South Africa travel is typically synonymous with ‘the big five’ or stylish urban getaways to Cape Town and Johannesburg. These days, travelers are looking toward rural travel for more authentic cultural experiences. Experience the untainted beauty of Eagles Ridge Country House, a free-spirited retreat in South Africa’s mountainous, lushly green countryside.
Senses are overcome with sheer tranquility the minute guests step onto the Eagles Ridge property: bursts of primary colors, scents of every kind of flower, warm, dry air and the sound of silence hit you all at once. Immediately upon arrival I thought ‘I never want to leave this place.’ Eagles Ridge aims to emphasize the full scope of South Africa: art, creativity, beauty, luxury and a genuine encounter with South African culture.
Located at the base of the Kologha mountain range on the Eastern Cape in Stutterheim, Eagles Ridge is adjacent to an indigenous forest and sits atop a sprawling bright green lawn and garden that gently cascades to a wetland bird sanctuary. This place has a barefoot, no-frills mentality; don’t forget to meet their pet tarantula and the 20-year old Golden Orb spider that sits in a sheltered web above a doorway.
The main facility is an eccentric restaurant-art gallery that serves fresh Euro-African fusion cuisine – many of the vegetables are from the on-site garden or are organic and locally sourced. Embedded mirrors are scattered on the walls and floors in different shapes and sizes throughout. In the midst of vibrant artwork, found art displays and a spiral staircase to a spacious rooftop are pastel-colored mosaic tiles that swirl all around your feet and encircle a tall tree that sprouts out of the floor. Art on display throughout the gallery is designed mostly by locals and many of the ceramic sculptures are created at Free Wings Art Studio, the Eagles Ridge workshop.
Sounds of the 1960′s gently play on the loudspeakers in the open, sunny space. While admiring the multiplicity of mirrors and colors I had the pleasure of hearing The Rolling Stones song ‘She’s A Rainbow’, a perfectly timed surprise.
Organized in a ‘quaint village style’ setting, pathways that lead to the restaurant-art gallery are carved by trees with dream-catchers on their trunks and little ceramic sculptures, many of which are created at Free Wings. A series of thatched rondavels – quintessential, English style cottages – are decorated with plaids, prints, and every type of textile imaginable. Bathrooms are covered in colorful mosaic tiles and intricate designs, created by artist Coenie Strydom, a South Africa native who exhibits his work and teaches sculpture classes at Free Wings. Ceramic classes, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, bouldering and birding are also available for guests.
Eagles Ridge regularly hosts ceremonies, story-telling and musical performances for the Xhosa people, a South African tribe that speaks the tonal Xhosa language, whose words are communicated with clicks of the tongue. The tribe visits Eagles Ridge to share their ancient traditions, cook Xhosa meals and perform drumming, dancing and singing rituals for guests. As a way to connect to local culture, Eagles Ridge never knows what to expect from the Xhosas: the entire event is spontaneous and never staged.
See it all through native eyes and opt to dwell in the countryside – Eagles Ridge is the ethos of South Africa.
This experience was part of an all-expenses paid trip, courtesy of South African Tourism.
Bohemian Rustic Luxury In South Africa’s Countryside – Forbes