The Royal Portfolio, South Africa

A Royal Flush

Some of the best stories begin with “Once upon a time”. Such a time was 1999, when Liz and Phil Biden decided to convert their holiday home in the African bush into what is now Royal Malewane. located in the Thornybush Private Game Reserve on the western border of the Kruger National Park.

Royal Malawane Safari Lodge. Client: The Royal Portfolio. Art director: Paul Duncan. Stylist: Nathalie Williams.
Royal Malewane Safari Lodge private plunge pool at sunrise. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

This marked the beginning of The Royal Portfolio, a selection of exclusive accommodation destinations imprinted with Liz Biden’s nous- informed by her travels and involvement in the fashion business.

Royal Malewane patio. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
Royal Malewane patio. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

Royal Malewane exudes the romance and beauty of a bygone age while offering every modern comfort. Claiming to have the most qualified guiding team in Africa promises wonderful wildlife experiences, and the diverse accommodation is uber enticing.

Nearly 1200 miles/ 1900km away is something equally enticing.

The Silo Hotel- A Great Gatsby of a Treat

The Silo Hotel at Sunset. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
The Silo Hotel at Sunset. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

Cape Town is awash with magnificent views. Mountain, sea. Harbour. More mountain. Sitting at the eleventh floor Rooftop Bar of The Silo Hotel, looking beyond the pool to a Lion’s Head so prominent that you might as well be nibbling on Nyala with Simba on Pride Rock, the mind reconciles itself with the fact that you might have finally found the ultimate sundowner spot.

Rooftop relaxing. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
Rooftop relaxing. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

The Silo Hotel is housed in a historic grain silo complex. It has been part of the landscape forever, so to give it a new identity was a tantalising prospect. It wasn’t a half job, either. The extensive use of exterior glass make it shimmer by day, and sparkle by night. From afar, it looks like a diamond-shaped Jenga monument- eye-catching to say the least, and the happy consequence of all that glass is that every room offers a unique perspective of one of the most picturesque cities in the world.

Opulence Personified

With just 28 rooms and a street reputation of some of the most expensive hotel rooms in Africa, the Silo Hotel most certainly delivers on the wow factor. It is lavish layer upon layer of luxury and relaxation.

Royal Suite detail. Photographer: Mark Williams
Royal Suite detail. Photographer: Mark Williams
Lobby detail. Photo by Micky Hoyle.
Lobby detail. Photo by Micky Hoyle.

Liz Biden took it upon herself to meticulously decorate each room. That considered individual touch is immediately noticeable and you sense the great deal of fun she had, with splashes of colour and wit around each corner, with a concerted effort to pay homage to what this great building once was as uncompromising steel meets delicate glass in a fusion that is very easy on the eye.

Most pleasantly for the traveller who returns from a day of wine tasting or perhaps hiking up one of the mountains, significant attention has been given to the bathroom experience. Each room has a soaking tub that looks out to something phenomenal, and demands that guests slip in and forget themselves for an hour or so.

Deluxe superior suite bathroom. Photo Courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
Deluxe superior suite bathroom. Photo Courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

The rooms are listed according to six categories, defined by room size and the views they afford. The Royal Suite and the stand-alone Penthouse are, naturally, in a league of their own.

Study in Penthouse bedroom. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
Study in Penthouse bedroom. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

Our duplex suite had the most wonderful waterfront views. The lounge area was vast enough to almost pass as another bedroom, with a well-stocked mini bar that was just asking for trouble.

Decadence at the Granary

The brasserie – style Granary Café delivers decadence by the bite. It’s setting, on the sixth floor, provides uninterrupted views across the city and harbour and the double volume ceilings help to create an air of privacy for each table.

The Granary dining. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
The Granary dining. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

The menu takes inspiration from its surroundings, with some truly exquisite seafood offerings. The delicately treated langoustine starter will linger long in the memory. The quail starter my partner chose smelt divine, and was generous enough to almost be a main dish.

The entrées were phenomenal. A Springbok loin and a magnificent rib eye, flamed to perfection, and paired with the velvety house red. There simply was no logical room for dessert, but the chef still insisted on sending a chocolate tower to share.

If you haven’t over extended yourself the night before, breakfast simply has to be the harvest table, which looked a nibbler’s delight. Sensibly, I plumped for the daintier house pancakes, with summer berries and fresh yoghurt.

Charisma with a Conscience

The Silo Hotel goes beyond fine dining and endless views, though there are more intimate dining rooms. And another wonderful bar, a library and gym. The intimate spa is neatly tucked away and, though the hotel is above the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, it also has its own private gallery, showcasing the very best of South African talent and creativity.

As Nick Carraway opined in The Great Gatsby, there are careless people in the world, who smash up things and creatures, and then retreat back to their money or their vast carelessness.

That is most assuredly not the case here. The Biden Family have creatively reimagined and reinvigorated a piece of Cape architectural history, and there is a considerable amount of perspective behind the Silo Hotel, and the other accommodation jewels on the roster.

The Royal Portfolio Foundation, managed by Ali McAdam, Liz and Phil’s daughter, provides regular support to communities close to each property. They raise awareness on conservation and, in the midst of the pandemic, provided relief to communities in need.

Reside a While

It is in the mountainous magnificence of the tranquil Franschhoek Valley, just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, that La Residence nestles- surrounded by premium wine country, with the stylish little town of Franschhoek at its heart.

La Residence. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
La Residence. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

La Residence hosts you in a grand villa. The forecourt with a gurgling sculpture adorned fountain directs you through lofty glass doors into an even loftier hall- at once lobby, with, to one side an elegant salon and the other a beautiful dining room. The fragrance of opulent flowers welcomes you.

An Impeccable Heart

View from the heart. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
View from the heart. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

Refreshments are enjoyed on the terrace from where glorious views unfold. La Residence’s heart is an inner garden with impeccably manicured lawns fringed with perfumed shrubs and shaded by an avenue of regal palms leading to a marble edged pool. Beyond stretch yet more rose and jasmine scented gardens, inviting one to explore the expansive grounds and views across orchards and vineyards dotted with historic Cape Dutch homesteads, whence the grapes that produce the group’s fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Rose are harvested.

Debonair GM Edward Morton took our conversation to warm remembrances of developing the property. “The vision has always belonged to Liz,” he says, “from the structure, the garden layout, to the interiors.”

Suite Dreams

My flower filled Tibetan Suite’s large balcony faced north across the gardens. It is lavishly proportioned, with the rooms exotically appointed in brilliant oriental orange silk draperies and deeply upholstered furniture. Large Tibetan ancestor portraits decorate the walls, lit by sparkling chandeliers sourced on journeys across the Indian subcontinent.

Tibetan Suite. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
Tibetan Suite. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

An elegantly proportioned oriental armoire houses a well-stocked minibar, snacks and NESPRESSO machine. The slightly larger Superior Suites offer a more complete ‘wet’ bar with a comfortable dining area, should you wish to take your meals privately.

The marble floored bathroom forms a natural extension to the bedroom, with an oversized bath tub flanked by Chinoiserie vanities and tall mirrors. The large walk-in shower and WC are discreetly tucked behind spacious his and hers wardrobes.

The estate is also home to a series of impeccably appointed vineyard suites.

Vineyard Suite interior. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
Vineyard Suite interior. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

Sundowners are enjoyed in the elegant loggia, with views across rolling lawns where peacocks strut and call toward beautiful wooded gardens and distant mountains. A romantically furnished summerhouse faces the lake with its willow dressed island. Flowering jacarandas (gifted by Elton John) frame the sunset view.

Dining Delights

Dinner is taken in the vast hall. A table in the sunken lounge at the far end seats a honeymoon couple, who seek only the company of each other and a flaming log fire. A highly lacquered coral pink boudoir grand discreetly keeps an eye.

Dining area. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio
Dining area. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

At the opposite end, an open plan kitchen allows guests to enjoy a fine Chef’s Table prepared in their presence. Banter flies back and forth from a jovial group. They fall silent. Clearly dinner has been served.

Our table was set close to another fireplace, lit to take the chill off the evening. We enjoyed a bottle of elegantly pink La Residence Rose Shiraz, fragrant with lingering rose petals and Turkish delight, from the comprehensive wine list.

The menu offers three choices each as starter, main course and dessert. We plumped for roasted baby beetroot with salad fresh from the hotel’s kitchen garden, lightly dressed and topped with toasted walnuts and brie. Also, Thai inspired seared tuna on a julienne of vegetables topped with avocado, sesame seeds and delicately dressed with a soy and ginger reduction. Our waiter offered us each a tiny taste of the soup. Carrot and coconut. Heaven!

As mains; pan fried Yellowtail with a sweet pomme puree, confit tomato and courgettes and cucumber and tomato salsa or thyme baked baby chicken with herbed new potatoes, baby carrots and mangetout. This deliciously accompanied with a densely flavoured mushroom jus.

The prize for dish of the evening went to that which we never ordered, but certainly sampled. Sautéed pea tagliatelle, sundried tomato, green beans, shaved parmesan and basil pesto crème. Top marks!

Dessert. Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

The meal ends with a choice of chocolate fondant, chocolate crumble with blueberries and ice cream or a selection of sorbet and a Macadamia nut ice cream. The cheese board was beyond us.

And so to percale, surely to dream. The vast bed is impeccably made up with crisply ironed bed clothes of cotton sateen and pure linen. Thanks Ralph Lauren, fluffy pillows and sleep.

After an indulgent morning soak, breakfast on the veranda. The menu features interesting twists on breakfast classics. Eggs Benedict: here with maple glazed ham on toasted sourdough bread- the hollandaise infused with smoked paprika, the perfectly poached farm eggs zested with thinly sliced radish. Or, poached egg, roasted chick peas, feta with dukkah spiced butternut, crispy bacon and rocket.

A Whale of a Time

A drive over the mountain passes and up the coast takes one to chic and intimate Birkenhead House (named after HMS Birkenhead which sank along this treacherous but beautiful coastline) in Hermanus, with its exhilarating cliff-top position overlooking the whale watching paradise of Walker Bay.

Birkenhead House. Photo courtesy of What My Boyfriend Wore
Birkenhead House. Photo courtesy of What My Boyfriend Wore

One could take in all the Biden properties as a package deal. The good news for South African residents are the special discounted rates on offer until the end of April.

Find out more here.

Fugitives’ Drift: the legacy, the raconteur, the guest who never left

True Tales, True Beauty

It’s hard to top a good story, well told- exceptionally portrayed would be more fitting. And the stories told at the sites of the battles near and on the property of Fugitives’ Drift, around the boma fire, or at the bar, are of such immense scale that one is swept up and along, heartstrings plucked as the events of 22-23 January 1879 are vividly presented.

The scale is matched by the vistas, which equally tug at the heart and feed the eyes and soul. The word Zulu means ‘Heaven’, the Zulu people, amaZulu, are ‘The People of Heaven’, and their home, KwaZulu, is ‘The Place of Heaven’. Easy to see why. The land is as rugged and majestic as the Zulus aspire to be.

Fugitives’ Drift Reserve Views
Fugitives’ Drift Reserve Views

Located in a natural heritage site on the lip of the Buffalo River gorge, approximately four and five hours from Durban and Johannesburg respectively, Fugitives’ Drift commands magnificent views across the plains to the mountains of Isandlwana, the Oskarberg, and down 1 150 metres to the river crossing on the Buffalo River which gives the reserve its name. The 22 km river boundary includes the spectacular Indaweni gorge.

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Resolve Realised

It is here that David and Nicky Rattray pioneered heritage tourism. In 2007, David was murdered, with Nicky standing beside him, but this self-effacing woman with indomitable strength remained and the family have continued and built on David’s legacy.

Lodge boma and deck dining area
Lodge boma and deck dining area

From humble beginnings of one cottage and a vehicle they built Fugitives’ Drift into what it is today: the lodge, guest house, Umzinyathi Farmhouse and KwaGeorge cottage.

Harford library view
Harford library view

Views from the lodge rooms are lovely and, from the wraparound verandah of the beautiful Harford library, just wow! If you go, do yourself a favour and stay for three nights so that you have time, in between battlefield excursions, to appreciate the beauty of Fugitives’ Drift, to while away some hours at the library, around the perfectly positioned swimming pool or swaying in the ridiculously comfy suspended seating on a lodge room balcony. If you’re in the guest house, you have your own perfectly positioned pool and much more besides.

 

Rest Easy

In both the lodge and guest house, accommodation is spacious, attractively decorated, with full ensuite bathrooms, inside and outside showers, lounge area, huge and exceptionally comfortable beds and pillows, and private verandahs- all encompassing the views.

Lodge bedroom
Lodge bedroom

The bathrooms are a delight – all the touches from heated towel rails, bowls of bath salts to pump pots of body lotion. The practical is not forgotten either. Every suite comes equipped with walking sticks, umbrellas, torches, a bedside clock and mosquito spray (Fugitives’ Drift is not in a malaria zone).

Lodge room
Lodge room

Umzinyathi is essentially self-catering but meals can be taken at the Lodge or Guest House by arrangement. Guests at KwaGeorge take their meals at the Lodge or Guest House.

Guest House
Guest House
Guest House bedroom
Guest House bedroom
KwaGeorge interior
KwaGeorge interior

War and Peace

The battlefields region of KwaZulu-Natal is a landscape of rolling hills and grasslands over which were fought a total of 63 battles that shaped the history of South Africa. The main focus of Fugitives’ Drift is the history of the Anglo-Zulu Wars fought primarily at Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift but you do not have to be a history boffin to enjoy tours. Against the background of war are the stories of ordinary people. Stories of adventure, bravery, heroism, treachery, betrayal and arrogance. It’s stirring stuff indeed.

Douglas Rattray at Isandlwana
Douglas Rattray at Isandlwana

Douglas Rattray- all of the guides actually- are consummate narrators and we were enraptured, most visibly emotional as the stories unfolded. They are dedicated, inspired and inspiring custodians of the history, not only of the Anglo-Zulu war, but of Southern Africa and its cultures.

Mphiwa Ntanzi at Isandlwana
Mphiwa Ntanzi at Isandlwana
Rorkes Drift at sunset
Rorkes Drift at sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fugitives’ Drift museum
Fugitives’ Drift museum

But you can enjoy Fugitives’ Drift on so many other levels. You can stroll through the indigenous rock garden or walk through the reserve. Game is abundant on the 5000 acre property, as are species of birds. Without major predators to make them nervous, you may have to remind yourself that the animals are wild as they are pretty chilled and it is unusually easy to get close to them.
For the slightly more energetic there is coarse fishing in the Buffalo and for the really energetic there are trail runs and a network of single-track mountain biking routes ranging from flat to steep.

Giraffe with Isandlwana in the distance
Giraffe with Isandlwana in the distance

Lest you think all this sounds quite focussed on grownups, it was great to see how youngsters are entertained. An ex Gurkha officer and his family were staying while I was there. Understandably he was very interested in the military aspects, and he and his wife were delighted that their three children, aged six to 10, were so well engaged in interactive tours of their own, including a game walk and game drive, so that the parents could take in the tours which would have been a bit much for the kids.

Douglas was fantastic to the children during the afternoon walk, 15 minutes from the lodge, to where the first men in history to earn posthumous Victoria Crosses, Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill, were buried. He gave them much of his attention, his knobkerrie (walking stick) to parade with- and even persuaded them to adopt some pet rocks. Said rocks were quartzite, dating back to the beginning of the planet, and the area is a geologist’s treat, with plunging cliffs and crags of Karoo sandstone and dolerite.

The excursions are exceptionally executed. Not just the storytelling, but the timing, the thoughtful touches.

 

Rorkes Drift Battlefield Tour
Rorkes Drift Battlefield Tour

Homely Luxury

You are made to feel at home from the moment you arrive. There are several staff that have been at Fugitives’ Drift for 20 years or more. That, and their smiles, tells a story. Good management, happy staff, happy guests. Grace Ndlela is mentioned in many guest reviews. Smiling, singing, charming and guaranteed to brighten your day. The food deserves a mention too, as does the wine list. Whatever your dietary requirements or preferences, you will be pleased- especially with the pre-dinner drinks canapés which included the best little pastries I’ve had.

Grace Ndlela at the bar
Grace Ndlela at the bar
Lodge lounge
Lodge lounge

 

 

 

 

The library is a wonderful place to take meals too. Like the lodge, there’s wi-fi if you need to connect beyond the marvellous scenery. Apart from the amazing collection of historical literature and artefacts that the Rattray’s have accumulated (here and in the museum opposite the reception offices) it’s completely geared to host functions or special occasions but, more meaningful for me, geared to relaxing. Those views…

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So said Aristotle. Micko O’Byrne- the Australian who came to visit and never left, marrying Nicky instead, probably best sums up what is so special about Fugitives’ Drift: “I was struck by the immensity of the stories that they tell here. But I was also taken by the people that started this because, as a business analyst, I thought it doesn’t make sense to have a business that just tells stories and your clients- 80% of them- live in England. But I knew that extraordinary people, with vision, make what appear to be unsuccessful ideas, work”.

Just one of the many nice touches is a washed vehicle for departing guests and water and homemade crunchies to keep you going on the way to your next destination.

What is absolutely certain is that you will leave having had a deeply enriching experience.
Visit www.fugitivesdrift.com

Listen to a podcast with Nicky and Doug Rattray and Micko O’byrne here
Watch and listen here

Getting there

Fly into the cities of Johannesburg or Durban and drive from there- five hours from Johannesburg, four hours from Durban. Fugitives’ Drift partners with Three Tree Hill Lodge  and Nambiti Private Game Reserve, which offers the Big 5 African game viewing experience, lies between the two lodges if you a rewarding roadtrip is what you’re after.

Three Tree Hill Lodge- My Favourite History Lesson

One learns all the time, especially when travelling.

If nothing else, names of places, people and species- often forgotten or partly remembered.

Three Tree Hill rooms in the mist
Three Tree Hill rooms in the mist

I learned something I won’t forget at Three Tree Hill Lodge, which overlooks the secluded Mfazimnyama Valley of the Spioenkop Game Reserve, in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in KwaZulu-Natal.

Molly Blackburn Library
Molly Blackburn Library

Seated in the recently completed Molly Blackburn library, with the late Black Sash activist’s portrait and Philosophy PhD on the wall, it seemed that the apple did not fall far from the tree in her son Simon’s case.

Owners Simon and Cheryl Blackburn are well read and podcasted and Simon, who recounts the terrible battle that took place on the Spioenkop massif across the valley, changed my perspective on history when I asked if, with the passing of time, younger generations and colonial history not flavour of the month, whether interest in the South African battlefields had waned.

 

 

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Simon Blackburn- battle stories in the grass
Simon Blackburn- battle stories in the grass

“No” was the short answer, as he gathered his resonating thoughts. Simon hated history at school- and his and Cheryl’s lack of interest in history stalled their purchase of Three Tree Hill Lodge.

A Rich History

Fatherhood- and a sense of mortality, changed that. Legacy, his own and his forebears, became an interest and, listening to expert David Rattray’s recounting of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, he fell in love with the narrative and the humanity of history.

Ron Gold battlefield talk
Ron Gold battlefield talk

Simon’s tour of the battlefield was an emotional experience for me and elicited simultaneous applause and tears, such were the human stories within stories of the most devastating clash for both Boers and English in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War- both sides incurring their highest casualties in a single day on 23 January, 1900. Whether it be Simon or resident historian Ron Gold who guides you, I do recommend it.

Although the wood and iron buildings are thoughtfully constructed in the style of the period, Three Tree Hill Lodge is about far more than history. It’s about relaxation, nature, family, escape.

Painted matte green, the buildings melt into the surrounding acacias and aloes, giving a sense of glorious isolation. New to me since I last visited are the family cottages with very comprehensive self-catering facilities. No microwave, no tv- in line with the emphasis on sustainable and responsible tourism.

Michael Poliza- aerial view
Michael Poliza- aerial view

Fair Trade Status

Three Tree Hill was the first KwaZulu-Natal holiday destination awarded Fair Trade status. Fair Trade practice was established to serve the interests and rights of farmers, workers and producers in South Africa- as well as to promote sustainability across the board- and Cheryl and Simon carry these practices through to every aspect, from the solar stove to the handmade toiletries in the bathrooms and other cleaning products; from staff employment (no lay-offs during the Covid 19 pandemic) to involvement in community projects.

Family Friendly Cottages

The family cottages don’t only accommodate kids, they are kidcentric. From toys and children’s books in the rooms to little kiddies’ backpacks for hikes and kids’ toiletries, they have your little ones covered. I loved seeing children just being children- their bikes left mounted on the family cars as they used the playground, careered about the property, or made fiery patterns in the air around the outside fire after dark with burnt sticks.
     

The property is great for mountain bikers of all levels. Horse riders too. You can take yourself on nature walks and Simon (the Blackburns are vastly experienced safari and mountain guides) takes guests through the game reserve.

Nature Walks and Stunning Views

Rhino among the acacias (Vachellia nilotica)
Rhino among the acacias (Vachellia nilotica)

Rhino among the acacias (Vachellia nilotica)

Sundowners

The views over the valley from the cottages are lovely, but more beautiful aspects present themselves on a guided walk- as do game, including white rhino. While the cottages face the valley and the morning sun, the afternoon vistas from the other side of the property, over Spioenkop Dam and surrounding hills toward the Drakensberg mountains, are equally compelling.

There is really just so much to do and all the animals on the property make the lodge so much more homely and welcoming. If you like dogs, they’ll accompany you on a walk or a ride. If you like cats, Gin, Tonic and Squeak are happy to visit and Tonic has been known to enjoy a game walk or two.

Main swimming pool
Main swimming pool

Burchells lounge

Burchells lounge

Burchells Cottage

There is a swimming pool and sun deck away from the main buildings and Burchells, where we were ensconced, has a lovely pool area with loungers.

Burchells master bedroom
Burchells master bedroom

Burchell’s is a superb, 105m2 space for a family of six and whilst there, choose to take a mid-morning bath and take your binoculars with you.

A Birder’s Paradise

The massive clear window looks out onto pristine rocky hillside alive with exciting birds. Looking towards the valley, the skyline is broken by fantastic aloes; marlothii and excelsa, stretching up to 4 meters.

In winter, unless prewarned, birding becomes quite bewildering as “subspecies” emerge. Orange-headed mousebirds, weavers, starlings, sunbirds are quite a sight, after having plunged their heads into the deep, powdery orange pollen of the flowering aloes.

The bird-buzzing aloes lure the odd raptor in; sparrowhawks, goshawks and the likes break the peace, darting through on an opportunistic hunt.

Aloes and weaver bird
Aloes and weaver bird

Each chalet or cottage has polished cement floors, sash windows, ceiling fans and verandah completing the historical feeling.  The attention to detail and design is impeccable.

Twin bed room
Twin bed room
Twin room cottage verandah at sunrise
Twin room cottage verandah at sunrise

The theme continues in the main building with its huge lounge and dining room and deep, wrap-around verandah. The furnishing is an eclectic collection of solid, comfortable and tasteful pieces. Below the well-stocked library is a lovely, possibly better stocked wine cellar.

Many of the pictures on the walls are taken from newspapers of the period, with advertisements extolling the benefits of eating Bovril – “the food of men on the front” – Keane’s mustard and adding Scrubbs cloudy ammonia to your bath.  It’s quirky and fun.  Even the place mats on the dinner table recall political cartoons of the time.

Main lodge eastern entrance
Main lodge eastern entrance
Verandah dining
Verandah dining

If you’re not self- catering, meals are taken around the long, scrubbed wood tables in the main building, encouraging conversation among guests.  I vividly recall lively banter between a somewhat fortified guest and a couple who did not consume dairy, gluten, processed sugars, meat, alcohol or caffeine. Not dull, but I was most impressed by the lengths taken to produce tasty treats for those guests, as well the superb repasts prepared for us less evolved scoffers.

Golden Gate National Park and Much More

Three Tree Hill is centrally situated for a host of activities the non-history buff would hope for: hot air ballooning; hiking; helicopter flips; a canopy tour; raptor centre and the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School.  Clarens and Golden Gate are just an hour-and-a-half’s drive away, and Champagne, Cathedral Peak and Royal Natal 45 minutes.

It’s all there to do and enjoy, but with the overarching bonus of peace and tranquility as constant companions, broken only by bird and jackal calls and the laughter of children.

The final word:  book in for at least three nights.

Visit threetreehill.co.za and listen to the podcast here

View a video slideshow here.

 

Chobe – What’s The Buzz?

Beauty To Fill The Soul and Lens

If you have an eye for natural beauty, you’ll know as soon as you reach the Chobe River, in north- eastern Botswana. It’s a wildlife lover and nature photographer’s dream.

 

For elephant lovers and safari fanatics, the great elephant concentrations on the Chobe River occur during the winter months. For birders, the wet summer months are the drawcard, when the migrant birds are in full colour, and antelope start dropping their young. Any time of the year, the Chobe provides the most spectacular sunsets.

 

Game viewing in the dry season pretty much guarantees excellent sightings, since animals have to visit the river to drink when all the watering holes dry up. And viewing game from the water is possibly the nicest way. And possibly the nicest way to do that is aboard Flame of Africa’s Chobe Explorer.

Chobe Explorer

Chobe Explorer
Chobe Explorer

 

On board this triple decker, spacious, wood cladded river cruiser you have what my fellow “shipmates” described as their best Chobe experience ever- and between us we had had over 50 such experiences.

Skipper David Twembuchi, barman and charming front of house Ronald Rungwe, with Kabelano, Mercy and Malebogo running the kitchen, were warmly welcoming. Then, it was a short hop from the Flame of Africa jetty in the town of Kasane, Botswana, before the boat nudged in at the Chobe National Park offices to gain entry permit to the park (the cruise is on the Chobe River and there are happily no immigration formalities). After our welcome briefing and drinks from Ronny we were sedately on our way.

Raise Your Glasses

Drinks glasses became prism glass as guests reached for cameras when skipper David got us up surprisingly close and personal- especially considering the boat’s size- with a plethora of wildlife. One such involved a massive bull elephant swimming across a river channel and then taking a keen interest in the long grasses at the boat’s prow, causing an evacuation of the lower dining deck.

 

 

After 1 ½ glasses of Nederburg Brut bubbly, backing off from one sighting was a giddy delight as David spun the big vessel almost 360 degrees.

 

The dining deck is where we enjoyed a superb lunch: delicious Botswana beef steak, boerewors, chicken, various salads, potato bake with excellent freshly made bread- followed by a delightful dessert and accompanied by a selection of wine.

The five adults at our table- repeat visitors to the area and one a riverside resident- repeatedly exclaimed that this was their best Chobe River experience. Exclaimed may not be the correct term. We were too laidback for that, lulled by the sumptuousness and the pace. And it is the pace, together with the service and the space afforded, that sets the Chobe Explorer apart. Another plus is that you have a head start on the usual afternoon mass launch, seeing plenty of wildlife long before, without any jostling for photo opportunities.

 

Above the dining deck is the bar and lounge, with ample, comfortable couches which seemed even comfier post-lunch- and the top deck has a formation of suspended, luxurious loungers which really top off the show.

 

Gently swaying atop the boat is the dreamiest way to top off the day. And, having launched around 11 am, it was on the stroke of 6pm that we nudged up to the jetty again- pretty much the whole, glorious day.

Plugging Away

I shamelessly plug Flame of Africa, simply because of my experience using them. It was a Google search for a transfer company that kicked it off and I have extensively used them for transfers between Kasane and Victoria Falls, 80 km distant, and/or Livingstone. I’ve also experienced lodges they market and activities they provide in the Chobe area.

Another recommended river outing, if all day is too long, is aboard the sumptuous Chobe Style- perhaps with lunch on The Raft. Flame of Africa owner, Brett McDonald, lives most of the time on the Chobe and constructed this unique 64-seater floating restaurant from scraps and throwaways.

A trip to the Chobe or the Zambezi would not be complete without trying your hand at fishing. These waters are home to the voracious, powerful tiger fish- a true thrill to every serious or amateur angler. Capture and release is the policy with tiger, while “hook and cook” is adopted for the delicious bream that frequent these waters.

Brett McDonald
Brett McDonald

Impalila Island is well worth a visit. It has a  colourful history and is uniquely positioned, straddling the intersection of four countries. Here you can enjoy a Zimbabwean Zambezi beer, a Botswana St Louis, a Zambian Mozi and a Namibian Tafel and know that the countries from whence they came are not more than 200 metres away.

Also try to make time for a visit away from Chobe- in particular to Victoria Falls, if you’ve never been. Even if you have, it never loses its awesomeness.

Luxury Meets Nature- Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa

Chip and Chill

Fancy a round of golf? Do so in very close proximity to the vast elephant population surrounding the course at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa. Magical- even if you have to wait for various game to be coaxed off the course.

Here on the banks of the Chobe River, in north- eastern Botswana, on the outskirts of the town of Kasane, there’s no rush in any case- unless it’s to bring your camera or binoculars to your eye in this fabulous game viewing destination. Rather chill, catch a cocktail, as you enjoy views from the beautiful grounds across the river and the floodplains into Namibia on the far side.

Enjoy the friendly service, the extensive facilities and activities- on and off site- not forgetting about nine holes of golf of course. Enjoy, too, the old world yet fresh style of this grande dame, the recent recipient of a major overhaul.

Refreshed and Refreshing

The brief was to freshen up the whole property, taking inspiration from the river and the surrounding vegetation, and to make it contemporary. I would definitely say the overall tone of “luxury meets nature” was achieved and, having visited before, appreciate the new decks, the decluttering, the clean, contemporary surfaces with minimalistic organic elements like chandeliers and iconic pieces of furniture and wall sculptures.

 

The fresh blues and greens with greys and white lighten everything and create a cool, calm, refreshing feel which complements the warmth of the thatch and terracotta flooring. The tech upgrades are much appreciated, with an improved Wi-Fi experience and many more plug points- although the large tv in my room was never switched on. Too much to do.

 

Mowana, more elevated than other lodges on the Botswana river bank, has arguably the best views, with all 112 bedrooms and four suites having sliding glass doors opening onto a private patio with views of the Chobe River, though you may have to share the patio with vervet monkeys or a warthog or two, especially if you have fruit. The upstairs bar is the place to be if you want to see the most beautiful African sunsets.

Cresta Mowana upstairs bar

 

Within the resort complex the mowana (baobab) is a central focus point. The high thatched roof of the lobby pretty much points at the tree, and lodge buildings circle it- at a respectful distance.

 

The hotel amenities are superb. it has tennis court, several swimming pools, golf course, gym, spa- and the masseurs really know their stuff!

 

Game For Adventure?

Mowana is a 10-minute drive from the North part of the 11 700 square kilometre Chobe National Park. Arguments rage as to whether the elephant population is 60 000 or 120 000. It really does not matter which is correct as the sight of herds numbering in the hundreds is a sight you will never forget. In this park, where predators like lion, leopard and wild dog abound, it is no wonder it has been called the Galapagos of Africa.

Another argument (mine) is that the best way to view game is from a boat. Mowana’s custom designed game viewing boats are designed to go where the larger game viewing boats are not able to, creating an opportunity to get up close and personal with what the Chobe has to offer.

 

Other options on the Chobe- and neighbouring Zambezi- include an outing on Flame of Africa’s luxurious double decker Chobe Style or a day aboard the triple decker Chobe Explorer, or fishing. These particular waters are home to the voracious, most powerful power to weight ratio fresh water fish in the world- the tiger fish- a true delight to every serious or amateur angler.

 

 

 

 

Or outings to Victoria Falls (full day) which, if you’ve not been, is a moving must-do. Impalila Island, which straddles the intersection of where four countries- Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia- meet, is another interesting visit, with a huge 2000-year-old baobab tree riddled with bullets from when South African armed forces used the tree as both a lookout, a machine gun placement and- clearly- target practice.

Obed Silumbu and 2000 year old baobab
Obed Silumbu and 2000 year old baobab

 

That mowana outlasted all- and, I’m sure, your memories of Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa will similarly linger. You can experience this by taking advantage of the 2019 Mowana Christmas special of P7425 (approximately R10042) for a three night stay.

 

Fordoun- For all the right reasons

Sensory Surrounds

My favourite places seem to be family owned or run and Fordoun Hotel and Spa is one such place. All five senses celebrate at five-star Fordoun … and then further celebrate as birth is given to their sixth sibling.

It happens in an extremely romantic setting; weeping willows with their gentle flowing boughs, enormous organic artworks, ethereal azaleas contrasting against rolling hills, iris-lined pathways, ancient terracotta bricks mottled with age evoking a Hansel and Gretel nougat house- all peacefully nestled in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, a few minutes from Nottingham Road village.

                                  

From cascading steps, to greyhound guarded Roman-bath fountains, to mini-canals; there is flowing water around every corner, all creating a vibrant life-giving energy, like a giant vascular system.

    

 

 

 

 

There is such wealth in the glorious gardens- the essence of it all- which is then brought inside to pamper one in every which way.

The Limitless Skye

Skye Bistro at night

Fresh food delights of a superb standard are presented in utter comfort in the Skye Bistro. Chef Lorenzo Giliomee and his team have upped the ante since last I was there. The menu may change but some firm favourites remain- like the grilled beef fillet nestled on horseradish potato mash and red wine tomatoes, gratinéed with gourmet Greek “Brie” cheese and a Fordoun wild herb garden buchu jus. Superb. Vegetarians won’t scratch for options, with offerings like wild mushroom and black summer truffle risotto, topped with creamy Indezi blue cheese, and slow roasted butternut and peppers. Starters and desserts are possibly more enticing, as is the extensive and well-crafted wine menu.

Hedonistic indeed. If, however, you are on a detox retreat, your choices are a juice fast or raw, vegan healthy eating- and much time in the spa.

Not-So-Guilty Pleasures


Fordoun’s spa is all encompassing and the therapists are delightful, adding to that feeling of rejuvenation. The old grain silo has been brilliantly converted into a magical grotto, where one floats in the essence-imbued pool with calming music being amplified through the water; a unique experience. Apart from treatments from skilled masseurs, Reiki and Bio-energy specialists and aestheticians, the spa features a rasul, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy room, and a couples’ treatment suite with hydrotherapy bath.

 

 

A Unique Connection

Integral to the spa and Fordoun as a whole is Dr Elliot Ndlovu- inyanga, sangoma and ethno-botanist. In Elliot’s garden and around his consulting rooms are over 120 different species of healing plants, used by him and in Fordoun’s products. The poignancy and passion underlying his uthwasa- the necessary process of suffering to become a traditional healer- endear this huge character to believers and cynics alike, including Hollywood stars and the British Queen.

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Afternoon walks are a great idea. Oak-lined avenues, waterfowl preening themselves on the shores of dams, a deeply wooded grove full of bee-hives leading to the tennis courts and outdoor pool. One imagines an otter or two in amongst the impressive trout rising for their evening feed.


Fordoun has a field of the happiest hens in the entire world; they come to greet you as you arrive at the edge of their enormous scratch-patch field. And yes, the eggs taste wonderful.

Choices, Choices

Fordoun Farm Village

And, beyond the field, the Fordoun Farm Village comprising a tasteful multi-functional venue, chapel, nine luxurious self-catering chalets, veggie gardens and the spinning classroom- all arranged around a full-size cricket oval. Although separate to the original establishment, adults staying here have access to the facilities up at the Hotel- and vice-versa.

The main buildings, originally part of a dairy farm from the 1860s, have been thoughtfully adapted. There are 22 luxurious double suites with verandas, underfloor heating, bath and shower and a dressing area. There is also a wheelchair friendly suite.

 

If founder John Bates is about, he may share with you Fordoun’s interesting history, dating back to 1850, or enthuse about the social and environmental initiatives Fordoun is involved with- including a nearby crane sanctuary- or let you sample his leonotis (wild dagga) gin.

Retiring to one’s suite is a dream- especially one of the five superior mountain facing room set atop a ridge with views toward the Drakensberg, and the size of a country cottage. The bed, the linen, the bathrobes and all the treats are of the highest quality. It’s sumptuously draped and lavishly appointed with high, pitched ceilings. A cold snap makes the ready lit blaze in the glass-fronted fireplace, the bedtime treats and story, most welcome.


Stepping out of the French doors, the eye is led across rolling pastures to the hills- with the young maiden’s breast, iNhlosane, dominant and framed by not-too-distant mountains. A table and chairs, loungers and a tumbling water feature in a secluded courtyard is a tempting lolling spot in the day.

The thickly carpeted passage takes you to a large dressing room opposite a lovely black and white chequered bathroom with heated towel rails, underfloor heating, dual vanity basins, bath and shower, which leads to a further, outdoor shower.
The fresh air and the heightened stimulation of the senses, not forgetting the awakening of that sixth sense, all make one beautifully exhausted. The huge bed waits to engulf.

The countryside goes silent, as iNhlosane’s silhouette slowly merges into the night.

Visit www.fordoun.com or e-mail reservations@fordoun.co.za for further details and bookings.

Chobe Water Villas- Inspiring Tranquility

Crossing the wide expanse of Chobe waters from Botswana to Namibia, all one sees is the row of A-frame peaks, like the zigzagged scales on a crocodile’s tail. Grinning Gilbert sees us safely onto the sturdy boardwalk-jetty and then…

Secluded Sophistication

A tranquil, sophisticated ambience is endorsed by the warm, welcome smiles of graceful Subiya tribe staff who drift through our neutral-coloured, fascinatingly designed “home” for the next few days. The simplicity, the open spaces, the cubist arches and columns- all reminiscent of an Afro-Roman palace. Organic textures, desert sand and seed-pods capturing the essence of Namibia’s simple beauty.

Stylish, chic, elegant, arty and many other adjectives apply. The attention to detail is noteworthy, furnishings, fixtures reflect a fine eye for design with an enviable artistic flair. So too the architecture.

The complex and intriguing layout leads the eye and invites exploration of interleading indoor and outdoor spaces. Gentle steps to a patch of manicured grass, sunken seating with hot rock firepits, a long infinity pool, overhead metalwork extending the indoor-outdoor flow, ringed by trees and shrubs with cushioned alcove seating dotted about- one could spend hours just taking it in.

“God, this place inspires me! I love beautiful things, beautiful places”

exclaims Hilary. I had popped in once for a quick lunch and had been dying to return, so am chuffed to be so vindicated- especially by someone with a home on the riverbank and a good idea of what is on offer elsewhere.

 

Boardwalks interwoven amidst natural flora of silver clusterleaf and sausage trees lead to the villas.

What a welcome. A cool, spotlessly clean space where an impressive variety of materials have been cleverly used to create ultimate luxury and comfort. Meshed inner curtains soften the view onto the daba grass and the river.  The room itself has the best of everything including a cabinet containing a kettle with multi-boiling points, exquisite wines, full mini bar and snacks, great coffee and a superb selection of teas and black china- all lit by automatic lighting. The bathroom is superb, as are the lemon-verbena pampering lotions.

 

The outside deck has been cleverly railed like the bow of a cruise liner to maximise the effect of being “at sea on the Chobe”. I keep expecting distant trees to move past the uprights, or past the windows when lounging on the emperor size bed. Delectably comfortable loungers are a temptation to stay on deck all day but once the clouds of whistling ducks have settled into the evening, resist the temptation of staying aboard as disembarking back to the palace heralds the start of another experience – a feast for any aesthete.

Night Time is the Right Time

 

Clever lighting maximises the spaces and the art. Epauletted fruit bats silently dance amongst the giant leaves of fruit trees. The rim flow swimming pool has transformed into ink, reflecting the last hint of the African day. In the dining area, resplendent with gleaming glass, crockery, cutlery and crisp linen, one gets very excited at the thought of a menu which will surely complement. And it does, magnificently.

A degustation menu- seven little courses of delectable tastes- awaits. Chef Linus Siyambangu changes his menu daily, so the following night it’s his Sense Experience. Tastes to remember include seeded and rosemary lavash, fresh basil pesto, apple and cucumber gazpacho, superbly plated kudu fillet with perfectly complementary selection of veggies, red pepper puree and red wine sauce- probably trumped by the pan seared Norwegian salmon dish and the excellent strawberry cheesecake.

The lodge is transformed at night by the truly exemplary lighting (did I mention the lighting?), seducing one to tarry here, tarry there.

Tarrying is lovely but the sun rising in front of the villa reminds one there are things worth doing.

A quickish breakfast (we never get beyond the Continental option) and we are on a boat and across the river to Botswana immigration to get passports stamped and be welcomed by N’Jay Sankwasa, our Flame of Africa game guide. Then we’re into the unfenced 11700km2 Chobe National Park for a morning game drive- never a disappointment.

Back from learning about the wildlife, including a lion we spot within a few minutes- as well as the birds, history and plants and our game vehicle becomes a boat- surely the best way to view game? Undoubtedly a wonderful way to enjoy a lunch and an afternoon cruise, with a quick nap before din-dins.

The bed itself provides inspiration for me, seeking an air conditioning solution to a double volume house. The overhead canopy does not merely provide a rail for the mosquito curtain, but a curtain of air-conditioned air.

We’re not the only ones to be inspired. SABC3’s Top Billing had just been and their take of Chobe Water Villas plays on screens (elsewhere), while we just play.

Getting There:
Airlink is a privately owned airline business, operating as a regional feeder Airline, connecting travellers to more than 55 routes within southern Africa and St Helena Island.
Airlink provides direct scheduled flights from Johannesburg to Kasane (Chobe), Botswana. With an all Jet service, Airlink provides a Business Class service, styled in the manner of a European intra-continental service.
Through airlink’s alliance with SAA, travellers can connect conveniently, effortlessly and seamlessly, with SAA, their Partner airlines and other carriers throughout Southern Africa and the world.
Airlink is a member of South African Airways Loyalty programme -Voyager.
Discover more:  www.flyairlink.com
Book Direct:  https://www.flyairlink.com/destinations/flights-to-kasane

Nalitumila (thank you in Subiya) to Chobe Water Villas and Flame of Africa.

 

 

Distillery 031- A Home Run

“I call this my gateway spirit” said Andrew, swirling the amber liquid in his glass. Well, through the gateway, down the hatch and the rabbit hole and colour me impressed, well impressed! Andrew Rall, owner of Durban’s Distillery 031 is a singular man whose burgeoning craft distillery is a portal to some unique, top-notch craft spirits. He was referring to his D’Urban Barrel Aged Gin- something rather special. Serve it on ice to guests without telling them what they are drinking, just to gauge reactions. Plenty of surprised expressions no doubt. Gateway? Well, I agree with him that it may change the perceptions of many non gin drinkers.

Go For Gold: D’urban 24K Gin

South Africa’s most exclusive gin at around R1,899, this is available in limited quantities.

 

Bragging rights gets you a very smooth, accessible, American style gin with food grade gold flakes that is reminiscent of a top-notch vodka. Still, there’s one to top that, but it’s only for a bespoke jeweller’s clients. I haven’t yet tasted it (Rall was hiding it at home) but it’s a blend using some of the distillery’s oldest barrels and fresh gin, comes in a beautiful Bohemian crystal decanter in a foiled box and has a black diamond in it. Yours for a cool R20 000!

Gin and Beyond

Gin is trending- has been for a while now- and Rall has been at the forefront of the gin revolution in South Africa. His passion trumps trends however, and Distillery 031 products include a superb tonic cordial, rum (including cachaça), vodka, absinthe and some unique spirit aperitifs- all with a view to putting the country on the map in terms of carefully and beautifully crafted, award winning, spirits.

Rall distilled privately at first, acquired his commercial licenses in 2015 and, in a relatively short time, has made inroads into the international market. The fact that he exports his premium 031 Vodka to a country like Sweden where vodka is not so much trending as entrenched in social culture says a lot.

He is a gentle giant- charming, charismatic, passionate, perceptive, driven and open to ideas and experiences. That’s a great checklist for someone who continually researches and experiments in his quest for excellence. His introduction and taste for spirits was more about quantity than quality (student daze), but a trip to Scotland ignited an interest in- and passion for- distilling. Fast forward and this once brand manager for Unilever found himself with his own brand, an urban distillery (Durban’s first craft distillery) and in cahoots with like-minded entrepreneurs in establishing Durban’s first urban renewal district- Station Drive, off Umgeni Rd.

Rall is passionate about more than quality hooch. The name, Distillery 031 (031 is the local dialling code), hints at his love of his roots. Hence the distillery being in the city and the many indigenous elements that infuse the business- from bottle labels to botanicals and the raw materials from which the spirits are crafted. These include sugar cane, baobab fruit, indigenous wormwood and rosehip, coffee cherries (cascara) and imphepho, a medicinal herb used by sangomas to summon the ancestors.

Local is Lekker

“Durbanism” is a thing- an inclusive thing. An evening at Station Drive’s 1st Thursday monthly happenings would give you a better picture. I’m not sure if Durbanism stems from Rall, but he’s a glowing example. If he didn’t have export/import/sales/admin/investors and all the not-so-fun bits about owning a business to attend to, he would be at the still and behind the bar every day, sharing his extraordinary knowledge of all things Durban and walking the talk. And the talk is great.

I’ve attended many, many wine tastings/ pairings etc- I even conducted tastings and tours in my youth. I’ve also toured impressive distilleries, but I’ve never had such an entertainingly educational occasion as in Distillery 031’s industrial-chic tasting room.

A group of German tourists and I exited the tasting room in a haze- a haze of newly acquired tastes, knowledge about spirits in general and Distillery 031’s products in particular. Like my companions, deciding which were new favourites was top of mind. The histories and development of gin, tonic and absinthe were especially interesting to me, the whole experience a treat- the complimentary welcome cocktail, the tasting and the gourmet burger meal in the bar-cum-eatery while eyeing out the gleaming bits and bobs (which I could now identify) in the distillery.

“Local is very lekker” I thought (Afrikaans for “nice”). So too the Germans, who were researching how best to acquire 031’s products in Europe.

 

So, how much did I really like Distillery 031 products? Enough to have been conducting tastings there for a year or so. After the COVID-19 enforced alcohol and tourism shutdown, the distillery is again open for group tastings of eight or more — I’ll drink to that!

Visit: www.distillery031.com or The Foundry, 43 Station Dr, Durban, South Africa
For bookings: info@distillery031.com

Nakai Beach Homestay- a way of life

New Life, New Views

Diagnosed with advanced Lymphoma cancer, Claude Venter was given six months to live by medical specialists. Seven years later, he looked relaxed and happy as he recounted his journey and explained how his decision to seek an alternative remedy saved his life- and changed his and that of his partners, Grant Horak and Paulo da Rosa.

Claude probably thought me ADD as I kept bobbing my head left and right. Whales, dolphins- lots of them, cavorting in the ocean beyond the deck at Nakai Beach Homestay. Nakai means “on the beach” in Polynesian and the gorgeous boutique retreat that the three are rightfully proud of is perched high above Trafalgar Beach on Kwazulu-Natal’s lower south coast.

What a view! What a stunningly situated property. What a turnaround for all three. This team of very successful interior designers and landscapers are really walking the talk. Their search for a purified environment to aid Claude’s recovery led them to this special part of KZN, where the clean air is oxygen and ozone rich. The water, both drinking and general usage, is purified. The food is nearly all organic- and delicious. There are two kitchens- one for vegans and the other for whatever is flavour of the day, so vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores will be equally delighted.

As it happened an ex-chef friend commandeered the kitchen for dinner so hard working Grant, the driving force behind Nakai- and chief cook and bottle washer, was excused boots. Nor did I taste his cooked breakfast in the sun filled Gauguin Café and Juice Bar since I opted for a flipping delicious cacao and superfood smoothie, yoghurt and berries.

Home From Home

Nakai Beach is a homestay. The partners and Grant’s mum Lorraine live there along with dogs Maui, Kona and Milo so it’s their home, a showpiece for their impeccable design skills and a five star retreat in one package. It is a restorative and rejuvenating space in which to heal, relax and bliss out.

The bedrooms- with balconies- are sublime and individually themed, though the general feel is consistent throughout. Bold colours, clean lines, beautiful fabrics, finishes and the OCD touches that being a good designer requires. Paulo is proudly afflicted and even the kitchen drawers are a testament to this and to care filled design. Everywhere, inside and out, the eye delights in visual feasts that feed the soul.

I was in the vibrant Amazon themed room and found myself lulled to sleep by the surf below unexpectedly soon after I arrived- and for many total relaxation is the reason to visit.

Stir Your Stumps

You can opt to do as little as possible, lazing by the infinity pool, soaking up the sun, the views, the tranquility, though most opt for Paulo’s yoga sessions on the deck or in the brand new yoga studio, complete with underfloor heating. Paulo has dedicated his life to the path and enjoys all disciplines. He offers classes, different retreats, hosts guest teachers of other disciplines and is always on hand.

Steps off the deck take you down through the stretch of coastal forest reserve and to the pristine beach. Trafalgar is a marine reserve and, unusual for the south coast, the beaches are long, straight and flat, with black rocks and shallow pools galore. If you traipse to the main, blue flag beach there are life guards and shark nets. The partners took it upon themselves to jolly up the lifeguard huts and benches with colourful paintwork. The surf is often great and snorkelling too, with 90 million year old fossil beds not far from shore.

There are fossils on land too and the beach below Nakai has been in the news a fair bit as it is (then isn’t, then is) a naturist beach. It’s safe to say that if you take your kit off nobody will bother- and in any case you will probably have the beach to yourself.

Claude’s cancer and recovery completely changed his outlook. “I was all about the six pack, the look” he chuckles. That’s not to say he won’t notice a six pack but he’s at ease, at peace- and that peace and pleasure in life is what guests take away when they reluctantly depart this gem.