Driving into Karkloof Safari Villas is like being in a scene of the Lion King, minus the lions.
Its vast mountains, animal and bird life takes me back to watching the Disney classic during my childhood. Karkloof Safari Villas in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands invited selected guests to spend the night at their 5 star property recently, in celebration of the arrival of Russian Princess, Olga Romanoff.
Her Highness was in town to promote her new book, Princess Olga: A Wild and Barefoot Romanov.
It's not the first time the establishment has welcomed royalty. A few years ago, Princess Charlene and Prince Andrew spent a few days at the lodge for a family vacation.
Other notable celebrities who visited were Lira, Prime Circle and King Goodwill Zwelithini. It's not hard to see why Karkloof is leading the pack when it comes to safari spa offerings in the province. They were voted as the top 10 best new luxury safaris for 2017 by CNN Travel this year.
When I arrive, Bloomer takes my bags to my villa, while I go exploring. I am in awe of the natural wonder around me. The fresh air of the countryside is what I desperately need. Animal like the zebra, rhino and nyala come out to see guests from time to time.
Some of the amenities include a wine cellar, library, outdoor swimming pool, WiFi throughout the property, restaurant and award winning spa. There are 16 villas on the property, each with their own personal touch.
Hidden in nature, the villas have a homely feel to them. Modern furnishings fill the villa. There's a tea box and espresso maker waiting for me when I finally settle in. I take in the views while I enjoy a cuppa on the patio. Artworks that capture the beauty of the wild fill the villa.
By nightfall, guests don their finest clothing for a Royal Affair themed dinner with the princess. The wide table is decorated with rose centerpieces with gold touches. The who's who of the industry is in the room, including Top Billing's Lorna Maseko, model Sashi Naidoo and Trevor Stuurman. The three course spread is absolutely delightful.
The menu includes cauliflower and cumin soup, grilled escalope of kingklip with roasted butternut wedges, veggie gratin and lemon butter sauce, followed by a delightful raw cocoa banana split with coconut sorbet.
With the night filled with good food, music and company, guests party till the early hours of the morning. When I awake the next morning, I see a nyala in the distance as I open my bedroom door to take in the fresh air and sunlight.
When it is time for breakfast, I am in awe of the spread laid before me. My personal favourite is the stemmed ginger muffins and the papaya and almond smoothie.
An hour later, I am at Karkloof Safari Spa for my one hour aroma massage. Sai, my masseuse, tells me that the massage is meant to relax and de-stress me.
Sai, who moved to KwaZulu-Natal from Bangkok, Thailand, says she loves South Africa and was encouraged by her friend to work in the country.
The treatment at the spa was out of this world. There are several other offerings, like steam rooms, saunas and heated pools, for guests to indulge in once their treatments are complete.
Guests enjoy morning and afternoon safari drives, where they get to see giraffes, buffalos and if they are lucky, leopard. The rolling hills and valleys are a perfect way to enjoy a sundowner in the wild.
Colleen Glaeser, the owner of Karkloof Safari Villas, tells me that they have lots of plans for the luxury spot. Business clients can enjoy bush tanks, a concept that allows corporate clients to brainstorm new ideas in the wild, without any distraction or gadgets.
"Karkloof Safari Villas is a safe haven for people who want privacy. We can also allow for people to hire out the whole lodge so that they can have uninterrupted fun with their loved ones,” she says.