26 September 2013

{Teremok Marine}: A Design Lover's Paradise

We're back in Jo'burg after five incredibly beautiful days in Lesotho, which also means that our month of near constant travel has come to an end.  Between PilanesbergBela Bela, Durban and now Lesotho, it feels as though we've been spending more time away than not.  And while I love the feeling of constantly being on the move, for the first time in my life I think I'm actually looking forward to spending the next month at home, catching up on life, studies and work.  No more of this packing and unpacking business for awhile.  
At least not until November that is...

Today I'd planned to continue with the Greece recaps, but then I uploaded photos from Durban and became completely enamored by the design haven that is Teremok Marine.  Located in Umhlanga Rocks and just a short walk away from the Indian Ocean, I was literally in awe of this private residence turned boutique hotel.  The design was flawless.  If I were to create my dream home one day, this would be it.  

The history of Teremok Marine pulses through the walls of the house and remains a central theme carried throughout the suites and common areas.  Initially built by Kotchka Vladykin as a retirement home, the lodge has retained its original Russian name {meaning, little hideaway}.  Russian by birth, Kotchka escaped the Soviet revolution as a young child, initially immigrating to England, and then later making his way to South Africa as a mine surveyor.  Marrying into the diamond industry, he eventually chose to retire in Umhlanga Rocks, carefully designing Teremok to encompass his love for nature and the surrounding Milkwood trees.

Eventually inherited by the Douglases, Teremok Marine was converted into a luxury boutique lodge in 2003 and ultimately re-created into what it is today.  I loved that each suite has been designed with a particular aspect of the Teremok legacy in mind and spent a significant amount of time lost in the old photo books on display in the common area.  Jurg and I stayed in the Milkwood room, appropriately named after Kotchka's adoration for Milkwood trees and situated amongst the branches of the large Milkwood on the property.  With clear views of the Indian ocean from our balcony, our experience was idyllic in every sense of the word.

Because history plays such an extensive role in the Teremok Marine motif, it's difficult not to leave feeling somewhat nostalgic.  It's almost as though you've become so submerged in its history that you've become a part of it, not only saying goodbye to the house, but also to all of those people associated with it who have intricate stories of their own.  Teremok really got under my skin, in the best sort of way.

By the numbers:

Rates: R1,625 {$160} per person per night
Breakfast: Included in the above rate
Laundry & Ironing Service: Included in the above rate

For more information, you can visit their website here.

18 September 2013

{Adventures With Elephants}

While in Bela Bela earlier this month, Jurg and I were able to spend an afternoon interacting with six incredible African elephants.  During this time we touched them, fed them, played with them {even kissed them!} and really got to know each elephant individually.  It's unbelievable how they develop their own distinct personalities, which become apparent within minutes of meeting them.  Despite their different demeanors and characteristics though, every single one had the kindest eyes and the most caring disposition.  They really are gentle giants.  It was a remarkable experience and something very, very different from the ordinary.

Adventures with Elephants facilitates the interactions and the company has an extraordinarily unique story, littered with tragedy.  Run by the Hensman family, Rory Hensman initially purchased two orphaned elephants to roam free on his Zimbabwe game farm in the 1980's, but quickly {and unexpectedly} developed a close relationship with the elephants and began teaching them basic commands.  Before he knew it, the same elephants were heading up an anti-poaching unit spanning across the Zambezi valley.  As his reputation grew, he found himself acquiring more and more 'problem' elephants until he had reached a group of twelve in 2000.  He worked hard to develop a relationship of mutual trust and respect with each and every one.

Devastatingly, in 2002 the Hensmans were forcibly removed from their farm by the Mugabe regime as part of land reform measures {to read more about this see here}.  With only a matter of hours to flee the country, their main concern involved getting their elephants off the property and safely across the South African border.  In the sheer desperation of the situation, they were forced to enter into a verbal agreement with a South African farmer, which inevitably turned sour once they arrived.  Having fled to South Africa without any assets or property, the family agreed to enter into employment with the farmer as labourers in an effort to slowly earn the elephants back.  Eventually though, the conditions became so unbearable that they were forced to move on and start a new life with new elephants elsewhere.

As you may have already guessed, the family ultimately decided to settle in Bela Bela and have since worked to slowly build Adventures with Elephants into what it is today.  All six of their current elephants were previously orphaned or flagged as 'problem' animals and were on the extermination list due to species overpopulation in certain areas.  Adventures with Elephants advocates ethical conservation and the elephants seem to enjoy the interaction just as much as their human counterparts.  They're absolutely magnificent and extremely intelligent... even cheeky.  It's difficult to imagine anyone ever tagging them for extermination.

If you ever find the opportunity to visit Adventures with Elephants, I highly recommend it.  The experience is once-in-a-lifetime material and I cannot imagine supporting a more deserving company involved in a more deserving cause.  We're hoping to go back for another visit soon!  During the summer they even offer a swim with the elephants option.  Can you imagine?!

Adventures with Elephants is open 7 days a week from 8am - 5pm, with interactions taking place three times daily.  It's located in the Bela Bela region near the Zebula Golf Estate and Spa.  For both locals and visitors alike, the experience is a must and will be an absolute highlight of your visit, I promise!  Tickets are R495 {$50} per adult and interactions last one hour.  For more information visit their site here.

Side note: We're off on a road trip through the Kingdom of Lesotho at the end of the week and I'm over-the-moon excited about it.  Follow along on instagram here!

10 September 2013

{Safari Diaries}: Itaga Private Game Lodge

As most of you who follow on twitter and instagram already know, last weekend Jurg and I headed to Bela Bela for a three day bush break.  Although we've been to Bela Bela before {Jurg even proposed there!} we love re-visiting the area again and again since it's only about a two hour drive from Johannesburg.  Just far enough to feel like you're escaping the city, but still close enough to make a weekend jaunt worthwhile.

On this trip we were looking for somewhere new to stay and, on a whim, made a booking at Itaga Private Game Lodge.  We'd never heard of the lodge before, but really liked the look and feel of the rooms on their website and also found their prices quite reasonable when compared to other lodges in the region.  As we pulled into their gate, I knew we had made the perfect choice.  Dozens of antelopes, warthogs and ostriches meandered around their waterhole just feet away from us.  Usually, wild animals only feel comfortable getting so close under the cover of night.  

As we started towards the lodge, an ostrich wandered over curiously and a moment later a baby nyala came so close that we could touch his sweet little nose.  Shocked by the unexpected docility, the lodge manager quickly informed us that the nyala's name was Quasimodo {adorable, right!?} and that he was indeed quite tame.  I was in heaven.  But even beyond our initial impression, we soon realized that the lodge itself serves as a haven for a variety of animals.  Nyalas roamed around the rooms by the dozens, ostriches grazed the day away on the main lawn, warthogs spent hours pestering the antelopes around the waterhole and I even became closely acquainted with the resident cat, Tiger.  

If you're an animal lover like me, you've officially found your paradise.  
Animals aside though, we also loved everything from the rooms {ours was tucked away on a little hill with an idyllic outdoor shower}, to the pool, to the decor, to the food.  Every night before dinner, Jurg and I would head to the lounge and enjoy a glass of wine next to the fire before sitting down for a remarkable meal.  On the first evening, I enjoyed a tomato soup starter, fillet main and chocolate pudding dessert and on the second I ordered an equally divine cauliflower soup starter, chicken curry main and apple strudel dessert.  

On our second day at the lodge, we were quick to take advantage of the afternoon game drive that's included in Itaga's rate.  As we headed into the park, our guide, Rochelle, kept us occupied with interesting safari tidbits while we scoured the horizon for rhinos, giraffes and elephants.  We quickly stumbled upon the most majestic Kudu bull and then came across a journey of giraffes {did you know that a group of giraffes is called a journey? Something new that I learned courtesy of Rochelle}.  Giraffes are one of my all-time favorite animals to spot on safari because they always look so kind and curious.  It's almost as though they pose for the camera.

Continuing our drive through the park, we were extremely fortunate to spot a group of eight male rhinos hiding in the brush.  As I enthusiastically snapped away on my camera, I suddenly heard Rochelle jam the vehicle into reverse and soon we were moving backwards at an alarming rate.  The crash of rhinos {another funny group name} were headed our direction, and fast.  We slipped away in just the knick of time and gazed in wonder as eight masses of pure armor went stampeding down the road.  It was one of the most incredible sights I've ever witnessed while on safari. We were all left speechless.

Every time we're lucky enough to see rhinos in their natural environment I feel extremely privileged.  Rhinos are being poached at an alarming rate in Africa, with over 440 killed in South Africa in 2013 alone.  And the year isn't even over.  By the time our children are our age, it's likely that rhinos will only be found in zoos.  At the current rate, they'll be extinct within the next decade.  And all because of superstition surrounding the healing powers of their horns.  So tragic.

At sunset, we stopped in an open patch of land and hopped out of the vehicle for a quick sun downer.  As we sipped a glass of red wine and watched giraffes roaming in the distance, I was again struck by the beauty found in Africa.  What a wonderful, yet troubled continent I've been blessed to call home.  

Sometimes I still can't believe I live here.

Our stay at Itaga easily ranks as one of our best experiences in South Africa to date... and that is saying a lot.  Everything about the weekend was incredible and we haven't been able to stop raving about it since.  For anyone visiting South Africa, I promise that this will be an absolute highlight of your trip.

By the numbers:

Rates: R1,295 {$130} per person per night
Breakfast: Included in the above rate
Dinner: Included in the above rate
Afternoon game drives: Included in the above rate

For more information on Itaga Private Game Lodge, see here.

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