You won’t find a TV at any of these four South African retreats:
071 683 4133
If eco-chic’s a real word, then it was invented to describe Reflections Guest Farm. Many talk the eco talk, but this lodge, built on 26 hectares of what was once alien vegetation and pine forest, is most certainly walking the eco walk too.
After an enormous clear-out, the new indigenous vegetation is thriving – a tribute to Tim’s determination. It is quite hard to believe what has been achieved here actually.
The three chalets are totally “off-grid”, which means a full solar/ wind turbine hybrid system. The pine-wood chalets are cosy, yet spacious with crackling fires, soft-cotton sheets and wrap-around decks.
Sip an ice-cold lager in your outdoor shower while gazing out at the raptors circling above the chalets.
Tim and Angelique are remarkably laid-back and make you feel like an old friend. And they enthuse on their passion for these stunning surroundings. Tim is a guide’s guide and will tailor any trail that takes your fancy – eco-systems, historic battlefields, insects, birds, medicinal plants or archaeological sites. At the end of your stay, he will calculate your carbon miles and tell you how many trees you need to plant to offset your travels.
He’ll then buy and plant the trees for you and give you Google Earth GPS co-ordinates so you can watch your own trees growing.
This was a place that you will not forget… in a very good way indeed.
Rooms: 3 chalets: each can accommodate 4 adults and up to 3 children in 2 bedrooms, a large bathroom with shower, bath and toilet, an extra toilet and an outdoor shower. An upstairs loft can accommodate single guests and children.
Price: R720 to R1 600 per chalet per night.
Email: [email protected] tops.co.za
044 356 2868
Few guest houses warrant such an accolade, but to let you think of Teniqua Treetops as a handful of tree-houses would be like dismissing the Sistine Chapel as a handful of murals. Descriptions and photos won’t do it justice. You could call Viv and ask him about his handiwork, but you’d still need to see it (he’s far too modest).
Robyn gave me a tour, unassumingly pointing out how eco-friendly they are: dry-composting toilets, rainwater harvesting, low-energy everything. You see eight tree-houses set deep in the forest canopy, created in natural gaps or spaces left by carefully extracting non-indigenous trees. Each is different, but outdoor braais, chill zones, tented double beds and electric blankets are the norm.
Showers, worktops and bedside tables are carved from reclaimed yellowwood, while the four honeymoon suites are very spoiling indeed with lavish corner baths.
Privacy, here, goes without saying. Seats, decks and turrets have been positioned to make the most of views which cast their own spell. Majestic yellowwoods stretch above the rest of the forest canopy, which plunges into the 160m-deep gorge of the Karatara River, long wisps of Old Man’s Beard clinging to every light-exposed branch.
Trails allow serious hiking in this otherwise impenetrable chunk of nature. A wonderful, romantic and tranquil hideout. Go and visit.
Rooms: 8: 4 honeymoon suites with baths and overhead showers; 2 rooms sleeping four with showers; 2 family rooms, bunk bed and queen, with shower.
Price: From R655 to R2 000 per tree-house.
Email: [email protected] safaris.co.za
044 699 1204
This secretive beachside spot is creeping shyly on to the map with Sandpiper’s budding cluster of thatched white-walled fishermen’s cottages. Fred, a developer by trade, started building with his children in mind but, like swallows, they have flown to Europe.
Your favourite cottage was Fred’s most recent project, the honeymoon cottage, christened Sea Mist. Here a tender haze emanates from the affectionately planned and implemented interiors.
Red clay tile floors are ornamented with yellowwood and Oregon pine furniture, while a sleeper-wood worktop and recycled timber staircase showcase Sandpiper’s originality and your host’s particular love of old wood.
An extraordinary hearth gathers you with fire-warmed fingers into its seated inglenook and a three-roomed bathroom flaunts its own lounge. Roomy, yet indisputably cosy, the varied cottages combine an atmosphere of the past with luxuries of today.
Fred himself is a truly lovely chap and, although the cottages are fully self-catered, he can sort you out with a “real Boggoms breakfast” and even dinner as well. You will certainly need the energy if you want to make the most of the superb Fred-built sports centre and spa, and hike the dazzling, Fred-established Oystercatcher Trail.
Untamed fynbos encourages bees, buck, rabbits and birds to gather in the garden; the vegetation extends from your cottage to the beach where sand and rock scuffle with the sea, vying for attention with the distant Outeniqua Mountains.
Rooms: 5 cottages: 2 x 2 bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms; 1 x 3 bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms; 2 x 4 bedrooms sharing 3 bathrooms. Up to 10 people can sleep in one cottage (cottage rates apply).
Price: R300 to R480 sharing.
Meals: on request.
THE DUNES COUNTRY HOUSE
Email: [email protected] .com
042 294 1685
After 14 years in the madding metropolis of Los Angeles, St Francis Bay represented a vivid and welcome contrast for Chantelle and Brent: 600 hectares of nature on the doorstep and tranquillity in abundance.
At the end of a sandy road through coastal fynbos, the guest house sits surrounded by indigenous garden with thick grass, aloe trees and strelitzias. Brent is a walking guide and takes guests through the reserve on foot. He explains what they are doing for nature conservation while pointing out any critters spotted en route.
A two-hour saunter leads you through the sand dunes, retracing the footsteps of the Strandlopers who lived in the region hundreds of years ago.
Ancient middens, archaeological artefacts and endemic fauna and flora are part of this fascinating tour. Tea, scones, lunch or a well-earned sundowner will be awaiting you upon your return.
Reminiscent of an old Cape farmhouse, the guest house is part of the conservation effort with its Oregon wood floors, doors and window frames all reclaimed from an old school.
The theme of comfortable splendour extends into the bedrooms, with their marble counter tops, percale linen on beds, underfloor heating, ball-and-claw baths and French doors that open on to the veranda.
Oh, and don’t forget the frogging safari – brilliantly different.
Rooms: 7: 6 doubles with en-suite bath and shower, and 1 family cottage with full bathroom.
Price: Doubles: R600 to R900 pp sharing. Cottage: R500 to R675 sharing (based on 4-person occupancy).
Meals: full breakfast and afternoon tea and scones included.