On Monday 2nd of November, I went on a little adventure – I was going for a quick getaway to Gooderson Natal Spa Hot Springs and Leisure Resort! Before the trip I had never, in all honesty, even heard of the resort, but after a very small bit of internet research, I thought it looked lovely. Little did I know what this hidden gem has to offer!
The Gooderson group has such a wonderful range of different hotels and resorts, from the Natal Spa with it’s hot springs, to Dumazulu near Hluhluwe with it’s traditional zulu village, to Drakensberg Gardens with their gorgeous Berg scenery and golf course. I have of course heard of the Drakensberg Gardens, yet I hadn’t heard of the others, let alone the resort I would be making my way to bright and early on a very windy Monday morning.
The Natal Spa is situated just outside of Paulpietersburg, and is around 4 and a half hours drive from Durban. It’s set in 550 hectares of gorgeous mountains and KZN bushveld, with views of the Bivane River. There are various options for accommodation, including hotel rooms (both standard and deluxe rooms), self catering units and timeshares, as well as caravan and camping facilities.
They have a vast abundance of activities to choose from, so there is something for everyone – hot and cold swimming pools, super tube slides into the pools, quad biking, mountain biking, hiking, horse riding, a BMX track, a paintball arena, an obstacle course, tennis courts, squash courts, bird watching, fishing, an adventure golf course, a kiddies play area, 5 trampolines, picnic and braai sites, a game room with a pool table and table tennis, and a wellness centre with a gym and a Cellu-Beauty Spa, with therapists offering a variety of beauty treatments.
Even with all of these activities, the main reason that guests flock to this gorgeous resort is for the hot springs – different pools are filled with water from the natural hot spring at the river. These thermal, healing waters rise from fault fissures and can be between 36 and 45 degrees centigrade. The water contains a lot of Iron, Sulphar and anti-oxidants, as well as many other minerals and chemicals, and the water is highly alkaline. While the sulphar smell isn’t particularly pleasant (it has a strong ‘eggy’ scent to it), you get used to this quite quickly, and soon you can barely smell it. These minerals and chemicals have many benefits – they’re known to assist with digestive and gastric disorders, gout, rheumatism, insomnia, liver disorders, urinary problems and blood circulation. The water is very soothing and fantastic for your skin, even though it wasn’t always recognised for these benefits – the San were said to have avoided these waters, as they thought that the warmth and bubbles were created by a large black snake living underground.
On arrival at the resort, we were treated to a light lunch – sandwiches, cheeses, samoosas and spring rolls, with fresh fruit juice. After chatting briefly to the knowledgeable GM Ryan Smith, we were left to our own devices, agreeing to meet for pre-dinner drinks at 6pm. We all decided that the warm spring-water pools were a definite must, and quickly made moves to drop off bags in our hotel rooms, and change into swimming gear. I’d been booked into a deluxe room, with a big screen tv, a mini bar fridge with the option to fill it, a double bed, bathroom with shower and bath, and my own private little balcony.
I couldn’t believe how warm the water of the pools was, and after a lot of joking at the smell of the sulphar, we all slowly quietened down, as the water is so relaxing to float in – all of the muscles in my back that were tight and stressed were slowly relaxing. Mr Smith had told us that as we weren’t accustomed to the waters, we’d probably sleep like the dead that night, and after just an hour in the pools it was understandable why. The long soak also left us all incredibly thirsty – perhaps drink water after the pools instead of the delicious cocktails that we grabbed before heading back to our rooms, as you won’t be able to just slowly sip them!
After a relaxing first few hours, we headed off to freshen up for dinner – the restaurant is smart-casual, so you don’t want to be wondering in there in your bikini and slops! A refreshing round of drinks at the bar and some light chatter with the GM Mr Smith and the Banqueting manager Jason, and we headed upstairs to the restaurant for the most fabulous buffet dinner I have had in a long time – there was a cold salad bar with seafood as well, a soup bar with a different soup each night, as well as fresh croutons and bread rolls, 2 different roasts with roast potatoes and gravy, and then a variety of different veggies and dishes, ensuring that there is a favourite for everyone. My highlight, however, was the dessert buffet – all I can say is WOW! Some of the most gorgeous cold desserts, a hot one with custard (we had the Queen of Puddings, which was divine), and several different ice creams, along with ice cream cones and every sprinkle you could think of. We were all starving, so after a glass of good red wine, and several platefuls of food, Mr Smith’s warnings about the waters came true, and every single one of us was in bed by 9pm. I usually battle with insomnia, yet I fell asleep quickly and slept deeper than I have in ages.
Next morning, after a quick shower and booking a spa treatment for later in the afternoon, I headed to the restaurant for breakfast – once again in full buffet style. Tea, coffee and fresh fruit juices were on offer, and the buffet was once again impressive. I helped myself to not even a third of the variety of foods on offer, and once I’d had a huge breakfast of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, a grilled tomato and a flapjack, I was powered up for the day ahead. I had some time before my out ride on horseback through the resort, so I did some exploring of the resort and walked around for just over an hour – I can’t believe how huge the place is, and how much there is to do, no one could possibly be bored there.
Horse riding was an experience in itself, especially for the other 3 on the out ride who had never ridden before, but our guide assured us that the horses were very calm and they really were. We rode for about an hour and a half, taking in the beautiful scenery, and we even saw ostriches and a whole herd of warthogs.
After yet another delicious light lunch, it was back to the pools before heading upstairs to shower and change before my spa appointment. I treated myself to the Spa Paraffin pedicure, and it was an hour and a half of scrubbing, massaging, masking, soaking and pampering bliss. I just wish I’d had time to throw in a massage and a facial too!
We once again stuffed ourselves silly at the buffet dinner (were they trying to kill us by over-feeding? If that’s the case, I’d die quite happily with all of this delicious, hearty food), a few of us had a couple of drinks in the Raptors Bar, before calling it a night. After being once again impressed at the turn down service in my room, with a little chocolate on the pillow (so few hotels do this anymore), I sunk into my soft and comfy bed and slept the sleep of angels. The following morning we’d be heading back to Durban after breakfast, and while I had missed my home, I just wished I’d had longer to fully experience the resort and everything that it has to offer.
The Gooderson Natal Spa is a truly wonderful place for so many different kinds of vacationer – there are rooms for conferences and this would be a fantastic venue for a team building retreat for companies, there is a gorgeous honeymoon suite and spa treatments for couples wanting a little alone time, play areas and swimming pools for families with children, and the warm pools and various activities for groups of friends planning a fun-filled getaway. At R750 pp per night, including breakfast, the accommodation is so affordable too – just as the Gooderson Leisure group says ‘Good Value, Good Fun’. Now just to plan my next trip…