A South African lodge was in no small part responsible for helping its London-based counterparts that were closed during lockdown, to stay afloat. So says Rory du Plessis, General Manager of Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat in the Cederberg Wilderness area – which is about 250 kilometres outside Cape Town.
Du Plessis noted this had not been as applicable to Red Carnation Hotels’ Twelve Apostles hotel, as Capetonians don’t make a habit of visiting hotels in their own city. “However, as soon as intra-provincial travel was allowed in August last year, at Bushmans Kloof we were running at virtually full occupancy.”
When South Africa decided to open travel early, albeit in staggered stages, travel in Europe was shut down. This meant that the Red Carnation group’s portfolio of international properties would have been standing empty. This includes 14 hotels in the United Kingdom, including a castle and some iconic country homes and hotels, and properties in Switzerland and the USA.
Bushmanskloof, therefore, was pretty much flying the flag high for the South African family-owned international group.
Du Plessis says Capetonians “were brilliant” in supporting the lodge through the COVID period, with some Johannesburgers flying down when inter-provincial travel was allowed, taking advantage of the specials allowed. For a lodge that relies heavily on the international market, that is reassuring support for any lodge operation.
While Bushmanskloof is at its busiest in the spring flower season, it is not seen as only a seasonal destination. Du Plessis, a veteran of the lowveld safari lodge industry, says: “Visitors often add us on to an itinerary that includes the lowveld and Cape Town.” He says there are numerous attractions beyond the flowers, listing the rock art and hiking trails among them.
Up there with such attractions would be visits to the iconic, heritage-status Wupperthal village, a Moravian mission station deep at the far end of the Kouberg Pass, and the bird and wildlife, and sheer, big-sky sense of peace, over three hours from the nearest city.
The service and cuisine are on par with some of the top global hotels, in keeping with both the Tollman family’s renowned philosophy and the Red Carnation brand.
Yet, what sets the iconic Cederberg property apart is the natural world that envelops it. The word is repeated intentionally, as both the environment and the property have come to define, for many visitors to South Africa, the sometimes other-worldly landscape.
A product and property that has, just like the seasonal Boontjies River flowing past the lodge sustaining the birdlife and blooms of spring, done its bit for the Red Carnation family.