This South African Hotel Is The Epitome Of Eco Excellence

At Bushmans Kloof in South Africa’s Cederberg mountains, quiet luxury goes hand in hand with sustainable ambitions

The soft patter of hooves wakes me as we rumble down a winding road towards Bushmans Kloof. We've been transferred into an open-top 4x4 for the final leg of our three-hour drive from Cape Town. Regrettably, I've spent most of the journey napping. Bleary-eyed, I look up and see what I've missed: a dazzle of zebras blinking back at me in the evening light.

A sprawling wilderness reserve folded into the wild, lunar-like landscape of red soils and cracked sandstone in South Africa's Cederberg mountains, Bushmans Kloof is not only one of the country's most renowned wellness retreats, but a 7,500-hectare National Heritage site protecting over 755 species of indigenous flora and fauna, including one of the world's largest private herds of Cape mountain zebra in the world. Reaching the hotel's entrance from the reserve's outer perimeter takes at least half an hour by car - a dusty and unexpected game drive that sees us pass a herd of startled red hartebeest, several flocks of ostriches and the wild carpets of canary-yellow fynbos plants that dot the rocky landscape as far as the eye can see.

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The rugged peaks of the Cederberg mountains were formed some 500 million years ago; the sculpted sandstone seems almost meticulously carved and curved by hundreds of thousands of years of weather. Once, herds of elephants would have grazed these lands, hassled by lion prides. A few hundred years ago, the now-extinct quagga, a subspecies of the zebra, roamed here, before being hunted to extinction in the 19th century.

Drive, Bushmans Kloof, South Africa
Cederberg Mountains, South Africa

In 1991, father-son duo Bill and Mark McAdam purchased Bushmans Kloof. Then, it was a collection of farm buildings surrounded by vast swathes of desperate farmland. Where others might have seen only neglect, they saw a landscape with a history, and dreamed of restoring it. Consulting with conservation experts, they began reviving eroded gullies and removing invasive flora. The wilderness reserve took shape, with the 170-year-old manor house at its heart. Today, the Tollman family owns the property, but the McAdams' commitment to conservation perseveres.

Unlike the hotel's beautifully untamed surroundings, the rooms at Bushmans Kloof are designed down to every last detail. In each of the 14 bedrooms you'll find one-off antiques, heritage furniture and collectibles that reflect the owners' passion for traditional art while nodding to the history and culture of the region. There are also two suites, one of which has its own private pool, as well as two villas that both offer complete seclusion in the cradle of the rugged Cederbergs. The property is surrounded by landscaped gardens that sweep down to the banks of the Boontjies.

Wildlife, Bushmans Kloof, South Africa

An on-site organic kitchen garden provides produce for the hotel's two dining rooms, where diners linger over refined Cape cuisine, from traditional braais (barbecues) served under a canopy of stars at Embers - a decked outdoor-dining area sculpted into the rock - to show-stopping buffet breakfasts in the cosy, firelit Homestead (mac 'n' cheese is the not-to-miss order here).

The therapeutic benefits of connecting to nature are well known, so it's only natural that the spa at Bushmans Kloof would capitalise on this. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out across the ancient African landscape. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the reserve, the whitewashed building is a cocoon-like sanctuary, offering a long menu of tailored treatments including Tata Harper facials, a crystal steam room and massages with B|Africa oils made from indigenous flora like rooibos and Cape aloe.

Beyond the reserve's dedication to protecting its natural environment, Bushmans Kloof is also the custodian of 130 unique rock art sites, some dating back more than 10,000 years. Daubed across the sandstone outcrops of the Cederberg in ochre, sap and blood, these paintings offer a unique insight into the tribes of the nomadic San people who once roamed these lands.

Riverside Borna, Bushmans Kloof, South Africa
Exterior, Bushmans Kloof, South Africa

On my final day at Bushmans Kloof, I meet Londi Ndzima, the hotel's in-house rock art curator and guide, who walks us through the reserve's archeological sites. Aside from accompanying guests on these excursions, Ndzima tells me he is most passionate about the education project he runs for local communities. "Young kids don't understand how historically important rock art is," he says. "I want to share my ancestors' stories and show them why they should care."

Proving Bushmans Kloof's dedication to cultural stewardship extends beyond its four hotel walls, these education programmes invite students, archeologists and local communities to explore the reserve's many rock art sites, as well as the hotel's in-house Heritage Centre. Home to a staggering collection of cultural artefacts (including original San jewellery, quiver bags and musical instruments, some of which are more than 2,000 years old), the Heritage Centre offers a visual journey through the staggering history of the mountains, a museum of man's evolving relationship with the surrounding landscape.

Back at the 170-year-old farmhouse hotel, I realise that Bushmans Kloof pushes the evolution of that relationship onwards. It might be too late for the quagga, but the reserve's ambition is to preserve and protect what survives. The property is a member of Beyond Green - a collection of hotels representing sustainability leadership in action and impact. Guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Beyond Green's rigorous, staged vetting process sets out standards across three key pillars: environmentally friendly practices that go beyond the basics; support for the protection of cultural and natural heritage; and direct and tangible social and economic benefits to local communities. This secluded, mountain-shadowed farmhouse ticks all three boxes.

The Lowdown

Rooms at Bushmans Kloof, a member of Beyond Green, cost from £500 a night. Visit for further information and to book.

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