I was very fortunate last week to attend a corporate retreat with fifteen of my colleagues for five nights at Bushmans Kloof (BK). My colleagues are based around the world and travelled from Australia, Canada, Geneva, the US and the UK (myself included).
All of us had checked out the BK website and were pretty thrilled to find ourselves visiting a retreat like Bushmans Kloof on company credit - and we were not disappointed one iota.
My Room - I was in KP1, which is one of the Luxury Rooms (effectively their standard room) with twin beds. The room was definitely much bigger than a standard room and had a bathroom to die for - I only wish I'd had the time to enjoy the huge bathtub. The decor was lovely - definitely inspired by the lands of South Africa with stunning pictures on the walls and lovely touches. The staff knew I'd come from London and had popped in UK conversion plugs to help me out with my electronics. I found this very thoughtful.
The conference facilities were brilliant - great BB connection and beautifully set up. We had everything we needed to conduct our four-day seminar and workshops. There was an adjacent garden where they served our lunches and morning/afternoon teas in complete privacy. And the best bit – afternoon tea included cupcakes, scones, cream and jam – a little bit of home each day.
So here is my list of what we did:
Day 1 - arrived, unpacked and was driven to Embers for dinner. Embers is an open-air restaurant set in a mountain that you walk up 80 odd wooden steps where you find this amazing platform offering a 200-degree view of the reserve. The platform is lit by candlelight only and your food is cooked over fires on a raised platform near you. All the tables are set with heavy linen, huge hurricane lamps, ornate cutlery and flowers. It's like something from "Out of Africa" Gorgeous. And the food - the chef is called "Flo" and is a very talented man. They offered a full menu that worked for the entire party and the meats simply melted in your mouth. And the bathroom, you walk along a path to the most open bathroom I've ever seen looking over the sunset. And on top of all that, the chefs and waiters performed drums for us, sang and also danced. It was an experience I'd never had before and it was wonderful.
Day 2 - to each of our rooms were delivered mountain bikes (you have an outside patio where they sit) so at 7.10am we picked them up and rode out to a dam. I'm not very fit or able on a bike but I coped with a lot of huffing and puffing. Once we arrived at the dam we did yoga facing a sunrise (sure beats the heck out of classes in London - in the dark) for a half hour and then returned to the bikes to discover that the chefs had appeared and pulled together a healthy breakfast of fruits, pastries, smoothies and hot tea/coffee in the middle of the bush. It was all very healthy although I could have killed for a bacon sandwich. After breakfast we rode back to the Kloof, showered, changed and worked through to lunch. Lunch was fab and the food and attention to detail was great. Amazing beef fillets, amazing fruits, amazing pastries, mini steak and avocado baps, madness. I ate ALOT. Then back to work for the afternoon and later dinner, which we had at Makana. Makana is a kind of half open hall overlooking a massive dam (a different one) with water lilies in it. But first we headed down to the fire pit adjacent to the dam for cocktails (yeah pretty tough). Upon walking back to Makana we found the local school choir set up to sing especially for us - they were enchanting and sang a song that they'd written and had recently won a national singing comp. After they finished singing they then danced for us too - a local dance. We then sat down at a couple of tables and were joined by a charming local guide (Jaku) who told us all about his life in South Africa - a taste of the authentic SA lifestyle. Again food was amazing - this time local curries all with local produce that were scrumptious.
Day 3 - Again up at the crack of dawn, this time for a walk through the bush with guides who talked us through local flora and fauna. Upon our return to the Kloof we had breakfast in Makana, which again was great, although this time there was bacon, eggs etc - all the good stuff we Brits need to survive! But also all the healthy stuff that the Canadians/US wanted (fruit, muesli, yogurt – etc) After breakfast it was back to work - again a great lunch and then for dinner we ate in the Homestead from a formal la Carte menu. This time my table was joined by Graham (the manager) and his wife who talked about their life in South Africa and their plans for the Kloof. Fab food - I had the lamb and way to many mohitos. After dinner several of us sat around the bar enjoying various spirits - perhaps to excess - while the barman was very accommodating - his name is James and makes a mean and HUGE B52. ;o)
Day 4 - our last bike ride, hike, yoga beneath a waterfall and a demonstration of the amazing rock art. I may have been a tad hung over (I was not at my best) and after appreciating the morning's activities was astonished and pleased to find the magic chefs had again turned up out of nowhere and set up breakfast in the bush - this time above a stream and actually upon these really high rocks. But the best bit - they'd made bacon and egg sandwiches. After a mug of strong tea and a couple of sandwiches - plus all the amazing fresh air I felt nearly human again. Fortunately myself and several other merry makers from the night before didn't need to ride our bikes back - instead we popped our bikes in one of the trucks and got a lift back to the Kloof - thanks to Daniel the guide. Then it was back to work - another great lunch, more work and then dinner. I thought it couldn't get any more amazing but it did. So dinner – this was held at the Shepherd’s House. Basically at about 5.30 they took us out in the vehicles for a night safari where we saw Bontebok, Red Hartebeest, Grey Rhebok, Zebra, Porcupines, Baboons, Bat Eared Foxes (vegetarians apparently) and Ostrich. The safari lasted about forty-five minutes (again thanks to Daniel) and we ended up next to this huge tree where there were several stone houses all lit by candlelight. Absolutely amazing – Michell was our host and he was brilliant – all the food was cooked by a different chef (I think he’s called little Flo) over fires again. Fab food, loads of wine all lit by candles, even the bathroom has candles – just amazing. Michell said that couples use the house to propose, as it’s very remote and romantic. Obviously this wasn’t the case for our lot of work colleagues though. But again great food and great desserts in a magical spot. Back in the jeeps to return and then straight to bed.
Day 5 – we simply headed back to Cape Town in the morning after breakfast at Makana again.
So as you can see from my review – I was very impressed. I’ve never stayed anywhere like this for work before. And to be honest I’ve not stayed anywhere like this for personal holidays either – although I have stayed at plenty of five star resorts around the world. What I can honestly say is that the experience was life changing – the fresh air and the genuine warmth of the people and the environment made me change gear. I was able to focus on the work at hand in a way that I have never done before – but at the same time with the fresh air in my lungs, amazing food in my tummy and exposure to a different way of life – I have to question why on earth I live in London and commute each day as I do.
So now I’m home and waxing lyrical to my husband about Bushmans Kloof and how much he’d love it. Best I start saving my pennies so I can go back there again with him then!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Ancient landscapes of wind-sculpted sandstone and untamed bush frame this luxury retreat, 270km from Cape Town. Voted ‘Best Hotel in the World 2009’ in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards, the malaria-free reserve is an ecological oasis for diverse wildlife, and custodian of 130 ancient San rock art sites renowned as one the ‘world’s largest open air art galleries’. Evening nature drives and exhilarating outdoor adventures offset an invigorating wellness focus, featuring an outdoor spa gazebo and spa treatments rooted in nature. Delectable cuisine distinguishes this authentic African wilderness escape, while luxurious accommodation includes Koro Lodge, the child-friendly private villa. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat Hotel Clanwilliam
- Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve And Wellness Retreat