By the time Easter rolls around, the December holidays are a distant memory, your bank balance has just recovered from the strain of Christmas, New Year’s and an extra-long January and you’re feeling the need to escape from the humdrum of daily life in the city.
Madikwe Safari Lodge
Candles flicker over your boma dinner in the bushas night settles.There’s no better way to encounter Africa than at the five-star Madikwe Safari Lodge which promises luxury and exclusivity. Enjoy birdwatching or take a game drive to view the Big Five, as well as eland, oryx, cheetah, wild dog and hyena. Spend the evenings identifying constellations after a spa treatment in your own room. Set on the malaria-free 75 000-hectare Madikwe Game Reserve, three separate lodges, comprising 20 luxury suites, merge into the landscape.
The 12-suite family-friendly Lelapa Lodge boasts both indoor and outdoor showers; babysitting services and free Wi-Fi are available on request. Dithaba Lodge is the perfect venue for families or groups travelling together. The lodge sleeps eight, and offers far-reaching views of the plains. Kopano Lodge is Madikwe’s crowning glory, with its four private open-plan suites, opening onto a common area.Each suite has air-conditioning, private plunge pools, a fireplace, a safe and a mini bar. Both Kopano and Lelapa lodges are suitable for disabled travellers.
De Hoek Country Hotel
The Magaliesburg mountain range, is an underrated destination which over-delivers on attractions. Just an hour north east of Jo’burgis a gem: De Hoek Country Hotel offers tranquil five-star accommodation. Here you’ll find restful rhythms and country charm: try your hand at croquet orarchery or amble around the manicured gardens.
Enjoy a gourmet five-course meal in the Conservatory, overlooking the pond and gardens. Expect five-star accommodation– think king-size extra-length beds, executive work desks, satellite TV, luxurious bedlinen and ensuite bathrooms. Splurge and book one of the two penthouse suites which boast luxurious finishings, including a Nespresso machine, iPod docking station, air-conditioning, balcony and kitchen with separate lounge and dining rooms.
Elephant interactions, horse riding and wine and whisky tastings can be arranged or you can enjoy a game drive in a private reserve. Explore cycling routes or the thrill of a hot-air balloon ridein the grounds of the hotel. Alternatively, gliding and microlight flips will give you a chance to soar.
Kievits Kroon Country Estate
For luxury on your doorstep, visit the Cape Dutch-styled Kievits Kroon Country Estate, just 45 minutes from Sandton, set on a lush 16-hectare estate. Known as the “Winelands in Gauteng” with a well-stocked cellar, Kievits Kroon launched its own Grand Rouge and Sauvignon Blanc wines in 2011.
Enjoy all that this serene sanctuary has to offer, by indulging in high tea or trying your luck at croquet or giant chess. Looking for a romantic interlude? Picnics in the rose garden can be arranged. For those in need of pampering, Kievits Kroon Country Estate also boasts its own Winelands Spa which has advanced thermae treatment facilities where you can enjoy a leisurely day in the steam rooms, saunas, Jacuzzis, Swiss showers and plunge pools. Or take a few laps in the indoor heated swimming pool before selecting one of Kievits Kroon’s spa treatments which range from facials, body scrubs and exfoliation treatments to manicures, pedicures body wraps, massages and leg treatments.
The establishment comprises 142 rooms, ranging from two VIP suites, five junior suites and executive rooms to six beehive-style Zulu rooms. Dinner at Granita, the signature fine-dining restaurant, is a must – their gourmet menus pair wines specially selected from their award-winning wine cellar to each dish, and Kingsley’s Carvery offers an extensive buffet. With three bars, a lap pool, banqueting and conference facilities, plus complimentary Wi-Fi, you’ll be hard-pressed to squeeze in poolside relaxation as well.
Castle in Clarens
This piece of paradise is nestled in the Maluti Mountains in the Eastern Free State, where rolling countryside gives way to mountains, interspersed with dramatic cliffs and undulating fields. Come spring, you’ll see the blush of blossoming cherry trees.
In this tourist-friendly town, a bookstore rubs shoulders with art galleries and curio stores while cats curl up in armchairs in restaurants. Clarens is about nooks and crannies – take walking shoes and an appetite for exploration. Drive through the vistas of the nearby Golden Gate National Park to view zebra, wildebeest and blesbok or while away the afternoon at Clarens Brewery.
By all accounts, Clarens is a fairy-tale town: what better way to spend it than at The Castle. Royalty, luxury and whimsy come to mind when you enter Rapunzel’s tower which has been decorated with objets d’art from all over the world. The five-star Castle is self-catering, but breakfast is available on request. Guests have free reign of the castle, which comprises two en-suite bedrooms, a lounge, a fully-equipped kitchen and a braai area.
Summerfields Rose Retreat and Spa
The allure of this 100-acre macadamia, granadilla and litchi farm is magical. With the Kruger National Park’s Phabeni gate 12kmaway and close to magnificent geographic landmarks such as God’s Window, Blyde River Canyon and the Three Rondavels, it’s well worth the visit.
Immerse yourself in nature in five-star luxurious private tented suites shaded by jackalberry and tambotie trees and joined by wooden walkways. Owners Andre, Ilse and Natia van Heerden have paid attention to every detail, from the organically grown food served at the River Café by chef Natia, to the signature spa treatments at Summerfields spa, not to mention the abundance of roses in the hotel.
Lose yourself in the rose gardens or macadamia and litchi orchards before soaking in the Jacuzzi or enjoying a spa treatment. But there’s plenty else to do. While you can open your sensibilities to game drives, playa round of golf at a nearby championship course, or visit the cheetah or reptile parks, if you’re an adventure junky, there are hiking trails, abseiling, paintball, white river rafting, ziplining and boat cruises to take you where you may have never been before.
- Madikwe Safari Lodge, Madikwe, North West Province: A 4½-hour drive from Jo’burg or you can charter a private flight from OR Tambo and arrive in an hour: www.fedair.com/fly-to-madikwe. Find out about their wild dog pups which were born in August 2015 on their online blog before visiting and seeing them playing in real life. Visit www.madikwesafarilodge.co.za.
- De Hoek Country House, Magaliesburg, Gauteng: A 1-hour drive from Jo’burg or, if you’re in the mood to arrive in style, the coordinates for the helipad are -25.95586, 27.540635. This beautiful country house boast Oregon pine floors, leaded glass doors and sandstone architecture. Visit www.dehoek.com.
- Kievits Kroon, Kameeldrift-East, Pretoria, Gauteng: A 1-hour drive from Jo’burg, you’ll be welcomed by the luxuriously appointed rooms – some of which were rebuilt after being razed in a fire in 2000. Visit www.kievitskroon.co.za
- Castle in Clarens, Clarens, Free State: A 3-hour drive from Jo’burg. Take walking shoes and sunscreen as there are plenty of curio stores, art galleries and restaurants to explore. If you’re looking for night-time entertainment, Friends Restaurant offers live music several nights a week but, generally speaking, the most nightlife this quiet town offers is unconcerned rabbits hopping along Main Road in the glare of your headlights.Take board games and an e-reader for quiet evenings or you can enjoy a luxurious soak in the bath suspended 12m above ground level if you’re feeling adventurous. Visit www.castleinclarens.co.za.
- Summerfields, Hazyview, Mpumalanga: A 4-hour drive from Jo’burg or flightsand transfers to and from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport can be arranged. Call Summerfields to book.You’ll be in for a treat when dining – the owner’s daughter Natia is a qualified chef with an adventurous streak. Visit www.summerfields.co.za.