It isn’t often that you get to head out to the hinterlands to explore hidden history, enjoy a spot of luxury and completely unplug. But that is what we did.
Only 3 hours from Cape Town is the dramatic landscape of the Cedarberg. And, nestled in a valley, amidst ancient art and vibrant russet rock formations, is Bushmans Kloof.
From the coast to the mountains
Our route took us from the sleepy surf town of Elands Bay (which has the best left break in the country, you should know), via farmlands, rocklands and scrublands of the Cedarberg. 36km from Clanwilliam, via Pakhuis Pass, you’ll find the tall, wrought iron gates that give you entry to Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Retreat.
Beyond the dusty roads and rocky outcrops, we were greeted by lush lawns and lovingly tended indigenous gardens that lead to the main lodge. We were warmly welcomed by the staff at the lodge, who whisked away our vehicle and luggage so that we could settle in. After a refreshing iced rooibos tea and general introduction, we were taken to our room.
Passing by a rim flow pool that overlooks the rugged wilderness, we walked alongside the pond where Red-knobbed coots paddled. Age old trees, their branches laden with weaver’s nests, arched over our heads. Set amidst the welcome shade of the trees we found Water’s Edge, our aptly named room.
Understated elegance, delicious dining
If you love beautiful but unfussy décor, you will appreciate the simple elegance of Bushmans Kloof. A subtle mix of classic features like cut glass mirrors and vintage-inspired industrial lamps alongside raw elements like sisal and wood give the interiors a comfortable, homestead ambience. The décor in the main manor and other pause areas brings in African elements, and beautiful ceramic Ardmore pieces form part of the aesthetics.
Our arrival was timeous as lunch was being served. A word about the food. It’s fresh, delicious, beautifully presented, and uses many ingredients from their very own organic orchard and vegetable garden. Their vegetarian and pescatarian options were outstanding, and portions were suitably small, and fully flavoursome. High tea is served at 3:30 (just after nap o’clock) and is a special treat.
Wildflowers, wide-open spaces and wildlife
At 4:30 we took up the opportunity to go on a game drive. Stephan, our sweet guide made sure that drinks and snacks were packed, and we bundled into the 4×4. While every season holds its own unique beauty, the region is particularly spectacular after the Winter rains.
Wherever you look you will see fields of wild-flowers and fynbos for which the West Coast and interior region is well known. Great swathes of purple and yellow daisies first catch your eye, but as you stand on the soil and look close to the ground, you will notice more and more species of flowers. In fact, the region has 1300 plant species per 10 000km2, which is more diverse than the Amazon rainforest. More than 755 indigenous plant species grow within the boundaries of Bushmans Kloof Reserve.
A bonus feature of Bushmans Kloof is that you can make use of their mountain bikes and ride in the reserve. This typically isn’t possible at many reserves and certainly isn’t possible in reserves where there are predators. If you’re a keen photographer, this is a fabulous way to traverse the scenery, stopping to photograph the grand splendour of the landscape, or snap the small details that fill you with delight.
Red Hartebeest, Cape Mountain Zebra and springbok roam these lands and at night, and beneath an endless starry sky that’s utterly devoid of light pollution, nocturnal animals like porcupine, Bat Eared Vox, Cape Fox and Aardwolf emerge.
One if the most inspiring features of Bushmans Kloof is embedded in its name. These lands have a heritage that dates back more than 120 000 years. Over 130 unique rock art sites are found within the boundaries of Bushmans Kloof and it is listed as a National Heritage Site.
There is something surreal about standing in the same spot as the bushmen who lived here more than 10 000 years ago. Some sites are living sites and illustrate every-day and noteworthy experiences of bushmen, while others are spiritual sites – places where shamans may have gone to receive insight from ancestors and spirits.
Whether you are an aficionado of archaeology, or whether you’d simply like to experience vast open spaces, dramatic scenery and tranquillity, Bushmans Kloof is certainly a bucket-list destination and one worth embarking on as a stand-alone adventure, or as a break-away trip from a Cape Town and Winelands holiday. Their friendly and efficient staff go out of their way to make sure that your experience is magical, and its understated luxury makes you feel welcome and comfortable.
(P.S. There’s an airstrip nearby which means it’s possible to fly in if your schedule is tight.)