In the space of a few days, my travels saw me experience two vastly different environments. The first part involved navigating the congested London Tube to get to and from the World Travel Market event.
Sadly, any inclination to sightsee was put on the back burner as it was a tight itinerary. Three days later, still recovering from my jet lag and a persistent cold, I was loading my suitcase into a Jaguar XF, my sponsored ride for a road trip from Jozi to Durban.
Honestly, I was looking forward to the warmer climate and some downtime at The Gorge Private Game Lodge & Spa, which is a 90-minute drive from Durban. Sadly, the weather wasn’t playing ball.
Getting to this hidden gem in the statuesque Oribi Gorge was a few kilometres further, along a dusty road. It is so picturesque that you don’t mind the bumpy ride.
After parking the car, my friend and I got out and spent a few minutes marvelling at the panoramic view of The Gorge from our cliffside vantage point. After checking in, we got a quick tour of the bar, dining hall, recreation room, wine cellar and spa before making our way to our villa.
Perched on sandstone cliffs, the floor-to-ceiling windows of the villas ensure you never miss a sunset and sunrise. The air-conditioned room comes with a private balcony, an inside and outside shower as well as a bathtub at the far-end of the room.
The queen size bed was perfectly positioned in front of the wall separating the spacious live-in area from the dressing room. Come to think of it, this explains why this luxurious retreat is favoured by couples - it screams romantic.
As a foodie, I’m not going to deny the dining experience was out of this world. Once seated in the dining hall, which boasts the most beautiful African chic décor, the attentive waiters immediately return with the menu attached to a clipboard with a tiny torch; just in case the soft lighting and candles made it difficult to read.
It sounds very la-di-da. Then again, we are talking fine dining here. And, seriously, compliments to head chef Christopher Whitham.
Everything on the menu, from the amuse-bouches to the starters, mains and desserts, was something along the lines of a cross between the innovativeness of Heston Blumenthal and sophistication of Michel Roux jr.
I loved the presentation of each dish, the combination of flavours and wonderful contrast of textures on the plate. It was such an indulgent affair that my friend and I decided that calorie-counting was futile, more so with the breakfast menu tantalising the taste buds.
On the last day of our short stay, we ended up at the Clivia Day Spa following a wonderful exploration of Oribi Gorge. And it was perfectly timed as the clouds swallowed the last vestiges of sunshine, indicating a storm was imminent.
The lodge offers numerous activities from game drives in neighbouring properties, where you can spot a variety of wildlife including the endangered Oribi buck, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, black-backed jackal, leopard, lynx, Samango monkey (indigenous to the Gorge), warthogs and bush pigs.
Did I mention there are more than 255 bird species in the area?
For the adrenalin junkies, you can zip-line, bungee jump, mountain bike or go on one of several hiking trails. Of course, if you have a proclivity for something less demanding, the beach and golf course will appeal to you.
The downtime I was looking for was found at The Gorge Private Game Lodge & Spa. I loved the personal touch of the staff.
What really blew me away was my ride getting washed at the crack of dawn on the day of my early departure. It’s the little things that make a big difference. And, ultimately, it is what earned this establishment its five-star rating.
The Gorge Private Game Lodge & Spa is a 90-minute drive from Durban. Call 0396874000 or e-mail: [email protected]