Choosing a weekend-away spot best known for its natural hot-water baths in the middle of the Cape summer is, of course, a bit silly. But then again, our visit to The Baths in Citrusdal had nothing to do with choice. As is usually the case, an anniversary of some kind had sneaked up on me, resulting in yours-truly having to secure a family weekend getaway on rather short notice. I simply worked my way through a list of possible venues and there it was, about halfway down said list, and the first with availability.
Located near Citrusdal (a two-hour drive from Cape Town on the N7), The Baths are situated on a citrus farm in the scenic Olifants River Valley. As I mentioned earlier, the hot springs are the biggest attraction, and I can imagine the copious supply of hot water – the main eye and several others deliver 105 000 litres per hour – making The Baths a hugely popular place in winter. Evidently, The Baths appear to be geared for winter. Not only is the water a relaxing 43°C, but the chalet we stayed in had a nice-looking fireplace. There are also several huge undercover hot tubs. If you do, however, visit in summer, all is not lost. There are also two cold-water pools. Other available activities include tennis, mountain biking and hiking. There is also a trampoline and a pool table.
With regards to the hiking part – I love the outdoors, but prefer to take the luxuries of modern life with me. I also prefer to gaze upon wildlife with big teeth from the comfort of a Land Rover, through a powerful pair of binoculars. So, our hiking attempt lasted about three minutes, as several large baboons had chosen to come down to the chalets for a closer look. This is also why I was happy that we decided to stay in a chalet, as it at least gave some peace of mind at night – apparently there’s also a leopard in the area. For more adventurous types, there are also 20 shaded caravan and tent campsites (some with electrical outlets). I suggest not camping right next to the access road though, as it gets a bit dusty – in summer anyway – when vehicles use the road.
In total, there are 15 chalets and 18 flats. The owners of The Baths apparently have a policy of ‘non-commercialisation’, according to their website. As a result there are no televisions in the units (for emergencies, such as rugby and cricket, there is a big-screen television in the restaurant). Thankfully, the website’s warning that there was no cellphone reception appeared to be incorrect. It is a self-catering resort, so most visitors pack braai gear and sort themselves out. However, wifey-dearest was in the mood for being spoilt, and thus it was decided that we would make use of the on-site restaurant, McGregor’s.
Now, I think many people will agree with me that this is always a dangerous idea. After all, if there’s no competition, then the restaurant doesn’t really have to be very good, does it? Happily, I can report that McGregor’s is superb. The menu is quite comprehensive (though it’s nothing to make Jamie Oliver sit up and take notice). The ingredients were fresh and the two waiters were probably the best I had ever come across, ever. I also recommend the lamb stew.
All in all, we enjoyed our stay. We spent most of the two days in the cold-water pools, and during the evenings we relaxed in the hot-water baths. Our four-year-old son also enjoyed it tremendously as The Baths appears to attract mostly family visitors. He therefore had many new friends to keep himself busy. The accommodation is affordable, and while those seeking five-star luxury will perhaps be disappointed, everything is clean and neat. Winter is around the corner, and we may just decide to go back again. This time by choice.
What you need to know
Rates: The rates vary, depending on the amount people, and which unit you select as a result. We stayed in one of the chalets in the valley, about 15 m from the hot-water pool, and it cost us about R1 500 for the weekend. Keep in mind that there is a two-night booking rule for weekends.
Restaurant/shop: The restaurant is reasonably priced . If you decide to self-cater, there is also a shop that sells most necessities, including wood. Otherwise, Citrusdal is only about a 15 minute drive away.