Back in 2009, Woodpecker Inn was one of the first guest houses I visited that was right in the middle of a luxury housing estate. Since then many have popped up in many different estates, The Woodpecker Inn remains one of my favourite, with its handcrafted stain glass windows, immaculate gardens and garden features and the classic decor.
Being more of a ‘bush baby’ my preference has always been the bushveld, but when i was invited to stay at Harbour place in Kalk Bay, I jumped at it….obviously . Owned by the delightful Zelda Bezuidenhout and under the banner of Escapology Self Catering, Harbour Place is…well what can I say….spectacular. Situated right on the main road going through Kalk Bay to Simons Town is the historical hotel, The New Kings. Harbour Place is one of the self catering apartments in The New Kings Hotel. With spectacular views over the harbour, Harbour Place is the absolute ideal place to relax, catch your breath and of course….trawl the street of Kalk Bay and St James. Continue reading
Once again i had the absolute privilege of visiting AND being able to stay at UMLANI BUSHCAMP www.umlani.com. As most know, this is one of my favourite camps in the bushveld. Why you ask? Well because to me, this is a true African Safari experience. Simplistic luxury. Ten stunning luxury reed and thatch huts, with on-suite bathrooms and outside showers, no electricity, no cellphones, exquisite scenery, amazing professional staff and guides AND right in the heart of Big 5 territory!! What more could you want?
THE VALLEY OF THE RAINBOW Country Estate and Nature Reserve. Stofberg. Dullstroom
Driving to Valley of the Rainbow, I already had a feeling that I was going to be greeted by something very special. Being in the throws of winter I was afraid that the dryness would taint this stunning place in a way. Man, was I in for a surprise!! As one enters the Valley of the Rainbow, it’s like entering a different world. Although still dry with very little leaves on the trees, it is so clear that winter has its own beauty, especially in this part of the world.
You will find the famous BUSH PUB AND INN along the Guerney road, just before you enter the Timbavati gate in the Hoedspruit area. Gavin and Adam, the owners of the Bush Pub and Inn invited me to experience the Pub for myself, and I was not disappointed! A stunning relaxed vibe in the pub, with Gavin being so accommodating with everyone, including having to deal with 2 crazy females (Gillian and I ) Unfortunately I was not able to be there when they were in full “party mode”, but have every intention of doing another visit soon to check that out .
Situated in the Guernsey Nature Reserve close to Hoedspruit, Cheetah Paw Eco Lodge as only been open for a year, and already they attracting LOTS of attention. With their stunning newly built luxury tented accommodation (a combination of stunning canvas and plastered brick) this eco lodge is going to go places. Classically decorated comfortable rooms. Full bathrooms with an inside and outside shower. Managed by the darling Doris and her equally darling husband Juergen, both originally from Germany , the lodge is a hit with locals as well as the international tourist. I was also lucky to spend time with Amy, the lodge’s qualified tour guide and Assistant Manager. Amy also guides all the activities at the lodge and speaks English, Afrikaans, German and Dutch.
Lucky for me, Ponciana have been one of my clients almost since their inception. The owners and managers, (both Belguin) Ronny and Yolande have worked tirelessly to bring and maintain the top class standard of this guest house. Having 7 stunningly decorated luxury rooms, Ponciana is a favourite, especially with overseas tourists who stay over at the guest house before embarking on their overland safaris with Ronny, who runs an independent tour operation business – Pongoa Travel (Pty) Ltd It is definitely my intention to get onto one of these tours For more info on the guest house and to book yourself on one of Ronny’s adventures see their website: www.guesthouseponciana.co.za
Once again my family and I had the privilege of staying at Raptor Retreat for a FULL weekend! And what a treat that was. Over the years Keith and Sharmaine, the owners of Raptor Retreat, have become firm friends, and for me, that is such an honour. Nestled in the wild untouched bush, on the Parsons BIG 5 Reserve (Balule) is this little gem called Raptor Retreat. They have two private lodges (Seriously, to die for!!) Extract below from their website…. (I could not have said it better )
“Accommodation one of best the industry has to offer. Two private lodges: the Elephant Lodge and Buffalo Lodge. Each air-conditioned room has high thatched ceilings and a huge, built-in king-size bed as well as a large sliding door that opens onto a private deck with double recliners. The deck is nestled in amongst the trees giving you the feeling of being right in the thick of the bush. One could expect an elephant or lion to stroll past any minute. Slip into your own splash pool and cool off under the hot African sun whilst watching game graze nearby. Complimentary teas and coffees are provided as well as a fully stocked bar fridge. On request, lunch can be served on your private deck at an additional cost. The open plan wet bathroom features sliding doors, duel basins, a large shower and bath. Screens are strategically placed to ensure privacy and complimentary toiletries of superior quality are provided” P.s. I would visit this lodge JUST to use these stunning bathrooms!!.
Raptor Retreat now have two stunning self-catering units which each sleep 4 people. I hate the cliche “Home away from home”, but this truly is a home away from home x 100!! Absolutely stunning units that are all the size of an average house, fully equipped, modern kitchens, all on-suite bathrooms and decks (with own splash pools nogal!) overlooking the watering hole. It is not uncommon to see ellies strolling around here and drinking from this hole. Finishes we could only dream of and views of the bush that are so enthralling that one could be forgiven for NOT wanting go out on game drives or leave the area full stop! Talking about game drives…. We affectionately refer to Keith as “Ranger Bob” . Ranger Bob is probably one of the most entertaining game rangers I have encountered. Not a twig misses his keen eye and one can expect a 2 hour game drive to easily slide into a four hour game drive because it is so damn interesting!!
For more information, rates and booking, contact Sharmaine on their website http://raptorretreatlodge.co.za/ or check out their fabulous Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RaptorRetreatGameLodge. And tell them WE sent you!
Check this out guys…. I get to go to some of the most amazing places, and one of them is Shibula Lodge in the Welgevonden Private Game Reserve, near Vaalwater in Limpopo. Desre and Laurie Roux are the managers at this five star, AA Superior Lodge, with new ranger, Matthew doing the game drives and early morning shifts . (sometimes at 4.30am I might add!) Des and Laurie have been at Shibula for a good couple of years now and I have been privileged to be able to spend time with them and get to know them on numerous occasions. But enough about them . Let me tell you about Shibula. The most luxurious rooms…well you cant really call them rooms. They are more like luxury townhouses, with bathrooms almost as big as the rooms, a lounge area to match, enviable Persian carpets scattered everywhere and breathtaking views over the bushveld and cliffs. As I was the only guest in the lodge, I was spoilt rotten by Laurie, Desre and Matthew. I even even got to have dinner with Mat and Laurie!!! Rich home-made butternut and ginger soup, fillets braaied to absolute perfection and a surprise desert that I literally force-fed myself so that I didnt miss out The boys were excellent company and did not disappoint as they related crazy stories about their experiences in the bush…some hysterically funny and others pretty sobering. As usual, I slept like a log (always do when I am in this part of the world) partly because of the top quality mattresses on the beds and partly because of the beautiful serine stillness of the bush, with only the sounds of jackal howling and the occasional barking of the baboons up in the crags and cliffs. Morning saw me, once again, having to move on and after a wonderful breakfast served by the MOST friendly, attentive waiters, I hit the road… Thanks again to Mat, Des and Laurie for hosting me and ALWAYS giving me the feeling of “I neeeed to live here!!!” To get more info or to book at this “SUPERIOR” place check out their FB page https://www.facebook.com/shibula.lodge?fref=ts or visit their website at www.shibulalodge.co.za
The Vaalwater area always holds a special place in my heart. Different in a way from the Kruger area in that the vegetation is more ‘compact’ and green, it almost gives the feeling of being ‘almost’ in another country, yet only 2 and a half hours from JHB. So when Sandra Nortje, the owner and manager of Olievenhoutsrus invited me to spend a night at their beautiful guest game farm, I jumped at the opportunity. A mere 2 hrs drive from Pretoria, in the heart of the Waterberg mountains, 10 minutes outside the bushveld town of Vaalwater, lies Olievenhoutsrus (roughly translated – Olivewood Rest)
Owned and run by the vivacious Sandra Nortje, Olievenhoutsrus is an oasis in this beautiful bushveld wilderness. This self-catering accommodation has been running for at least 8 years with great success, thanks to Sandra’s background in the hospitality industry and her flair for making her guests feel like family.
Olievenhoutsrus is a lovely peaceful self-catering establishment that has 2 very comfortable rondavals and 2 family cottages that sleep 4 people and 6 people respectively, all in a beautiful, well-tended garden setting with full views of the surrounding bushveld. They also have a beautiful fully equipped kitchen in their lapa area that reminded me of my mom’s kitcken when we were younger. The lapa boasts a stunning hard wood dining room table where guests can gather and have dinner together PLUS a nice big screen TV for the guys to watch the rugby or where the kids can watch movies or DSTV (why anyonewould want to do that in the bushveld, I don’t know! )
I was delighted to spend the night in one of the lovely rondavals on this working farm. A two sleeper with a spacious lounge, kitchenette, small comfortable bathroom off the bedroom and my very own little stoep, overlooking the waterhole and feeding troughs where the animals are fed during part of the winter months.
While sitting outside at dusk, with the red sun shining through the dust, contemplating life and deciding what next adventure I wanted to do, a herd of zebra came meandering towards the feeding troughs. Still learning to negotiate my new Nikon camera, I figured the setting was perfect to try out the camera and take a few shots. As I moved closer, so the setting and composition got better and more and more animals started coming. Eventually, between the beating of hooves and the snorting, the animals had worked up the sand and dust to form the perfect backdrop. There were 3 giraffe, a herd of wildbees and nyala and the zebra. My goodness…did I have a field day clicking away. Have a look….
In all the years I have been in the bush and been travelling around, I have never actually seen a real live bush baby. So you can only imagine my excitement when I was sitting outside later that night, to look up into the trees and see this little creature with the biggest eyes looking down at me. My VERY FIRST bush-baby sighting!!! Wow, I was blown away. Sandra later explained that they have a whole group of bush babies which feed at their bird bath in the evenings. I have since learned that the collective nouns for a group of bush babies is a “congress of bush-babies”. (like baboons –but oh-so-much-cuter )
Sandra Nortje : +27 (0)82-657-6262