’m greeted by professional staff and housekeeping and restaurateur going the extra mile, doing things that you don’t normally expect. Furthermore it is the little things like a superb wine list, beautifully presented food and a fresh fruit basket in my room along with a personal welcome letter from the hotelier that make my stay so much more memorable.”

“Welcome to Kilima Private Game Reserve and Spa”

The revel is in the detail

Owner of Postcard Moments Travel and concierge travel expert, Mirinda Bosman has been in the tourism industry for 20 years. We asked for her opinion and she said the key to a successful 5 star experience is detail: “You have to feel as if you’re getting way more than you paid for. This includes service above and beyond with extensive menu options, amazing food and wine, included activities for adults and children like game drives and bush walks. Opulent rooms with beautiful views and luxurious amenities and of course an upper class coffee station. Staff should be knowledgeable and pay extra personal attention to guest. Detail, detail, detail. It is especially nice if they are considerate of preferences and make an effort to prepare accordingly for each return guest.”

Small detail like branded flip flops as a gift is a perfect example of ‘attention to detail’.

Tangibles and consumables

Everything you touch and taste will be of exceptionally high standard. Outstanding wine, gourmet food that is artfully prepared and perfectly brewed bottomless coffee. You can expect luxurious and comfortable furniture, Egyptian cotton bedding and large fluffy towels with therapeutic oil infused bath crystals or similar pampering amenities to use as you wish. There will be an inviting subtle scent whenever you walk into a room and you’ll find everything clean, neat and appealing, no matter where you are.

Attractive activities

Depending on where you are, you can expect at least one activity to be included in your daily rate. For example, Kilima Private Game Reserve and Spa offers their guests a selection of Spa treatments at Kukura Wellness Spa and a choice of 2 types of game drives ending with sundowners on a picturesque star gazing deck.

Snacks and sundowners at Kilima Private Game Reserve and Spa after a game drive.

“A spa is a particularly wonderful asset for any establishment, extending guests a deeper level of luxury and relaxation”

Kukura Wellness Spa – reduce toxic footprint

One last tip: South Africa is a magical country and sure to feature on the bucket list of any person with wanderlust. Whether you dream about a scenic taste-sensation in the Cape Winelands, or a close encounter African safari in Limpopo province, be sure to do your research and read reviews before choosing your accommodation. There are thousands of beautiful properties where you can kick off your shoes after a day of sightseeing and enjoy the finer luxuries on offer. Not everyone’s hospitality is equal but you’ll find the rare gems if you search for them!


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