Ashley Miln discovers exotic paradise at Hopewell Lodge, South Africa.
When we first arrived at Hopewell it was pouring with rain, a huge disappoint to us but a welcome respite for the locals who had been battling with drought all year. Despite the rain, we were determined to enjoy our holiday, and our spirits were instantly lifted by the warm welcome from the staff who cheerily greeted us with chilled towels and a cold drink upon our arrival.
Located in South Africa’s stunning Eastern Cape, Hopewell is a chic private game reserve set within a malaria-free coastal valley bushveld. For guests looking for a more personal experience in a secluded environment, Hopewell is the perfect retreat as it only hosts groups of up to 12 guests.
Accommodation options at Hopewell Lodge include two executive suites (located in the main lodge) and four luxury suites (separate from the main lodge), all of which are surrounded by lush vegetation, giving each guest the impression they are the only people on the reserve.
Each luxury suite has its own magnificent infinity pool and an expansive sundeck large enough for entertaining – although it’s unlikely you’ll want to share the jaw-dropping views with anyone other than your loved one as you gaze in awe at the impressive natural environment before you.
Whatever accommodation you choose, you’re guaranteed a superb view of the reserve, just don’t be surprised if the local wildlife pay a visit. We had no sooner unpacked our bags to settle in to the Buffalo Suite, when an inquisitive kudu (a type of antelope with large Micky Mouse style ears) wandered up to the shrubs near our sundeck for a cheeky afternoon nibble. Given our limited exposure to wild animals in London (apart from rowdy revellers on the night train), we were thrilled to witness the kudu going about his daily business without a care in the world and we watched silently until he disappeared back into the bush once he’d had his fill of leaves.
The Buffalo Suite
Our suite was a study in rustic-chic casual elegance with polished concrete flooring and tasteful dark walnut furnishings. The white-washed wooden ceiling beams created a striking focal point, competing only with the brick fire place, which takes centre stage in the room along with a free-standing bath that’s begging for you to sink into it with a glass of South African pinotage in one hand and a book in the other.
Finishing touches to the décor provided a subtle reminder of the location; in keeping with our suite’s namesake, our suite had a buffalo motif including ceramic buffalo heads, a buffalo sculpture and buffalo pillows.
The suites have been designed with couples in mind as the shower is fully open in the centre of the bathroom, so it’s best suited for exhibitionists! For those wishing to embrace their naturist spirit, they can also shower in the buff in the outdoor shower where they can scrub to their heart’s content while watching the sun rise of over the hills.
Each night, the cleaner provides a turn-down service, which includes a lovely chocolate on your pillow. Given our visit fell over the Valentine’s Day weekend, she scattered fresh rose petals in the bath and formed a heart shape with the petals on our bed, which made the day even more special.
Hopewell Lodge operates on an all-inclusive basis with all meals, house wines, local beers and spirits, soft drinks, tea and coffee included in the rates. Meals are served three times a day with meal times scheduled around the game drives. As all meals are communal and served in the main lodge, it is advisable that you make friends with the other guests upon arrival so you can all collaboratively agree on timings for your drives and meals.
For breakfast guests can graze on fresh fruits, yogurts, cold meats and cheeses. There is also the option of a full English breakfast for those who wish to have a cooked breakfast. As there is no menu to choose from for lunch and dinner, fussy guests or those with allergies should inform staff in advance of their arrival, to ensure that they’re catered for.
With two three-course meals a day, all prepared by the chef using local produce, you won’t go hungry! To accompany each meal, guests can select a bottle of fine South African wine from the cellar or choose a beverage of their choice from the fully-stocked bar.
The safari experience
Each day guests are given the opportunity to go on two game drives – typically early morning (from 6am) and late afternoon (around 4:30), although guests can pick which time is most convenient for them. Given that my husband and I aren’t exactly morning people, we were thrilled that our first morning drive was at 8:30am, allowing us to get a bit of much needed shut eye.
For each drive, guests (a maximum of eight at one time) pile into a Land Cruiser to embark on a two-hour drive through the reserve in hopes of catching a glimpse of the amazing animals living there. With a cool breeze on my face as the Land Cruiser bumped along over the muddy path, the stresses and strains of city life were a million miles away. As your eyes continually scan for animals, shrubbery and logs start to take on animal-shaped guises as you will yourself to see something, anything, however, we needn’t have worried about not seeing any animals.
Over the course of three drives, we saw an abundance of wildlife including: cheetah (Hopewell runs a cheetah sanctuary and they even have a hand-reared cheetah named ‘Tabo’ who you can pet under supervision of the ranger on duty), rhinos, giraffes, impala, hippos, zebra, water bucks, bush pigs, spring hares (small animals similar to a mini kangaroo), hartebeest (the fastest antelope in South Africa), kudu, elante (South Africa’s largest antelope), spotted eagle owls and a variety of other exotic birds.
Hopewell Lodge is the perfect place for those looking to get away from it all, providing guests with both unrivalled relaxation and an exhilarating safari experience that you’ll remember for years to come.
Make it happen
Price: From £680 per night for an Executive Suite based on two sharing (prices vary depending on time of year you book).
Getting there: The nearest airport is Port Elizabeth. As there are no direct flights from the UK to Port Elizabeth, UK travellers need to fly to Johannesburg and take a connecting flight to Port Elizabeth. For a stress-free arrival at the reserve, guests have the option of arranging a private airport transfer (journey time is approximately 40 minutes).
Where: Hopewell Lodge Colchester Eastern Cape South Africa PO Box 374 Alexandria 6185