Dining alfresco at Bushmans Kloof


Chris Moerdyk

A self-indulgent cloud of wellness envelopes CHRIS MOERDYK  at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat

Cynicism and curiosity sparked my interest in the Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat in the western Cape’s stark Cederberg Mountains, three hours by road from Cape Town or 45 minutes by air.

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Reflections at Bushman’s Kloof.
I was curious to discover how some place in the back of beyond got to be named Best Hotel in the World in the 2009 US Travel & Leisure readers’ survey. And I am cynical about anyone who talks about “wellness”. It sounds like a word contrived by manic marketers in search of the holy grail of hyperbole.

Dusk at Bushmanskloof
Dusk at Bushmanskloof

Well, I have slashed my left wrist in penitence and taken a blood-oath to look first and think later when it comes to claims involving the magnificence of South Africa wildlife hostelries. In short, Bushman’s Kloof deserves its best hotel in the world accolade. After an hour and a half in their spa I felt very well indeed.

The soft glow of candle light ...
The soft glow of candle light …

Think wide open plains, mystical rock formations, crystal clear waterfalls, and an abundance of flora and fauna. But even the most remarkable settings and facilities are not enough to win a best hotel in the world title.

My theory about why Bushman’s Kloof won the award is the reverse of why most of Johannesburg’s top hotels hardly deserve their five star status, let alone best in the world. Staff. People make the difference between feeling nice and being enveloped in a self-indulgent cloud of wellness.

When the people at Bushman’s Kloof ask you how you are, they want to know. If you responded with a breakdown of every surgical procedure made in the past 10 years, they would, I’m sure, listen with rapt attention.

Bedroom at Bushman's Kloof.
Bedroom at Bushman’s Kloof.

In my experience staff at Johannesburg’s five star hotels are polite and subservient, but only because they have to be. They’re simply going through the motions.

At  Bushman’s Kloof, staff members treat you like an important person. On arrival my car was whisked out of sight and returned to me at the end of my stay, beautifully cleaned.

Bushman art.
Bushman art.

Accommodation is homely and comfortable. The food was excellent. I had breakfast overlooking green lawns and lily-bedecked water in the company of the funniest of all fauna – the yellow-billed duck. It’s like watching Michael McIntyre with feathers.

Bushmans Kloof isn’t a Big Five reserve, which means you can go for a walk without being eaten. And what a place to walk! Marvellous scenery and hundreds of remarkable San rock paintings, thanks to the 130 Bushman Art sites on the property.

A yellow-billed duck. Picture: David Cook Wildlife Photography
A yellow-billed duck. Picture: David Cook Wildlife Photography

The “game” drives are excellent and the guides impressive in their depth of knowledge. We spent a wonderful hour watching a dormouse playing tag with a Cape cobra. Scuttling in and out of a maze of underground tunnels with the cobra in hot pursuit. Popping down  and appearing again 20 metres away.

The cobra eventually gave up, folded his hood and slid away, leaving an exhausted dormouse doing what I am convinced was a victorious high five.

I could go on and on about this wonderful place but I won’t in case you think I am exaggerating. I’m not. I promise.

Specials at Bushman’s Kloof