BILLY SUTER has just got back from two days of chilling with family in a four-sleeper, luxury wooden chalet in one of the most beautiful valleys in the Drakensberg. He first wrote about the hidden gem that is Sani Valley Nature Lodge, in Sani Pass Road, Himeville, last July – and was quick to take up an offer to return this week to experience the getaway from a summer perspective. Sani Valley Nature Lodge has 11 modern units, all wooden chalets, which edge a 106-hectare lake surrounded by rolling hills and the Drakensberg mountain range. It is a tranquil retreat for fishing or simply taking walks or chilling while zebra and buck roam freely. It simply has to be experienced!
IT WAS truly magical. Gin and tonic in hand, immersed in the hush and the shifting, ochre-orange glows of early evening, I sat alone on a concrete bench amid a sprawl of amber-brown winter grass. Six lazy zebra were close by, quietly munching away. A hop from my bench, a weathered wooden jetty jutted into a glassy, 106-hectare lake.
That was last winter, in July – and I remember inhaling deeply as if to breathe into everlasting memory the serene scene of water gently rippling in slivers of black and silver. All the while, sundown’s shadows danced through surrounding hills and leafless trees. And, slowly, the magnificent Drakensberg mountain range in the distance slid into silhouette.
Yes, I am waxing lyrical, but it really was a poetic moment, my final evening of a two-night, weekday stay at the enchanting, four-star Sani Valley Nature Lodge. And what a joy to return this week to this getaway to again experience the paradise that embraces a massive, boomerang-shaped lake listening between the undulating hills and jagged mountains.
Covering 760 hectares and bordering a Unesco World Heritage Site, Sani Valley Nature Lodge is the closest luxury lodge to the famous Sani Pass. It offers catered or self-catered accommodation options in 11 modern, tastefully decorated units. One can book anything from a single unit to the six-sleeper Rainbow lodge.
Eight of the Sani Valley Nature Lodge units are freestanding, scattered around the water’s edge, while three single units, cleverly designed for individual privacy, comprise the perfectly located, two-level Sunset lodge.
The three lakeside Early Mist lodges are among the most recent and have a main bedroom as well as a second bedroom for children which has two single beds. These lodges have a big bay window framing the Ndlovini mountain, an open-plan kitchen, lounge and a private veranda with a jacuzzi overlooking the lake.
If a jacuzzi doesn’t ring your bell, taking a bath overlooking the lake will be sure to impress. This is a feature of the three Lakeside lodges, each offering one bedroom with en-suite bathroom and a nook accommodating two children.
The Rainbow Lodge is the largest chalet at Sani Valley. It has three en-suite bedrooms that can comfortably accommodate up to six people.
Both in July and this month, my family enjoyed the Rainbow’s neighbouring, four-sleeper Bushman Lodge, which has privacy and an elegant African theme. Like the Rainbow Lodge, it boasts its own wraparound verandah offering elevated views of the lake, mountains and the mountain’s distinctive ‘balancing rocks’ which are well known in the Sani Pass area.
Spacious and airy, the Bushman Lodge has a braai and outside table and chairs on the veranda. There is also a veranda jacuzzi at the door leading to the master bedroom, where pull-up bamboo blinds reveal floor-to-ceiling glass windows that bring in the splendour of the outdoors.
The Bushman Lodge has an open-plan kitchen with all mod cons and the cosy lounge has DStv, a glass-fronted fireplace with as much free firewood as you want, and large, glass windows which further enhance views. Both bedrooms have an en-suite bathroom with overhead heating, tub, shower and toilet, and one gets complimentary soap, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. The chalet also has a digitally coded safe.
A big bonus is that there is complimentary wifi and a generator kicks in during night loadshedding. Also great is that amiable staff offer servicing twice daily, making up the rooms, doing your dishes (although there is a dishwasher in the open-plan kitchen) and setting the table if you so wish.
Friendly and helpful lodge manager, Gareth Miller, has been running Sani Valley Naure Lodge with wife Sam, since 2008. He has a small share in the property which was bought by his friends, the Hullet family, in 1980 as a holiday retreat. Before that it was a dairy farm owned by the Hogg family.
“John Hullet built the dam and the property was used as a holiday retreat until about 1999, when the chalets started getting built,” he explains, adding that it was originally known as the Sani Valley Fly-Fishing and Game Lodge.
Part of the land is still used for farming, pointed out Gareth, who said he waved goodbye to a longtime career in banking, in Durban, to heed the call of nature and offer his management services to the Hullet family.
He smiled and waved his arm towards the lake and mountains when I asked him what made him give up banking, and added that his wife and children love being outdoors and away from the noise, problems and security concerns of city living.
The lodge has a growing wildlife population, the animals freely roaming the grounds.
“We have 38 or so hartebeest, 24 blesbok and 35 zebra. Eland come and go and are always trashing the fence,” said Gareth.
It is quite common, and safe, to find animals grazing just a few metres away from the lodges. They also get very close to the quaint, two-level clubhouse where those not keen to fully cater for themselves can enjoy a pre-booked buffet breakfast.
The clubhouse provides boats and kayaks and also has an elegant upstairs bar which, with its verandah offering stunning views, is perfect for a sundowner or three. As the sun sinks, one could also join the circle of chairs around the raised fire pit on the clubhouse lawn alongside the lake. Truly special as night and the stars creep in.
Along with other similar establishments, Sani Valley Nature Lodge was hard hit by the horrors of Covid-19, explained Gareth, shaking his head. The lodge was averaging 25% to 30% international guests when the going was good, but that figure went as low as 1%, he added.
“Covid ripped us apart. It’s been very tough and still is, although we are now full most weekends and overseas guests are starting to come back. However, it will be at least another year until we are back to normal levels, I think.
“When Covid-19 first hit we revamped all lodges, stained decks, recovered all furniture, repainted all interiors, varnished all exteriors, built a new clubhouse area, put new carpets in almost all the rooms. Generally, we took the time to get ready for new guests at the end of 2020… but Covid proved more resilient and ongoing than we thought.”
If you are keen to swim, fish, take horse rides, walk (a number of hillside and forest hikes are available), plan a wedding in the nearby forest church setting, or simply wish to do little more than soak up the ambiance or chill with a good book, Sani Valley Nature Lodge ticks all the boxes. And while my family stuck to self-catering during our short stay, I hear the restaurant meals – brought to your chalet – are pretty impressive too.
Fisherman will be happy to know that lake stock is ‘topped up’ often and recently a 5kg fish was caught at Sani Valley Nature Lodge. Far from city strife and noise, this getaway is a leisurely three-hour drive from Durban and truly is a must for anyone wanting to chill out
For more details about pricing and availability contact the lodge at info@firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 (0) 33 702 0203 or +27 (0) 865 439 699. The website address is http://www.sanivalley.
The inviting lake-side boathouse, firepit and clubhouse at Sani Valley Nature Lodge.
10 thoughts on “Return trip to a paradise getaway!”
What an amazingb prize! It sounds absolutely awesome!
SANI VALLEY LODGE GIVEAWAY
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This sounds idyllic for my two daughters, a friend and I. We all beed a break frim the rat race.
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I would love to visit this amazing looking place
It looks absolutely stunning
This place looks SUBLIME! Buggery bollocks how I would love this getaway! Ok have I done the right thing by subscribing? 💙
Would Love to win this for my Father in Laws 80th on 27th August
Always like this area but never had the opportunity to stay there.once stayed at underberg during winter it was fabulous.
Would like to win it to speed up recovery for my lost my brother.
Wow! You definitely captured the Lodge beautifully! This couldn’t come at a better time! The 4 of us all need a little soul pampering. Holding thumbs!!!