Oribi Gorge… changing views

Our early morning view over the Gorge

Our early morning view over the Gorge

We woke to glorious sunshine, the sun’s early morning rays reflecting ochre on the sandstone cliffs of the spectacular Oribi Gorge. Quite a change to the dramatic display of sound and light of the night before as we dined to the sound of background music interspersed with that of thunder. These are just some of the changing views that you are likely to encounter at The Gorge Private Game Lodge and Spa. 

The canyon, commonly known as the Oribi Gorge, is situated along the spectacular forested ravine of the Mzimkulwana River which has etched a spectacular gorge into the mountains creating a rugged, natural landscape of breathtaking beauty. The fertile plateau was first farmed by Norwegian Settlers, who due to the mild climate, cultivated tea, coffee and sugar. This owner run boutique lodge is located on the edge of this plateau with breathtaking views over the gorge.

We arrived via the scenic route, the road less travelled, that winds through the Gorge and is testament to the tenacity and perseverance of the Italian prisoners of war that built it during the Second World War. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get the same welcome we did when we reached our destination – iced tea and a refreshing face cloth to wipe away the grime of the journey, and even though we hadn’t toiled to get there it was a nice touch.

On arrival, reception on the left...

On arrival, reception on the right… (©The Gorge Private Game Reserve & Spa)

Due to its inaccessibility, the gorge is untouched by man and is a bird watcher’s paradise. It is home to over 255 bird species, including cape vultures and fish eagles. A variety of wildlife may be spotted, including the rare samango monkey, aardwolf and leopard, if you’re really lucky! The gorge also has some 500 plant species, including orchids, proteas, aloe and many species of cycads.

The Classen family has owned this little spot of heaven since 1966. The farm started its life as the parking area for heavy duty road construction equipment then progressed to being a sugarcane farm with some livestock and timber. Perhaps it’s having grown up with Oribi earth under their feet and clear starry skies at night, or perhaps just an inherent appreciation of nature at its most glorious, that gave Derrick and his sister Catharina the vision to create the treasure that is now known as The Gorge Private Game Lodge and Spa.

The chalets are set along the ridge of the Oribi Gorge, all with stunning views

The chalets are set along the ridge of the Oribi Gorge, all with stunning views

The lodge has been designed to experience the ever changing views of the indigenous surroundings of the gorge and has been built with minimal disruption of the indigenous fauna and flora. There are five very spacious chalets; all built on columns elevated three to four meters off the ground to minimise the impact on the environment. The main structure and dome roof have been built from concrete while the walls have a natural rock cladding to blend with the sandstone cliffs of the gorge.

The sand and stone for construction was sourced from the farm so did not have a ‘carbon mileage tag’ attached and both grey- and rain-water are used to irrigate the predominantly indigenous gardens which delight birds, butterflies as well as guests. The luxurious interiors are decorated with a blend of modern and African chic. Two thirds of each chalet boasts double volume glass creating an unobstructed view of the river and the Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve.

These spectacular views can be enjoyed from many vantage points, including the large quartz stone bath or indoor and private outdoor shower.

Fine dining is a given, from the five course breakfast and healthy lunch to a beautifully presented and delicious dinner. The intimate open plan restaurant with magnificent views of the gorge is the place to tantalise your taste buds and indulge your palate while watching signature chef Deon Kemp prepare his delectable cuisine.

Deon thrives on experimenting with new dishes and delights in presenting guests with his plated works of art that incorporate flavours from around the world with an African twist. He insists on having his own organic veggie & herb garden where he can pick fresh cuttings daily and prides himself in only preparing food that is organic, free range and hormone free. He is threatening to have venison on the menu should one of the local antelope dare to venture onto his turf for a nibble.

Fine dining

Fine dining (©The Gorge Private Game Reserve & Spa)

The jacuzzi at the Spa

The jacuzzi at the Spa (©The Gorge Private Game Reserve & Spa)

No visit would be complete without spending some time at The Gorge Spa. Take time out, relax and be refreshed by natures healing touch through therapies that focus on the restorative benefits of detoxification, rejuvenation and healing. Treatments range from facials and body wraps to indulgent spa rituals. The spa offers beauty, hydrotherapy, relaxation and open air treatments to both guests and day visitors – right in the heart of the Oribi Gorge.

In a few years time, the ‘spa experience’ will begin the moment you drive through the gate and view fields of lavender, rosemary, geranium, peppermint and tea-tree as sugarcane fields give way to essential oils. Derrick Classen, being the progressive farmer he is, has after many years of researching essential oils, managed to raise funds for building a state of the art nursery on the farm to cultivate selected essential oil  seedlings as well as a commercial oils distillery.

This project will be run as a cooperative owned by emerging (64%) and commercial (36%) farmers. Derrick is passionate about making agriculture sustainable and seeing emerging farmers raise their eyes above a ‘herd-boy’ mentality. ‘There is more to farming than just growing potatoes and cabbages – we need to help get subsistence farmers out of the grow-eat-grow-eat cycle’. It is this vision that will see the nursery and distillery produce a third of the world production of tea tree oil in an anticipated ten years. A changing view indeed.

words – Tessa Buhrmann / pics – Tessa Buhrmann / The Gorge Private Game Lodge & Spa



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