The weather is dreary. There are grey clouds obscuring the sun and a rude wind picking at the branches of the trees. Luckily, I’m safe inside the wood and glass panels of the Botlierskop restaurant, where the grass roof overhead seems undisturbed by the storm that’s been brewing over the area for the last few days. This game reserve is quite popular with tourists, and looking at the view of the small green valley with roaming rhinos and springboks, I can understand why.
The hill called Botlierskop is situated just to the right of the little valley. I’m not kidding about the rhinos: they’re grazing in plain sight near the main building on the grounds, though I admit there doesn’t seem to be many people out and about in this weather. I’m excited to receive a whole little filter pot of coffee when I order one, something that definitely makes driving here in these conditions worthwhile. As a journalism instructor, I also take my students to special activities and tours over the weekends, to add to their memorable experience during their month with us. A horseback safari at a local game farms is one of their options.
Anisa, my sole protegé for the month of March, has chosen to brave the stormy weather for a safari with her two reserve guides, Wilmarie and Jolene. Luckily, the rain seems to be giving them a bit of a break during their two hours on horseback.
I decided to wait for her at the restaurant to try and get some work done, but my productivity is suffering somewhat at the hands of the richly aromatic coffee on my table and the cozy atmosphere of the space around me. I’m a sucker for wooden interiors and soft yellow lighting, and there’s a log fire crackling in a huge fireplace across the room that adds to the warmth – literally and visually.
I’ve been here before, as a school child. I think it was just during a day trip with my parents, for a quick bite at the restaurant. Since then, Botlierskop has developed into a spectacular tourism destination. Here is a list of its most distinctive traits:
- Pristine accommodation. There are some pretty idyllic luxury bush villas, and they even have seafront and other types of accommodation at other locations.
- The restaurant. I came in wondering if they were setting up for a function, worried I might be intruding, only to find out it just looks this elegant every day. The coffee, as I’ve mentioned, is wonderful, as well as the rest of the menu.
- A bush spa. A good spa day while on holiday is never a bad idea. This one is situated on the banks of a river for an extra natural and relaxing experience.
- Game drives. This is something that operates daily, as I’ve already seen two fully packed vehicles passing by, regardless of the weather. Look out for hippos, giraffes, rhinos (of course), buffaloes and elephants if you ever find yourself on one of these drives. There’s also a sunset drive, where they include snacks and beverages.
- Bush walks through forest, marsh and grass areas. If you’re a hiking fan, this is the perfect way to explore the grounds.
- Horseback safaris – our reason for being here. They have state of the art stables and friendly guides to accompany you on a horseback adventure to admire the scenery and animals.
So yes, this is the tourism-driven side of Botlierskop. But while I’m sitting here at a fancily set table and with thunder beginning to growl outside (luckily the riders should be heading back by now), all I experience is the feeling of being absolutely away from bustling people and town-ish things. There is green before me outside of the window. The rhinos are lazily moving towards the hill with the odd, bottle-shaped rock where the place’s name originated from, and I can smell the wood from the walls and water from the lake. This is not a bad place, even if it’s just for a couple of hours’ visit.
I’ll say this much: it was worth driving the muddy dirt road in the rain to get here.