Bushman’s Kloof is a destination in itself, though this is not always evident at the outset. Some guests check in all set for a typical South Africa luxury safari. But then they realize they’re happy to just do an occasional game drive then laze around and be pampered with unforgettable picnics and candlelight dinners.
WORTH THE EXTRA MILES
There are two restaurants and one bar on-site and so many other attractive options for private dining. Guests can also opt for dinner at a 100-year-old shepherd’s cottage where every course is served in a room full of candles. The latter is highly recommended; and not just because the 30-minute drive to the venue in pitch darkness builds anticipation and the chefs make a mean bread pudding on open fire. If you’re seeking an evening worth 100 candles (we counted) and a thousand Instagram photos, well, this is it.
Then there’s the lodge’s walled garden which is a favourite romantic venue for couples. A table is set up amidst the trees and glass lanterns and dedicated waitstaff serve each course. New Year’s Eve dinner is also held here with long tables lining the entire walkway and trees strung with lanterns for a magical and yet intimate effect.
The idea of a wellness retreat with a safari component — rather than a safari lodge with a spa — seems to work. Many guests are regular visitors and there are families who come at the same time every year.
“We have guests who return every year and all they love to do is take walks and sit in the gardens,” said Rory, general manager of Bushman’s Kloof, whose company at dinner was one of the highlights of our stay. We enjoyed memorable meals with him, and one night he took us stargazing to see the Southern Cross and the True North. I’d never seen a scorpion before although I’d heard all the horror stories; so off he went into the darkness with a special UV flashlight to find some for me. That’s definitely great hospitality.
Of course, safari lovers will not be disappointed either, even if this is not a Big 5 Game Reserve. It has enough varieties to keep guests glued to their binoculars. And the species found here provide a nice twist for jaded safari goers who have already seen the usual anyway. At the top of the Cederberg shortlist are the cape fox, a small animal with silver or grey fur; and the Cape mountain zebra, which is considered the smallest one in the world. The latter has short legs, a fuller body, and sharply defined stripes.
OUT OF THIS WORLD
There are also some attractions no other lodge in South Africa can offer; including a landscape of unique flora and fauna, and private access to incredible ancient cave paintings. One morning, Martin took us to the largest of the cave paintings which is at the bottom of a ravine that requires moderate downward climbing skills. This trek downhill is worth the effort, though.
The painting, which was a work in progress by various tribes over the centuries, is vibrant, mesmerising and surprisingly sophisticated. Bushman’s Kloof has dozens of cave paintings as old as 10,000 years on the property. Visitors can see up close if they have the time and the interest. Most days, they will have these paintings all to themselves.
“This one is the most impressive we have,” explained Martin, about the cave painting in front of us that is about the size of three adjoining giant panels. “It kept its colors because it’s protected from the elements. You can differentiate the works of each tribe by the colors and the drawing styles.”
MEMORIES THAT LAST
And just when we thought we’d enjoyed every surprise in Bushman’s Kloof, Martin saved the best for last. Instead of driving back to the Makana restaurant for breakfast, he took us into a clearing where a table was set for two. The chef was frying sausages and omelettes on a portable stove while someone else popped open a bottle of champagne. Next to a giant boulder, the team had placed a self-service table of fruits and cereals. They probably woke up at dawn to prepare this.
“You’re making it very hard for us to leave,” I said with an appreciative sigh. The scene was straight out of a movie, as many of our experiences had been. Even now, Bushman’s Kloof is my happy place. When something is wrong, I remember the evenings we sat on our terrace at Cederberg House watching the stars in wonder and then I’m fine again.