Myself and 5 other Durban bloggers were invited to the Drakensberg to visit Antbear Lodge for a weekend. Antbear Lodge is surrounded by majestic Drakensberg mountains, close to Giants Castle and only a 2 and half hour drive from Durbs.
This is one of the most unique places I have stayed in while visiting this part of KZN; from far it looks like an ordinary cottage, but when you come closer you see the attention to detail on the doors, stained glass windows, interior and décor. The look and feel, the sustainable farming and the warm and friendly hospitality is what sets Antbear Lodge a part from other places. This is not your ordinary country getaway…
The Look & Feel
When you enter into the reception area you are bowled over by the creativity of the place. I kid you not when I say that there is a lot of wood, but it all works in harmony and makes for a great ice-breaker. When we arrived we couldn’t get over how stunning it all looked. There is so much to discover, from unusual wooden carved lights to doors and cupboards that have different opening mechanisms.
“We have a philosophy of giving old things new life. Some refer to this as upcycling. We find that everything has many uses, often creative uses most wouldn’t think of. We also believe that not everything has to be uniform or fit into a “box”. We are trying to promote alternate ways of thinking and living, within our staff and volunteers. By using what we have to create new and beautiful things, we find a sense of accomplishment and pride. We foster creativity and encourage eco-friendly practices. Many of our designs mimic nature whether by design or by co-incidence. Natural light has a sense of warmth and tranquillity which is why we have large windows in all our rooms. In everything we do, we try to create a sense of peace within our guests,” says Andrew, owner of Antbear Lodge.
When it came to eating I was intrigued to see what we would be served up, especially knowing that they have their own sustainable farm. First thing is first, the dining experience is very intimate and builds relationships between the staff and guests. We all dine at a communal dining table, all the guests and the Antbear Lodge managers. “We offer a hosted dining experience because it affords our guests a great opportunity to interact with people they might not otherwise. It enables our guests to learn about our eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle whilst sharing their adventures. We find our guests feel more at home in this dining style and even our most introverted guests will often open up and share in the laughter. We believe in being different and this is most definitely that,” explains Andrew.
Each dining experience is depicted by what is available from the farm. Every morning I used to enjoy the cottage cheese they had made on site, and was blown away to discover they also make their own cheese. Homemade food from scratch, I mean can you beat that? And every meal was a chance for the chefs to get creative with the produce on offer. “We keep it varied, seasonal and fresh. Our kitchen is not restricted in what it can produce. We merely wish to keep with the ethical practices, part of which is to use seasonal foods. We plant and harvest according to our needs. The kitchen staff are very creative and have never felt hindered by cooking for the season. In fact by having varied foods according to season keeps our menu fresh and unique,” says Andrew.
Dinner was an Antbear salad, made up of spinach, beetroot and feta, with Braised Chicken and veg. Dessert was a Lime mousse cake.
We ate a lot on Day 2, the weather was cold, so besides drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate, we also had a breakfast of champions, with fruit, yoghurt, cereals, scones, and freshly baked bread on the table to start with.
Lunch was a mix of butternut soup with warming baked rolls.
Dinner started with some snacks, and then we were served tomato soup, mains was a hearty beef stew and dessert an orange sponge cake.
Things to do
The weather was not playing the game the weekend we visited, so we couldn’t go microlight flying in the early hours of the mornings… We all met up for breakfast and then some headed off for horse rides while the other half of us went for a tour of the property and discovered a conference room used mainly for weddings. We then went through to the workshop and watched Andrew at work making us our very own wooden food platters.
Antbear Lodge, although there is a bit of dirt road to contend with, is close to the Midlands Meander route and other nearby attractions.
I do have to say a huge thank you to Andrew, Connie, Dom and London, who really made each one of us feel incredibly welcome, they went out of their way to please us and other guests. The weekend was an incredible break from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. This place is ideal for those wanting to escape the norm for something off the beaten track.