Kids may not have the right idea when it comes to naps and Santa Claus, but they’re 100% correct about the glory of a good treehouse. We went looking for glorious treehouses around South Africa, and here’s what we found: so pack some playing cards, make a password, and take a break from the world of grown-ups.
All prices were correct at time of publication, but are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please check with them before travelling.
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1. Bushwa Private Game Lodge, Waterberg
Shake up your next wildlife escape and stay in an amazing tree house overlooking a waterhole in the Waterberg. Accommodation in the trees at Bushwa. It’s rustic from the outside but offers luxe comfort within. It’s also isolated and peaceful set away from the main lodge buildings. Enjoy long lazy days with a good book or picnic basket, while you relax and enjoy the diverse birds of the Waterberg area including the Fish eagle. An outdoor shower with views of the river is a proper cherry on top for the whole experience.
Guests will be collected for morning and afternoon/evening game drives making it an unfortgettable safari experience. Meals will be enjoyed at the Safari Lodge. Transfers to and from the Safari Lodge are included in the rate.
Rates: From R1500 per person sharing including all meals and game drives.
Also read: An insider’s guide to the Waterberg
2. Sycamore Avenue
Location: Midlands KwaZulu-Natal
These whimsical tree houses are cleverly designed with wooden contraptions that open doors, and stairways that lead into cosy sleeping and living areas set high above the ground, with squirrels and birds for company. Light a fire (yes, in a wooden structure built on a tree) to fill your tree house with flickering light, before relaxing in a spa bath (good for two) or on the balcony with a glass of wine. Dinner and breakfast ‒ included in the price of your stay ‒ are served in the dining room, with its extensive views of Giant’s Castle. The six unique tree houses (and two cottages) all have different characters and outlooks. For couples, stay in the tree houses Pegasus or Romantic ‒ the latter delivers on its name and has a hammock on its deck. Fantasy and Planequarium are better suited to families.
Rates: Tree houses from R845 per person.
Contact: Tel 0332635009, treehouse-acc.co.za
3. Harkerville Treetop Chalet
Location: Knysna, Garden Route
Built on a platform overlooking the forest, this is a fully equipped, self-catering log cabin that sleeps four. A spacious deck and braai complements a romantic outdoor Jacuzzi and the private location deep in the SANParks reserve makes for a wonderful escape into nature. Stay here if you want the freedom to wander the paths whenever it suits you.
Rates: From R1460 a person a night for two people; R300 a person and R150 a child thereafter.
Contact: Reservations through SANParks Regional Office, Knysna. Tel 0443025606, sanparks.org
Location: Baviaanskloof, Eastern Cape
Be swept into a magical world reminiscent of Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree at Speekhout’s tree house, a work of art sculpted into the arms of a large Karee tree. A double bed and two singles make up the sleeping quarters, with an extra bed for two in the living area, which has a fireplace. You’ll feel connected to nature with tree-patterned sheets, leaves painted on the canvas ceiling, a retractable roof for stargazing, a hot outdoor shower and loo suspended in the tree canopy, no reception (only WhatsApp at the main house), four easy walks and natural swimming pools. Stock up on the basics in Willowmore (56 kilometres away) and visit Sophie’s Choice, a sumptuous vintage shop and restaurant.
Rates: From R320 per person sharing, kids R180.
Contact: WhatsApp 0799741365, speekhout.co.za
5. Vindoux Treehouse Guest Farm & Spa
Location: Tulbagh, Western Cape
Three tree houses at Vindoux, a family-run fruit and wine farm, look out onto its game camp, home to black wildebeest, Cape mountain zebra and springbok. The fourth, as well as Tree Lodge, overlook plum orchards. If you choose, breakfast is served on your balcony against the dramatic backdrop of the Saronsberg Mountains. All the tree houses have access to braai facilities and sleep two people, while the self-catering Tree Lodge, which sleeps eight, is more suited to families and has a pool. The Honeymoon Suite is a short distance away along a shaded forest path. Fynbos therapy oils created on site and used in the spa come highly recommended.
Rates: From R2050 per couple B&B.
Contact: Tel 0232300635, vindoux.com
6. Kameeldoorn Tree House
Location: Mokala National Park
There is only one treehouse in all of South Africa’s diverse national parks. In the middle of Mokala, off the beaten track and far from the two main camps, lies a small wooden cabin with a double bed and tiny bathroom, perched halfway up a copse of camelthorn trees. Don’t get a fright if a giraffe pokes its nose into the window while you’re snoozing. It’s basic and modestly equipped, but at sunset a waterhole in front of the treehouse lures thirsty gemsbok, buffalo, kudu and the occasional rhino. At night, it’s just you, your partner, the stars, the flicker of flames and the howl of hyenas.
Rates: Self-catering from R550 per person sharing a night.
Contact: Tel 0532040158, sanparks.org
7. Teniqua Treetops
Location: Sedgefield, Garden Route
There is a special energy in these ancient Afromontane forests and these Teniqua ‘tree house tents’, suspended above the textured canopy, offer the best opportunity to commune with it. Just eight tree houses share 38 hectares of dense indigenous forest, each erected on a platform in locales selected for their views and privacy. Built organically around the existing trees, the tree houses feel like part of the forest – taking a bath on the deck under the stars and waking to the sounds of the forest is very special. Every tent has an indoor and outdoor seating area, the latter on a private deck (with views and a Weber); a tented bedroom (or two); a well-equipped kitchen, and a bathroom that makes the most of the views.
Tree house tents that are highest in the canopy have composting toilets, which may not suit everyone, so do check this when booking. I loved Loerie’s Nest, a honeymoon tree house, with an al fresco bathroom on the deck, and a flushing loo. There are four family tents; two are two-bedroomed while the other two have a bunk bed in the bedroom (suitable for youngsters who find the forest sounds challenging). Greenbeard is disabled-friendly.
Rates: From R1200 for a honeymoon tree house. R1450 for one-bedroomed tree houses (sleeps four). R1780 for two bedrooms (sleeps four).
Also read: Guide to accommodation in Sedgefield
8. Kurisa Moya, Magoebaskloof
Kurisa Moya featured in our best accommodation in Magoebaskloof article: its location, ancient afromontane forest, prolific birdlife and authentic eco-credentials are very special. The cabins are remote – sans reception or electricity – and are perfect to soak up the serenity. Visitors can go for long rambles (with or without the award-winning resident birder David) or go fishing or cycling. The kitchens are well equipped, but for real luxury, order at least one delicious home-cooked meal (prepared by resident chef Grace), which is delivered hot to your table.
Rates: Forest lodge cabins (sleep two to four) from R800 per person.
9. Marc’s Treehouse Lodge
Location: Hoedspruit, Limpopo
Rustic but comfortable, all 12 tree houses at this riverine bushveld camp near Hoedspruit have stirring views over the Klaserie River and are generously spaced. Treehouse 2 is best, set in Jackalberry branches with a large curtain-less window so sunrise wakes you gently and Treehouse 5, with its sobriety-testing 17-step ladder, is the highest, most tree-house-like home here (the other nine are built on stilts within the tree canopy). Expect nyala grazing close by and eerie cries from thick-tailed bushbabies and hyenas complementing the sounds of water trickling below. A simple DBB option is available ‒ the food is a bit generic (catering is for big groups), but there’s great camaraderie around the fire in the evenings.
Rates: From R980 per person sharing.
Contact: Tel 0718425547, marcscamp.co.za
10. nThambo Tree Camp, Klaserie Private Nature Reserve
You’ll feel particularly close to the bush in the airy structures of nThambo Tree Camp, set on a small open pan in Klaserie towards the north of the Greater Kruger area. Raised off the ground, five similarly rustic en-suite units feel like well-furnished tree houses, although not actually supported by trees. Sturdy vertical poles elevate them and from their main structural support, connected by low latte railings and sections of safari-green canvas. A thick tawny blanket at the end of a wrinkle-free white duvet is appropriate protection from the free-flowing evening breeze. A wooden coat stand with two little drawers is authentic in its colonial-era safari aesthetic, complemented by a small writing desk and tall dark wardrobe.
The lodge is relaxed and revolves around the central, open-plan living, swimming and dining area, shaded by a lofty thatch roof and retractable canvas walls. Thick-weave khaki carpets soften the deck beneath white-cushioned wicker couches, while canvas director’s chairs line a long dining table.
Rates: Full board (including game drives and bush walks) R3095 per person per night