You don’t need an excuse for a romantic getaway with your plus-one, but Valentine’s Day is as good a reason as any for some wining, dining and quality time alone together.
The Western Cape
The Taj Hotel in Cape Town: this magnificent hotel is in the centre of the city, opposite Parliament and the St George’s Cathedral, with the pedestrianised St George’s Mall on its doorstep. It’s in the building that once housed the South African Reserve Bank and the Board of Executors, and houses several fine restaurants and watering-holes. Lavery suggests a pampering at the Taj’s Jiva Grande Spa, followed by champagne and oysters in the beautiful, historic Twankey Bar or supper in the acclaimed Bombay Brasserie restaurant. www.tajcapetown.co.za
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is a five-star luxury lodge situated on fynbos-covered slopes overlooking Walker Bay, one of the world’s great whale-watching hotspots. The lodge has 11 luxury suites, with the emphasis on privacy, comfort and closeness to nature. There’s also a hilltop lodge overlooking one of the world’s most biodiverse landscapes, as well as two private villas, each with its own chef, butler and nature guides. You and your plus-one can enjoy spa treatments, horse rides, quad-biking, as well as picnics and wine-tasting. www.grootbos.com
King’s Grant Country Retreat: for more than a century, this beautiful estate was a German Trappist monastery and farm to support the monks and nuns, before being converted into a guest-house in 1996. The lush hills of the Ixopo area are an ideal setting for a romantic break, with walks along the stream that once powered the monastery’s mill, or strolls through rose-gardens, enjoy mountain-biking or bird-watching and high teas. Nearby is the narrow-gauge Paton Express, a steam-train immortalised in Alan Paton’s book, Cry, the Beloved Country. The accommodation is pet-friendly and has a fully licensed restaurant. www.kingsgrant.co.za
Thonga Beach Lodge: there are just 12 thatched suites in this remote part of the Maputaland Coast, which forms part of the 330 000-hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site. The suites, each with a plunge-pool, are built on raised platforms above the coastal dunes and the emphasis is on luxury, privacy, natural materials and minimal environmental impact. Originally devised in collaboration with the World Wildlife Federation, the conservation organization, the lodge also has a vigorous local empowerment programme. The warm Indian Ocean offers superb snorkelling and Scuba diving and in February, a chance to see turtles laying eggs on the beach. http://www.thongabeachlodge.co.za
The Bush Lodge in the Amakhala Game Reserve, about 45 minutes’ drive from Port Elizabeth has airconditioned rooms with wooden floors, tented walls and thatched roofs, each offering a plunge-pool and a viewing-deck overlooking a waterhole, from which you can see Africa’s Big Five. Fireside suppers, sunset river cruises and game-drives in open vehicles beckon, and the 1 640-square-km Addo Elephant Park is close by. www.amakhala.co.za
Prana Lodge & Wellness Spa is in an indigenous, old-growth forest, with direct access to Chintsa Beach, which the lodge overlooks. The décor and architecture is inspired by the owners’ travels to the Far East, and each of the eight suites has a private garden and pool. The lodge’s spa treatments comprise of components from its herb garden, as well as other indigenous ingredients, and also offers yoga and meditation. Executive Chef Jaycee Ferreira combines African, Asian and French cuisine for guests and visitors. www.pranalodge.co.za