With the desire to escape from the city and to unwind, I decided it was time to find somewhere where I could reconnect with nature, forget about the stresses of everyday life, but still be pampered and indulge in superb cuisine without having to spend too much of my holiday time in the car.
De Hoop Nature Reserve.
You know you are somewhere special when your afternoon nap on the patio is interrupted by the grunts of Bontebok.
De Hoop is home to 86 mammal species, including the Cape mountain zebra, eland, kudu, grey rhebuck. Smaller animals include the bat-eared fox, honey badgers and porcupines. Most of the larger animals wander around the lodge area during the day.
The reserve is a paradise for bird lovers - there are more than 260 species in the reserve, and the only surviving colony of Cape vultures is situated on the Potberg Mountain. The vlei is also home to the endangered Cape clawless otter.
De Hoop offers guests activities ranging from mountain biking, hiking either along the pristine coastline or inland to view the fauna and flora, boat cruises, whale watching, star gazing or chilling on a bench reading while listening to the cries of the fish eagle.
The one-hour hike up Potsberg to view the Cape vultures is a rare opportunity where one can see a breeding colony of over 200 Cape vultures. With a wingspan of about 2.5m, you can hear the wind rush under their wings as they circle above the rocky gorge where they nest.
The sunset cruise on the vlei is the perfect way to end the day - viewing the abundant bird life.
September is whale-watching time and De Hoop is one of the best spots in the world.
De Hoop can accommodate 120 guests - offering a range of accommodation from thatched rondavels, self catering chalets, cottages, suites, the Opstal Manor House - a beautifully restored farmhouse - and the Melkkamer Manor House, which is accessible by boat across the vlei.
The Fig Tree Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and a three-course set dinner.
One thing I must warn visitors about is the 60km gravel road from the N2 turn-off to De Hoop Reserve. It can add time to your journey.
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is in the Klein Karoo and home to The Big Five, white lions, San Art and much more.
The lodges are about 25km from the main entrance - along a gravel road, however, they have a welcome lodge 12km into the reserve where there are two internal transfers daily to transport guests to their lodges.
Surrounded by mountains and plains, I was captivated by the stillness and isolation on entering Sanbona.
Situated at the foot of the Warmwaterberg, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve originally consisted of 21 farms over an area of 58000 hectares.
Sanbona is the largest privately owned wildlife reserve in the Western Cape and the first authentic free roaming Big Five wildlife reserve in the province - including a couple of magnificent white lions.
It is also home to the endangered elusive riverine rabbit.Lions, leopards, white rhinos, hippos, ostriches, elephants, and giraffes roam freely on these Karoo plains and the reserve is home to more than 200 species of bird life.
Sanbona has a wetland habitat for water birds and there are over 650 plant species.
Two game drives daily are included in the package and during the two days I spent at Sanbona all the Big Five; came within 10m of a leopard during a guided walking safari; sighted a magnificent pair of white lions; examined San rock art dating back more than 3500 years; star gazed under the Milky Way and learnt about wildlife from my guide.
Sanbona has three lodges - Tilney Manor, Gondwana Family Lodge and Dwyka Tented Lodge.
I stayed at Tilney Manor lodge, which accommodates 12 guests. Once a farmhouse, Tilney Manor is a refuge of peace and tranquillity. The cuisine includes Karoo dishes, vegetarian options and South African fare.
Gondwana Family Lodge has 12 family suites.
Children can learn about wildlife from the “Kids on Safari” educational programme. The lodge includes child-minders, outdoor and indoor children’s play areas and a children’s pool - making it a great family retreat.