My ANEW Hotel and Resorts Hluhluwe experience began with a car trip with Phiwe from Diza Travels. She regaled me with things I could expect during my trip and made me promise to eat pineapple. Hluhluwe is the land of the pineapple, after all.
I arrived to the happy Front Office Manager, Giraard, who showed me to a lounge/ dining room and made sure a hot cup of coffee and a plate of pineapple were on the way to my table. The snow had just dropped around the country, and even tropical northern KwaZulu Natal was chilly.
Giraard ensured I had enough cappuccinos, GnTs, and an exciting schedule throughout my stay.
My room wasn’t so much a room, as it was a comfortable two-bedroom cottage with a TV lounge and little kitchen, known as Rondavel Two. As you would expect, the rondavel was clean and fresh, well insulated, and homey, and it didn’t take long to kick back on the couch and tuck into the plate of fruit they had left on the coffee table.
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve
My host, Sales and Marketing Director for ANEW Hotels and Resorts, Alan Campbell, arrived and got straight down to telling me all about the history of ANEW, how it survived COVID with no staff layoffs and then boomed into 17 hotels and counting.
We both noticed the time, grabbed jackets and cameras, and headed to the game vehicle. The drive from the hotel to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve is about 20 minutes, which wouldn’t have been a problem, barring the winds of the Antarctic that accompanied us. One of the guests eventually asked the game guide, Cela, if he could sit up front in the passenger seat.
Luckily, Cela had blankets to go around that most of us eventually wrapped ourselves in.
‘If one of you guys volunteers to get out and chase the elephant up the hill, they will cross the road, and we will all be able to see them clearly,’ Cela told us with a smile, certain we were all clever enough not to He kept us entertained with his humour, sharp wit, and in-depth knowledge of the bush and the wild animals that live in it. He also kept us safe, knowing when to turn the car off and when to maintain a bigger distance, ensuring that none of us got out of the vehicle to chase elephants up the hill.
At a picnic site beside the river, Giraard and his team set up an impressive spread of snacks, alcoholic drinks, and non-alcoholic drinks. Although he thoughtfully packed me a GnT after hearing that that was my drink of choice, I had no option but to warm my belly with a hot drink.
Dinner is filled with tasty options. You can either eat in the lounge/ dining room area and choose a meal from their menu, or you can head to the main dining area and choose from a decadent buffet that had me standing and staring undecidedly for a long time. If you ever stay at ANEW Hotel and Resorts in Hluhluwe and the chef serves his lamb curry, eat that. Taste sensation.
After indulging in that glorious buffet table, we were encouraged to make our way through to the boma area. Holding glasses of red wine, the hotel inhabitants got as close to the fire as we all possibly could and watched Zulu dancers throw their legs above their heads with a skill that can only come from hours of practice and passionately crafted skills.
The dancers called whoever was willing to join them on the floor, and a group of enthusiastic Australian travellers jumped at the chance. Barely getting their legs above their waists, everyone clapped for them as much as they did for the actual dancers.
Breakfast in the main dining room is just as exciting as dinner. Help yourself to fresh fruits (lots of pineapple), yoghurts, cereals, and pastries like muffins and croissants.
You can hit the hot breakfast once you’ve warmed your stomach up. Hashbrowns, fried tomatoes, pork sausages, bacon, and eggs cooked the way you request. A breakfast of dreams, really.
St Lucia Boat Cruise
The St Lucia Estuary is just less than an hour’s drive from the hotel, and my host and I enjoyed a two-hour boat cruise with On Safari Africa, along with a decadent picnic basket that Giraard packed for us.
Hippos, crocodiles, water monitors, and birds either sat on the river banks or lazed in the estuary and allowed our tourist-laden boat to take photos of them as we passed by. Even if you took the boat cruise and didn’t see any wildlife, the views of the estuary are absolutely stunning and worth the trip.
False Bay Park
We ended off day two in False Bay Park. General Manager Drika Wylie, with a constant smile on her face, joined my host and me for sundowners in front of one of the most beautiful ‘bays’ I’ve ever seen.
From the security guard who greets everyone with a salute, the game guide with a great sense of humour, the chef who proudly serves you his lamb curry, and the front office staff who welcomes you with a smile, the hotel offers a warm and comfortable atmosphere. Guests feel free to curl up on the couch with a book, have a good chat with the front office manager, or hammer out ‘Sweet Caroline’ on the piano and encourage the room to sing along.
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