Wild About Wellness
A safari holiday can be full of action, Alexandra Delf discovers a more restorative path to wellness in the wilderness
"As we pass over this stream,” states our ranger with a smile, “you are home.” Splashing through the small passage of water, glittering
in the strong South African sunlight does feel like a rite of passage and has been deliberately positioned at the approach to the lodge as just that; a barrier to leave day-to-day cares behind as you enter this wildlife and wellness sanctuary.
Known as Africa’s best kept secret, Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa uses nature to its advantage. Located on a 3,000-hectare reserve, this idyllic location is surrounded by picturesque waterfalls, rivers and the gentle sounds of wildlife. The first impression of the reserve is astonishing, within the first five minutes through the main gate we are welcomed by a myriad of animals, from the usual suspects including impala and zebra which are found in abundance within most reserves, to three sleeping rhino, giraffe and several families of warthog. This exhilarating level of wildlife was also consistent around the lodge, with nyala sleeping and eating around the villas and even making their way through the open plan spa.
Traditionally the focus of safari has of course been on the great outdoors, intrepid exploration and being up with the lark to pack in as much as possible, whilst the spa aspect even in some of the best lodges in the world has been sadly overlooked. Acknowledging that travel and wellness has become inextricably linked for the modern adventurer, Karkloof has extended its concept of wellness through being in and experiencing the great outdoors.
The spa itself is expansive and connected by wooden walkways overlooking the spectacular beauty of the reserve, monkeys play in the trees overhead and the bird song is ever present. A dedicated wellness restaurant serving healthy options and yoga room surrounded by lush greenery are just some examples of the tranquil environments in which to relax. The main spa circuit includes multiple plunge pools and a large heated salt water pool, with a huge amount of indoor and outdoor relaxation spaces, there is no chance of overcrowding and this sense of space gives the feeling that the facilities are for your sole enjoyment.
All of the therapists are hand-picked, highly trained Thai therapists and the spa menu is as luxurious and extensive as the spa itself. Multiple treatment rooms include speciality rooms for Thai massage, facials and hand and foot treatments. Several of the massages are also Thai inspired, including the Aroma Thai Massage and the more intense De Stress Thai Massage. The blend of traditional Thai and oil massage make for an extremely relaxing treatment, very welcome after spending the day exploring the reserve in the 4x4. More unusual treatments include the green tea wrap and the very millennial sounding avocado facial! Not however inspired by the latest brunch trend but the surrounding avocado farms located just outside the reserve.
Several local ingredients are used in the treatments and the Karkloof products themselves. These products can be found in both the spa and the villas and are bespoke creations for the lodge. Their focus is on eco-friendly, sustainable packaging and natural chemical free ingredients, using local where possible.
This focus on nature is at the heart of the lodge, encompassing even the nyala which graze on the green eco rooftop of the spa, wellness in all forms is celebrated and extends beyond the lodge to exploring the spectacular natural beauty surrounding the property. Try the stunning Karkloof Waterfall Walk or track animals and experience the wild with a bush walk on foot. Paths and trails weave through thorn thickets and over dolerite rocks, offering the ideal terrain for hikers or mountain biking adventures. This understanding and appreciation that wellness is diverse for the individual allows each visitor to Karkloof to craft their own wellness adventure from the heart of nature.
The easiest way to reach Karkloof is via King Shaka Airport in Durban, which is around a 2-hour transfer. For travellers looking to extend their wellness vacation in South Africa or break up the long journey to or from the UK, a fantastic option is to make a stop at Makaranga. Situated within easy reach of the airport, Makaranga offers 30 acres of extraordinary gardens, comprising waterfalls, exotic and indigenous flora, a labyrinth and Japanese gardens. This truly stunning oasis is a haven of peaceful tranquillity and has been designed to encourage self-reflection.
With a wellness centre currently under construction at Makaranga rooted in homeopathy, this will be a welcome addition to an area of South Africa which is blossoming into a must try wellness destination with the natural world at its heart.
Makaranga No 1A Igwababa Road, Kloof, 3610, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
t: 031 764 6616
Karkloof Safari Spa Ottos Bluff Rd, Chase Valley, Pietermaritzburg, 3231, South Africa
t: +27 33 569 1321