Inzolo – Xhosa for peace & tranquility
Let’s be honest. No-one really starts planning a trip to the Garden Route, or a drive down to the Cape for the holidays and thinks … ‘Oh, here’s an idea .. let’s stop on the way for a couple of days near Port Elizabeth’. Ummm. No.
Well, like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman … ‘Big mistake’.
We’ve discovered an exceptional little hideaway, less than an hour out of PE, which is just the perfect place to spend a few days at the start of your trip.
Inzolo is a tiny – just four chalets – and very exclusive lodge, just short of Grahamstown. It’s not too far off the road, and is hidden in a secluded valley on Rockcliff Farm in Sidbury. And it’s just full of wonderful surprises … from the lovely Scottish ranger, Dave Wilmington, to the landscape where five of nature’s biomes converge – one minute you’re driving on expansive plains, the next you’re on a mountainous track.
There’s a healthy wildlife population … besides the big five (with the rhinos given round the clock protection by the resident security team), the lodge has a conservation programme which includes a commitment to protect all vulnerable and endangered species, like the Cape Mountain Zebra.
We spent hours sitting in the middle of a very relaxed herd of elephant, watching baby ellies play, and then tracked a very focused lion and his mate, who walked briskly and determinedly for an hour or so until they flopped down for an afternoon snooze. Fooled us!
Their lack of action was made up for the next morning, when those who braved the 6am drive witnessed a pride bring down a baby giraffe.
On our visit the leopard and cheetah remained elusive, but the buffalo sightings were a treat, and there are springbok, blesbok, waterbuck and giraffe around every dusty corner.
Back at the lodge, it’s sheer luxury all round. Inzolo’s interiors were designed by Cape Town designer Caline Williams-Wynn of Artichoke, who has an obvious love of Weylandt’s style. There’s a small bar, a cosy dining room and sitting room where fires are lit year-round (yes, please!), tables outdoors on the deck which overlooks a well-populated waterhole, and a tiny plunge pool, where we could happily laze for hours with a G&T in hand, seeing how many of the hundreds of bird species that call the area home we could spot.
Each of the four über-luxurious chalets has panoramic views of the valley … it’s fairly hard, we must admit, to drag yourself out of the enormously comfy king-size bed for that early morning game drive. So much easier just to laze there with a home-made date ball to nibble and a cup of percolated coffee, hoping the ellies will stroll past – as they do.
But get out of bed you must, if only for the food. Chef Sebastian Sibiya dishes up the most extraordinary fare … his tomato consommé, pork belly and banana bread-and-butter pud were a highlight of the trip. So, come to think of it, were the French-trimmed lamb chops with mushroom risotto and deep-fried rocket, freshly picked from the lodge’s veggie garden. Oh swoon!
It’s often the really small but special touches that make a destination even more memorable. We loved the mini Irish coffees that were served to us as we got off the vehicle after a particularly chilly game drive, and the wildlife take-home bookmarks that were left on our pillows each night.
Then there are the proteas which are picked from the lodge’s protea garden, and the stylishly branded insulated vacuum flasks that are filled up with icy water before each game drive, then given to you to take home, which not only save on using plastic, but also make for a wonderful, and useful, reminder of your trip. So clever.
With just the four really luxurious rooms, and such sensational food and attention to detail, this is a spot that would be perfect for a group of friends or family to book out for a private celebration.
It helps, too, that it’s all inclusive … the rates include meals (breakfast, a generous afternoon sweet-and-savoury tea, snacks on the game drives and magical dinners) and all drinks (lovely wines … and a fab selection of gins, too, as well as all the other drinks you’d expect) as well as the two game drives a day. A real treat … trust us.
All the info you need to know …
The lodge doesn’t allow children under 12 and isn’t wheelchair friendly. This year’s fully inclusive rates (a person sharing) from now until September are R6 200, from October to December R7 200. Details: 064 625 7687 or inzololodge.co.za.
Get it JHB West – July 2018