A YOUNG zebra awaits us in front of a tractor as we drive around the first bushy corner.
A rare treat, we deem, unaware of the abundance of these splendid animals that will later honour us with their presence. Nestled in the undulating mountains a mere 25km from Jeffreys Bay, J-Bay Zebra Lodge exudes a serenity where silence envelops one, though the vastness of the panorama stretches into forever.
On arrival we are met by the enchanting Florbela Mateus Duc, Managing Director, who whisks us off to a chic, thatched-roof chalet, cleverly perched on the mountainside with a wide view of the ocean.
Experts and guests alike explore the 120-hectare pristine property with its unique biodiversity.
The exceptional lodge near Thornhill is a culmination of Swiss precision and Portuguese passion in Africa, where fourteen zebra, as well as impala and bushbuck, roam free.
The distinctive owner duo, Florbela and Didier, have been married for 31 years. They are from Switzerland and had been travelling to South Africa for ten years when they decided in Port St Johns in 2010 to move to this country where they desired to live and do business. In October 2011, they made the trek to this side of the world.
“There was nothing here. It was all bush. We had to choose our spot,” Florbela explains.
In May 2012, they started building from scratch. They drew up what they envisaged and the architect brought it to reality. By January 2013, J-Bay Zebra Lodge welcomed their first guests.
Speaking of these splendid animals . . . weather permitting, the resident zebras are definitely not elusive, but make their appearance during breakfast.
They wander near the tables; they delight us by grazing around the sparkling swimming pool and later move towards the immaculate suites. Here you are likely to find one on your stoep.
The five suites can accommodate a maximum of 16 people. No more than 30 guests can attend an event, like a wedding.
“We want to keep it exclusive and intimate,” Florbela says. “This enables us to cherish and pamper our guests.”
We are treated to a stay in the Stone Luxury Suite – an elegant grey-toned room, cleverly designed to include spacious amenities and a lounge area fronted with folding glass doors where the view is impeccable.
For the discerning patrons there is the contemporary Leopard Family Room or the Earth Luxury Suite with a private wooden deck.
A lavish treat is the Colonial Safari Tent with a stylish antique bathroom. The talented owners’ carpentry work lends an artistic touch to the feature wall in the Luxury Safari Tent.
The devastating fires that devoured a vast swathe of the Western and Eastern Cape in 2017 gutted the lodge and ripped through the vegetation. Florbela says, “It was terrible, but it afforded us the opportunity to rebuild even better.”
On the Saturday night, we are treated to a superb meal by candlelight with a fireplace blazing in the cosy lounge – from the Mediterranean couscous with garlic prawns to a main of prime Angus beef fillet with gloriously grilled French potatoes rounded off by a fairy light Lindt chocolate mousse with a thimbleful of brandy . . .
We delight in the ambiance with vast glass doors affording us a view of the vista. Before lockdown the lodge drew many foreigners. But now Florbela wants to give locals the opportunity to “travel” with flavours and colours; to bring a specific country to the people. Florbela is the head chef and Didier the chef.
Consequently, Sunday meals are a phenomenon. Every week, food from a different country is represented. In the beginning of July they opened with French cuisine. Guests were entranced by the exceptional fare. The next weekend, Spain followed.
“Our themes are set until September and include Portugal, Croatia, Argentina, Switzerland, Greece, etc.,” says Florbela. The menus are posted on social media, and bookings are li-mited.
A magic ingredient: wines from their own vineyard are served during meals. The finer things – cloth serviettes, impeccable table settings, gorgeous presentation and palate cleansers – add swag to our five-course meal from Italy.
To titillate our appetite, we are served a modern, fizzing marvel, a Sgroppino cocktail. A basil ice cream palate cleanser follows a buttery, nutty starter of spinach and cream cheese folded in lasagne sheets. After the main of porchetta with salsa verde, we dig into the coffee-licious dessert of affogato amaretto drenched with espresso and topped with caramel crisps.
Dallas Land from Jeffreys Bay is the third chef today. The feast is accompanied by live saxophone music.
For the active guests there are 25km of trails. One can rent a mountain bike for more adrenaline-filled fun on the single-track trails made by Didier when they first arrived. The swimming pool gleams in invitation.
Within an hour’s radius a multitude of activities for the whole family include beach horse riding, game drives and beaches, with Jeffreys Bay boasting the longest right-hand surfing point break in the world.
Facilities include business services and WiFi, daily housekeeping, tour assistance, airport transfers and other amenities.
Contact the J-Bay Zebra Lodge at 078 925 6812 for bookings and the sumptuous Sunday lunches. Alternatively, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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