Durban - Jozini used to be just a dusty dorp, which visitors scurried through as fast as possible on their way to places like Kosi Bay or Mozambique. Then along came Jozini Tiger Lodge, which was taken over by the Three Cities hotel group.
Now, not only is there a beautiful hotel to check into, the new owners want families to stay and play, by beefing up the leisure activities.
Sprawled across a beautifully landscaped hillside, overlooking the Jozini dam (though I prefer its other name, Pongolapoort), Tiger Lodge comprises a main building, housing reception, bars, restaurant, conference facilities, lounges, gym and spa; and separate buildings with luxurious bedrooms, each of which has a balcony with views of the dam, and the dam wall. All are under thatch, and the one accommodation block connects with the main building via a wooden bridge, with a water feature tumbling down the hillside.
Rooms, with decor mainly in silver-grey, black and cream, are beautifully appointed with mountains of pillows on the large four-poster bed. Flower heads in vibrant pinks and yellows were scattered strategically in mine, while strips of green succulents spelled out a welcome on the bed. Colourful leaves plaited into bows, were dotted about, while the chandelier looked as though it was made from black onyx.
Sliding doors open on to the balcony, while my room, being an end one, also had shutters over windows, which can be opened if necessary. The spa bath and large shower have tinted picture windows, so guests can wallow and watch without being seen. Some of the rooms have a loft, to accommodate the youngsters. What I particularly liked was the fact that the balcony had thin, strong wires strung as protection, rather than wooden beams which would have obscured the view. Because of the low thatching, even when it rains, it’s possible to sit outside.
Shortly after arrival, a particularly attractive platter was delivered by housekeeping. On a white, elegantly shaped plate, all dressed up in cellophane, reposed small cubes of paw-paw, a delicious chocolate dip, shortcake chocolates, smarties and tart jub-jubs. That same chocolate dip finds its way on to the breakfast table for those prepared to fly in the face of calories!
There’s airconditioning (but breezes off the dam mean this is not essential), a large plasma TV and mini bar fridge.
Hotel boats and the Shayamoya houseboats are a reminder that this is predominantly a spot where visitors come to enjoy aqua sports. These do not just entail fishermen with rods... November saw the launch of a kayaking trail into the first gorge, led by trained local community guides, thus providing much needed jobs in the area.
A birding trail is also being laid out in the gorge which, again, will be led by trained local guides. A walk is planned for below the dam wall.
I got first-hand experience of what kayakers can expect, as I was taken on a small, flat-bottomed boat into the gorge, which twists and winds amid bush and rocky faces. In one spot it looked almost primordial, despite the fact that some villages are located on the clifftop at the entrance to the gorge.
Several large caves and overhangs looked tantalising, and general manager Gary Segal informed me this will be the location for a kids’ adventure trail where abseiling and bushcraft will also be on offer.
The first gorge, said Segal, will form part of a conservation area between the fringe of the hotel’s property and the dam wall.
“We are taking a new direction and vision,” said Segal, “creating a KZN destination which offers a mix of activities.”
For those who enjoy pampering, there’s the Mangwanani Boutique Spa, for a traditional African experience in indulgence. My therapist gave me such a delicate healing facial, I could hear myself snoring as I drifted off. The gym next door seemed like too much hard work, but with all the calories consumed, perhaps a visit would have been in order. The large, garden rim pool, overlooking the dam, also does the trick.
Breakfasts and dinners can be taken in the dining room, or on the terraces. Dinner could be an extended buffet or dining off the menu. The breakfast buffet has enough on offer to make choices agonising. Back in your bedroom, the turn-down includes a printed leaflet giving a different African children’s tale each night.
Freehold and timeshare purchase options have been launched in the adjacent Jozini Tiger Estate, which will utilise many of the facilities of the lodge.