On Monday 2nd of November, Kimmi I went on a little adventure – a quick getaway to Gooderson Natal Spa Hot Springs and Leisure Resort! Before the trip I had never, in all honesty, even heard of the resort, but after a very small bit of internet research, I thought it looked lovely. Little did I know what this hidden gem has to offer!
The Gooderson group has such a wonderful range of different hotels and resorts, from the Natal Spa with it’s hot springs, to Dumazulu near Hluhluwe with it’s traditional zulu village, to Drakensberg Gardens with their gorgeous Berg scenery and golf course.
The Natal Spa is situated just outside of Paulpietersburg, and is around 4 and a half hours drive from Durban. It’s set in 550 hectares of gorgeous mountains and KZN bushveld, with views of the Bivane River. There are various options for accommodation, including hotel rooms (both standard and deluxe rooms), self catering units and timeshares, as well as caravan and camping facilities.
They have a vast abundance of activities to choose from, so there is something for everyone – hot and cold swimming pools, super tube slides into the pools, quad biking, mountain biking, hiking, horse riding, a BMX track, a paintball arena, an obstacle course, tennis courts, squash courts, bird watching, fishing, an adventure golf course, a kiddies play area, 5 trampolines, picnic and braai sites, a game room with a pool table and table tennis, and a wellness centre with a gym and a Cellu-Beauty Spa, with therapists offering a variety of beauty treatments.
Even with all of these activities, the main reason that guests flock to this gorgeous resort is for the hot springs – different pools are filled with water from the natural hot spring at the river. These thermal, healing waters rise from fault fissures and can be between 36 and 45 degrees centigrade. The water contains a lot of Iron, Sulphar and anti-oxidants, as well as many other minerals and chemicals, and the water is highly alkaline. While the sulphar smell isn’t particularly pleasant (it has a strong ‘eggy’ scent to it), you get used to this quite quickly, and soon you can barely smell it. These minerals and chemicals have many benefits – they’re known to assist with digestive and gastric disorders, gout, rheumatism, insomnia, liver disorders, urinary problems and blood circulation. The water is very soothing and fantastic for your skin, even though it wasn’t always recognised for these benefits – the San were said to have avoided these waters, as they thought that the warmth and bubbles were created by a large black snake living underground.
I couldn’t believe how warm the water of the pools was, and after a lot of joking at the smell of the sulphar, we all slowly quietened down, as the water is so relaxing to float in – all of the muscles in my back that were tight and stressed were slowly relaxing. GM Ryan Smith had told us that as we weren’t accustomed to the waters, we’d probably sleep like the dead that night, and after just an hour in the pools it was understandable why. The long soak also left us all incredibly thirsty – perhaps drink water after the pools instead of the delicious cocktails that we grabbed before heading back to our rooms for a quick change before dinner.
The restaurant is smart-casual, so you don’t want to be wondering in there in your bikini and slops! A refreshing round of drinks at the bar and some light chatter with Mr Smith and the Banqueting manager Jason, and we headed upstairs to the restaurant for the most fabulous buffet dinner I have had in a long time – there was a cold salad bar with seafood as well, a soup bar with a different soup each night, as well as fresh croutons and bread rolls, two different roasts with roast potatoes and gravy, and then a variety of different veggies and dishes, ensuring that there is a favourite for everyone. My highlight, however, was the dessert buffet – all I can say is WOW! Some of the most gorgeous cold desserts, a hot one with custard (we had the Queen of Puddings, which was divine), and several different ice creams, along with ice cream cones and every sprinkle you could think of. We were all starving, so after a glass of good red wine, and several platefuls of food, Mr Smith’s warnings about the waters came true, and every single one of us were in bed by 9pm. I usually battle with insomnia, yet I fell asleep quickly and slept deeper than I have in ages.
Next morning, after a quick shower and booking a spa treatment for later in the afternoon, I headed to the restaurant for breakfast – once again in full buffet style. Tea, coffee and fresh fruit juices were on offer, and the buffet was once again impressive. I helped myself to not even a third of the variety of foods on offer, and once I’d had a huge breakfast of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, a grilled tomato and a flapjack, I was powered up for the day ahead. I had some time before my out ride on horseback through the resort, so I did some exploring of the resort and walked around for just over an hour – I can’t believe how huge the place is, and how much there is to do, no one could possibly be bored there.
Horse riding was an experience in itself, especially for the other 3 on the out ride who had never ridden before, but our guide assured us that the horses were very calm and they really were. We rode for about an hour and a half, taking in the beautiful scenery, and we even saw ostriches and a whole herd of warthogs.
Kimmi chose to go quad biking (being the adrenaline junkie she is) instead of horse riding and this is what she had to say:
“I didn’t have closed shoes with me, but decided the very fashionable “slops and socks” would do the trick. Once on the quad bike we were given instructions by our guide and my first push of the accelerator button was slightly too hard – I almost fell off! Once I got the hang of things we headed out on the road and off into a field. The views along the ride were breath-taking. We truly do live in a beautiful country, riding through flower filled valleys and along gorgeous rivers. Our average cruising speed was about 25km/hr, stopping occasionally to take some scenic pictures, and speeding up to 45km/hr when we had a clear run. At one point a group of calves were standing on the dirt road, and we needed to persuade them to move so we could pass – quite the task but we did it! The ride took about an hour and a half in total and upon my return I realized I hadn’t put ANY sunscreen on and I had turned a bright pink! The staff at the hotel were very helpful, offering me all types of home remedies to cure my sunburn (thank you!) – and luckily they worked! It was an awesome experience and I look forward to riding again soon!”
After yet another delicious light lunch, it was back to the pools before heading upstairs to shower and change before my spa appointment. I treated myself to the Spa Paraffin pedicure, and it was an hour and a half of scrubbing, massaging, masking, soaking and pampering bliss. I just wish I’d had time to throw in a massage and a facial too!
We once again stuffed ourselves silly at the buffet dinner (were they trying to kill us by over-feeding? If that’s the case, I’d die quite happily with all of this delicious, hearty food), a few of us had a couple of drinks in the Raptors Bar, before calling it a night. After being once again impressed at the turn down service in my room, with a little chocolate on the pillow (so few hotels do this anymore), I sunk into my soft and comfy bed and slept the sleep of angels. The following morning we’d be heading back to Durban after breakfast, and while I had missed my home, I just wished I’d had longer to fully experience the resort and everything that it has to offer.
The Gooderson Natal Spa is a truly wonderful place for so many different kinds of vacationer – there are rooms for conferences and this would be a fantastic venue for a team building retreat for companies, there is a gorgeous honeymoon suite and spa treatments for couples wanting a little alone time, play areas and swimming pools for families with children, and the warm pools and various activities for groups of friends planning a fun-filled getaway. At R750 pp per night, including breakfast, the accommodation is so affordable too – just as the Gooderson Leisure group says ‘Good Value, Good Fun’. Now just to plan my next trip…
REVIEW: Hilton Hotel Umhlanga Arch
Hilton Garden Inn is the first of its kind in South Africa, situated at the new Umhlanga Arch, welcoming both local and international guests. Durbanite recently experienced first hand what they have to offer.
From the moment you walk in, you experience a relaxed environment, making you feel right at home. The Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch is a technologically advanced hotel, allowing guests to check in, select and unlock your room, as well as access the guest lift, easily from your mobile phone. The hotel boasts a fitness centre, outdoor swimming pool with a great view of the upcoming developments in the area as well as the stunning sea Durban has to offer, as well as a laundry room and currency exchange for international guests.
The staff at the Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch are friendly and extremely helpful and have adopted a “Brightheartered Hospitality” approach.
“It was amazing, the staff remember your name, they learn more about why you are visiting and really go out of their way to make your experience a memorable one.” Commented Bianca Hauser, Durbanite contributor.
There are 203 rooms kitted out with coffee and tea brewers, a flat screen HDTV, a hairdryer, iron and ironing board (perfect for out of town guests), along with a mini refrigerator. Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch ensure to adhere to Covid-19 safety regulations by cleaning rooms before check in as well as after check out. They are currently participating in the Hilton CleanStay Program with Lysol Protection to deliver an even cleaner and safer experience for guests.
“I really felt comfortable during these times, as once staff clean a room, they have the Hilton CleanStay Room Seal that indicates to us that a room has not been accessed since it was cleaned and disinfected.”
The hotel ensures sufficient spacing in the dining hall and hand sanitizers can be found throughout the hotel. Guests are encouraged to use disposable gloves provided when dishing up salad for the meals and the Chefs are responsible for dishing up dinner, limiting exposure.
Together & Co aims to bring people together, “one meal, coffee and conversation at a time”. Those who are not guests at the hotel are also welcome to dine at the restaurant or have a drink at the bar. Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch also boasts a 24-hour self-service retail space, “The Shop”, which offers snacks, locally sourced food and beverages as well as essential personal items, should guests need anything.
To book your stay, visit their website.
Durban, 4320, South Africa
REVIEW: Enticing Emdoneni Lodge Escape, Cat Tour & River Cruise!
If you are looking for a local getaway but not sure where to go, a 2h40 hr drive from Durban central is all it takes to transport you from the hustle and bustle of city life into nature at its best. We want to tell you about a little gem called Emdoneni Lodge in Hluhluwe as well as our experiences of the incredible Cat Tour and River Cruise in St. Lucia – to view cats, crocs and hippo – so be sure to read (or scroll) through to the end for all the information you need to book your next trip!
(Editors note: The Emdoneni Lodge is a short 25 min drive to the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park Memorial Gate entrance. If you are keen to try your luck at spotting the Big 5, this is a great days activity for the whole family!)
Catching some Zzz’s <<Accommodation>>
Our room at Emdoneni was comfortable and intimate – with air conditioning. The décor was modern and simple with fresh crisp linen – just the way I like it! The en-suite bathroom was spacious and tidy, with a walk-in shower worth mention. The only thing we missed (for a beat) was a TV but we must admit we did appreciate the opportunity to break away from our day to day life.
DinDins & Breakie <<Food>>
3 course meals were prepared for us nightly. The starters on both nights were worth writing home about, the tomato and mushroom soups were especially hearty and delicious. Main course was your choice between two proteins and a vegetarian option – the Dorado and Beef Curry get a special mention here. Dessert pleased the palate – tasty and decadent – the perfect way to end a day of good eating and adventure.
Breakfast was offered as buffet with your usual cereals, yogurt, fruits, tea and coffee available. The hot breakfast options prepared to order. Bacon and eggs done to your liking with various options but we would recommend the Emdoneni Tower Omelette if you are undecided!
Editors note: We could write about the food in much more, lengthy detail but instead will leave you with some photos below and allow you to let your eyes do the judging!
Round About <<Common Areas>>
If you do decide to book at Emdoneni Lodge especially with the family or friends we can assure you the kids will be well entertained from sunrise to sunset; leaving you with time to sit back and relax. The games area has a ton of well, games as well as a pool table and a small jungle gym for the little ones.
We can imagine hours would be spent lazing by or swimming in the pool. The lush green gardens are perfect for a game of catches or hide-and-go-seek.
The comfy lounging areas overlook the gardens are the perfect spot to unwind and sip on an ice cold one from the bar. Come 6pm, it’s time to take a seat under the African stars alongside the bonfire. Open a bottle of red and chat about your days adventures!
Self-Love <<The Emdoneni Spa>>
While holidaying at Emdoneni, you will naturally be taking time to unwind. We couldn’t think of a better way than to book yourself (and your partner) for a morning of self-love and pampering. Various treatments are available at the Emdoneni Spa, click here to find out more.
Sadly we didn’t have enough time to indulge but this is definitely on our ‘To Do’ when we visit again.
Meow <<Zululand Cat Conservation Project>>
This gem on the north coast is a must see for both young and old and is open to general public – not just those staying at Emdoneni Lodge.
We thoroughly enjoyed our experience and can safely say that it was the highlight of our trip!
The aim of this incredible project is to create a wildlife awareness and education centre which focuses on conservation and the sustainability of the cats which they home. The cats have come to the project, orphaned or injured and in need of care and rehabilitation.
We were lucky enough to go on a Cat Tour where we got up close and personal (but not too personal) with these majestic creatures. Along with our informative tour guide we had the opportunity to stand a few (safe) meters away from Caracal, Serval, Cheetah and the less intimidating but cutest, African Wildcat!
If you are a cat lover, you may want to consider their ‘Adopt a Cat’ initiative. It is a fantastic way to support the project either for yourself, or in the name of your nature-loving, cat-loving friends. To read up more, click here.
I’m on a Boat! <<Heritage Tours & Safaris>>
Keen to see some Hippo in their natural habitat? We would highly recommend booking a river cruise of the St Lucia Estuary though Heritage Tours & Safari!
Dennis was our tour guide; his knowledge of the Estuary and all its creatures (big and small) was extensive. Unlike some of other cruise operators on the Estuary this boat takes up to 15 people – which I preferred – it is perfect for a group of friends or family or if you just prefer a more intimate, quiet setting for your cruise.
We were lucky enough to spot some incredible bird life on the water’s edge, a one-horned Water Buck, some mean looking crocs soaking rays on the river bank and of course, the Hippo going about their daily Hippo business.
Did you know that the Hippo is the 3rd largest land mammals, after elephants and the white rhino?
It truly was incredible to be so close to these enormous mammals, but of course observing from a safe distance – I was thankful I was on a boat and not in the water with them!
For more information you can visit their website by clicking here.
That’s a Wrap <<The End>>
We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend getaway. Our only complaint is that we should have booked in for a 3rd night – there is just so much to see and do nearby that it is impossible to fit everything we wanted to do in.
A special thank you to Nondumiso Myeni for our warm welcome and making us feel right at home.
Slindile Ngema, thank you for your fantastic service and compliments to Chef Sindi Masinga for some delicious, hearty meals.
We cannot wait to come back!
REVIEW: Lidiko Lodge, St Lucia
Lidiko Lodge is a 4 STAR lodge situated in St Lucia, surrounded by the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park (“iSimangaliso Wetland Park”), an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With 16 garden lodges available, Lidiko Lodge is the ultimate getaway for families and couples alike.
An interesting fact about this place is that the main building of the lodge is one of the first buildings that was erected in St Lucia. Oozing an Old World Zululand charm with its thatch built structure.
The lodge has a reception area, guest lounge, a library as well as a dining deck where we ate breakfast each morning.
Lidiko Lodge is a tropical oasis. I felt as if I was on a remote island, away from the craziness of today’s world. It was absolutely perfect and oh so relaxing.
“Upon arrival, we were graciously greeted by the owners and shown to our beautiful room for the next two nights.
All the rooms are garden rooms, en-suite, fully air conditioned and spacious with a private patio and entrance. The rooms are fitted with either single or King size base set beds. Each room has a TV, chairs, bar fridge, hair dryer, a safe and complimentary tea & coffee.
In view of the fact that Lidiko Lodge is within 5 minutes’ walking distance of all the restaurants in the village, dinner is only done by prior arrangement. We had a quick dinner in the village before heading off for a much well deserved good night’s sleep.
Feeling refreshed, we headed to the dining deck where our table had been perfectly decorated with flowers from the garden and two divine fruit cups placed for us to enjoy. We ordered our customised hot breakfast while we had the chance to meet Lyzette, one of the friendly owners of Lidiko Lodge.
We made use of the day to visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which was only about a 5 minute drive away. A must visit if you’re ever in St Lucia!
Note: Be sure to pack your own drinks/food as there isn’t much available inside the park.
After an incredible day out spotting animals, relaxing on beaches and taking every 4×4 loop in the park, we headed back to Lidiko Lodge. We grabbed some drinks from their fully stocked honesty bar and drove down to Sunset Jetty to watch the sunset. (You could walk this distance as we didn’t realise how close it was to Lidiko!)
Dinner was enjoyed at one of St Lucia’s many restaurants on offer and again, we headed back for another good night’s rest.
Sunday was our last breakfast at the incredible Lidiko Lodge. With heavy hearts, we were sad to be packing up to head back to our home in Durban.
Lidiko Lodge truly felt like our home away from home and we will definitely be back!”
Lidiko Lodge is currently running a special where you can get 20% off your stay if you book directly with them.
To book your stay:
Reviews4 months ago
Workationing In Style At The 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, Cape Town
Entertainment5 months ago
The Durban Gin & Tonic Experience
Entertainment5 months ago
La Dolce Vino – Old Town Italy Umhlanga
Events3 months ago
HIGH DAYS & HOLIDAYS AT THE OYSTER BOX
Reviews5 months ago
REVIEW: Town Lodge Umhlanga
Events4 months ago
Cake & Prosecco Class at Old Town Italy
Travel3 months ago
Travel Blogged: Vlog 01 – Mtentu
Entertainment3 months ago
Diarise these upcoming Old Town Italy events