Book It: Four once-in-a-lifetime hotels to inspire your travels in 2020


Whether trekking the Amazon or diving in the Maldives is on your bucket list, we’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime trip for you…

Giraffe Manor, Nr Nairobi, Kenya

Best for… Instagram likes

As wildlife sanctuaries go, this is as exclusive and intimate as they come. There are only 12 rooms at this impressive 1930s-built manor house, just outside Nairobi, where you encounter 10 resident Rothschild’s giraffes up close and personal. The highlight is an afternoon tea of bottomless gin cocktails and scones, with the giraffes galloping up to the terrace to eat grass pellets from guests’ hands. Later, as the giraffes retreat into their forest sanctuary, visit the adjoining African Fund for Endangered Wildlife’s Giraffe Centre to learn more about the conservation projects. Though it’s all about the animals here, the food is excellent too – especially the four-course lunch on arrival of courgette hummus, Moroccan salad, apricot sesame chicken and white-chocolate fondue. Suites are quirky and giraffe-themed (of course), and the enormous open windows in the dining room mean the giraffes can poke their heads through and say hello as you tuck into your full English. Take a snap and watch your Instagram ‘likes’ soar.

Stella loves: The gift shop, with giraffe-themed souvenirs galore, including magnets, T-shirts, vases and necklaces.

Out and about: It’s all about the giraffes here, but the hotel is nine miles (15km) from Nairobi, which is a good stop-off on the way. When you’re in the city, visit the Maasai Market (an excellent handicraft fair where you can pick up souvenirs). For another incredible animal encounter, visit orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which is around 20 minutes away in a taxi. Arrive in time to see the calves drink their breakfast milk.

From £680 per person per night, full board;

Read the full expert review: Giraffe Manor

giraffe manor, nairobi

Giraffe Manor is famous for its friendly neighbours – a herd of Rothschild giraffes that delight in sticking their long necks through the windows to be fed treats

The world’s best hotels for animal encounters

Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica, Madre de Dios, Peru

Best for… wildlife lovers

This award-winning eco-lodge is THE place for would-be David Attenboroughs. Accessible only by the Madre de Dios river and surrounded by a protected area of Amazon rainforest (a spectacular breakfast backdrop), it’s the gateway to a hidden world, where you can spot caimans, anteaters and howler monkeys. The 37 palm-thatched cabanas are simply but elegantly furnished with king-size beds and en-suite bathrooms (you’ll want to buy the beautiful cotton kimonos). Mesh windows keep the mosquitoes at bay, while letting in the magical sounds of the jungle. Expert guides lead small groups on expeditions – don’t miss the paddleboat ride around Lake Sandoval for a chance to see hoatzin (known as reptile birds) and giant otters. Afterwards, retire to the hotel for an excellent supper of fish steamed in bamboo.

Stella loves: Chilling in the hammock or plunge pool in your private suite.

Out and about: The hotel offers plenty of guided expeditions, including a tree-canopy walk (130ft high) and a spellbinding twilight river ride, where spotlights will pick out capybara, caimans and the nocturnal creatures that are just coming to life.  

From £620 per person for a three-day/two-night programme in a Superior River-view bungalow at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica (based on double occupancy), including return domestic flights from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, full-board, excursions, entrance fees to Lake Sandoval and Inkaterra Canopy Walkway;

Read the full expert review: Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica

Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica, Madre de Dios, Peru

You can have your David Attenborough moment in supreme comfort at Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica, an award-winning eco-lodge in the Peruvian Amazon

The best hotels in Peru

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Best for… bling, bling, bling

Voted as the most luxurious hotel in the world, this place oozes bling, from its fleet of chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Phantoms to the world-class dining (the hotel is home to three celebrity chefs with seven Michelin stars between them). It is set on its own man-made island and inside, the duplex suites come with hot tubs, dressing rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows with magnificent views across to the Arabian sea. There’s even a private in-room bar for champagne and hors d’oeuvres. But save space for dinner in one of those fabulous restaurants – the Wagyu sirloin and blue lobster in Al Muntaha is worth the visit alone. Afterwards, head to Gold on 27 bar for shisha, cocktails and epic views of the Dubai skyline. 

Stella loves:The 24/7 personal butler service on each floor – contact yours via your television remote control to request anything from a glass of bubbly to a bubble bath. 

Out and about: It’s hard to leave the hotel, especially when there’s an infinity pool and spectacular private beach to boot. But if you do, head to Souk Madinat across from the hotel for an authentic old-Dubai experience, including an abra – a traditional wooden boat used as a water taxi – tour of the stunning Madinat Jumeirah hotel grounds.

From £950 a night for a one-bedroom deluxe suite;

Read the full expert review: Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

With an eye-catching aesthetic and fleet of Rolls-Royce Phantoms, Burj Al Arab has always delivered on decadence

An insider guide to Dubai

Jumeirah Vittaveli, South Male Atoll, Maldives

Best for… paradise seekers

This sleepy paradise island, a 20-minute catamaran ride from the capital of Male, has more than enough to keep active types busy, including an expansive house reef for divers and watersports such as flyboarding and waterskiing. For a more leisurely jaunt, book on to the sunset boat trip, then take dinner in the wine library, where the resident sommelier pairs wine with supper. Ideal for honeymooners, the villas are all beautifully private and each comes with its own pool – book into one of the 30 over-water villas and wake up to the feeling that you’re in the middle of the world’s most beautiful stretch of ocean. Or for a true bucket-list-worthy trip, opt for one of the seven humongous ocean ‘retreats’ that are accessible only by boat. 

Stella loves: The bicycles provided with each room, perfect for exploring the island.

Out and about: Bag a table at the resort’s sought-after restaurant, Swarna, which serves award-winning Indian cuisine. It has just a handful of tables (including a chef’s table and some private open-air cabanas). 

Seven-nights from £3,759 per person, based on two sharing a Beach villa with pool on a half-board basis, including return flights from London Heathrow and speedboat transfers. Call 01204 474801 or visit  

Read the full expert review: Jumeirah Vittaveli

Jumeirah Vittaveli, South Male Atoll, Maldives

Jumeirah Vittaveli is made up of generously proportioned villas each with their own private pool

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