Is This Eden?
“I think I’ve got the best office in the world” smiled Regardt, Head Ranger for Bushman’s Kloof, a wellness retreat in the Cederburg Mountains captured in the South African wilderness, 3 hours north of Cape Town. Scanning the coral coloured horizon, once submerged by sea several millennia ago, I could see he had a point.
This ancient seabed now accommodates dusky mountains and ochre green scrub scented by the unmistakable woody fragrance of fynbos and native roibos. A playground for zebra, bat eared fox, baboons a plethora of deer and the occasional leopard. Nestled in the valley of this mountain range is an Eden, also known as Bushman’s Kloof. An exclusive wellness retreat, accommodating jsut over 30 guests with a generous 3 to1 staff/guest allowance. An oasis free from mobile phone signals replaced by nature’s soundtrack, a sweet dawn chorus led by finches, starlings, and ha dee ha birds, jamming away in the orchard of fig and olive trees which discreetly screen villas and suites from each other. The distant call of zebras and cloven hoof on dry ground reminds me that in nature’s domain we’re insignificant observers.
Whilst this isn’t necessarily the place to view the ‘Big 5’, it’s a definitely the place to skive from life’s hectic pace and cradle your mind and body in the luxury of South Africa’s ancient bush culture. Caves and crevices adorned by rock dating back 6000 years, hikes and game drives arrest the senses, canoeing, fishing and archery fixate the curious and the restless. Whilst utter pampering is expertly executed by the perennially smiling on-site team, whose families also live as a community on the reserve. A spa gazebo overlooking the craggy clefts of the Cederburg wirh a foreground fringed with rushes and a lilly pond providing a perfect setting of utter tranquillity. It’s little wonder that Condé Nast rate this retreat as one of the best spas in the world.
Villas and lodges carry a Dutch colonial accent, thatched roofs and white render, all exquisitely furnished with a hand-picked touch. Beds are the size of cruise ships and linen as soft and indulgent as chantilly cream. Even the Maharani’s critical eye found no fault, “they’ve thought of everything.” Lounges lead on to verandas, sheltered by ancient fig trees, and the variety of discreetly planted swimming pools always seem to be within convenient dipping distance. Bushman’s Kloof is an appointment with complete serenity and when the sun’s gone own entertainment is providing by a dazzling sky so rich with burning stars that the galaxy feels within plucking distance.
When hunger strikes, one is in the capable hands of the Executive Chef, Floris Smit, creating exciting yet unfussy food, clean, refreshing, yet somehow indulgent at the same time. Such as Karoo lamb which melts upon contact, Springbok, Punjabi prawns and gorgeous comfort food like Bobotie and sticky tagines complemented by herbs, fruit and plump vegetables from the walled garden. If the food wasn’t enough to make your stomach applaud, your heart will surely be broken by the beauty of the locations the team choose to serve up supper. The enchanting spot known as Embers, a dining platform erected in the cleft of a cliff lit purely by lanterns and the canopy of stars punching their way through the cosmos, firepits scent the air and hypnotise the senses, whilst the sound of Africa’s wildlife recites a lullaby.
Satisfaction for the team at Bushman’s Kloof is an elusive concept and it seems that their thirst to go above and beyond is only satiated when they witness wonder illuminating your eyes. My wonder moment floored my ability to speak as we rocked up through the fading light of the wilderness and were confronted by a 4 storey high gum tree shading a renovated shepherds hut serenaded by a troupe of a dozen children performing symbolic bushmen dances. The hut beamed with enough candles to fill Westminster Abbey, revealing a banqueting table set for an African feast silhouetted by an open fire to ward off the evening chill inviting conversation and tall stories. It’s the magic that one often searches for to deposit as an unforgettable memory but often the pursuit is rewarded with a ‘nearly’ or an ‘almost’. Bushman’s Kloof however is that rare thing a personal Eden.