Have you ever wished that you had been around in the era of explorers, to discover the untouched Africa that once was? Here’s your chance to do that! What more, it’s a chance to do it in style and without the inconveniences that no doubt plagued our historic pioneers.
Three Trees at Spioenkop Lodge was built with the main focus of bringing to life the time of the Anglo-Boer war – the vivid struggle between one of the largest Empires in history and one of the smallest nations in the world at the time. Arriving at the lodge is to step away from the real world, both figuratively and literally.
Driving from Johannesburg, you leave the city behind you as you roar down the N3 highway; not far after van Reenen’s pass you turn off the main road and head straight into the rural area in the shadow of the beautiful Drakensberg mountains; then turn off the tarred road and drive through a little village (watch out for stray cows and goats); and finally go through a small gate and make your way to the end of the road.
You can’t get further away from civilisation if you tried (at least not in a comfortable sedan – the road is perfectly driveable even in a sports vehicle). Once at the lodge, you are transported to a bygone era. The buildings are a tasteful replication of the tin-roofed buildings of the time, and most of the interiors would probably fetch a small fortune at an antiques auction.
If you can tear yourself away from your exquisite room with its unrivalled views of the nearby nature reserve, there is a wealth of activities available that caters for all interests and abilities. Spend the afternoon lazing by the pool and do some passive bird watching; take a walk around the gardens and admire the impressive aloes; go on a horse ride with spectacular views of the Drakensberg mountains; or go on a guided walk in the neighbouring nature reserve where you can spot a variety of wildlife (the most exciting being the impressive white rhinos). If you feel like venturing a little further, there are day-hikes in the Drakensberg; guided tours of the battlefields, local arts and craft shopping and amazing mountain bike trails to mention a few possibilities.
Regardless of how you spend your day, once it draws to a close be sure to stroll up to the main lounge in good time before dinner. Spend some time exploring the many photographs, books and other historic artefacts, then sink into one of the leather sofas, sip a gin & tonic and feel like a modern day explorer as the sun sets and the cicadas start their orchestra. Dinner a lovingly prepared farm-style 3-course meal, served at the big dining room table where you can share stories with your hosts and fellow travellers, followed by a port by the fireplace or under the stars.
The lodge is Fair Trade Tourism and Green Leaf certified. They draw their staff from the local community and provide extensive training and mentoring. In an area where unemployment rates are hovering around 60%, and any kind of job is a rarity, the staff at Three Trees are not only proud of their jobs; they are also seen as role models and key providers in their community. Over and above the important economic contribution that the lodges makes in the community, it means that you will be taken care of by a team of highly dedicated individuals that will go out of their way to ensure your comfort and enjoyment.
A whole section could also be dedicated to Three Tree’s environmental initiatives, but since I’ve been asked to leave the worm farms out of this particular blog I will just say that you would struggle to find a similar lodge that does more than Three Trees to conserve the environment it operates in.
Whether you want to be an armchair explorer, or actually get that khaki helmet on and be part of the action, Three Trees has something for you. Being able to do it without giving up any of your creature comforts should make your experience even more enjoyable. Finally, as opposed to the early explorers, no animals, people or nature will be harmed in the process!