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For many of us, when we think of Plettenberg Bay we can liken it to a notorious, flamboyant character whose reputation quite often precedes them. The gangster of the Garden Route that’s seduced the multigenerational crowds for decades long – with its magnificent beaches and warm waters, its perky cafés and fabulous restaurants, its handsome, rugged coastline of hiking trails and tropical wilderness – will be likely to stir up a tale or two about its attributes when raised in conversation. For those of us that frequent this Eastern seaside spot and have put the proverbial face to the name, know that at the core, this knockout has a softer side too. A gentle, soulful side to its myriad characteristics that only makes for more intrigue and a deeper yearning to rally our favourite people and return as often as possible. To the place within Plettenberg Bay that brings out our softer, soulful sides too. Where we are at our best, with our best, in complete harmony with nature.
Far from the madding beach crowds and only 12kms off the N2 into the uplands area – deep within the Plettenberg Nature Reserve – the 19th century original homestead of Baron Joachim von Plettenberg presides. What was once a base for the Baron to return to from his gallant explorations of the wilderness, is now a graceful country lodge overlooking the magnificent Tsitsikamma Mountains. Belle Balance discreetly reveals itself from the deep thicket of the bush as you ramble your way up the gravel road of the reserve, breathing in the fresh farm air, absorbing the stillness and steadily succumbing to the soothing powers of nature.
Its original stone walls, polished cement and yellowwood floors, high farmhouse ceilings and cavernous yet cosy living, dining, cooking and entertaining spaces – along with the 9 ensuite unique and private bedrooms – have all been retained and restored to life with sincerity. The Baron’s build had many a tales to tell over the past centuries that are all worth retelling. Each room celebrates something sentimental about the history of the lodge, with its blend of contemporary furnishings and soft suede textures with antiques and treasured artefacts. An abundance of natural light seeps through the open spaces of the long, dreamy verandahs and wrap around decks, little patios, a tranquil courtyard – with its creeping wild ivy romancing the stone and inviting plunge pool slightly shaded in the day by a fig tree. Out into the 2800-hectared garden of burgeoning bushveld, where the wild animals freely roam the lawns amongst the fever, cape ash and wild plum trees. Down towards the boma where more magic happens, upon the dam, taking in those spellbinding mountain and valley views from the comfort of a good old leather recliner, over a good old colourful kelim, with a good old gin and tonic in hand. The mood is always set at this special spot beside the watering hole where the fish eagles, kingfishers and sunbirds swoop in and out of the water, occasionally interrupting a grunt from the resident hippo. It’s a wonderful place for everyone to gather and honour the day just beginning, or just ending, as you’re winding down with the sun beside a crackling fire, witnessing the wildlife saunter on past.
It’s been an eventful day of activities, connecting with nature on the various excursions around the reserve. From horse-riding trails to guided walks, game drives to long forest walks down to where the Palmiet and Keurbooms rivers interlace each other. A secluded little picnic spot has been set up for you to settle yourselves beside the rock pools. After which you’ll venture back to the lodge for an hour-long scrub and massage at the beautiful bush spa. The perfect prelude to an evening around the dinner table, taking in the night’s sounds over the chitter chatter and celebratory shrills of what this harmonious hideaway induces to you and your clan. All that’s left for you to do is amble your rejuvenated selves to your own, private quarters for a good night’s rest before the new day at Belle Balance presents itself with yet another dollop of safari splendour in complete serenity.
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What you need to know…
Reviewed by Colleen Ogilvie
Sleeps 18 guests in 9 bedrooms
Maximum 12 kids
No Pets Allowed
R20 500 - R28 500 per night