Bloom in the bush on 'spafari'


Spafari - what will the travel industry think of next? Across South Africa, spas offer everything from treatments using traditional African plants and herbs to merlot baths in the famous Winelands.

And one of the latest trends is the "spafari".

An ever-increasing number of luxurious safari lodges offer superior spa facilities and treatments, so that guests can spend the hours between morning and evening game drives deep in the African bush relaxing by the pool and being pummelled and massaged.

Starting with one of the gateways to the South African countryside Cape Town's Cape Grace hotel (021 410 7100; www.capegrace.com) has a wonderful location on the city's Waterfront.

The Spa at Cape Grace, which opened late last year, is situated on the top floor of the hotel and has spectacular views of Table Mountain, Cape Town and the marina below.

The place takes its inspiration from the spice routes - Cape Town was a port of call for ships sailing between Europe and Asia from the 15th century.

Treatments at the spa incorporate African herbs and spices. The "African Face and Body", for example, combines a full poppyseed and aloe vera exfoliation with a massage using Xhosa beads. Double rooms start from R2 700 with breakfast, based on two sharing.

Forty-five minutes' drive from Cape Town in the winelands is one of our most novel spas.

The Winelands Hotel and Wellness Centre (021 875 8200, www.santewellness.co.za) is located in the Drakenstein Valley near Paarl. It claims to be the only property outside France offering treatments using the antioxidant and detoxing powers attributed to grapes.

When not sampling the wine of the many vineyards of the surrounding areas of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, guests can enjoy shiraz body wraps or cabernet sauvignon wine-casket baths at the purpose-built Sante Spa and Wellness Centre in the middle of the hotel's working wine estate.

As well as offering a hydrotherapy bath, steam rooms and swimming pool, and Vichy water spa, the centre also offers guests the chance to participate in t'ai chi, yoga and pilates classes.

Double rooms start from R2 200 with breakfast. Two-day Vinotherapy packages start at R2 145 a person.

Cybele Forest Lodge and Spa (013 764 9500; www.cybele.co.za) is a small hunting lodge set in woodland and meadows near Hazyview, 65km from Kruger National Park. Cybele's romantic location and small size (it sleeps 28) is definitely a draw, but so is the spa.

It is tucked into the forest and offers a range of holistic and beauty treatments. Double rooms start from R1 100 a person.

The Kruger National Park and surrounding areas offer some of the best opportunities to test the virtues of the spafari.

Three-and-a-half hours from Johannesburg, in the heart of the Madikwe Game Reserve, is one of the most impressive: the Etali Safari Lodge (012 346 0124; www.etalisafari.co.za). Its eight lodges are set on their own patch of the bushveld with far-reaching views.

As well as daily game drives, bush walks and star-gazing, Etali also has a modern wellness centre, offering a range of treatments including reflexology and La Stone Therapy. And if they are still feeling energetic, guests can commune with nature in bush yoga sessions. Double rooms start from R2 750 a person.

The Big Five prowl the vast wilderness surrounding the Singita Lebombo Lodge (021 683 3424;www.singita.co.za ) set deep in the bush. The lodge has been owned by the Bailes family since 1925 and is believed to possess one of the highest concentrations of wildlife within the Kruger area. Double rooms start from R6 800 a person.

It's not uncommon to open your eyes mid-treatment at the bush spa at Tintswalo Safari Lodge (011 706 7207; www.tintswalo.com) and see a large bull elephant wandering past.

This 16-bedroom lodge, surrounded by sycamore fig trees, forms part of a private concession buried in the Manyeleti Reserve close to the border of Kruger National Park. This is the place to go for classic African safari style: lodges and guest rooms with thatched roofs and mosquito-net swathed beds.

During the day guests can join safari drives and walks, and at night go star-gazing and devour gourmet meals. Double rooms start from R4 000 a person.

The Sabi Sabi reserve is the location of Sir Richard Branson's Ulusaba, undoubtedly one of South Africa's most luxurious locations. You can combine game viewing with serious pampering on a 66 000ha private game reserve on the edge of the greater Kruger National Park.

One of Ulusaba's two lodges, Rock Lodge, perches at the summit of a koppie and has panoramic views of the Drakensberg Mountains.

This is also home to the Aroma Boma Virgin Touch Spa. Treatments include the luxurious three-and-a-half-hour Elephant Package and The Bushveld Back - specially designed for aching post-walking safari muscles.

Guests can also join walking safaris and game drives or simply enjoy the spectacular view of the rolling African bush. Double rooms start from R7 000, including meals and drinks, two game drives a day and a daily walking safari. Go to www.virgin.com/ulusaba - The Independent


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