“If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.”
– John Hemingway
My dreams are bursting with exploring the world. I have numerous lists of destinations that I would adore to one day be able to visit. In the mean time, I have been an avid explorer of my own country. We are so lucky to live in South Africa and have an abundance of nature to explore.
While we were away for New Years in the beginning of the year a group of us decided to visit the Sabie River Sun Resort in Hazyview for a week in winter. It is a breathtaking Golf Estate about fifteen minutes outside of the Kruger National Park. The cottages can cater for up to 6 adults and we rented two adjoining ones. The cottages are fully equipped, has a private braai area, an indoor fireplace, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a daily cleaning service. Our cottages were at the very edge of the golf estate right by the gate that they open for the hippos every night at 18:00. It was incredible! From your porch you could see the hippos gathering every night (about 70m from us but safely behind electric fencing) and then walk across the golf course to the river. They all returned the following morning around 04:00 like clockwork. As you walk around the golf course you can see all the hippos and crocodiles lazing around on the riverbanks. The best thing about a winter holiday in Kruger is the heat. We left an icy Cape Town behind and lazed around the pool soaking up the beautiful summery days.
A few mornings we would wake up at 04:45, pack delicious breakfast items and flasks of steaming hot coffee to chase the sunrise in the beautiful Kruger National Park. On my first morning in the park we saw four different leopards, which is incredibly rare. We saw the entire big five that day. For breakfast we would fry up eggs and bacon at one of the rest stops. There is nothing quite like spending twelve hours in a car with eight friends searching for wild animals. The stories I could tell of everything that went on in (and out) of that car would be hilariously inappropriate but we will have to save them for inside jokes. What happens in Kurger, stays in Kruger. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to experience this with.
On the days we weren’t in the Kruger National Park we explored the surrounding area. Sean treated me to a romantic sunset guided horse trail with Horse Whispers. One place I can definitely recommend is the Protea Hotel by the Paul Kruger gate where we stopped after a long day in the park for a sunset drink and it was pretty magical. You walk along a tropical boardwalk to a scatter of treehouses overlooking a waterhole with wild animal sightings. It is absolutely breathtaking. We also visited the Nelspruit Botanical Gardens for lunch and strolled around in the gardens to the waterfalls.
If you ever find yourself near Hazyview you absolutely have to book a treatment at the Summerfields Rose Retreat and Spa. This was by far the most unbelievable spa treatment I have ever experienced. Ingrid and I were looking at a few spas in the area to go for a massage and two people strongly recommended the Coffee Body Exfoliation at Summerfields. We were not disappointed. The spa has private wooden huts speckled throughout a plantation. You walk on a beautiful boardwalk surrounded by tropical plants (lots of wild Fiddle Leaf Figs) to the reception area where you are served champagne upon arrival. The treatment starts with a twenty-minute steam session to prepare your skin for the exfoliation. You are then escorted to the main area in your fluffy white gowns and slippers where you are offered coffee or tea by the river. From there you are taken to a wooden hut where you are exfoliated from head to toe with a coffee and macadamia scrub (all from the plantation on the estate) and this is rinsed off with the warm water of the Vichy shower. To end off the treatment you are taken to the hut by the river where you can enjoy a full body pressure point, hot macadamia compress Swedish massage while listening to beautiful sounds of the Sabie river. I have never been that relaxed in my life.
We loved our Summerfields spa experience so much that we headed back there for a luxurious dinner at The Summerfields Kitchen restaurant later that evening where we walked passed the organic nursery where all the vegetables are grown as close to its natural, original form as possible and freshly harvested for dinner. Menus change according to the season and what is available from the organic nursery and the Summerfields Farm. We thoroughly enjoyed the delicious meals in the romantic white linen, candlelit and fresh roses setting while sipping on crisp Colmant Champagne. The Inverroche gin cocktail that they served with my favourite Fitch and Leedes tonic water bathed in notes of citrus and organic rosemary was quite the highlight as well. The Summerfields Kitchen restaurant was awarded the prestigious 2016 World Luxury Restaurant Award and it is truly well deserved in my opinion.
Experiencing a guided bush walk has always been on my bucket list. A few of us set off early one morning to walk through the Kruger National Park with two guides. I was honestly not that nervous about it, more excited, but having an elephant walk 20m from us and turning around to sniff the air when he spotted us was terrifying. I couldn’t even lift my camera. We all huddled behind a tiny tree that the elephant could have snapped in a heartbeat. I now have a very healthy respect for these beautiful wild animals. We were perfectly safe according to our guides but you can’t help but be aware of how insignificantly small you are compare to these giants. We walked about 9km and heard lions and hyenas. We stopped a few times to learn about the bush. Our guides made beautiful bird sounds, which brought hundreds of birds to a tree nearby. This was definitely a highlight of our trip.
Next time you plan your holiday consider an African experience near Kruger. The weather is summery beautiful even in winter and you can unwind surrounded by nature and wild life.
To celebrate this holiday (and the four leopards we were lucky enough to see in one morning) I am giving away two fine art prints to you and a friend. Comment on this post with your friends name and subscribe to my blog (simply select ‘notify me of new posts by email’). You can unsubscribe at any point.
Winners announced on Friday 29 July at 12:00.
Maria Magdalena is a Cape Town based contemporary illustrator celebrating an elegant simplicity through intricate lines of ink. Shop the current collections online or order your custom original illustration today.