After months of lockdown, South Africans are itching to travel and domestic tourism is booming.
In the Western Cape, a new category of self-catering accommodation is emerging as locals discover the pleasure of ‘soaking and socialising’ in a wood-fired hot tub overlooking the magnificent natural scenery of the fairest Cape. Words and photographs by Janie van der Spuy.
It all started in the Botriver district, where Kolkol pioneered the locally designed and manufactured wood-fired hot tub.
Named after Berzelia langinosa, a pretty fynbos plant which grows abundantly on the farm, Kolkol is situated in the Kogelberg Biosphere reserve, the heart of fynbos country.
Owner Rudi Oosthuyse says:
‘Sometimes these ideas come to light while sitting around a fire, enjoying a few beers and having a laugh with good friends. Walking through a pine tree plantation inspired me to build my own log cabins, from felling the alien trees on the farm, to building an actual lodge.’
Over time Rudi and his wife Karen developed the farm, buying more land and building the first guest cabins. Rudi’s next great idea was to design and build a wood-fired hot tub for each of his cabins. Kolkol Mountain Lodge was opened in 2007 and the rest is history.
Today, each of the nine Kolkol cabins and three Scandinavian style pods has its own private wood-fired hot tub, freshly filled with clean water for each new booking. To say that the wood-fired hot tubs are a hit, is an understatement.
At Kolkol, weekends and school holidays are booked out a year in advance and waiting lists are in place for the following year.
Rudi now also manufactures and sells complete wood-fired tub units that are portable and easy to install, as well as the stainless-steel stove, which fits neatly into a corner of a small plunge pool.
‘All you need is a bag of wood, and after firing up the Kolkol stove, depending on the size of the tub, it takes anything from 90 minutes to bring the water to the optimum temperature of 38 degrees Celsius. Perfect for sundowners overlooking the valley or for social stargazing with family and friends’, Rudi says. At night, the tub gets covered with an insulation blanket to hold some of the heat so that it is ready for a dip while you enjoy your morning coffee.
Kolkol’s child-friendly King Cabin sleeps up to ten people and is suited for bigger groups with a large open grass area, boma braai and wood-fired pizza oven. The 6-sleeper Kolkol cabin is perfect for a family, while the rest are 2-sleeper cabins set remotely for romantic couples’ breakaways. Two of the smaller cabins can also accommodate two children each. Kolkol provides basic kitchen necessities, as well as rusks, milk and six free range eggs, plus free Wi-Fi in the two large cabins.
Rudi’s third great idea was the addition of Fynbos pods to the Kolkol collection. The three Scandi-style pods are unique in their architectural design on the outside, and warm and cosy on the inside. Luxuriously decorated in contemporary style by Karen and kitted out with everything you will need for a weekend away, the pods come with a bedroom and bathroom, living and dining area with a fireplace, and open-plan kitchen with a pizza oven. Making the most of the sweeping views, each pod opens up onto a large wooden deck with a braai and, of course, a private Kolkol wood-fired hot tub.
Rate: from *R1780 per night for two people. Mid-week discount available.
From here, the wood-fired hot tub craze quickly spread down the Van der Stel Pass and beyond, with the Oosthuyse’s neighbours following suit, opening up self-catering guest cottages with hot tubs on their properties.
Next door to Kolkol, Blue Crane Farm Lodge has four self-catering cottages overlooking a dam and the surrounding farms and hills.
Very spacious and as comfortable as a house, they come with fast Wi-Fi and are big enough for longer stays to explore the area.
Each cottage has high ceilings and beautifully polished wooden floors, a big open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge area with a leather couch and huge fireplace, as well as a pizza oven. Two large bedrooms share a bathroom with shower, while the main bedroom has a glorious oval bath-for-two overlooking the deck and views. Beds are large and comfortable with good linen and pillows.
Rain and wind can always be a factor in the Cape, but the Blue Crane cottages are weather-proof with wooden decks that are under cover with a braai, dining and seating area next to their lovely, deep hot tubs that allow socialising even in stormy conditions.
Lots of dry firewood is provided and swimming towels are included. Outside, each cottage has a good patch of lawn in a courtyard for sunbathing or for children to play. Cottage kitchens are well equipped with a fridge, microwave and two-plate stove, while the owners’ generous hospitality extends to complimentary filter coffee and homemade rusks, pizza bases and fresh farm produce including six eggs and a slab of butter in the fridge. The piece de resistance though, is a bottle of farm milk and a freshly baked loaf of bread delivered through a secret service hatch before breakfast.
Rate: from *R1750 per night for four people.
In the same area, Krakeelpoort’s Rooi Assie is a rustic and romantic off-the grid cabin in the woods that is popular as a honeymoon and anniversary destination. With no plugs or Wi-Fi, it suits the more adventurous traveller in search of solitude. The cabin is private and there are no neighbours in sight. No curtains or blinds are required as you are surrounded by the pine forest. The focus is on nature, offering a glamping experience where you can marvel at the night sky and spot stars and satellites. The industrious young couple who owns the farm built the cabin using upcycled stone, steel and wood from the farm.
It has an open-plan design which includes a toilet, shower and basin, a double bed with a mosquito net, and a lounge area with a combustion fireplace. Powered by gas and solar lights, the compact kitchenette is equipped with the basics, including a camping fridge and a two-plate stove. The braai is outside on the deck with the hot tub a few steps down to a small garden surrounded by a lovely patch of lawn.
Newly built elsewhere on the farm, a second cabin is ideal for families with children, accommodating up to four adults and five children in two bedrooms sharing a bathroom, with an undercover braai and hot tub on the same level.
Rate: from *R1600 per night for two people.
A few kilometres outside Botrivier, Berseba Cottage is located on a rosemary and lavender essential oil farm. It is private with an elevated position that offers breathtaking views across the farmlands and mountains in the distance. The cottage is child-friendly and perfect for a family, or two couples travelling together, with two bedrooms sharing a bathroom with both a bath and shower. The comfortable and basic farmhouse layout has an inside fireplace and lounge area with a dining table and deep chairs for relaxing. The kitchen is well equipped with a fridge, stove and microwave.
Outside on the terrace is a braai with a protective weather screen and a dining area under cover, as well as the hot tub which can be used in all weather conditions. One of only a few pet-friendly hot tub destinations, the outside living area and lawn can be closed off for dogs, with advance notice. Friendly, attentive staff prepare the hot tub in advance to be ready for your arrival. Welcome gifts include a bottle of wine, milk and rusks and a cash bar available for emergencies. Lots of firewood is supplied and the farm’s essential oils are available for sale.
On the same farm, Berseba Hut is a modern, one-bedroom option for a couple, complete with its own hot tub. The Hut is not pet-friendly.
Rate: from *R1400 per night for two people. Extra charge for children and pets.
About 10km down a dirt road from Dassiesfontein Farmstall in the Overberg region, the villa at Black Eagle Lodges is an elegant farmhouse set amongst the fynbos overlooking the rolling hills of this lovely grain, crop and fruit farm. Guests may arrange to observe cattle and sheep farming activities, make use of various hiking and mountain biking trails, or simply relax.
The villa has a wonderful outdoor entertainment area that is under cover. The wide stoep has a braai, dining table with benches, sun loungers and seating under cover with rolling lawns down to the villa’s private dam. The circular hot tub is set a few metres away amidst the fragrant fynbos where on a clear night the stargazing is out of this world.
The villa is beautifully decorated, spacious and well-appointed with three bedrooms, two with fireplaces, and all with en-suite bathrooms. Comforable beds, crisp linen and hot water bottles guarantee a good night’s sleep. The open-plan kitchen and living area has high ceilings and picture windows, a comfortable lounge with an open fireplace, dining table and bar stools at the kitchen counter to watch the cook in your group in action. The villa is off-the-grid, powered by gas and solar lights, but comes with Wi-Fi and a plug to charge electronic devices. There is a writing desk in the lounge and a collection of books and games, with candles and vases of fragrant fynbos and proteas in every room.
On the same farm, both with its own hot tub, is the Lodge that sleeps six adults and two children, and a 2-bedroom Cottage.
Rate: from *R2910 per night for six people. Mid-week discounted available and reduced rate for two people.
Further down the N2, Greyton offers a number of wood-fired hot tub options under the Oewerzicht banner.
Sprawling De Hoop Victorian House is set off a hidden lane in the heart of Greyton within walking distance of the famous Saturday market, restaurants and shops. It is another pet-friendly hot tub self-catering option and it’s unique in terms of the large number of people it can accommodate. This comfortable farmstyle house comes with Wi-Fi and is suitable for family gatherings, where children will enjoy the ample space to run around. It is situated on large grounds with lemon trees, lawns and a little dam.
The double storey house has five bedrooms and four bathrooms, and a large eat-in kitchen with a dining table for 10, as well as a separate lounge with a fireplace. The kitchen is well-equipped to cook for large groups, including large pots and pans, a dishwasher, microwave, coffee pod machine, large freezer and fridge. The outside entertainment area is under cover with built-in couches, another large dining table with a braai area and a big hot tub. Upstairs is a magnificent master suite with a double shower and a Victorian bath for two. There is a separate bedroom for children, as well as a TV-room. Two further en-suite bedrooms are available downstairs, one with a cot, plus another outside bedroom.
Adjacent to De Hoop Victorian House, De Hoop Cottage sleeps another four people, which can be combined with the big house to accommodate a group of 14 people. It may however also be booked separately and comes with its own wood-fired hot tub.
Outside of town, Oewerzicht Farm is located on the banks of Seweweeks river, offering six lovely self-catering cottages of various sizes with private hot tubs that can be booked individually or for larger groups.
Rate: De Hoop Victorian House *R4250 per night for 10 people.
Mid-week special pay for 2 nights, stay for 3 nights, outside school holidays.
Closer to Cape Town, stunning Camissa Cottage is situated outside Stellenbosch on a beautiful small-scale working farm.
High up in in the Banhoek Valley, the farm offers never-ending views across the valley onto Simonsberg. The cottage is private and ideal for three couples travelling together, sharing three double bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Active travellers will enjoy the challenge of more than 8kms of scenic hiking trails on and around the farm, suited to running, mountain biking or walking to the three wine estates in the immediate area.
The cabin is stylishly designed with modern interiors and sliding doors opening on to an expansive wooden deck. Mod-cons include Wi-Fi, aircon and fans, a Nespresso machine, hairdryer and a wood burning fireplace. It’s one of very few hot tub self-catering destinations that has a television. The braai area is outside, a few steps down from the wooden deck to a firepit with seating around it, leading to the hot tub under the stars.
Guests receive a warm welcome from the friendly owners, along with a complimentary bottle of wine and fresh farm eggs.
Plans are in place to add four one-bedroom cottages with hot tubs on the farm.
There is a hot tub destination to suit everyone’s needs, so if self-catering is not for you and you want to spoil yourself and blow the budget, combine it with the ultimate, land-based marine safari.
Lekkerwater Beach Lodge is set in the eastern sector of De Hoop Nature Reserve. Its extraordinary beauty and blissful seclusion offers an unforgettable experience on a six-kilometre stretch of private beach, complete with stunning rock pools and fish life.
The reserve is famous for some of the best whale-watching on the planet, especially between July and November, while activities include walks with experienced naturalists to discover an array of fynbos and a plethora of marine life.
This is a full-service lodge, so the wood-fired Kolkol hot tub on the beach will be prepared to perfect temperature before you will be invited to order a bottle of bubbly to take along for a dip overlooking the turquoise ocean, watching dolphins at play.
Rate: special exclusive-use rates are available for families or up to 12 friends travelling together until the end of February 2021.
Hot Tub Hacks
- Hot tubs are fun all-year round. In summer it can be a plunge pool during the day, and at night, throw a log or two in the stove to get the water to a comfortable temperature for sundowners or a late-night dip.
- Follow the hot tub instructions and beware not to add too much wood as it may get too hot to get in!
- In winter, you may have three fires going at a time: the hot tub; the braai; and the inside fireplace! Wood is provided to get you started and in most places you may buy more wood if needed, but if you don’t want to battle with wood that may be wet, take some of your own plus kindling.
- Most destinations provide a braai grill, but braai masters may want to take a spare plus braai tools and a gas lighter to make life a little easier.
- Take a torch, as well as candles to add atmosphere to the braai, hot tub and outside dining experience.
- Pack a gown and slipslops for in-and-out of the hot tub., as well as swimming towels as some destinations only provide bath towels.• A second bathing suit is a good idea – it’s no fun getting into a wet cozzie if you decide to go for a late-night dip!
- Fresh water is drawn for the hot tub of each arriving party and recycled at check-out. Ask for the hot tub fire to be started in advance so that it is already warming up by the time you check-in.
*Rates subject to change