I often talk about South Africa on my travel Instagram @Life.With.Di. Why? For many reasons:
- It is close to where I live and I can drive there
- It has a huge diversity of landscapes and wildlife
- It has a strong focus on conservation
- It is a great country to visit due to the fantastic accommodation offer at reasonable prices
- It has a great gastronomic offer
- It has a floral kingdom of its own – the Cape Floral Kingdom
- The official language is English, which makes things easier
This year I wanted to spend the festive season in Europe, but for several reasons I could not, and decided to go to South Africa, to spend new years in a relaxing and zen mode, recharging my batteries for another work-related very stressful year (fellow project managers and environmental consultants will be able to relate to). I looked at Cape Town, to where I do not go for some years, but I was not in the mood to be in a crowded place as it becomes during the festive season. The coast along Kwazulu- Natal was another option, but as I was driving there, not the safest of options, considering I would be alone.
So, again Mpumalanga. Mpumalanga is the province that is close to where I live. A one hour drive and I am there. Usually I go to Nelspruit, and it is just 4 hours away at the most. In is a very diverse province (check a previous post of mine about the Graskop Gorge) that houses, among many other attractions, the world famous Kruger National Park.
The problem now would be to choose where to go. I wanted something calm and relaxing, amidst nature, but with a fairly good standard. I also did not want to spend a lot of time driving, especially with temperatures as high as 38ºC. As I do with all my trips, I used my favorite platforms to look for accommodation: Booking (I have a discount for you if you want to book accommodation let me know and I will give you my code) and Tripadvisor. To validate my choices I also used two South African accommodation sites.
I am very careful when planning my trips (and even more when it is for a client), and I do a really good search, trying to read all reviews possible, to choose an accommodation that suits my needs and standards.
I had seen Tomjachu Bush retreat before, but I had never looked at it in depth, until this time. It is located close to Nelspruit (a plus, if I wanted for some reason to go to town to buy something, or go to a movie), approximately 10km, but it is far enough to avoid traffic, noise and confusion, and in a area that guarantees privacy, safety, calmness and abundant wildlife and plant life to see.
I fell in love with the setting as soon as I checked their website and Bookings photos. Then I loved the history of the place and the care they put into conservation and environmental sustainability. Coupled with the fact that they have roaming free wildlife, and from what I saw, a great gastronomy, they won me over. It looked like all I was looking for, to spend a few relaxing days. So, I booked a room there, for 4 nights, at a reasonable price that included Dinner, Bed and Breakfast.
I will not be describing the place, I will describe my experience. For reading about the history, conservation, and other details head to their website https://tomjachu.co.za.
I confess I do not like to set high expectations by just looking at photos on a website. I know how easy it is to get nice angles and do a nice editing to photos making the place look way different than it is in reality (it happened to me before). But reviews do not lie, and I make a point of reading them all, so I was quite sure, but yet still skeptical, that I had made the right choice.
The access to Tomjachu is by one of the main roads in Nelspruit (Ferreira street) that turns into a dirt road at the end. From there you take a left turn and drive on a dirt road (not advised to low suspension cars) for some time. I confess I was feeling sorry for my sedan car, but the drive was fine and soon I was at Tomjachu.
Right away I fell in love. The peace and tranquility it oozes, the magnificent vegetation, the 4 zebras standing there looking like a beautiful welcome committee, and the ladies at reception, kind, friendly and so efficient, won my heart.
I was staying at the Homestead as I was alone, and my room was huge, with a small private deck overlooking a fantastic view of the mountains. The bed was large and very comfortable, the room had a massive wardrobe, fit for an entire family, the bathroom had a bath and a shower and a very nice size, and although it did not have air conditioning, in fact it did not need it as the nights are quite cool. I was now 80% happy with my choice (hey, I still had to see how the other staff was, and the food – food is a very important thing for me as you can see from my site).
After leaving my luggage and having a shower I took a walk around to see the homestead and surrounding garden. It was everything it promised and much more. The views are fantastic, the swimming pool (not big, but a decent size) has a view over the mountains, the sound of the birds, the mountains, the trees tagged with their name serving an educational purpose, I mean, everything was perfect.
Dinner time (latest time for dinner is at 19h00, as Portuguese we are used to eat much later, but hey those are the rules and it is not something I could not deal with) came and I headed to the dining room. What can I say? From the nice wine I chose (and bought a bottle to take home), to the accommodating and so nice staff, to the 5 course dinner, I could not be happier.
As I follow a low carb high fat diet, the chef tried to accommodate my needs, and although sugar was present, my meals were mostly according to my dietary needs. LCHF or Banting is not a diet everyone knows about, and that is not as common as others, so I could not expect them to cater for all my needs (I did take with me my own bread, cream – which I did not need as they have it, biscuits and cold meats just in case).
It was now time to rest, as it was a long day. I had a great night sleep, a beautiful breakfast and decided to try the trails they offer (as the drives were fully booked).
I tried the Red Trail first by mistake (I intended to do the blue one), but it was worth it. It took me 4 hours, as I stopped a lot to take pictures and admire the views, plants, birds. The only problem? The weather forecast predicted 27 degrees and rain, so I totally forgot to put my sunscreen on (I used to be tanned all year round, which does not happen now), the weather forecast was wrong, and I ended up sun burnt (nothing serious but that put me out of the pool for the next days). The trails are all demarcated, and with signs to make sure you will not get lost.
Back to the hotel, a nice shower, relaxing time and then again a fantastic meal.
Next day, I opted for a day at the hotel, reading and updating my social media, and booked a relaxing massage. It was a lovely day, with a funny episode with one of the resident ostriches. There I was reading on my bed when I started hearing a strange sound on my window. Like someone was poking the window. I stood up and went to the window to check, there it was madam ostrich trying to eat the ants that were climbing the window.
The third day was the 31st, and started with breakfast at the veranda, that overlooks the mountains, and with Mrs Buffy (the largest of the resident ostriches and the more social one) visiting us and trying to eat an insect on that was my foot. Luckily she was gentle enough not to hurt me. She is something special and even allows us to touch the back of her head. An impressive ostrich, quite big and beautiful.
I decided to do the blue trail, called the wildlife trail. It is easier (flat mostly) than the red trail, and I was pleasantly surprised to be able to see quite a diversity of animals: zebras, ostriches, warthog, blesbok, wildebeest, kudos, impalas. Some with calves, some at a distance close enough to allow me to photograph them well. Sadly the giraffes were not there.
Finished the trail I went for a reflexology session with the same lady from the day before (she is funny and very good, and she lives in the premises, so booking is easy breezy), a nice relaxing bath, before heading to the dining room, for my last dinner of the year, and my last dinner at Tomjachu. Again, beautiful food and great ambiance.
Next day, and after breakfast, I took a walk around admiring the view for a last time, as it was time to leave. On the way out I was blessed with the welcome/farewell zebra committee, and a sight of several blesbok with calves just close to the road.
What a perfect time, what a great place. I was already missing it as I drove to my next destination.