This South African Hotel Is The Epitome Of Eco Excellence

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

soft patter of hooves wakes me as we rumble down a winding
road towards Bushmans Kloof. We’ve been transferred into an
open-top 4×4 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


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