The sheer scale of South Africa has a way of putting life in perspective – a trait we savoured during our stay at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat. Surrounded by awe-inspiring landscapes home to ancient artefacts, we couldn’t help but reconnect with nature and really enjoy being in the moment.
As the gaps between the buildings of Cape Town’s outer limits widened, giving way to an expansive patchwork of farmland, it began to dawn on us just how vast this country is. Over the next few hours, beneath the kind of skies you’d expect in a David Lean movie, we watched with wonder as the landscape changed from one epic vista to another. The empty-ish road snaked across the wide flat plains that gradually rose into the rocky Cederberg mountains.
Eventually, we arrived at a set of gates set into a wall appointed within a well-kept garden. A sign reads Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat. We sat up and started to gather our belongings, expecting to see buildings beyond. But the gates opened to reveal a dirt road that wound into the distance, with no other discernable sign of human life. We slowly set off down it, and it was another 20 minutes of off-road driving until flashes of green edged over the horizon. It was clear that the promise of a secluded getaway wasn’t an empty sales pitch.
Our accommodation was a quaint, thatched cottage that would have looked equally at home in England’s Cotswolds. It consisted of a bedroom with a large ensuite bathroom, and a sitting room kitted out with lots of natural materials befitting of its bushland setting; rattan carpets, wicker furniture and a bamboo ceiling – a homely and inoffensive style.
Outside the door, a paved patio with lounge chairs looked out across a bristling green, manicured lawn, inset with a pool and outlined by a stone wall. Floating face up in the cool water of our infinity pool, our faces warmed by the late afternoon sun, proved to be a blissful ritual of our stay after a day of exploring. Above us, weaver birds would flit in and out of their hanging-basket-like nests and we felt ourselves unwind in a way that only nature at its very best can induce.
The terrain beyond our ‘garden’ stretched out to rugged scrubland, peppered with rock formations, that seemingly changed colour with the time of day; cool and bluish first thing, but in the evening, a dusty pink, bathed in the glow of a South African sunset.
We’d been warned to keep our door locked. Not because of any threat of crime; we were miles from anywhere and security, although subtle, was obviously tight. It was to stop the mischievous troupe of Cape baboons making themselves at home in our suite.
We found the resort’s approachable guest services team to be very knowledgeable and happy to help with any request. Their focus seemed to be genuinely on providing us with a memorable stay. We were offered a variety of activities from fishing and wild swimming, to mountain biking and of course wildlife ‘safaris’.
It must be said that, as expansive and beautiful as the reserve is, resident species aren’t as varied as they are in the national parks, so you won’t find the ‘big five’ here. That’s not to say that the sight of a family of wild baboons playfully making their way across the lawn while you take afternoon tea isn’t thrilling. The grounds’ staff have something of a love-hate relationship with these cheeky primates. The head gardener, for example, has her patience tried daily by them in her bid to protect the organic kitchen garden that supplies so much of the resort’s fresh fruit and vegetables.
On our numerous excursions around the reserve, we were treated to reasonably close encounters with zebra, ostrich, springbok, red hartebeest and eland, but the famously rare Cape leopard eluded us. The reserve is very popular with twitchers from around the world due to the abundance of birdlife, which changes with the seasons. We’re no ornithologists, but it was very pleasant to see and hear so many beautiful and exotic birds.