Encompass Africa visits Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Retreat recently voted best hotel in the world, located in the Cedarberg Mountains North of Cape Town.
The road to Bushman’s Kloof in the Cedarberg Mountains of South Africa is paved with patches of villages, roadside stalls and towards the end of the drive, outstanding formations of rock amid mountainous vistas.
Just three hours drive and 270 kilometres from Cape Town, Bushman’s Kloof is a private piece of paradise. It is here you can discover the extra ordinary diversity of geology, flora, fauna and rock art that has been so passionately preserved. We arrive late in the day and the gates have already closed. We buzz the intercom and are met with a friendly and welcoming voice that ushers us inside and issues us with driving instructions to the main lodge where we would be spending the next five days.
We drive the 3 kilometre track through rugged landscapes, past shimmering lake waters and wide open plains in the distance. It’s now I know I am truly in Africa, her magic is mesmerising.
I am not sure how to best describe Africa’s magic to the uninitiated. I can’t explain my fascination with zebra stripes, elephant tails or the skill of a dung beetle trundling along with its smelly treasure. This time around, mother Africa’s magic touched me from the moment I wound down the window to smell the fresh mountain air and gaze up at the enormous open sky and endless horizons.
Nadia was waiting for us on the stoep – front step of reception, a quaint colonial style building. From here we were asked not to worry about bags, they would be taken care of. We were then guided into Manor House, the neighbouring building which boasted bright orange feather hats – traditional to one of the African tribes and stunning décor. Nadia treated us to a chilled glass of their secret and quite famous Rooibos Iced Tea – a treasure on the tongue and palate.
Next was our tour of the grounds – open, unfenced, lush and tranquil spring to mind as I sit here reminiscing of that very moment in time. Numerous swimming pools, from heated pools tucked in the main lodge area to infinity pools overlooking the mountains and rock formations, various dining areas and options and finally, our room.
River Reeds II is a deluxe room – and our home for four luxurious nights. In total there are six deluxe rooms, seven luxury rooms, two suites and one supreme suite. All rooms feature stunning décor, uber-comfortable beds , bathrooms, flat screen televisions and ipod docking stations.
The highlight at Bushman’s Kloof is Koro Lodge (meaning ‘open vistas’ in the San language), a farmhouse in the heart of the reserve that has been renovated and transformed into a spectacular, private villa with stunning views. This privately catered for family experience combines the ultimate luxury with the wonders of nature, to offer a complete wilderness adventure all year round for families and groups of friends. The villa is styled in natural, vibrant earth colours with beautiful handcrafted South African objects and furnishings and is designed and equipped to provide every service and satisfy all needs. The lodge sleeps up to 8 people, has kitchen, bar, living and dining area with fireplace, a swimming pool, wrap around terrace and outdoor barbeque. The lodge comes with private chef and safari guide and jeep.
Any adventurous spirit would be fulfilled at Bushman’s Kloof with the range of exciting activities that include game drives, panoramic walks, hikes, mountain biking, a treatment at the spa, archery, croquet, fly fishing and canoeing.
Don’t come here expecting the ultimate game drive – you will be disappointed because the big five are not residents here. However, the rare Cape Mountain zebra, Eland and Bontebok are amongst over 35 species of mammals that roam freely in this untamed paradise. We went on morning and afternoon safari drives every day in open game viewing vehicles with refreshments served in the reserve.
Bushman’s Kloof is also custodian of over 130 rock art sites, painted by the Bushmen, South Africa’s oldest inhabitants who roamed the region as long ago as the Stone Age.
Jonathon is not an avid fan of a beauty salon or spa, however I managed to convince him to join me for a Bushman’s Kloof Special – a 1 hour massage for couples. A private gazebo overlooking a mountain stream welcomed us along with an iced tea and soothing sounds of meditational music. Usually Jonathon would be out the door by now, but it was the setting and simple décor that lured him to bear all at the hands of our masseuses. One hour flew by and we were both so relaxed (Jonathon asleep) that we stayed on for another hour whilst I had a manicure. Jonathon simply sat up, drank some water and continued to savour the sounds and untouched outdoor environment from the warmth of his massage table and blanket.
And then there’s the food. Straightforward, fresh flavours, unpretentious and beautifully presented in an environment that calls on all the senses for maximum enjoyment. Much of it is grown locally in the organic gardens or picked from the mountain flora. You can enjoy a picnic brunch amidst landscapes of awe inspiring grandeur, savour a spectacular sunset in the riverside boma with a bottle of chilled wine before settling down to a barbeque under the stars or secluded romantic dinner for two in the cool evening air.
The culinary highlights for my simple palate were the Milktert – similar to Custard tarts that Australians may know bought from the local bakery. This one was home made with a heavenly silky smooth texture combined with melt in your mouth crumble base. And secondly, home made sausage rolls with fresh borewors sausage (local meat and herbs) and a light cheese sauce that filled your mouth with stunning flavours.
Food here is a slow experience – it’s a scene from a picture-postcard, and I cannot think of another place in South Africa that is just like this – a sublime eating experience overlooking a natural mountainous area jumping with plains game, baboons and home to ancient bushman’s art and hidden secrets and legends.
The dining wow factor for me was our last night at Bushman’s Kloof. We were driven in game vehicles to Embers, a series of outdoor wooden platforms that boast dining tables, dance floor, buffet area, bar and boma – outdoor fire. The staff were drumming and singing a welcome and we were quickly overcome with emotion. I think I have shed more tears of joy in Africa than anywhere else in the world… it has that effect on me.
I love trying out luxury lodges like Bushman’s Kloof, their four swimming pools with glorious views of endless Africa. I adore the luxury of being pampered, even if I do nothing but curl up in an oversized comfortable chair and let the breeze ruffle my hair. I know I am privileged to witness this world where the eternal challenge of beast against beast plays out, utterly oblivious to the city lives we all think are so important. Maybe it feels so special because it’s something that perhaps 99% of our 6 billion fellow humans will never experience.
Bushman’s Kloof is a destination I highly recommend – one that embraces the essence of South Africa – its people, its wild places and its wildlife big and small.
In the words of Danny from the movie ‘Blood Diamonds’… TIA… this is Africa.
I hope you get to experience it for yourself really soon – and try the Milktert!
by Danica Wilson Encompass Africa