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Where luxury meets wilderness

By Arnelle Kendall

South Africa's Bushmans Kloof Reserve and Wellness Retreat offers a unique travel experience


Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat is a place of ancient and untamed beauty unlike any other. Immense open plains, deep ravines, spectacular waterfalls and prehistoric rock formations combine to provide guests with a unique, enriching wilderness experience, exciting outdoor adventures and education, as well as supreme luxury, remarkable comfort and relaxation.

Here a multitude of experiences in the heart of the African bush await..... a mere 270km from Cape Town. A diverse and exhilarating range of activities, services, innovative cuisine and an internationally recognised spa allows you to enjoy a truly distinctive wilderness experience. Bushmans Kloof provides the ideal sanctuary to appreciate the moment and reconnect with nature.

The exclusive Lodge has breathtaking views of the timeless sun-baked Cederberg Mountains. Built in the grand style of the finest wilderness lodges, with authentic African and South African-colonial finishes, everything has been created with comfort, beauty and luxury in mind.

Koro Lodge, a recent accommodation addition to Bushmans Kloof, is an independently catered for private villa in a secluded location within the reserve. It provides flexible accommodation options for up to 8 people as a perfect home-away-from-home for friends and families travelling together, and where children of all ages are welcome all year round.

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat is the proud Global Winner of Wildlife Conservations Programs in the Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Awards (2009), and won the coveted Relais & Châteaux Environment Trophy in 2007. These noteworthy awards were received in recognition of Bushmans Kloof's exceptional environmental and conservation projects.  These include its Rock Art conservation programme; providing a sanctuary for the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra and Clanwilliam Yellow Fish; its support of the Cape Mountain Leopard project; as well as alien vegetation clearing. Other environmentally friendly practises at the lodge include the cultivation of organic kitchen gardens; recycling waste material; and water and energy saving.

Bushmans Kloof was rated Best Hotel in the World in the 2009 US Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards readers' survey. Recent accolades also include Bushmans Kloof's inclusion in the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List Best Hotel in Africa & the Middle East (2009); and Forbes Traveler 400 Best Hotels (2008/9); the Top 101 Hotels in the World (2008) in the prestigious UK Tatler Travel Guide, as well as National Geographic Adventure Magazine Top 50 Eco Lodges (2008).

This exceptional wilderness reserve and retreat opens the door to wellness and discovery. It is the ideal sojourn to restore your health and seek relaxation and enrichment - benefits certain to last well beyond the guest's stay.

On arrival at the Lodge, guests are greeted by the friendly staff, who take great pride in providing unparalleled service in this exquisite setting. Every member delights in the challenge of bringing fun and discovery to each guest experience. Off-site excursions enhance an already value-packed, all-inclusive experience. The guides are eager to assist guests in selecting activities appropriate to their needs and desires, providing an opportunity to truly restore your equilibrium.

Mornings are filled with high intensity adventures from nature drives to guided walks between rock art sites; from mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, fishing and archery; to pampering massages or beauty treatments. Activities resume after brunch, ranging from painting or yoga and meditation, to specialised presentations in archaeology, the eco-system and the animal kingdom.

Evenings are for simple pleasures. Delicious drinks in the River Boma before and after dinner provide an opportunity to make new friends and recount the day. Contemporary Cape cuisine is served in a variety of exquisite dining venues, followed by a night game drive, or perhaps a movie. Then guests retire to their rooms to relax, ensuring that they are well rested for the pleasures and discoveries that await the new dawn.

Flora and Fauna

The team at Bushmans Kloof is committed to conserving the land, wildlife and flora, but also to restoring it to the splendour of centuries ago. Today this malaria-free property serves as a safe haven for many unique, and some highly endangered species of indigenous plants and animals.

The fauna is diverse, featuring over 35 species of mammals including the Eland and Bontebok, as well as nocturnal animals such as the rare Aardwolf and Smiths Red Rock Rabbit. Bushmans Kloof is furthermore the proud owner of 43 Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra zebra), one of the largest privately owned herds of this endangered species (current recorded numbers total only 1600 worldwide). All thrive on the property, roaming freely. The absence of any large predators means that guests are completely safe to interact closely with nature when walking or mountain biking through the property, and participating in traditional game drives.

Sharing the mammals' home are over 150 bird species, including the African Fish Eagle, Malachite Kingfisher and Black Harrier, as well as many species of water birds. Seven species of indigenous ducks, including Cape Teal and Cape Shovler were reintroduced to the area, and dams have been built around the Lodge in an effort to lure more wild birds to the area, turning the Reserve into a delight for bird watchers. Bushmans Kloof is also working with a bird rehabilitation centre to assist with the release of injured and rescued Barn Owls and Spotted Eagle Owls. Hacking cages and nesting boxes have been positioned and the first owls have been released into the Reserve. Sightings of Barn owls and Cape eagle owls are now common around the Lodge.

The natural botanical richness of Bushmans Kloof includes more than 755 indigenous plant species, representative of three major vegetation types: Fynbos, Forest and Karoo biomes. Each of these exists and thrives within this protected wilderness.

Bushmans Kloof has identified its own ‘Special Collection' of plants that occur on the Reserve: Rooibos Aspalathus linearis; Taylor's Thatching Reed Cannamois taylori; Khakibutton Crassula columnaris; the Clanwilliam Daisy Euryops speciossimus; the Paintbrush Lily Haemanthus coccineus; Fragrant Evening Flower Hesperantha cucullata; Rocket Pincushion Leucospermum reflexum; the Magenta Pelargonium Pelargonium magenteum; Breede River Yellowwood Podocarpus elongatus; and the Clanwilliam Cedar Widdringtonia cedarbergensis.

Additionally, a reserve management programme is in place to remove alien vegetation. The programme also entails the reclamation and restoration of old farmland and the re-vegetation of the area with indigenous grasses and shrubs for grazing purposes, as well as erosion control.

All of these undertakings have been enhanced by the addition of five dams on the property, enabling more animals and plants to flourish and providing additional locations for guests to unwind.

The Rooibos Plant (Aspalathus linearis)

Naturally occurring only here in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape, the legendary, indigenous Rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis), lauded across the world for its delicious taste and proven health benefits, grows wild across the expanse of the Bushmans Kloof reserve. One of only a few indigenous South African plants to have become an important commercial commodity, Rooibos tea is still produced mainly in its natural distribution area - the districts of Nieuwoudtville, Clanwilliam, Citrusdal and Piketberg, and is exported all over the world.

Today Rooibos tea is recognized for its extraordinarily powerful qualities, and is a delicious, healthy and caffeine-free drink that is packed with anti-oxidants. It is known for its unique, sweet and slightly nutty taste which has a soothing effect on the digestive and central nervous systems.

In its many forms, uses and guises, Rooibos is an integral part of the Bushmans Kloof experience. From the refreshing, chilled Iced Rooibos Tea served on arrival as ‘signature welcome drink', and the deliciously fragrant, hand-made Rooibos soap in all guest bathrooms, to a steaming pot of Rooibos tea taken during High Tea, it is essential to the guest experience here. On a culinary level the Chef makes use of Rooibos tea as an ingredient in some of our Cape Country Cuisine dishes, which has led Bushmans Kloof to be a proud contributor to Rooibos Limited's newly published Rooibos Cookbook. Extracts of the Rooibos plant are also used in Bushmans Kloof's spa products, in a proudly South African anti-ageing body and skincare range called Africology that is applied in various innovative, therapeutic face and body treatments.

First discovered by botanists in 1772, it was named ‘red bush' by the Dutch settlers. Rooibos was widely used by the Khoisan of the Cederberg region as a herbal remedy for many different ailments, and members of this ancient culture are believed to be the first to discover that the needle-like Rooibos leaves could be used to make a refreshing brew. These Rooibos pioneers used axes to harvest the plant in the wild, after which they then bruised the leaves with hammers, before leaving it to ferment in heaps and then dry in the sun. Today the plant is harvested and processed in much the same way, albeit with more sophisticated equipment!

While the growing of Rooibos as a commercial crop only started in the 1930's, marketing started in 1904 when Russian immigrant Benjamin Ginsberg, hailing from a family who traded in the European tea industry, started buying and trading the wild tea from the local inhabitants of the region.
In the early 20th Century, Rooibos captured the imagination of medical doctor and nature lover Dr Le Fras Nortier. Drawn by this mysterious and aromatic tea, he started researching its medicinal value and agricultural potential.

The Rooibos Tea Control Board was established in 1954 to stabilize producer prices through structured marketing and quality control. This Board was recently converted into a private company, called Rooibos Limited.

In 1968 Mrs Annetjie Theron, a South African mother struggling with an allergic infant, put the spotlight on Rooibos with her claims that it soothed away her baby's colic. She published a book on her findings called ‘Allergies: An Amazing Discovery' and went on to launch a full range of health and skin care products with Rooibos as the basic ingredient.

In 1984 Rooibos made headlines in Japan as an anti-ageing product. It has since been incorporated in numerous anti-ageing body and skin care product ranges, including the Africology range recently introduced at the Bushmans Kloof Spa.

Historical and Cultural Heritage

Bushmans Kloof is equally dedicated to preserving the cultural history of this ancient land. In this retreat of timeless serenity and beauty - with year-round sunshine and moderate climate - guests can also discover the cradle of mankind.

San Heritage

The San, South Africa's earliest inhabitants roamed this region during the Later Stone Age and today are recognised as one of the oldest civilisations of mankind. Within the reserve's boundaries are over 130 remarkable Bushman rock art sites, and guests have the opportunity to observe and learn about some of South Africa's greatest national treasures. These ancient sites, located under overhanging cliffs and in rocky shelters, have been meticulously preserved and recorded, making them some of the finest examples of rock painting in all of South Africa. At Bushmans Kloof trained guides conduct daily rock-art walks providing guests with interpretations that offer insight, and a deeper understanding of these rare archaeological sites.

Siyakha Mguni, a dedicated and knowledgeable Rock Art archaeologist was appointed Resident Archaeologist and Curator in 2005. His primary function is to record, document and research, all the rock art sites in the reserve, to create a database linked to a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform. Mguni also lectures and assists with the University of Cape Town's Clanwilliam-based Living Landscape Project and further trains Bushmans Kloof's guides in current rock art analysis and interpretation, based on new research being conducted all over the continent. In February 2007 his discovery of a rare ceremonial rock art site in the reserve made international headlines.

The 70m² Bushmans Kloof Heritage Centre provides guests with further information about the history and lives of the San people, through artefacts and images, which include the famous Rudner Collection that comprises of jewellery, dancing sticks, hunting kits, musical instruments, dolls, digging sticks and magic sets, as well as some important 19th century sticks and other objects made by the San. It has also started acquiring photographs documenting San culture and displays a collection of exceptional photographs by renowned wildlife photographer Michael Poliza, depicting scenes of the daily activities of the Bushmen.

Guests may explore the medicinal herb garden, adjacent to the Heritage Centre, to learn about the fascinating plants and remedies used by the San throughout the ages. These include the Kapokbos (Eriocephalus africanus), its leaves and twigs used as a diuretic and to treat stomach ache; Kruidjie-roer-my-nie (Melianthus major), which was used to treat snake bite, septic wounds, sores, bruises and backache; and the Wild Camphor Bush (Tarchononthus camphorates) - its dried leaves were smoked like tobacco or infused to treat everything from toothache to bronchitis and abdominal troubles.

Today, all of the guides at Bushmans Kloof have extensive training and knowledge of the surrounding land and are able to provide interesting insight into these archaeological wonders. Captivating presentations are given in the Heritage Centre about the San people, along with talks on the wonders of nature in this sensitive and diverse eco-system that make up Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Retreat.

The Englishman's Grave (Anglo Boer War)

Bushmans Kloof is also custodian of the legendary ‘Englishman's Grave', and maintains the lonely grave site, which is located on the periphery just outside the reserve on the road towards Wupperthal. Bearing the inscription ‘Brave and True' this Anglo Boer War memorial was erected by the mother of a young British soldier, Vinicombe Winchester Clowes, who was a lieutenant in the First Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders. He died here on 30 January 1901 at the age of 21, when British forces were attempting to prevent incursions into the Cape Colony by the Boer Commandos under General Smuts.

Lodge and Retreat

The Lodge is seated in a majestic garden setting overlooking rock pools, towering cliffs and rock formations, with pebbled pathways leading to the 16 individually decorated rooms and suites. Each of the seven luxury rooms, six deluxe rooms and three suites has recently been renovated, with all suites and deluxe rooms now featuring an ipod docking station, a flat screen TV and DVD player, adding a decidedly more modern touch.

The impressive Riverside Supreme Suite has been completely transformed into a haven of elegant luxury, its rich, classical yet contemporary interior embracing the majestic natural beauty of its surroundings. Offering complete privacy, with private sitting room, spa bath for two, spectacular outdoor shower and exclusive infinity pool in a charming private garden terrace setting, it is ideal for those seeking a romantic getaway, a special event or occasion, or to simply rejuvenate and be pampered in the peace and quiet of this gentle retreat.

In the historic Manor House are two individually styled suites with living rooms and fireplaces, as well as two deluxe rooms, each with its own luxurious, distinguishing décor and private terrace.

The Homestead, the heart of Bushmans Kloof Lodge offers a bar and two cosy and comfortable living rooms with fireplaces - one with a flat screen television where current feature films are shown in the evenings. There is a sunny terrace with a heated swimming pool, Fitness Centre and tranquil outdoor massage area. The Homestead is also home to an extensive book and DVD library and a business facility with recently installed broadband wireless Internet access, as well as a conference room connected to the Heritage Centre, complete with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment.

Food and Beverage

At Bushmans Kloof it is pure pleasure that motivates the cuisine team. Head Chef Floris Smith brings Contemporary Cape Cuisine to all the culinary aspects at the Lodge, with a menu that reflects the eclectic flavours of this region, using the freshest ingredients from Bushmans Kloof's own organic garden, to produce a veritable feast for the eye as well as the palate. Bushmans Kloof presents dishes that are hand-selected for their unique, natural taste and flavours, to provide you with a showcase of local cuisine.

A fusion of simple, honest cooking made from the best local seasonal produce and organically home-grown fruit and vegetables, our cuisine is multi-layered, having evolved from traditional recipes brought by settlers from Europe. These include aromatic spices and sweet accents introduced by the Malay slaves in the 17th century, which has proved to be the most dominant and lasting influence on Cape cooking.

Celebrate the Cape Floral Region and the botanical diversity of Bushmans Kloof with a selection of signature dishes that include Fynbos plants and Rooibos as ingredients - proudly showcasing our regional Cape Country Cuisine. These include: Wild Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare; Wild Ginger (Siphonochilus Aethiopicus); Lemon Geranium (Pelargonium Betulinum); Wild Rosemary (Eriocephalus Africanus); Wild Dagga (Leonotis Leonurus); Wild Garlic (Tulbaghia Capensis); Morogo Leaves (Amaranthus Hybridus - Wild African Spinach) and Buchu (Agathosma-Crenata).

Furthermore, a flexible and exciting choice of dining venues means no two meals are ever quite alike. Greet a new morning with delicious homemade croissants while sitting next to a cascading waterfall. Delight in an unforgettable brunch at Makana (which means ‘to feast' in the San language), which offers glorious views across the dam and river, with an expanse of rocky cliffs and the Reserve beyond. Embers holds pride of place in a spectacular outdoor setting within the Reserve, overlooking Khabo dam (‘dream' in the San language). Here you can enjoy a traditional South African braai (barbeque) under the star-filled African sky - a matchless and enchanting dining experience on summer evenings.

A recent addition to ‘extraordinary dining venues' offered at Bushmans Kloof is Kadoro, a charming stone building set in the shade of an ancient blue gum in the midst of the reserve. Translated from the !Xam dialect of San language that means ‘Tinderbox of Stories', Kadoro provides a unique venue for a romantic dinner for two, or a private dining venue for a group of up to 12 guests. With no electricity, Kadoro offers dining by candle light and traditional barbeques ‘braais' in summer, or soups and ‘potjiekos' stews in winter - all prepared on open fires. And after dinner, guests enjoy a night drive under a blanket of stars, back to the Lodge.

Additional fine dining venues at the Lodge include the dining room or terrace of the Homestead, or the Manor House bar and deck with its romantic riverside setting under the colossal fig tree (Ficus natalensis). Toast the end of yet another glorious day at the River Boma, which provides a perfect setting for sundowners or nightcaps in the moonlight, accompanied only by the nocturnal sounds of Africa.

Complementing the award winning cuisine is an acclaimed wine cellar with a wide choice of superb South African wines, French champagnes and cognacs, as well as a refreshing choice of beverages including herbal-infused, home-brewed Rooibos and Honeybush tea, organically grown in nearby Wupperthal. The proprietors of the Reserve also own the award-winning South African wine estate Bouchard Finlayson in Hermanus, whose sought-after wines may now be purchased at Bushmans Kloof at cellar prices. Bushmans Kloof is one of the few South African properties to have received an Award of Excellence in the prestigious Diners Club International Wine List of the Year Awards, for three years running, (2005, 2006 & 2007) and was named one of only 38 Diamond Awards national winners in the coveted 2008 Diners Club International Wine List of the Year competition.


The wide variety of activities available at Bushmans Kloof allows guests to explore as well as renew, heal and enrich their inner selves through a combination of sensory experiences. An invigorating blend of simple pleasures and extraordinary experiences range from sheer relaxation to fortifying the adventurous spirit with guests taking part in pursuits they might never have experienced before: hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, swimming in rock-pools, fishing, archery, yoga and meditation, and absorbing the magnetic energy fields of the ancient rocks.

Wilderness Wellness Retreat

Inspired by the healing essence of Africa, here in the heart of Rooibos country, Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat is launching a new spa and wellness programme this year.

The setting at this luxurious Relais & Chateaux lodge, amidst a mystical wilderness of wide open plains, rugged mountains, sacred rock art and abundant wildlife, is therapy itself - merely staying here induces a feeling of calm, relaxation and rejuvenation.  This effect will now be heightened by the introduction of new spa treatments, revitalising wellness therapies, innovative wellness and spa packages, as well as scientifically designed nutritional options that include recipes using indigenous fynbos and Rooibos plants.  

The objective is to offer an unsurpassed wellness experience that's deeply rooted in nature - one that draws upon the rich cultural traditions, ancient wisdom and herbal remedies of the indigenous San people.

The Spa currently has two treatment rooms, which will be extended to 6 in 2009, along with a steam chamber with its own signature massage. Bushmans Kloof also offers a Fitness Centre and a stunning heated outdoor jet pool set against a dramatic rocky backdrop. The spa menu has also been transformed to offer a range of innovative therapeutic face and body treatments, plus touch therapies. These incorporate energy-revitalizing indigenous herb and plant extracts from the fertile African soil, and range from the Cederberg "SOUL"ution Signature Treatment, to the latest Africology Heated Herbal Stone Massages and Intuitive Herbal Oil Massages.

Africology, a new and proudly South African anti-ageing body and skincare treatment range, has recently been introduced at Bushmans Kloof. This range uniquely captures nature's powerful healing essences with African plant extracts and essential oils such as Aloe Ferox, Marula Oil, Rooibos and Hypoxis.

The Rooibos plant was widely used by the Khoisan as a herbal remedy for many different ailments. Here at Bushmans Kloof the indigenous Rooibos plant is used in many ways, from spa treatments, and handmade soaps in the guest rooms, to iced tea - a delicious, healthy and caffeine-free drink that is packed with anti-oxidants.
Another recent addition at Bushmans Kloof is the dual Spa Gazebo, which offers total seclusion and privacy to individual guests or couples.  Providing magnificent panoramic views of the mystical landscape and nearby Boontjies River, whilst being gently caressed with the warm and healing breezes, it's the ideal sanctuary in which to enjoy manicures and pedicures - there's no better place on earth to be in harmony and at peace with nature.  Treatments can also be taken in the privacy of the guest rooms, or weather permitting, in a secluded rock shelter overlooking a tranquil valley.
Wherever you choose for your treatments you will benefit from an incomparable wellness experience - one that refreshes and cures the mind, body and soul in an environment of timeless peace and tranquility, where guests can discover their own sacred space.

Truly this is a very special place, perfect for voyages of self discovery, renewal and the attainment of inner peace.

Koro Lodge

A fully independently catered for family experience, Koro Lodge is an existing farmhouse in the reserve that has been converted into a comfortable and luxurious private villa. It offers flexible accommodation options for up to 8 people as a perfect home-away-from-home for friends and families travelling together, and where children are welcome all year round.*

The services of a dedicated chef, hostess and a guide with a game viewing vehicle, is included in addition to all meals, select beverages, and activities. Koro Lodge has 2 luxury bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms leading to their own terraces, one with a private outdoor shower, as well as a loft room with single beds for up to 4 children sharing. A special games and entertainment room has a flat screen TV with a variety of DVD's, games and toys, and is equipped with 2 single beds and a bathroom to provide additional accommodation.

The private villa is comfortably and luxuriously styled in natural vibrant earth colours, with beautiful, handcrafted South African objects and furnishings. It is designed and equipped to provide every service and satisfy all needs, with flat screen TV's and DVD's, cable channels, cd's and music system, family games, under floor heating, air conditioning, a fireplace in the living room, and wireless internet access throughout. An open-plan living space on ground level has wonderful indoor and outdoor eating areas and a wide veranda complete with an infinity splash pool and loungers, and breathtaking vistas onto the reserve.

Located approximately 2 kilometres from the main lodge and within easy walking distance of one of the main dams, guest programmes and activities are flexible and may include guided rock art walks and nature drives, hiking, mountain biking and canoeing. Special children's activities and family excursions will be available too.

(* No children under 10 policy remains at Bushmans Kloof main lodge except during Family Affair packages on select dates during the school holidays).