On the deck of the cabin beside one of the dams. Picture Myrtle Ryan

Durban - Nobody would believe that bustling Ballito is just beyond the rolling hills, clad in sugar cane and the odd indigenous bushy enclave. Sitting on the raised deck of one of the tents in the trees, cold drink in hand, and gazing down over the Umhlali River, it is quite possible to believe you are in a more distant part of Africa.

Once a sugar farm, the rehabilitated 300ha Rain Farm Game & Lodge offers something for everybody – but families, in particular, should find the place captivating.

We were told that the giraffe often wander down to the parking lot, as do some of the other animals. They are wild, but enjoy checking out the humans. Then there is the emu, which at times takes a stroll amid the wedding guests making use of the chapel and entertainment facilities. There is also an enclosure with two rehabilitated caracal, which many kids find endearing.

The place certainly is balm for the soul. We particularly enjoyed taking coffee on the deck of the main building, which overlooks a rocky swimming pool, which is fed by a series of tiny cascades. On the opposite hill, visitors can spot ostrich, wildebeest and zebra grazing relaxedly.

On Sundays, this deck is where a roast is served, something which apparently is a drawcard to many locals in the surrounding area.

A narrow wooden walkway and series of wooden steps leads down from the pool area to some of the tents tucked into the trees.

The pretty putt-putt miniature golf course on a slope near the pool looks inviting. Guests can join a game drive, do an escorted walk, ride a horse, or try their hand at archery.

There is also a pretty, stone wedding chapel which looks like a delightful setting for a bride choosing an African-themed wedding. Horse-drawn carriages are available to transport the bridal party.

Still, weddings were not on my mind. I was trying to decide which accommodation option appealed to me most. The tents, with their rustic, but comfortable charm and beds beneath mosquito nets, certainly beckoned. But then so did the cabin on the lake, which has its own small island, in the back garden, reached via a stone bridge. Those checking in here, can sit in the lounge and gaze out over the water, or hang out on the small deck, under the trees.

It has an indoor spa bath, and outdoor shower with rocky walls. Being self-catering, there is a kitchen.

There are also several different kinds of rondavels, cabins, or an old farm houses to choose from. All have names like Waterbuck, Zebra, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Duiker, Warthog, Ostrich, Hartbeest, Springbok, Eland.

Several bass dams are dotted about, and overnight guests can drop a line into the waters – but they must bring their own fishing tackle. Those who want to hang out at the bar will find a pool table.

The big drawcard is that Durban residents, in particular, won’t have to spend a fortune on petrol, to feel chilled and relaxed. Especially as, if you do not feel like self-catering, meals can be taken at the main reception area.

Rain Farm regularly offers specials, so have a look at what’s on offer.

Contact: 032 815 1050/51; 083 352 6830; www.rainfarmgameandlodge.com - Sunday Tribune