For my sins, I endeavoured to explore and indulge in four very different and wonderful luxury guest houses and hotels in and around Plettenberg Bay. Plett, as it’s commonly known, is one of South Africa’s premier holiday destinations, located along the prestigious Garden Route in the Western Cape.
It encompasses an abundance of nature reserves, winelands, a myriad of beaches and lagoons, some of the most breath-taking views over mountain passes and the glorious confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
Our first stop was Tamodi Lodge, positioned in Keurboom heights, approximately 10 kilometres outside Plettenberg Bay. We were met with immediate tranquillity as we headed down the driveway lined with Eucalyptus trees, pastures and private stables towards the sizeable, but understated, thatched lodge. Indeed the architecture, both interior and exterior, is designed to act as minimalist back drop to the real showstopper: the view.
Rooms open out to palatial views of the Outeniqua Mountains and Keurboom forest with the sweet smell of fynbos and the soothing sounds of the birds heralding every sunrise. They abound in this tranquil paradise, flying to and fro as you indulge in a deliciously, elegant breakfast overlooking the infinity pool and treetops. With private stables, guided hikes into the valley and a secluded bird-viewing deck, this is the perfect retreat from the vibrant Plettenberg atmosphere.
Thatched roofs with gloriously high ceilings, barn doors, wooden decking, stone features, screed floors and the overall ‘natural’ colour palate add to the organic feel that compliments the environment. It’s open, spacious and serene.
A short drive down the gravel road took us to the Keurboom beaches, where we encountered dolphins playing in the surf from the moment we stepped into the breakers.
Aquavit Guest House
You will not find more caring and hands-on hosts than Linda and Ole. At Aquavit your every wish is their command, starting with the warmest of welcomes, a guided tour around their exquisite guest house and a relaxed chat about everything you’d like to see and do in Plett (which they’ll happily book on your behalf.)
The guest house itself is an architectural marvel; in fact it took 2 years from careful conception to laying the first brick. The house is divided into four levels: the first comprises three guest rooms en suite, each with a secluded terrace leading out onto a gorgeous lap pool and manicured gardens. There is also a shared lounge area dappled with artworks and sculptures and completed with sumptuous reading chairs. And, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you’ll find a fully-stocked cellar and outdoor, tasting courtyard with hanging grape vines and a water feature creating the idyllic ambiance.
The second floor hosts two more bedrooms (also en suite), another elegant, open-plan lounge and two dining areas that overlook Plettenberg Bay. Linda and Ole reside on the top level and make themselves available to guests both day and night. Each room is unique and stunning, fashioned with striking paintings, bespoke furniture and the most comfortable beds you’ve ever slept on, imported all the way from the USA.
The included breakfast is sensational: all-butter croissants, extravagant fruit salad finished with fresh mint, amazing granola, and their signature avocado and lime cake. The hot breakfast comprises a ‘special for the day’ or Linda’s chilli, or ricotta and chive, scrambled eggs served with sausages, crispy bacon and seasonal vegetables. The plating alone is worthy of many fine dining restaurants, as is the taste for that matter.
The service at Laird’s is just superb. The staff are warm, knowledgeable and immensely helpful; going above and beyond at every turn. (Even so far as to wash all the guests’ cars each morning.)
The architecture of the buildings is in the traditional Cape Dutch style; it’s colonial in feel, but with a modern, chic twist to the interiors. A lovely courtyard with a water fountain and overhanging trees acts as the outdoor dining area for breakfast, or dinner on a balmy night, whilst the interior dining area is cosy with an emphasis on comfort for cooler days.
There are several other lavishly decorated seating areas, both inside and out, the latter being in an almost ‘Bedouin tent’ style with opulent cushions and drapery that floats in the afternoon breeze. There are two large pools, one is an ‘Eco pool’ set against the backdrop of an idyllic dam with reeds and Ibis in the palm trees above, the other is surrounded with luxurious deck chairs and 2, very inviting, day beds.
The gardens surrounding the rooms are lush and green with gravel paths studded with orchids winding through to each door. You’re guaranteed large, comfortable beds, grand showers and sizeable baths, with each room opening onto a private terrace with wooden chairs and tables. (The one and only fault we found during our stay was the acoustics from bathroom to bathroom and room to room – there appears to be little sound proofing. This may, however, differ from room to room.)
A deliciously decadent, fine-dining dinner is offered nightly; you can choose between two, three or four courses from a menu that changes daily – a beautiful touch are the wine-tasting evenings that happen bi-weekly and allow guests to relax and mingle before dinner commences. The breakfast is first-rate, with the all the hot and cold options you could possibly wish for.
Tsala Treetop Lodges
There is something wonderfully Peter Pan-esque about hovering between tree branches, high above the ground, with only the sound of the branches and leaves fluttering in your midst. The venue and rooms at Tsala are as magical and as mystical as they sound, as the entire venue, from the moment you step over the threshold, is between one and five metres above the ground. On the same weekend as our stay, two guests had been brought to tears on seeing — and finally believing — what pictures can do little justice to.
There are 10 two-sleeper rooms and six family suites, all of which are amply spaced apart with secluded views of the Harkerville forest, private decks and infinity pools, outdoor showers and bathrooms that will make you gasp with delight. The surreal surroundings are matched by service that is refined and exceptional. From management to wait staff, concierge to room service, one and all are both proud and happy to be working here.
The in-house dinner and breakfast service continues to please with menus fashioned to showcase both African flavours and ingredients, exceptionally plated and paired with a wine menu that is distinctly South African. As night falls, fires are lit throughout the lodge itself as well as in the rooms as part of the turn-down service. Sweet pieces of fudge and lovely South African offerings such as milk tartlets and port can be found in the corners of each room, alongside welcome notes and other delights, leaving you feeling as though the close to every evening is a special occasion.
Nights are silent and morning sunrises are uninterrupted by the outside world. Breakfast is a feast with tables overflowing with ripe fruits, cheeses, cold meats, salmon, croissants and cereals. An entire menu of hot breakfasts follows, in line with a slightly African theme, and you cannot help but indulge.
Whatever your preference in and around Plettenberg Bay, I can guarantee that if you stay at one of these four establishments, you will leave feeling rested, spoilt and with a very full heart.
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