WHERE IS IT? Karkloof Valley Nature Reserve is off the beaten track in a stunning piece of scenery Zulus call The Valley of Heaven. About 20 minutes from Pietermaritzburg, or along the N3 from Johannesburg or Durban.
ROOM FACILITIES: The 16 spacious suites are each decorated differently and nicely isolated, especially villa 10, which must go to the fittest member of the team because it’s up a steep slope. Gorgeous views of the valley reward you when you get there. The rooms are linked by tiled paths, and I was in wheelchair friendly suite 4, nearest to the main lodge. All have high thatched roofs and huge chandeliers, and a private wooden deck with sliding glass doors. In the entrance hall is a ready-stocked bar fridge and coffee making facilities with complementary nuts and dried fruits. The main room had a sturdy wardrobe, large TV, a writing desk and armchairs facing the balcony. As well as a stylish bathroom with a bath and shower, my room had a second bathroom with a disabled-friendly toilet and shower. The wi-fi connection is excellent, but remember to go outside and enjoy the views too. One morning I disturbed a warthog foraging below my balcony, and a nyala grazing outside the front door.
RESTAURANT & BAR: You can book an all-inclusive package or a bed-and-breakfast option and select a la carte meals. The dining room is quite formal, set out as one long table for our group in a room filled with eclectic country bric a brac. You can also eat al fresco on the wide wrap-around terrace facing over the valley. Breakfasts include muesli with fresh fruits and yogurt, delicious smoothies or wheatgrass powershots, muffins and croissants, and a choice of cooked dishes. Lunch can be an informal toasted sandwich and chips or something heartier from the deck menu. With six chefs on the staff, dinners are a highlight. Expect a classy four course meal with a choice for every course. The open plan lodge has a bar with a high stools against the counter next to a cosy library with a couple of old fashioned leather armchairs.
BUSINESS & MEETING FACILITIES: For a business function you commandeer the entire lodge so you can meet wherever you like. On the deck, in the lounge, or actually in the boardroom, which is fitted with conferencing equipment. The owner, Colleen Glaeser, runs two IT companies and is a regular speaker at conferences herself, so she knows how to run a successful event. She recommends that delegates set off into the bush when they really need to brainstorm, where the wi-fi doesn’t work so nobody is surreptitiously sending emails instead of focusing on the business at hand. The lodge itself and the villas have excellent wi-fi coverage.
LEISURE FACILITIES: Game drives are the best way to enjoy the downtime. This isn’t big five territory as there are no lions or elephant, but there are rhino, buffalo, leopard, hippo, giraffe, zebra and an array of antelope. You can request a game drive at the times you want, but try to be out for sundowners by the watering holes. You can safely explore on foot, walking to the waterfalls, mountain biking, fly fishing or birding. There’s a large swimming pool, and if anyone is musically inclined, there’s a grand piano in the lounge. A full spa run by a separate company is a short walk up the pathway. Since it’s not affiliated you pay for the treatments separately, and it’s pretty pricy. My flotation tank session cost R550 for 30 minutes, but the temperature was so hot I could only tolerate five minutes before I climbed out in discomfort. The spa has won several awards, so apart from that thermostatic blip, it should be worth investigating.
VERDICT: Great for a high class, remote brainstorming session with top execs or as an incentive reward for your top performers.