Less than 200km from Cape Town and half way to the Garden Route, I recently explored a pristine pocket of paradise in the picturesque Cape Fold Mountains of the Overberg district. Melozhori left me speechless with all it has to offer and its pure magic that encapsulated me throughout my stay.
The dazzle of zebra was hardly phased by our presence. Except for two Bontebok that seemed very happy joining the striped creatures, it was only us. There wasn’t a hint of civilization in the gracious tens of kilometres of view.
Above giant clouds made their slow pilgrimage across the sky, spreading their shadows over the ground below. With the mighty Langeberg mountains reaching up to the sky in dramatic peaks in the background, this was a sight to behold, and I silently cursed myself for not visiting earlier.
While the term hidden gem is often bandied around – sometimes a little too often – in Melozhori’s case, it couldn’t be truer. This private nature reserve is quietly tucked away in the folds of the Cape Fold Mountains.
At 2300 hectares this is another South African rewilding story. At the vision of its local owners, the Bhorat family, the Melozhori has transformed the cattle grazing land into prime wilderness – with many of the species that once roamed the landscape having now been reintroduced.
The accommodation offering in the reserve is not overwhelming; at full capacity you’d find around twenty guests – and even then – spread across the different sleeping options. First is the eight-sleeper lodge and then the family cottage. Having had my share of beautiful lodges and cottage stays, I was after something rather different.
Melozhori offers two guests per night, the privilege of staying in their two pods. Driving in, it looks like a giant rectangled UFO, with curved corners, had simply landed in the landscape. Make no mistake they’re modern, but with the wooden sides and biophilic-styled décor, they’re perfectly at peace with their environment, offering a rather modern window into the wild.
The oversized veranda houses a braai, a wood-fired hot tub and then cargo nets for star gazing. The kitchen is fully stocked and operates on a self-catering basis – but there’s also a semi-catering option. Simply order your choices from a menu of options, and everything is delivered to your pod – and come hungry because Melozhori sure knows how to cater.
For those who’ve experienced game viewing in the traditional Highveld or savannah setting, Melozhori offers something different, as giraffe and antelope graze the mix of renosterveld, fynbos and thicket.
Since there are no predators guests can walk/cycle/run freely. For those who do enjoy the feel of a game-viewing vehicle, a drive is included for all guests. The excursion takes in the expanse of the reserve, with the expert knowledge of one of the guides. I set out ambitiously wanting to tick off as many of the 38-mammal species found on the reserve. Returning almost three hours later we’d spotted at least 10 of them – including the rare sable and two spritely young giraffes.
Returning from the game drive, however, there was something else I was about to tick off – an overnight stay in possibly one of the Western Cape’s most unique accommodation options.
Melozhori’s crowning glory is their double-storey Treehouse. The modern structure extends out of the mountain, gazing proudly down the valley below. Arriving, you walk into the open plan kitchen, dining room, and lounge, which transition onto a veranda with a braai. Downstairs the spacious bedroom and bathroom spill out onto the veranda – also with a wood-fired hot tub, cargo-net star beds, and then two outdoor showers.
A large tree trunk dissects each storey, and the ceilings spread out from it – with the shapes of leaves and branches hand-carved out and serving as the gentle lighting. What’s more, there’s an uber-impressive sound system, so when you want to play your favourite tunes the speakers scattered throughout the treehouse have you covered.
We opted again for the semi-catering basis, this time choosing the make-your-own pizzas. Both Treehouse and pods have built-in pizza ovens and following the simple instructions from our guide it couldn’t have been easier – even for a virgin pizza-oven operator like myself. Continental breakfast items were included, along with a platter which kept us busy over lunch.
In this beautiful context far from the helter-skelter of normal life, the only dilemma is where to spend the last hours of the day before the sounds of the wild lull you to sleep… sitting warmed by the dancing flames of the fire pit, reclining in the hot tub with a glass of port, or lying on the cargo nets staring at the blanket of a million stars overhead.