“Ah, but your land is beautiful,” and it’s not just Alan Paton who thinks so (even Rough Guidesreaders think that South Africa is beautiful). We were reminded of this when we visited Oribi Gorge a few months ago- beautiful views everywhere you turn.
We stayed at the Gorge Private Game Lodge & Spa. The entire hotel is surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty. It is impossible to be in a place with so much tranquillity and not let any concrete jungle related worries roll off your back. We are in no way architectural connoisseurs but we couldn’t help but marvel at the skill that must have gone into designing a structure that is beautiful and modern while blending in perfectly with the surrounding mountains.
The place is approximately 200km’s from King Shaka International airport so although we took the red-eye flight, we only got to the hotel around lunch time. After a long drive we were looking forward to getting some food and properly starting our weekend getaway. Unfortunately the food disappointed us: I could barely manage more than a couple of bites of my chicken wrap (which looked like it had been deep-fried) and Santhuri didn’t have much luck with her risotto which was swimming in oil. The staff’s inflexibility didn’t help the situation either, they wouldn’t allow us to order from the pool restaurant, the only one open for lunch, and enjoy our meal elsewhere in the hotel (we were even willing to carry our own plate, but no it wasn’t allowed). At this point we were pretty much the only guests in the hotel so we struggled to understand why they were being so strict. Nonetheless, we put the rest of the afternoon to good use and spent it unwinding and looking forward to a better meal in the evening. Unfortunately for us, the food didn’t improve much and when you are in an a remote area this can really affect your stay.
We spent most of our Saturday at the Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve which is breath-taking! We were brave enough to take on the suspension bridge and went back and fourth on doing the zip line. The main appeal of Lake Eland zip-line is that it is said to be the longest on the continent. Given that we had both tried zip-lining before, we decided that we could skip this and still keep FOMO at bay.
Back at the hotel, we spent some time in the drawing room playing games and enjoying some much deserved snacks (it took some effort to get the staff to organise these). By the time we made it to dinner Santhuri couldn’t hold back anymore and a 15 minute passionate discussion ensued between her and the manager (I don’t know why but we seem to attract waiters and managers who default to arguing with us instead of giving us what we want- good service and/or tasty food. Is this too much to ask?). Despite all this, it’s clear that the staff have good intentions and aim to please (it’s a pity the execution doesn’t always match the intention).
With a little bit more staff training the hotel can become a fully fledged five star establishment. They did lots of other little nice things for us (different surprises at turn-down, washing you car and laying a little red carpet at the doors for you to wipe your feet) which didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. We opted not to do the other activities on offer such as game drives ( since the Kruger and Pilanesburg are only a four hour drive away from home) and hiking ( all physical strength was reserved for the suspension bridge and caves). The caves are exclusively accessible via a 383 staircase (he who walks knows what goes down must come uphill). Unless we missed the point of the caves, we really didn’t think the rock painting and artefacts were worth the physical exertion.
All in all, we enjoyed our time there and managed to get a good balance of relaxation and exploration. We would have liked to make use of the hotel spa facilities but our experience with the services received at the restaurants planted too much doubt.