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Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Karkloof Spa Wellness and Wildlife retreat
Our arrival at the rather small and unprepossessing main entrance gate gave us no inkling of what awaited beyond.
At the reception area my wife and I were met by smiling staff with cold towels that were very welcome after our hot and dusty drive.
From this point on we were totally in the hands of the staff and my wife and I, together with our luggage were transported via Landrover to the main lodge building a 5 minute drive away.
On the way we were treated to a mini game drive that included a very close, but safe, encounter with a buffalo and a white rhino family.
I have been a travel writer for almost a decade and I am not often at a loss for words when it comes to describing the properties I get to visit.
However, the moment that the front door to the main building at the Karkloof Spa Wellness and Wildlife retreat opened I knew I had my work cut out for me and that there were not enough adjectives in the dictionary to do what I was looking at justice.
If you were to Google “ attention to detail” or perhaps “perfection” you would be directed to the Karkloof web-site.
Although the spa has only been open for 2 years it has already won several prestigious awards including The Good Safari Guide Gala Award - "Best Safari Spa 2010"
Certainly their most prestigious award has to be their acceptance as a member of the Relais & Chateaux Family during a ceremony held in Biarritz, France in November 2009
So how do I do this stunning luxury boutique lodge justice?
From Lodge manager, Bianca and her team to the staff at the Spa the focus is on offering their guests an unique experience that surpasses all their expectations.
We had never been to a lodge of this nature that boasts a full size grand piano in the entrance! And if that is not “WOW” enough, a water feature runs through the entrance to the main lounge.
In the lounge itself nothing has been left to chance. The old blends seamlessly with the new and the hides on the floor are almost the only clue to the fact that you are in a “game” lodge.
The décor is straight out of an interior design magazine, but with a lived in feel.
It feels like home immediately…that is if your home sits on 3500 hectares of prime Bushveld real estate!
Turning left from the lounge takes you to the bar and beyond that the library and wine cellar.
The bar is stocked with only the best wines, beer and spirits, but if it’s a French Champagne or perhaps a single malt Scotch you require, that can be obtained as well. And while you are waiting for dinner the canapés and snacks will keep your mind off the wait.
I can also recommend the coffee and cappuccino that the staff is able to conjure up.
If you had turned right from the lounge you would find yourself in the “formal” dining room. I say formal as meals can also be taken on the veranda that runs the full length of the building.
There is also a central fireplace that keeps the whole area warm and even on a warm summer night it added to the ambience of our evening.
We were intrigued by the unique design of both the crockery and cutlery and our table setting specifically enamored my wife.
There is background music playing but for once we did not find it intrusive at all.
Understand, dear reader, that we had yet to see our accommodation!
There was still the pool, gift shop to visit before we were taken to our Villa!
Before we went to our accommodation, I had to visit the guest toilet and I was so taken aback by what I saw that I brought my wife in as a witness. Firstly, the room was bigger that the first apartment I lived and secondly the urinal had a lid! There was a cupboard full of fresh hand towels and a propriety brand of hand soap and cream.
I have never been moved to take pictures of toilets, but in this instance I had to otherwise my readers would never believe me.
Now that we a taste of what Karkloof had to offer we were somewhat better prepared for what our Villa would look like.
The 16 individually decorated villas are spread out on the property and although all are close to the main building they still maintain their individual privacy.
The Villas are inter-linked with a series of walkways that lead back to the main building or to the road that leads to the Spa building.
We stayed in Villa Acacia and the décor and furniture were representative of that wood. Each Villa, although similar in exterior design, boasts different and unique interior decor
In most of the accommodation we have stayed in the door opens into the living area. This is not the case here! The compact reception area has a well-stocked mini-bar, basket of snacks and biscuits and a Nespresso machine! Of course there are a variety of different herbal teas on offer but even these are imported and the tea bags are actually made of silk!
The reception area leads into a dressing room to your right and a master bedroom and en-suite bathroom to your left. The bedroom had an enormous bed as well as a small seating area. From the private deck at the front of our villa deck we were able to look out over a waterhole that was visited by a variety of animals and bird-life during our stay
The bath and shower both had a view over the deck and in the separate toilet we once again discovered a urinal with a lid in addition to the toilet.
When I asked the owner, Fred Wörner, about this he said that women often complain that men leave the lid on the toilet up, so now they cannot complain!
Aside from the spectacular venue and décor the main differential on this property is that it is timeless…
And when I say timeless I mean exactly that.
Most venues have set times for meals and activities, but not Karkloof.
We returned at 12.30 from a visit to the nearby Karkloof Falls and when we asked if we were too late for breakfast. The reply was a simple “How would you like your eggs done”?
It is this feeling of not having to structure your activities around fixed meal times that is yet another feature that sets this Spa apart from all others. I was even told that if I felt like a toasted sandwich at 2am this could be done as the chef lives on the property.
The meals are beyond reproach and are served with panache and style that comes from highly trained staff.
On the menu each dish is described and explained in detail and it is very difficult not to want to try them all.
“Roast loin of warthog, Pumpkin Risotto, Sweetcorn, Chorizo compote, baby calamari and Pimento sauce” was my choice of mains for dinner.
My wife’s choice, because she was trying to be “good”, was “Raw vegetable and Pinenut lasagne”.
Starters, mains and dessert all offer a raw/vegetarian option so that the non-carnivores do not feel put out.
As your time is your own you can plan your daily activities at a moments notice. While my wife went to try out the Spa, I decided on a game drive as the animals are plentiful and easy to find because of the terrain, and the birdlife, especially the Kingfishers abound.
On our final morning we also took time to visit to the spectacular Karkloof Falls where the walkway took more than a year to build and used more than 6000000 screws. As part of the attention to detail, this walkway is swept every second day.
Aside from these activities our biggest indulgence were the treatments that we had at the Spa.
And this is not an ordinary Spa building by any stretch of the imagination. It has been designed to sit in the landscape not on it. Its eco-friendly living roof means Nyala and warthogs are often seen grazing above the heads of the guests!
There are 17 treatment rooms that all look out over the indigenous bush and surrounding gardens and a variety of water features.
The treatment rooms include a four-chair Manicure/Pedicure room, my favourite, a Rassoul room, and a hydrotherapy centre, which has salt water hot (42°C) and cold (6°C) Kneipp Therapy Pools as well as a Roman Bath the size of a lap pool. There are public Sauna and Steam rooms in this area of the Spa as well as private facilities in both sets of change rooms.
The Spa menu is almost as exotic as the food. The treatments are designed to relax, invigorate and recharge your body, mind and soul.
The team of 17 trained Thai therapists will pummel and massage you expertly and leave you feeling relaxed and ready to face either your journey home or more treatments.
We can highly recommend the Thai Melon and Honey facial as well as the signature treatment, the Karkloof Aroma Thai massage.
To all the therapists who treated my wife and I “Khobkun krub” (Thank you in Thai)
The Greens & Teas Spa Café offer soups, salads and delicious range of homemade smoothies for lunch. Coffee and a variety of herbal teas are also available.
There are day packages available at the Spa should guests not want to stay overnight. And it is a full day as the Spa opens at 8am and closes at 9pm.
Another differential of this venue is an early check-in (9am) and a late check-out (5pm) which means that you don’t have to rush to leave or have to do the post lunch begging at reception for a “late” check-out
With most of the other properties we have visited, there is always the reconciliation of the account at the end of the visit which can put a damper on your holiday when you discover what a soda from a mini-bar actually costs!
Not so at Karkloof as all meals, drinks, game drives, mini-bar as well as ALL your treatments are included in their p.p.p.n price of R8000.00
Is it worth it? It certainly is! In fact I even coined a word for the combination of attention to detail and perfection that this Spa offers…Karkloofic!
Combine the Karkloofic attention to detail together with the unbeatable service standards makes this the ultimate Spa destination for the discerning guest!
Telephone: +27 (0) 33 569 1321
Telephone: +27 (0) 33 569 1321