A review of the Karkloof Safari Villas in South Africa and its ‘Spa And Safari’ package

I’m sitting in the back of a 4×4 vehicle being told to not move a muscle because a huge rhino is preparing to charge at our vehicle. Everyone knows humans are programmed to run at the first sign of danger, but when you’re out in the wild, you have to defy your instincts. We sit tight and after giving us a bump, the rhino decides we’re not a threat and heads off.

Our ranger Bloomer, who is as cool as a cucumber throughout, tells me it’s all part and parcel of the experience and we weren’t in any danger, but I must admit I’m still thinking this safari business is heart-thumping stuff.

We make our way back to our base, Karkloof Safari Villas, where we enjoy a large glass of wine by a roaring fire before retreating to our rooms for dinner in our dressing gowns. It has been an eventful day, after all.

Wildly enticing: Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa sits amid rolling green hills and valleys

Sam, who says she's not unfamiliar with luxurious spas, describes this one as 'rather extraordinary'

Sam, who says she’s not unfamiliar with luxurious spas, describes this one as ‘rather extraordinary’

Grazing time: Rhinos at the Karkloof game reserve, which is largely populated by herbivores

Grazing time: Rhinos at the Karkloof game reserve, which is largely populated by herbivores

Karkloof is a 7,500-acre private game reserve near Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, where you’ll find wild animals roaming everywhere – probably before you even reach reception. The species on the reserve are largely herbivores, so don’t expect to see any lions, but they do have three of the famous Big Five.

But this isn’t just any safari – this is a sort of have-your-cake-and-eat-it safari, where you have the option to combine it with a totally dreamy spa experience.

I’m happy to admit that this is what sold the idea to me in the first place, coupled with the fact that British Airways has launched a new direct flight from London to Durban (a one-hour drive from the lodge).

The design is eco-friendly, full of natural materials and has a ‘living roof’, which allows small animals to graze

The design is eco-friendly, full of natural materials and has a ‘living roof’, which allows small animals to graze

Winning formula: Karkloof features game drives and a multitude of luxurious spa amenities

Winning formula: Karkloof features game drives and a multitude of luxurious spa amenities

British Airways has launched a new direct flight from London to Durban - a one-hour drive from Karkloof. Pictured is a waterfall on the Karkloof reserve

British Airways has launched a new direct flight from London to Durban – a one-hour drive from Karkloof. Pictured is a waterfall on the Karkloof reserve

Don’t expect to see any lions, says Samantha, but three of the famous Big Five can be ticked off

Don’t expect to see any lions, says Samantha, but three of the famous Big Five can be ticked off

TRAVEL FACTS 

Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa offers the Starling package from £230 per person per night on a B&B basis, which includes an optional game drive. For more information, visit karkloofsafarivillas.com. British Airways flies from London to Durban from £504 return. To book, go to ba.com/durban. 

The Spa And Safari package, which includes use of the spa, treatments and a game drive, means there are fewer early morning starts and more time to put your feet up.

I’ve enjoyed my fair share of spas, but this one really is extraordinary.

The design is eco-friendly, full of natural materials and has a ‘living roof’, which allows small animals to graze.

There are 17 treatment rooms, hydrotherapy facilities and an army of therapists hand-picked from top spas around the world. Thai influences are everywhere and the products are organic and biodegradable.

I sample the grapefruit facial, which leaves my skin feeling plump and perky, and fall into a blissful stupor during an aromatherapy massage. Who said safaris can’t be relaxing?

The owner of Karkloof is pioneering the latest anti-poaching surveillance technology

The owner of Karkloof is pioneering the latest anti-poaching surveillance technology

Sam says: 'There’s also something strangely soothing about the game drives themselves. Combine sprawling nature, fresh South African air and the gentle hum of a 4x4 and I challenge you not to feel zen'

Sam says: ‘There’s also something strangely soothing about the game drives themselves. Combine sprawling nature, fresh South African air and the gentle hum of a 4×4 and I challenge you not to feel zen’

Wellness is at the heart of everything that Karkloof does – and we’re not just talking about its guests. The vivacious owner, Colleen, is pioneering the latest anti-poaching surveillance technology to create a safe and secure environment for Africa’s animals.

There’s also something strangely soothing about the game drives themselves. Combine sprawling nature, fresh South African air and the gentle hum of a 4×4 and I challenge you not to feel zen.

Oh, and did I mention it’s a lot of fun too? One day, Colleen serves snacks of biltong and shots of tequila while we wear plastic ponchos to protect us from the rain.

Talk about soaking it all up… 


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