Relax – and just add mineral water

Some of the warm-water pools at the Gooderson Natal Spa Hot Springs and Leisure Resort near Paulpietersburg, an equidistant four-drive from Durban and Johannesburg.

BILLY SUTER took time out for a weekend chill-out at the Gooderson Natal Spa Hot Springs & Leisure Resort near Paulpietersburg, set in 550 hectares of KwaZulu-Nata bushveld.

IT BROUGHT a smile to my face but it’s quite true – when it comes to getting maximum benefit from the Gooderson Natal Spa Hot Springs & Leisure Resort near Paulpietersburg, set in 550 hectares of KwaZulu-Natal bushveld, it’s simply a case of taking plenty of rest and relaxation and adding lots of revitalising mineral water.

That’s what I overheard someone say, in passing, when my partner and I arrived at the three-star resort last Friday evening, after a picturesque four-hour drive from Durban, road tolls amounting to about R40 each way. It’s also about four hours by car from Johannesburg, I’m told.

The hot-spring pools close to the Bivane River, which is hidden by the trees. The original source of the spring is up the steps to the right of the picture. The pool in the concrete, domed structure has the warmest water and is ideal for chilling out.

The spa is set amongst not only bush and hills but also giant Cambrian granite boulders that are millions of years old. So there are some great views, especially if one strolls to one of the resort’s raised view sites, all close to the main building and the resort’s big drawcard – the hot-springs pools.

There are five warm-water pools on offer, one of which rests at the end of a 110m supertube slide (R50 a day for a full day of sliding). All are close to the original source of the hot springs, which are now cocooned in a brick structure where one can find out more about the history from a wall plaque erected there.

San legend has it that the warm water and bubbles from the springs came from the lair of a massive black snack. It seems the San kept their distance… but it did not take long before the spring became a magnet for visitors who soon realised this was no ordinary water source.

It was in the 1880s that a Mr Piet Wessells recognised a warmer area in the Bivane River, and when sandbags were later used to prop up that part of the river it became a popular bathing spot.

A section of the large hotel restaurant at the Natal Spa resort.

During the Boer War, the resort’s plaque informs us, soldiers used the springs area as a rest spot, and there is a boulder across the river that was apparently used as target practice and still features pock marks from those days.

I am delighted to say the Bivane River, a stone’s throw from the cluster of the resort’s five warm-water pools, was gushing when we were there, compared to the trickle it had become when I first visited this resort some seven years or so ago.

Two large, undercover pools, and one small one, were built at the site in 1937 and, a year later, a larger pool and the flood wall at the resort were built.

The Gooderson group bought the resort in 2006 and has been marketing it since, not only for the pull of the warm waters – three other pools, some with cool water and some with slides, are also available at the resort – but also for a wealth of leisure activities.

Among activities on offer are quad-biking (R280 for a fun, exciting ride with a guide, including a drink and snack), target shooting (R60 per person, for 20 bullets), archery (R50 per person, for 10 arrows), squash (R100 deposit for use of the courts) and horse-riding (R150 per person per day). Pool and table tennis is also available.

The resort also has 160 bird species, including a pair of breeding Crowned Eagle, and guided bird walks are on offer, at R30 per person, per hour.

Conferences at the resort are a popular option for companies looking for a quiet environment, good facilities and adequate accommodation. The hotel has three conference venues accommodating up to 120 delegates, as well as a meeting room that seats 10 people. The venues are all air-conditioned and there are a number of small breakaway venues.

Five pool-side trampolines are at this cool-water pool alongside the Natal Spa’s Boulders Bar, alongside a putt-putt course.

Also a strong draw is the resort’s health and beauty spa, a few steps away from the main building’s reception and verandah, where one can play outdoors on a giant chess board while ordering cocktails from the nearby, large Raptors bar.

Speaking of bars, there is another one, the Boulders Bar, close to a cool-water pool alongside five trampolines and a fun putt-putt course. All are a short stroll from the main building and the health and beauty spa.

The health and beauty spa is popular, offering a sauna, a plunge pool, a jacuzzi, steam rooms, a hydrotherapy bath and a gym, as well as various treatments to put you into chill-out mode.

Or, like I did, you could simply chill out with a wallow and float in the warm-water pools, the warmest of them being in a partially enclosed area where a circular cut-out in the domed concrete roof throws a sphere of sunlight into the blue water of the pool. Very relaxing.

The giant chess set in the gardens leading from the main hotel. The steps in the distance lead to the hotel’s large Raptors Bar

The springs thermal waters enter the pools after they gurgle up along fault fissures and are heated at the source to between 36C and 45C.  These so-called “triple waters” are said to contain healing chlorides, sulphates and carbonates which, word has it, can help treat gastric ailments, digestive disorders, biliary, constipation, fibrositis, gout, rheumatism, insomnia, skin disorders such as warts, and even stresses and strains of everyday life.

Maybe I imagined it, but my half hour of Saturday lolling in the pool after a good breakfast buffet (included in hotel rates) made me sleep like a baby that night.

The path to the warm-water pools at Natal Spa. Dassies often play there or on the rocks above it.

The resort has a variety of accommodation options, including camping, and day visitors are permitted at R200 each a day.

Sixty furnished, en suite bedrooms, each with a 14-channel TV, are available in the hotel, which has a very bold African décor theme running throughout, and there are also 20, self-catering, studio-style apartments available.

The Bistro Coffee Shop is open from 10am daily – I had a very good lamb curry there, on special at R65, on the Saturday.

A shop is available a short drive from the resort’s main entrance should you need it.

A buffet is available at R209 a head for anyone keen. The nights we were there the spread included a choice of two roasts, assorted veg, salads, a soup with croutons or rolls, a curry, a pasta dish and ribs. A puds selection included a tasty carrot cake (in spite of white and blue icing, that almost put me off), brownies and assorted ice-cream.

The room we stayed in, in the new wing, at Natal Spa.

If I have any gripe it’s over wi-fi….although the room info guide says reception has a free-wifi password, I was told there had been a problem and no wi-fi had been available to guests for a fortnight. Big bummer. Let’s hope it is rectified soon.

Good to note that the resort’s hotel has acquired a new wing since I was last there – and we were very happy with our air-conditioned suite with a king-size bed, separate bath and shower, as well as a small lounge. Chocs left on the pillows each night were also very nice, thank you very much.

Our room had a verandah that overlooks rocks and shrubs, where we were entertained at sundown, over a gin and tonic, by 15 frolicking and foraging dassies that pop up everywhere in the resort, many seemingly oblivious to the humans around them.


Address: Southern Lot 191, Koubad Farm, Paulpietersburg, 3180, South Africa

Phone: +27 34 995 0300


The entrance to the Natal Spa resort between Vryheid and Paulpietersburg.
The cool-water pool closest to the hotel. The units in the distance are four-sleeper units.
The warm-water pool at the end of the superturbe.
The 110m supertube at the Natal Spa resort.
View of the Bivane River from the flood wall near the warm-water pools at the Natal Spa resort.
A section of the hotel’s large Big Rock Restaurant, where a stage features huge boulders and a water feature bathed in changing colours of light. Rather kitsch but people seem to like it.

2 thoughts on “Relax – and just add mineral water

  1. There’s no doubt, the Natal Spa has come a very long way – from the time when I was a kid to the first ‘port of call’ when it came to spending my honeymoon there. There she stood, in the warm waters – the surrounds felt like a swirling blend of realism to surrealism – a painting if you like. I sat there gazing at her in her in her swimsuit and the inherent beauty she carried – that vision has never left my mind even though we’re now, each 56 years old (32 years later). My conscience took a spin for a couple of minutes before I was able to recompose myself after that… until I just arrived back onto their website tonight to be reminded of those magical moments again. Guys, thank you all so much for the memory and legend you injected into our lives at the time, way back in 1995. I hope to return again soon. Rob Greaves, (retired photojournalist – climactix).


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