The Cederberg Mountains are 500 million years old. At the height of the ecological epoch of the land, it supported vegetation, birds, fish, reptiles and mammals in perfect equilibrium. Elephant, Lion and Black Rhino were abundant, and the now-extinct Quagga roamed the plains alongside endless Antelope herds, from the smallest Steenbok to the mighty Eland.
The nomadic Bushman shared this paradise and left us a legacy of mystical paintings on rocky overhangs. These depict their myths, rituals and the abundance of life that surrounded them.
Sadly, by 1900 the Bushman culture was close to extinction. The once plentiful herds gave way to farms and agriculture. The Cederberg’s eponymous Cedar trees were fashioned into fence posts, slicing up the land and restricting movement.
In 1991 Bill and Mark McAdam purchased seven farms in a valley encompassing 7500 hectares of overgrazed and neglected land. They made it their mission to create an unparalleled retreat and game reserve, and started by removing the sheep, allowing the fynbos to slowly but surely return to its former splendour.
In 1995 the original 170 year old manor house was lovingly restored and extended. Eroded gullies were restored and alien plants banished. The McAdams, in consultation with wildlife and ecology experts, implemented a long-term veld management programme. Indigenous flora and fauna were re-introduced, including the rare and endangered Cape Mountain Zebra, the Cape Clawless Otter and the Clanwilliam Yellowfish.
In 2000 the Bushmans Kloof Lodge was opened so that the public could enjoy this remarkable location. It was promptly accredited to the prestigious Relais and Chateaux association, and remains amongst the world’s premiere eco-lodges.
2004 saw the United Nations World Heritage Committee recognise the Cape Floral Region as a World Heritage Site. Bushmans Kloof, as a part of this area, is proud to be a part of conservancy of such global importance.
In the same year, the Tollman Family Trust acquired the property. Internationally renowned hoteliers of South African origin, the Tollman family are passionate about ensuring the continuation of the McAdams’ principles of conservation and compassion, as well as sharing the unique qualities of South Africa and its heritage.
Bringing with them international expertise and passionate service, The Tollman family took Bushmans Kloof to new heights, further refining the product to include a complete décor and style update throughout the lodge. The lodge has since won a profusion of industry awards, including Best Hotel in the World in the 2009 US Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards readers’ survey, rocketing Bushmans Kloof to a position amongst the world’s finest hotels.
Voted on the coveted Condé Nast Traveller UK Gold List of Best Hotels for Food in Africa, Middle East and the Indian Ocean for three consecutive years, cuisine is an essential part of the Bushmans Kloof experience. New additions to the lodge include breath-taking extraordinary dining venues, Kadoro and Embers. Embers holds pride of place in a spectacular outdoor setting within the Reserve, overlooking Khabo dam (‘dream’ in the San language), where in summer, guests may enjoy a traditional South African braai (barbeque) under the star-filled African sky. Kadoro is a charming stone building set in the shade of an ancient blue gum in the midst of the reserve. The name meaning ‘Tinderbox of Stories’, it provides a unique venue for a romantic dinner for two, or a private dining venue for a group of up to 16 guests, including traditional ‘potjiekos’ stews in winter, prepared on open fires.
In 2008 Bushmans Kloof entered a new era with the opening of a private villa in the heart of the reserve. A fully independently catered for family experience, Koro Lodge offers flexible accommodation options for up to 8 people as a perfect home-away-from-home for friends and families travelling together, and where children are welcome all year round. The private villa is comfortably and luxuriously styled in natural vibrant earth colours, with beautiful, handcrafted South African objects and furnishings, and includes the services of a dedicated chef, host and a guide with a game viewing vehicle.
Inspired by the healing essence of Africa, The Spa at Bushmans Kloof too was transformed, and doubled in size to reflect the very latest advances in global spa and wellness trends, including the new dual Crystal Steam room. The new tranquility lounge leads to the serene, secluded spa gardens filled with indigenous organic herbs and fynbos, whilst the riverside dual Spa Gazebo is the ultimate experience for indoor/outdoor treatments, with its panoramic views of the staggering rock formations and the endless reserve.
The rebirth of Bushmans Kloof has also had a resoundingly positive impact on surrounding farming communities. Apart from creating training and employment opportunities, our social commitment has seen Bushmans Kloof take the lead in several conservation programmes and research projects, forming the Agter-Pakhuis Conservancy project, where farmers are encouraged to recognise the potential of eco-tourism and convert degraded farmland into blossoming conservation areas.
Other important community and conservation initiatives include the conversion of the staff village to solar energy, and the Footprints of the Future project where local school children spend the day at Bushmans Kloof to learn about conservation, hospitality and eco-tourism.
The annual Cedar tree planting event hosted by Bushmans Kloof in association with Cape Nature, has over the past eleven years seen the planting of more than 150 cedar trees in the area in an effort to help save the endangered species from extinction. Bushmans Kloof is also a supporter of the Cape Leopard Trust, providing funds to acquire GPS collars which contain tracking devices, allowing researchers to determine important research data about both the leopards in the Cederberg Mountains, as well as the Caracal, another endangered cat species.