While it might be difficult to imagine now, there will come a time when the world opens up again. If you aren’t already, you’ll be desperate to leave the confines of your home, so why not start by exploring our local offerings? Magic Hills Private Collection has the perfect mix of romance and luxury — with a good dash of natural beauty thrown in — to make it worth putting right at the top of your post-lockdown travel list.
Magic Hills is situated in one of my favourite parts of the Great Karoo, a place that is evocative of the rich and varied history of South Africa but also intensely, spiritually beautiful. Wide vistas as far as the eye can see, with rolling mountains and hills that are home to some of the world’s most endangered species make this a unique environment that facilitates moments of quiet, introspective solitude.
This little piece of heaven was seeded almost ten years ago, and currently covers about 16,000ha composed of two distinct Karoo biomes that are home to a multitude of animal and plant life. Our home for three days was the jewel in the crown of the collection: the Sky Lodge, perched on the highest peak of the property and commanding 360-degree views of this little corner of the Great Karoo. The lodge is safari-chic, and clever use of natural building materials and glass ensure that you can fully appreciate the epic views. I’ve never seen sunrises or sunsets so breathtaking than from the infinity pool deck of Sky Lodge; constantly evolving kaleidoscopes of colour that are best enjoyed with a mug of something hot or a glass of wine. Magic Hills offers other accommodation options that include Ilanga Manor Farmhouse and Elsa’s Farmhouse, a restored cottage from the days when the property was dedicated to sheep farming.
Thursday morning saw us up early. We were greeted by the first rays of sun peering out from the clouds and big gusts of fresh, crisp Karoo air as we headed down to a ravine below the lodge for rich and creamy mugs of steaming hot chocolate paired with farm-style rusks from the tuisnywerheid, or home industry, in the nearby town of Jansenville. A few of us more intrepid explorers were guided down into the gulley below to see the faded remnants of Khoi paintings dabbed onto the surfaces of the rocks. It was here, while gazing at these ephemeral and invaluable pieces of local history, that the true magic of this place became vividly apparent to me.
Morning and evening game drives are the best way to explore Magic Hills. If, however, you tire of bundu bashing and are looking for comforts closer to home, the staff at Magic Hills are more than happy to accommodate you. I am by no means a gin fan, but Byron Hartung’s Juniper Journey gin tasting, overlooking the Oudeburg mountains, had me seriously reconsidering my drinks cabinet. His expert guidance on how to mix the spirit to release its myriad tasting notes with additions of fruit and spices had me entranced.
It’s a well-known traveller’s pearl of wisdom that the quality of an establishment can be judged by either the perfection of its poached egg or freshness of its morning croissants. While I still hold these to be true, I also add the degree of post-spa treatment relaxation to that list. Rudi Hartung, Magic Hills’ resident massage therapist and registered Reiki practitioner, spoiled me with the signature Magic Hills massage treatment, a top-to-toe experience that left me floating. Beforehand, I had mentioned to Rudi that I had been struggling with some nervous energy over the last few months, which had been keeping me awake at night. Upon returning to my room, I discovered a little hessian bag next to my bed containing a piece of quartz crystal from the Jansenville hills to assist, according to the little handwritten note included, in purifying my energy and dispelling anxiety.
The work of reversing decades of damage done by invasive farming is never-ending at Magic Hills. Each day, the team pulls down old agricultural fences to create larger areas for wildlife to roam, or reintroduce indigenous flora and fauna to facilitate a return to the natural beauty that characterises the area. Like all guests, we were made part of this special experience and sliced our way through old wire farm fences in addition to being given small spekboom seedlings which we planted in the Sky Lodge garden. Being included in the Magic Hills family in this way allowed me to truly appreciate why conserving our unique natural environments is so important. As we all sit at home and watch the earth take a much-needed break, I can truly understand why places like the Magic Hills Private Collection are so important, not only in terms of the custodianship of nature, but also to provide moments to contemplate, appreciate and pause, if only for a little while.
Airlink offers flights direct out of OR Tambo or Cape Town International airports to Port Elizabeth Airport, where a private Cessna awaits your arrival and will whisk you off to the Magic Hills private airstrip. You’ll be greeted by the Magic Hills family, who will accompany you on a short drive through the Oudeburg bushveld to the lodge of your choice.