Steer, buffalo, a spa sanctuary and an African game park would seem to have few things in common. But one man has brought all these elements together to create an exclusive haven for international royalty, celebrities and entrepreneurs. Fred Wörner is the man behind the award-winning Karkloof Spa, lying in a 3,500-hectare plot of land in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is an hour from Durban and 24 kilometres from Pietermaritzburg. The retreat has raised the bar in luxury by mixing African wildlife with a spa that recharges mind, body and spirit.
Visitors here are assured utmost privacy — not only will Wörner and his team keep identities secret, the only locals likely to stare at guests are the warthogs, giraffes and nyala wandering by. It can even be said that this 16-villa Relais & Chateaux jewel treats all its guests like royalty. Exclusive meals are created and served at any time, at any place. Guests can have as many spa treatments as they desire, without needing to book in advance.
Recently, a regular guest who was finishing his early morning swim discovered his favourite hot cappuccino by the pool. It appeared “just like magic,” he said. He later found out that his butler, having observed his daily routine, had left the cup for him just in time. Another guest said, “The thing that struck me the most was the timelessness of everything. You do what you want when you want to do it.”
Over the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Wörner hosted a group of Russians and their sons, and arranged a private soccer game for them. The group were also treated to private game drives and walks with knowledgeable guides, hiking, mountain biking and fishing.
It’s easy to see how Wörner attracts a male clientèle to Karkloof Spa. He is its best advertisement — a fan of raw foods and a successful entrepreneur. He grew up on a farm and while at university, continued to work on cattle farms. He then bought a struggling engineering company and exported steel axles to Europe. Once, while flying first class, he observed how the guests sought out exemplary service. This sowed the seeds of an idea for the future.
He then bought several farms, one containing a disease-free buffalo herd. Now, his land at KwaZulu-Natal houses this herd — a hot commodity with one bull rumoured to have sold for around USD1.3 million. While improving buildings on the property, Wörner and his family decided that their farm was too good not to share. The improvements became major renovations that included the spa, villas (four interconnecting family ones plus a wheelchair-friendly villa), the main lodge with a 16-seater boardroom, fully equipped business study, library, wine cellar, bar, heated pool, boutique, restaurant and café.
Work was also done on the land rich in wildlife, with black and white rhinoceros, antelope, wildebeest, nyala, zebra, giraffe, kudu, eland, warthog and monkey. Over 350 indigenous birds entertain guests with their music and colours at what is now the most expansive eco-friendly spa in Africa. The property also boasts three rivers, endless streams and dams plus five waterfalls, including the 105-metre Karkloof Falls. The final one-kilometre climb to the lodge takes guests to a natural rock amphitheatre, and within metres of the spray at the foot of the falls. Guests also admit that the mist belt forests, thickets, open plains and riverine valleys all contribute to a feeling of peace and restoration.
Even those who have ‘done’ Africa’s Big Five game animals, the Cape Winelands and any of South Africa’s 2,500 lodges find Karkloof Spa proves one thing — that unrivalled respite and rejuvenation can be found even in the world’s wildest corners.
Pietermaritzburg Oribi Airport
IATA code: PZB
ICAO code: FAPM
Latitude: 29° 38’ 56.31” S
Longitude: 30° 23’ 55.20” E
Elevation: 2423 feet (739 metres)
Runway: 16/34, length 5,043 feet (1,537
metres) x 98 feet (30 metres)
Runway PCN: ASPN LCN 43
Tower Frequency: 122.0
Lighting system: PAPI
Maximum Takeoff Weight:
40 tonnes (88,000 lbs)
Type: VOR-DME / NDB
ID: PMV / PZ
CHANNEL: 126X / -
FREQUENCY: 117.9 / 257
DISTANCE FROM FIELD: At Field / 4.3 NM
BEARING FROM NAVAID: - / 344.8
JET FUEL: Available
F +27 11 545 1465