Deborah and Ross recently stayed at Tomjachu Bush Retreat in Nelspruit. From amazing food to awe-inspiring game drives, it was a weekend to remember.
I have a mental image of how an ideal holiday in the bush should look: game drives, breathtaking scenery, a comfortable bed at the end of a full day of relaxation. Combine that with delicious meals, a good book and a glass of wine by a crackling fire and I am in my element. Our weekend at Tomjachu Bush Retreat was the realisation of this image.
Tomjachu is nestled amongst the hills to the south of Nelspruit. The secluded location highlights the striking beauty of the lowveld. The unique name of the lodge is an amalgamation of the names of the owner's three sons - Tom, Jack and Hugo. Jack, also a talented photographer, oversees the estate. There are several different accommodation options such as self-catering cottages, suites in the lodge itself and a sprawling five star villa with a view second to none.
When we arrived late on the Friday afternoon I was struck by the tasteful elegance of the décor. The furniture pieces and ornaments seemed to have stories to tell and gave as much a sense of history and heritage as the documents and maps that adorned the walls.
We were welcomed by the delightful Anri who showed us to our suite and made us feel right at home. The promise of a cosy fireplace in the lounge drew us from our room well before dinner. There we enjoyed a glass of wine and some tasty canapés with a few other guests.
We had heard rumours about the amazing food at Tomjachu and it certainly did not disappoint. Dinner consisted of four exciting courses, all artistically presented. With brie and caramelized onion tartlets for starters, spicy butternut soup as a palate cleanser, peppadew-stuffed chicken breasts with sweet potato and beetroot mash for mains, and finally a dessert of red wine poached pears with home-made caramel ice cream, our senses had been awakened. My favourite little touch was the authentic silverware cutlery with bone handles that reminded me of my grandmother's dinner service.
A delightful surprise awaited us in our room after dinner. Our bed covers had been turned down and hot water bottles were hidden where our feet would go. What a spoil! We had no trouble falling asleep engulfed in those warm cocoons. Waking up, however, was more challenging.
We were met early in the morning by Janri, the game ranger and all-round handyman, for a private game drive around the reserve. There are no predators on the property, but we were treated to close encounters with zebra, kudu and giraffe. The most memorable part of the drive was the spectacular views of rolling hills and valleys. In the two hours we spent driving around the estate I lost track of the number of incredible and diverse vistas we admired. So much so that I became bored with my very limited vocabulary of ''wow'', ''beautiful'' and ''amazing''.
Towards the end of the drive, our empty stomachs made us eager to return to the lodge for breakfast and they groaned when Janri turned to drive even further from the anticipated meal. But as we rounded a corner we were stunned to see our breakfast set up beautifully on an open rocky area with a magnificent view of the river! The chef, Nadine, was already there with a skottel full of bacon, sausage and mushrooms. While she prepared the cooked breakfast, we sat and enjoyed the fruit salad, yoghurt and exceptional home-made muesli with the endless valley as a backdrop. It felt like the height of luxury!
After an afternoon of reading by the fire we were treated to yet another impeccable dinner designed by Nadine. She really has a flare for the extravagant. The starter was halloumi and grapefruit, followed by chunky vegetable soup. For the main course we had a deliciously creamy risotto with prawn- and bacon-stuffed calamari, ending off with a nutty baklava and granadilla sorbet.
After a lively visit from an inquisitive ostrich during breakfast the following morning, we spent our remaining time in the winter sun alongside the pool. The serene atmosphere was part of what made the weekend so memorable.
We were thoroughly impressed by our experience at Tomjachu. We felt that our every need was catered for with precise attention to detail. From a thoughtful welcome pack on arrival to the warm hot water bottles at the foot of the bed, we got far more than we expected.