It was one week before Christmas. The South Easter had been howling for days, Cape Town traffic was manic and everyone seemed to be in a very un-festive kind of frenzy. I was very happy to exchange the city madness for a few days of slow living on the West Coast and hanging out with some giraffe, four legged stripey guys and an assortment of antelope.
The Lodge at Atlantic Beach
Just 30km from the noisy crush of the city centre is The Lodge at Atlantic Beach
This was my where my sanity returned and the relaxation started.
Sea breezes soothed, fynbos swayed, deer grazed on the fairways and Table Mountain was a hazy shape in the distance. The drinks were cold, the views always great and the stresses of the silly season faded fast.
Play some golf, have a spa treatment or take a 3 minute drive to the Blue Flag beach at Melkbosstrand.
Did you know that you can explore the best of Cape Town from the peaceful base of Atlantic Beach by using the The My Citi Bus to get to the city, V and A Waterfront or any of the tourist routes on offer? There is a My Citi Bus stop right outside the Lodge. A travel card must be purchased in advance, these can be bought at the airport when you arrive, or at the main station close to the Lodge.
Breakfast was a relaxed feast of fruit, yogurt, cold meats, croissants and great coffee. My bags were packed and I was ready to embrace the slow life at Thali Thali.
Thali Thali Game Lodge is situated 130km from Cape Town on the R27, close enough for a fabulous day out, an overnight break or a 3 day stay. Thuys and Amalia van Niekerk bought this old cattle farm a few years ago and started repopulating it with the antelope and other animals that are indigenous to the area. They inherited Fred the camel and the giraffe family from the previous owners and now have over 250 mammals and countless birds and scuttling creatures roaming on their land.
The Thali Thali restaurant is a celebration of South African cooking, their Sunday potjiekos buffets, bread displays, and platters are legendary. Portions are extremely generous, and the varied menu caters for vegetarians, carb conscious, adventurous foodies and hungry people.
I loved the covered deck where a fine mist sprayed from the roof provided welcome relief from the heat. The indoor area is cooler and closer to the bar where icy beers, local wines and creative cocktails made choosing a thirst quencher a tough choice.
The restaurant can seat 60 guests, booking in advance is advised and the business hours are Mondays to Saturdays: 09:00 – 21:00 & Sundays: 09:00 – 17:00
Archery is offered as Thuys is a Springbok archer and a very patient teacher. It is not as easy as it looks, but it is lots of fun.
Nature walks and trails on the farm offer varying distances and can be done alone or with a guide. Giraffe Trail 11km, Eland Trail 6.5km, Springbok Trail 3.5km.
Game drives in an open game viewing vehicle with an experience guide take about an hour and a half and include close up views of the giraffe, Burchell’s Zebra and the huge variety of antelope on the farm.
3 star Accommodation
Thali Thali can accommodate a total of 29 people in 3 West Coast Style self-catering chalets, 5 B&B luxury en-suite ‘glamping’ tents and the 4 bedroomed Farmhouse.
The communal entertainment area includes the restaurant, bar facilities, a swimming pool, kids play area and an open-air lapa.
I stayed in a charming old farm house at Thali Thali.
The before and after pictures of Ouma’s House as it is fondly known, show how much love, work and creativity went into the restoration, some by the previous owner who converted the tumble-down ruin into a home, and further improvements and creative interior design by Thuys and Amalia to make it suitable as a guesthouse.
I loved the large rooms, simple furniture and selection of old photographs and drawings dotted around the place, all found by Amalia on her many visits to antique and second-hand shops.
After all the fresh air I slept like a baby and was happily up at 4 am for a pre-dawn drive with Thuys to find the 4 giraffes. This was not as easy as I thought it would be, out in the country, the dark is very dark, and we drove past the giraffe twice without noticing them, they were either asleep or impersonating trees. Once we found them we spent an incredible half hour watching them as they watched us.
On the game drive later in the day the zebra posed, eland ran, gnu’s did their weird running in circles thing and a regal oryx gave me the beady eye. A female kudu ran across our path and a herd of zebra kicked up dust as something spooked them and they took off for the hills.
We ended the day with sundowners and cigars on the deck, but the game viewing was not over yet. A family of emu provided live entertainment as they darted around at the little waterhole and tried their luck begging for scraps from the kitchen staff at the back door.
The Chef lives in cottage at back of the farmhouse and in true Thali Thali style hospitality, he came over to day hi. We sat sipping coffee on the wrap around stoep and watched as the fallow deer jumped the fence into our garden, grazing on the grass and finally settling down to sleep under the tree, while Fred the Camel snacked on bushes outside the gate, eating his weight in leaves.
A large part of the charm of Thali Thali is the relaxed friendliness and the desire of the hosts to share what they love with all their guests. As Amalia put it:
“Our dream for Thali Thali is that guests leave with a feeling of belonging and peace. Over the years we have seen what quiet nights around the camp fire under the stars can do, parents re-connect with their children, couples find time to chat over a glass of wine, families and friends re-unite. This is the thrill for us, we are an extended family just waiting to welcome you to our beautiful farm. Pop in, come for lunch or stay for a while. Our mission is to make you want to come back.”
All I can say is “Mission accomplished “
Darling Brew is literally one small hill away from Thali Thali Game Lodge and it would have been ridiculous to be so close and not visit this awesome little town. I chatted to Gill Ferreira, not only is he running the kitchen at Darling Brew, he is also the Chairman of Darling Tourism and the owner of The Flying Pig Charcuterie in town. This man is rooted in tourism and hospitality.
Is there anything better than sitting in the sunshine drinking local craft beer while talking travel and tourism to a like-minded enthusiast?
Darling is pretty but not twee, it is a real town where regular people live and work, and Gill is keen to keep it that way. He says that Darling wants to show its visitors real village life. Watch this space for exciting new festivals and events late this year.
The town has about 150 beds and according to Gill 3 star in Darling is 4 star anywhere else. Foodies, fun lovers and fitness bunnies will love this town. Evita se Perron Theatre, the Groote Post Country Market, nougat and wine pairing at Ormonde, wine tastings at Kloof and Darling Cellars, local cheeses, the Darling Sweet and a countryside with plenty of MTB and Trail runs should put Darling high on your list for weekend breaks or a day trip.
After a late lunch I stashed some Darling Brews into the car to enjoy at home and hit the road towards Table Mountain ,ready to take on all the Christmas madness with a smile.
This sanity saving trip was courtesy of West Coast Way SA and Thali Thali, as always opinions are my own.