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A rustic take on luxury in South Africa

An early-Victorian homestead is renovated as a five-suite haven

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A rustic take on luxury in South Africa

January 14 2010
Maria Shollenbarger

South Africa’s winelands and Garden Route are justifiably renowned for their staggering beauty. Less on the radar, but no less appealing, are the arid boma and artsy dorps of the Karoo, though in recent years knowing South Africans such as Elle South Africa editor Jackie Burger and ceramic artist Hylton Nel have been settling here, buying up and restoring cottages, opening organic cafés and galleries, and producing first-rate fortified wines.

Samara Karoo Lodge, since 2005 the area’s standard-setter for full-blown luxury, has just opened The Mountain Retreat (pictured; book through, £1,600 per person for a six-night stay all-inclusive). Formerly the private home of Samara owners Mark and Sarah Tompkins, the early-Victorian homestead and its 18th-century barn have been renovated as a five-suite haven, just 30 minutes by Land Rover from the Lodge.

The luxury take is decidedly a rustic one – electricity is limited, for instance – but the interiors are gorgeously original: kilims and throws mix with Cape Dutch antiques and hand-carved bedsteads. There’s a cook and housekeeper for exclusive use by the retreat’s guests, and also a ranger and jeep to ensure that the quality of the wilderness experience matches that of the service and cuisine: Samara’s 70,000 acres, much of it reclaimed farmland, have been restocked with cheetah, wildebeest, and white rhino.