* This article first appeared here in ASPIRE LIFESTYLE
LUDUS MAGNUS, FRANSCHHOEK
Entering the luxury arena of a five-star hotel, Ludus Magnus makes a brave departure from a classic winelands stay, offering something that even the word extraordinary fails to do justice. Just off the R45 – a few minutes’ drive before Franschhoek, Ludus Magnus has just turned a year old and offers stays in eight plush rooms in the Manor House and three private villas, each with three en-suite bedrooms and two pools.
Named after a Roman gladiator school, Ludus Magnus is every bit the Olympian playground that the name suggests. The 10-acre property features: river kayaking and tubing, 100m training lanes immersed in a free-flowing freshwater dam, a rugby and soccer field, horse-riding, trail running, and a bike track. Need I say more?
It is a space where even the word extraordinary hardly does justice. The farm is 100% off-the-grid, it generates its own electricity and water. The Ludus Magnus experience is a firm nod to the French-Italian owned couple’s dream to create something truly remarkable in South Africa.
ABALONE HOTEL & VILLAS, PATERNOSTER
The picturesque seaside village of Paternoster in the Western Cape is home to the five-star Abalone Hotel & Villas. The hotel may sound familiar but certainly won’t look it. Late 2021 the hotel was completely refurbished, renovated and has only just reopened its doors. Two pools, a sauna, and direct sea views invite a slower life with a cool ocean breeze and kilometres of open beaches.
In addition to the 18 hotel rooms, the hotel also has two separate villas a short drive or walk from the hotel. Both have private pools and outdoor braai areas, two en-suite bedrooms and, of course, an outdoor shower.
The villas are self-catering, with dining tables and fully-stocked kitchens, both offering exclusive views out over the other side of Paternoster. Guests also have full access to the hotel facilities.
SASI BUSH LODGE, BERGVILLE
At first glance, it feels like you’re in the bush with all the staple elements of a luxury bush camp, but with the advantage of the Drakensberg presenting itself in full frontal view. It’s in this blissful mix of berg and bush where only three tents offer an intimate and luxurious bush break. The unique Sasi Bush Lodgeis only months old and hides away in a private game reserve in the Northern Drakensberg.
Sasi has several free-roaming game species, and since there are no predators, the reserve can be observed on foot in addition to game drives. The growing fauna and flora are courtesy of the lodge’s efforts to re-establish indigenous species on the land. A highlight is a 4×4 drive high up into the mountains to the cave to look at ancient rock art.
Sasi is family-owned and run, and their sense of pride in what they’ve built is tangible – it’s a sanctuary for the soul – surrounded by bird call, brimming bush, and the beautiful berg.
Barely 30-minutes from Johannesburg, the peaceful Farmhouse58 is quietly but significantly making its mark in the Cradle of Humankind. The Farmhouse58 philosophy creates ecologically restorative spaces and programs that encourage a more conscious and connected existence by embracing considered travel that doesn’t bombard the local context but rather integrates with it.
It’s a return to basics and an embrace of rustic (but classy) simplicity, with sanctuary-like rooms, communal spaces and acres of wild spaces, all offering an invitation to realignment with nature and ourselves. The two of us Capetonians in the group couldn’t resist the urge to jump into the rockpool and swim up to the waterfall. It’s hard to imagine we’re so close to the city.
Look out for the various retreats and workshops hosted on the property. With a philosophy built on collaboration, community, contemplation, and regeneration, 58 is both a conscious and compelling Gauteng stay.
ATHINA’S COVE, PLETTENBERG BAY
Plettenberg Bay’s sun-kissed beaches have been a firm favourite for South African’s for many years, and I was recently afforded the chance to be the first guest at one of the town’s brand-new villas. Athina’s Cove is an enticing 13-sleeper home tucked away safely in the Whale Rock Estate – one minute’s drive from the town’s award-winning beaches.
Plett is synonymous with laidback luxury, and Athina’s Cove fits right in. This brand-new home’s décor merges rustic French flair with chic beach cottage. There are three spacious en-suite rooms, and then upstairs a loft room with a further six beds. The house is designed to entertain with large inviting spaces both inside and outside. By day the sea-view pool and loungers are perfect for relaxation, and by night the house comes alive as it lights up with a bar and fire pit.
Since the house is a two-minute drive from some of the country’s most dramatic scenery, make sure to include a visit to Robberg Nature Reserve for a scenic hike.