Some of our most memorable family holidays have been spent wallowing at Hot Springs resorts around the country, but we had never visited the legendary Natal Spa Hot Springs near Vryheid, so decided to spend a weekend unwinding from a busy first half of the year at the resort which is owned by the Gooderson Group, and well known for its revitalising effects!
I love a good legend, and the one behind the Natal Spa’s is that the first known inhabitants in the area, the cave dwelling San people, believed that the river’s warm water bubbles (which come from approximately 1 km underground) were the work of a large black snake with an underground lair. They steered clear of the water, and carried out their day to day activities hunting the myriad of planes game animals that once inhabited the area, painting visions of them in the customary red ochre on the massive Cambrian Boulders that surround the resort. One of the boulders actually juts into the dining room at the resort, and has a clear sketch of animals that the San were planning to hunt for the pot.
We had booked one of the time share villas, and were delighted with our choice. Spacious and airy with a view of resort on one side – and rocks and bush on the other. Chubby, friendly little rock rabbits (Dassies) abound at the resort, and were there to greet us when we drew open the curtains in the morning – basking peacefully in the early morning sunshine on the rocks outside the window.
One is totally spoilt for choice at the Natal Spa when it comes to activities, and we couldn’t wait to get started! A hike took us through a well worn trail beside the Bivane River over rocks – some forming the caves that were once the homes of the San.
No matter what the weather, the pools – both cool and hot – beckon one at the Spa. After a long walk, a dip in the cold pool followed by some down time in the warm ones, was the order of the day for us. Nothing more relaxing! The waters definitely have a rejuvenating effect, and got everyone in the mood for a game of putt putt on the well designed course, and then a few sets of tennis. Many other activities area available for guests, incidentally, including trail rides on horseback, mountain bike or 4 wheeler motorbikes.
After a lovely lunch, I headed up to Boulders Bar to meet with one of the legends in the area. Denise James. Denise and her husband “Coffee” James had managed the hotel from 1997 to 2005 and she had spent time getting to know a pair Africa’s the most powerful birds of prey, resident African Crowned Eagles, Sheba and Adam. The pair had a nest in a gum tree in the forest close to the river (and, as luck would have it, our time share unit). I was excited to catch a glimpse of the eagles wheeling overhead earlier in the day and was interested to hear that Denise is in the process of having a book that she has written on them published soon, aptly entitled The Lion Of The African Sky. She took me down to visit the nest – which was a serious neck craning job as it is situated about 30 meters up a gum tree – and waited with bated breath for Sheba, the female of the pair, to arrive to feed her chick. Although we weren’t lucky enough to see her flying in, the next morning, I was happy to be able to identify the hungry call of the chick, an impatient, repetitive chee chee sound.
We hope to meet up with the Lions of the African Sky, Sheba and Adam, on our next visit, and were happy to leave with the memory of the pair keeping a watchful eye on this hidden gem in the lovely KZN bushveld!