African chic in Hout Bay

First-time international visitors to Cape Town, expecting an African experience, are often disappointed. Almost everywhere they go, the architecture is European, the menu Mediterranean, the tableware imported and the décor colonial. On a rainy day, you may be sipping your earl grey tea on the leafy side of Table Mountain and feel like you never left mother England. This is not the case at the Hout Bay Manor.

The interior was designed by acclaimed Cécile & Boyds, and is a colourful celebration of African art and symbols. The longer you linger, the more you will notice how the space playfully utilizes every-day objects from different cultures of the continent. Traditional beaded headgear have been turned into lamps, wooden headrests find a place in the bathroom, red lucky beans set in glass become paperweights and a seed believed to render the bearer irresistible to a potential lover doubles as a key ring. Still, the feeling of Hout Bay Manor is crisp and modern and will appeal to visitors that are used to the finest in the hospitality industry.

We stayed in the very spacious Zulu room and loved the Nguni skin on the gleaming wooden floor, the splashes of vibrant pink and orange, combined with a few elegant furniture pieces and original local art. The polished rawness of the shower’s pebble floor and exposed copper pipes, contrast well with a dazzling glass chandelier in the bathroom. All the bathroom products at Hout Bay Manor are from the locally produced Earth range.

There was a moment of panic as I, who clear out a small tea plantation every year with the amount of green tea that I consume, did not spot any tea and coffee making facilities in the room. But the never-tiring room service delivered endless pots of tea to our room at no extra charge. Glass jars stocked with complimentary nougat, biscuits and other sweet treats are stationed throughout the hotel.

During summer the heated swimming pool must be great fun and the hotel provides kikoys and picnic baskets if you want to spend your day around the pool and garden area. As we visited in the middle of the winter, we opted for the Inzolo Wellness Spa instead. Unfortunately, there was only one therapist on duty and as earlier appointments had overrun their time, we were a little disappointed that we could not enjoy all the treatments that we booked. But Jack thoroughly enjoyed his Marula and Neroli massage, and I thought my pedicure was perfectly done.

We did not get round to the wine tasting in the Hout Bay Manor’s own cellar, but were impressed by the collection of South African favourites on the wine list of their in-house restaurant, Pure. Their angelfish with lemon butter sauce and roasted aubergine and tomatoes was one of the tastiest meals that I’ve had in a long time and the fresh-out-of-the-oven dark chocolate fondant with its rich, melting core was definitely the right choice for a dessert.

On checking out, we were surprised by a hamper pack of snacks for the road, sealing the good experience at this friendly luxury hotel. I can recommend the Hout Bay Manor to couples, families and business travelers who want to stay somewhere with interesting, original design and in a tranquil environment, removed from the bustle of the city.

Life is beautiful at Babylonstoren hotel between Franschhoek and Paarl, South Africa

In this edition of “Review for You” we visit one of our favourite luxury escapes of all time, Babylonstoren Hotel. It is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms and only features 14 accommodation units and a fantastic restaurant called Babel. With its impressive fruit and vegetable gardens, unique accommodation and wholesome food, this establishment between Franschhoek and Paarl near Cape Town, South Africa, celebrates everything that is natural and beautiful in life.

Magical Ngala Safari Lodge, Ngala Private Game Reserve

Lion spotted at Ngala Safari Lodge, Ngala Private Game Reserve

Lion spotted at Ngala Safari Lodge, Ngala Private Game Reserve

The Lion has ruled over the African Savannah since the beginning of time. Regarded as the kings of the animal world, lions have a royal quality that not even humans can imitate. One look into the fierce stare of a lion reminds us of where we could have been, or maybe should have been, on the food chain.

There is something about the prospect of an African safari that can divide even the most composed and professional adult’s age in half. As we paid our access fees and entered the kingdom of the lion, a mighty silence descended and two pairs of frantic eyes searched from bush to scrub, afraid to miss anything.

We were on our way to Ngala Game Reserve, a private game reserve that shares borders, but not fences, with the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and the world renowned Kruger National Park. Like most South Africans we have been to the Kruger before on self-drive safari with beskuit (rusks) and droëwors (dried meat, a South African delicacy) on the backseat. What awaited us at Ngala (which means lion in the local Shangaan language) was an experience of a completely different nature.

Giraffe seen during our game drive at Ngala Safari Lodge, Ngala Private Nature Reserve

Giraffe seen during our game drive at Ngala Safari Lodge, Ngala Private Nature Reserve

Ngala Safari Lodge is well camouflaged and we stumbled into the friendly smiles of the staff who knew who we were before we could even speak a word. Our car was escorted to secure parking and our luggage carried to our room. In a short orientation we were informed that the camp was unfenced and we were asked to not walk alone at night. In a flurry of handshakes we were introduced to our personal butler, Juvy, and the two people who would ensure that we truly enjoyed a safari: our game ranger, JP, and tracker, Sam. Although we took it in with as much grace as we could muster, on the inside we were screaming: “We have our own butler?!”

Each of the 22 chalets have been handsomely furnished in simplistic fashion. Beautiful wooden furniture evokes the Bushveld atmosphere while the indescribably soft bed, ample supply of toiletries and numerous other luxuries guarantee that your stay at Ngala Safari Lodge will be a very comfortable one. The invisible housekeeping fairies keep the rooms immaculate and ensure that not only do you return to a well-lit room at night, your complementary supply of South African snacks never runs dry. The only thing you have to do yourself is to ensure that your room is secured at night – to keep the baboons out, of course.

A day in the life of an Ngala Lodge guest starts at half past five with a gentle knock on the door. Warm drinks and rusks are served to awaken your senses. When you hop onto the open-top safari van, a blanket and warm water bottle helps to keep the early-morning cold away. The drive is only interrupted with a refreshment break when guests can stretch their legs and wrap their hands around a warm cup of hot chocolate. The morning drive, which lasts for about four hours, is followed by a scrumptious breakfast which could be served at a number of locations (even in the middle of the bush). Midday can be spent lazing around the pool, playing games in the recreation room or reading. We recommend the latter, in combination with dozing off in the sun. A children’s programme also guarantees that parents get some much-needed rest from their baboons.

Our breakfast in the bush at Ngala Safari Lodge

Our breakfast in the bush at Ngala Safari Lodge

Although there is no lunch served, the buffet-style high tea ensures that you don’t leave for your afternoon drive on an empty tummy. Having the same ranger and tracker for the duration of your stay means that you get to tap into the well-informed team’s extensive knowledge of the bushveld. Besides providing guests with a great learning experience, the ranger also knows how to position the vehicle in order to achieve the perfect photographs of your sightings. Ask your ranger about the possibility of a bush walk – you might even be able to track an elusive animal on foot!

Dinner under the stars at Ngala Safari Lodge

Dinner under the stars at Ngala Safari Lodge

After enjoying a leisurely bath, you can make your way to the dining area – this is determined partly by the weather and partly by the type of African cuisine that is served on a particular night. You might find yourself huddling around a cozy bonfire or enjoying a romantic dinner served under lantern-dotted trees. Whatever the case may be, the food is absolutely divine.

One of our fondest memories and Ngala was hearing an elephant munching on leaves just outside our cottage after returning from dinner one night. Being that close to nature reminds you of our responsibility to protect and preserve this treasure for the generations to come.

Throughout our stay, the family at Ngala made us feel like their family. On the morning of our departure when we received the keys to our considerably cleaner car and a goodbye pack filled with water and snacks, we were sad to leave. It wasn’t only the fantastic game viewing, delicious food or comfortable room – we truly felt at home.

Ngala Tented Camp

Also situated in the Ngala private game reserve, is the Ngala tented camp. Offering the same luxuries as the safari lodge, the six permanent tents provide discerning travellers with an exclusive safari experience.

– Independent review by Klein Companions, Francois & Shané Barnard

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In love with Leadwood Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Deck at Leadwood Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Deck at Leadwood Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Ever dreamt of owning your very own safari destination in the African bushveld with butlers and game rangers at your command? Where the Mabrak and Sand rivers meet in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, you might find what your heart is yearning for.

With only four suites dotted in the thicket, Leadwood Lodge provides the ultimate in seclusion and serenity. A better place to hide from the rest of the world would be difficult to find. With the option of booking the lodge exclusively for a group of friends or family means that your safari experience can be shared and enjoyed with loved ones.

Modern, glass elements incorporated with natural rocks dominates the architecture at Leadwood. The suites are completely private and the full glass fronts provide guests with incredible views of animals making their way to the watering hole. Indoor fireplaces warm you up in winter and full size private pools will keep you cool in summer.

Francois learns more about Leadwood Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Francois learns more about Leadwood Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Ingenious design ensures that the feeling of exclusivity is carried through the entire lodge. Be sure to spend some time in the treehouse-like private dining area. Dangling over the river, this unique corner of the lodge treats you with incredible views. It also reminds you that you are, if only for the duration of your stay, the king of the world.

– Independent review by Klein Companions, Francois & Shané Barnard.

Klein Collection offers a best rate guarantee. Contact us today for a free quotation:

  • Email: info@kleincollection.com
  • Telephone: +27 (0) 21 813 6961
  • Office hours: Monday to Friday, 09h00 – 17h00 (GMT+2)

Exeter River Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve


Francois at Exeter River Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Francois at Exeter River Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

When the sun rises over the horizon of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, it washes Exeter River Lodge in a golden glow. The land slowly awakens and the silence of the daybreak is only disturbed by the Sand river gently rushing past.

We visited the River Lodge on such a magical morning. During the previous night elephants entered the camp and caused some havoc by tearing down a part of the boma. All the excitement added an extra centimeter to everybody’s smile!

As you walk through the Exeter River Lodge you appreciate the feeling of space as beautiful open structures, like the lounge and reception area, effortlessly fuse with the surrounds. The evergreen banks of the River secrete eight suites, with incredible views over the water and the wildlife it attracts, ensuring that game viewing is not restricted to the morning and afternoon game drives. Spend your afternoon lounging around or cooling down in your private plunge pool overlooking the river and evening pamper sessions can either take place in your outdoor shower or a deep bathtub.

The Exeter River Lodge has the ability to excite. Its location is its draw card and promises an experience not easily imitated.

– Independent review by Klein Companions, Francois & Shané Barnard

Klein Collection offers a best rate guarantee. Contact us today for a free quotation:

  • Email: info@kleincollection.com
  • Telephone: +27 (0) 21 813 6961
  • Office hours: Monday to Friday, 09h00 – 17h00 (GMT+2)

Romantic luxury at Dulini Safari Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Even the most avid safari lover will tell you that the Aardvark is an elusive creature. Only the lucky are provided with the pleasure of a few glimpses of this unique animal. We found that finding its namesake, the Dulini Lodge, can be just as daunting… that is without a map or directions, of course.

As we bopped around on gravel roads in our rented car we realised that we were, to some extent, lost. Failing to print the directions from the website could have been a fatal mistake. When we eventually found a gate (not the correct one) to the well known Sabi Sand Game Reserve, we discovered that we had missed our target somewhat. After paying our access fees we were allowed to back track within the reserve. If you don’t want to relive our predicament, use the Newington Gate.

Somewhat irritated and anxious that we were going to miss our afternoon game drive, we arrived at our oasis for the night. Lush green vegetation and friendly smiles welcomed us and soon drove these thoughts far from our minds. Even though we arrived slightly late (not only for the game drive, but for lunch as well), Leisha and her team were able to dish up a delectable lunch under the canopy of trees before we set out for a specially arranged (late) game drive. And what superb game viewing we were able to enjoy! After placing our orders from the game-viewing menu, we were treated to a buffet of sightings. The area is well-known leopard and lion territory – on this particular afternoon, we found various models who were very happy to pose for our clicking cameras.

Since Dulini is also part of the &Beyond family, we knew we could expect excellent service. Upon our return from the game drive, we learned that even the highest expectations can be exceeded – Freddy, our butler, had decided to arrange a private dinner for us. Not only could we enjoy a delicious three-course meal in the privacy of our chalet, Freddy had also run us a hot bubble bath and put a bottle of sparkling wine on ice!

Shane enjoying a meal at Dulini Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Shane enjoying a meal at Dulini Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Dulini boasts with serene romantic luxury – each of the six chalets have their own outdoor shower and plunge pool on a private deck overlooking the Mabrak river. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow for chance game viewing at any time of the day (or night) while the single stone wall in the lounge brings nature right into your home. His and hers basins, an enormous shower and the freestanding bath are made even more inviting when you step onto the bathroom’s heated floor (such a treat during a cold winter visit!). There is also an abundance of shower products, each of which has creatively been labeled with the image of a wild animal – the cleverly named ‘lion’ hair conditioner was a favourite. This is the perfect hideaway for honeymooners or couples looking for an intimate, romantic destination.

Early the following morning, a wake-up call and steaming coffee eased us into the long day of returning home. Our departure was earlier than that of most guests and the staff went out of their way to accommodate us with a packed breakfast of muesli and fruit. As you drive away, Dulini quickly disappears in a dust cloud, but the memories linger. We won’t easily get lost on our next visit.

– Independent review by Klein Companions, Francois & Shané Barnard 

Mark Roussout

Klein Companion, Mark RoussoutI am 28 years old, currently specializing in orthopaedic surgery in Cape Town.

I enjoy traveling and I have had the privilege of experiencing beautiful countries in Europe, South America, Southern Africa, and Australasia as far as Fiji. I have always looked for new experiences in far away places.

More recently I have started to appreciate the vast array of beautiful places in our wonderful country, South Africa. Click here to read about my stay at Phinda Private Game Reserve’s Mountain Lodge.