Durban - Cosy nooks and sunny sheltered spots on wintry days, loads of deck space in fine weather, gorgeous views over its own little valley and beautiful gardens. Makaranga Garden Lodge is a secluded slice of the country a stone’s throw from the busy M13 highway in Kloof.
Makaranga is, in many ways, a family affair. The Flack family own it and are very involved in maintaining the gardens. Chick and Danna Flack bought the property in 2002 and renamed it Makaranga after the towering Wild Poplar trees, Macaranga Capensis – and after the Makaranga tribe from Inyanga, where Danna grew up.
Candice Davies is general manager and husband Mervyn is the executive chef. While Makaranga remains a popular corporate/conference venue, it has also become a very family friendly venue. Nonna, the restaurant, has a varied menu and an adjacent play area for little ones, and Makaranga hosts public events such as concerts set in the rolling gardens.
The lodge is housed in a charitable (not-for-gain) trust, which acts as custodian of the garden for the benefit of guests and the community. Those beautifully maintained gardens are the main attraction at Makaranga. Guests can load up on a choose-your-own picnic basket from the deli, before heading along the wheelchair-friendly winding paths (golf carts can be pre-booked for the mobility impaired). There are 10 hectares of indigenous and exotic botanical gardens, 18 ponds, meandering streams and a waterfall, a 1km long labyrinth set in a quiet corner and many beautiful statues imported from Italy and Zimbabwe.
The interiors are also filled with an eclectic, impressive feast of original art and décor.
The lodge has two wings. The west wing houses Makaranga Spa, where delightful Jillian Savides and her team pampered me. The spa has four treatment rooms and one wet room specifically adapted for hydrotherapy treatments. The Spa Therapy Capsule allows for wonderful versatility incorporating sauna, steam, aroma steam, a vichy shower, a jet bath and colour therapy.
There is also a gym, conference, wedding and banqueting facilities, as well as accommodation in 10 beautifully appointed, spacious suites with private verandas overlooking the garden suites. The east wing features 10 more garden suites.
The central hub is the entertainment hub, which includes the a la carte Nonna restaurant, a deck, and the library bar.
Nonna, a contemporary Italian bistro and deli named after Makaranga matriarch Danna Flack, has a walk-in wine cellar and open-plan kitchen facing on to the restaurant, and offers a wide range of well-priced, tantalising contemporary fare.
Kids enjoy their own eating area where they can roll their own pizza dough and engage in a range of arts and crafts.
There is wi-fi throughout the lodge, though your time is best spent unwinding. Perhaps on the terrace overlooking Venus Pond, or walking through the forest of Macaranga trees, bathing in the swimming pool below the lodge, or exploring the gardens. There is an authentic Japanese Garden with bridges, walkways, stone lanterns and hand carved figures imported from Japan. The ponds create a sense of calm, the water lilies proudly displaying their pinks and purples in a serene, peaceful environment.
Makaranga is home to rare and exotic species of orchid, camellia and rhododendron and has plenty to interest avid bird watchers. Whether your interest is botanical, pleasure – or if you are simply in need of some soul restoration – the lodge, friendly staff and garden are sure to satisfy.
Adrian Rorvik, Sunday Tribune