Asingle dirt road guided us up the mountain where Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge is located. It looked as if there was nothing surrounding us but dust and shrubs.
We’ve just driven through the sleepy town of Clanwilliam, which set the pace for what’s to come.
It took us just under three hours to drive here from Cape Town, but it feels like we’ve entered an entirely different world, a warmer, wider and wonderfully wild space.
My colleague Katharina and I visited this relatively new property to experience first-hand what it has to offer.
The allure of ‘nothingness’
When we reached the lodge, we could see a 360-degree view of the never-ending Cederberg mountain ranges surrounding the property.
A modern African farm homestead greeted us with large French windows and doors leading out to a lush lawn that looked almost out of place in the middle of this vast wilderness.
As you enter the homestead, you can immediately tell that this place is rich in history. The high, vaulted ceilings, wooden beams and maps adorning the walls create an authentic farm atmosphere. It’s finished off with touches of Scandinavian décor, an earthy colour palette and a focus on symmetric design.
In the heart of the wilderness
I could feel my heart rate slowing down as I inhaled the fresh countryside air. My racing mind also slowed down, instilling in me lovely laziness, which probably attributed to why I slept so soundly that evening.
After we spent a few minutes of looking around, the lodge manager Itu greeted us with a warm smile and a treat, mango sorbet resting on a bed of crumbs. This delicious medley of tangy citrus and sweet was the perfect welcome to the Cederberg.
They have a total of nine rooms, consisting of two Classic Rooms, three Luxury Suites and four Superior Suites.
She showed us to our two-bedroom suite, comprising of two Luxury Suites. An interleading living room complete with a sleeping couch connects the two suites, making it perfect for friends or family travelling together but who would still like some privacy. For those looking for a romantic getaway, their Superior Suites or Superior Honeymoon Suites are ideal as they have generous living areas and offer more privacy.
Very airy and light, lots of natural light flood the rooms. The décor is understated yet sophisticated, created with comfort in mind. Although the room had many charms, my absolute favourite part was the ‘reading nook’ created on the large windowsill
The rooms open up to a ‘stoep’ or terrace, and this is where you will probably spend most of your time if the weather is good.
We poured a glass of chilled white wine and settled on the terrace where you have a front-row view of the mountains. We stayed here, not even feeling the need to speak, just drinking in the peacefulness.
Proudly South African cuisine
To me, a big part of travelling revolves around sampling the local cuisine. When it was time for dinner, I was excited to see what a place like this would offer food-wise. And I was not disappointed.
When it comes to their onsite restaurant, you can expect unpretentious, wholesome dining with a modern twist, each dish beautifully presented with attention to detail.
What really makes it special, however, is that it’s proudly South African, the menu including dishes such as skilpaadjies, bobotie, cuts of meat including ostrich and eland, and much more.
There is a focus on homemade and locally sourced ingredients. You can expect that what is on your plate was likely picked that very same day from their onsite vegetable and herb garden.
The town is known for its rooibos and buchu tea leaves that grow here and is an ingredient in many of their dishes. Citrus also plays a role in most dishes as the area is abundant in fruit, specifically oranges, mangoes, table grapes and more.
All these South African dishes are served with a side of warm hospitality the country is known for.
For my starter, I opted for the ‘skilpaadjie’ starter, a traditional South African lamb liver delicacy served with homemade pickles. For my main course, I ordered the cured salmon with a savoury nut and seed crust, herbed cream cheese, lemon jelly and seasonal greens. Finally, we shared a platter with local cheeses, preserves and homemade crackers for dessert.
After a coffee, we made our way back to our rooms, admiring the incredible star-sprinkled night sky along the way.
Breakfast with a view
We woke up to sunlight streaming through our windows, perfect for what we had planned for the day. They have specific scheduled activities and we opted for both, consisting of a farm tour at Skimmelberg to learn about the production of rooibos and buchu tea and then a sunset cruise on the Clanwilliam Dam.
We decided to sit outside on the restaurant’s wooden terrace for breakfast, taking in the vast beauty it overlooks.
The breakfast consists of a buffet first course featuring various pastries, cheese, fruit, muesli, and more. This is followed by a hot breakfast ordered from their menu. I chose the Salmon bowl, seared salmon on a bed of bulgar wheat, baby potatoes, sautéed spinach and mushrooms. This is tossed in basil pesto and topped with a soft poached egg.
After breakfast, we gathered at the entrance of the main building with a small group of guests, ready to embark on our farm tour.
Skimmelberg Farm tea tour
A family-owned company rooted in the local community, the Skimmelberg farm plays an important role in the area.
Farming with rooibos and buchu tea, both with various health benefits, they sell the tea locally and export it across the globe.
Delicious buchu-infused water in hand, we started the tour by looking at, feeling and smelling the buchu and rooibos plants. Although both have been growing naturally in the area for many, many years, they now cultivate the leaves instead of wild harvesting for sustainability reasons and to ensure supply without overexploiting the area.
After showing us the production and packaging methods, we headed to the main building for a tea tasting. From baby tea (a mixture of rooibos and chamomile tea) to ginger and mint infused buchu, we tasted nine different teas.
Then it was time to head back to the lodge for lunch.
Farm to table lunch
After our large breakfast, we felt like something fresh and light, and their lunch menu delivered. My lunch was fresh bulgar wheat and quinoa salad tossed with basil pesto, sundried tomatoes, rooibos honey-roasted butternut, spring onions, baby spinach and Danish feta. Their ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, and you can definitely taste it.
The lodge’s swimming pool winked at me from afar as we enjoyed our lunch, urging me to take a dip. A large pool overlooking the mountains, it’s a special place of tranquility.
If you would like to enhance this state of relaxation, you can pay a visit to their onsite spa.
In the late afternoon, we met up with other guests who were joining us on the sunset cruise. We headed to the Clanwilliam dam, where we met up with our guide and captain, Peter. After removing our shoes to walk through the shallow water to the boat, we made ourselves comfortable for the ride. As we sped through the water (exhilarating!) our captain would occasionally stop to point out different landmarks and to tell us some local stories.
When we neared the end of the dam, Peter killed the engine and we were enveloped by silence. He offered us a glass of bubbly, wine or a beer, served with a selection of South African snacks such as biltong and dried fruit from the area.
We floated on the dam, sharing stories about where we are from until the sun starting to sink behind the horizon. Then we made our way back, staring out at the sunset with light hearts.
Sound of Silence
One of my favourite things about our stay at Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge was the silence. It’s not very often that you find yourself in such a peaceful place, so it’s perfect for those looking to escape the rush of everyday life.
When we arrived at Cederberg, I was anxious and my mind preoccupied. When we left, I felt as if I’ve been through a mind detox, ready to take on the world again.
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