Prana Lodge experience perfectly presidential yet still down to earth

Helen Crooks

THERE are holidays and then there are holidays. Each one has its set of treasured memories for whatever reason – the perfect weather, the great food, the accommodation.

But every so often there comes along a special occasion deserving a getaway at a really special venue, which is where Prana Lodge in Chinsta East comes in – it’s a home away from home, but a very luxurious one at that. At Prana Lodge you get a suite fit for a president, or seven if it comes to that, for that’s the number of rooms there are at this family-run affair, giving it exclusivity and the ultimate in privacy.

In its four-year history the lodge, which was originally a family holiday home, has been graced by a fair share of well-known personalities, including our own Jacob Zuma who, according to lodge co-owner Megan van den Berg is “the most charming person you could ever wish to meet”. And down to earth too: the decidedly up-market breakfasts at Prana – from the full English to scrambled eggs topped with smoked salmon – were spurned in favour of Weet-bix .

Equally down to earth are the mom, dad, daughter and son-in-law combination who decided a few years back to convert their holiday accommodation on 17 acres of prime Chinsta land into a lodge with a difference.

Each of the seven suites is set among indigenous dune forest and each has its own private garden and plunge pool, with the design demanding a clear insight into what was required to set Prana Lodge apart – a vision owner and designer Tim Davidson clearly had.

To make the transition from family holiday home into a distinctive lodge the Davidson family enlisted the help of locals in the construction of colour-themed suites which feature a large lounge area with gas fire, sumptuous bedroom and a huge bathroom with a wetroom type shower.

And when the building was finally finished some four years ago, they did not simply fire the bricklayers and plasterers.

Patrick Muchariwa, Bongani Goli and Botha Sayinile were all labourers who helped build the lodge and were subsequently trained by the Butler Academy from Cape Town, together with a group of women from the local community who subsequently became housekeepers.

Three years later, Patrick is the restaurant manager, Botha is an assistant manager and Bongani is head barman. Owner Gail Davidson does ongoing training with all the staff.

Simbarashe Kuadane, who has a degree in hospitality management from a Zimbabwean University, was first employed as a waiter, then became the resident butler and was recently promoted to assistant general manager.

Another staff member well worth a mention is resident chef Jaycee Ferreira. Should you be lucky enough to dine at Prana, the food is an out-of-this world experience. It’s like putting all the Masterchef winners into a room with Michel Roux jnr and coming up with one of the most amazing menus you could ever wish to sample. The culinary delights are worth a trip to Prana all by themselves.

On the menu when we dined there was spinach, mushroom and parmesan cannelloni followed by the creamiest delicate potato and cauliflower soup with truffle oil (a decadent and delicious touch).

For mains we both plumped for the pan-fried wild kingklip fillet in a white wine and prawn sauce, served on a bed of fondant potatoes and topped with crispy parsnip, but carnivores may have preferred the grilled fillet of beef.

Rounding off the meal was a heavenly chocolate and pear mousse. All beyond highly recommended.

As if having the perfect beach/forest setting with five-star food is not enough, the resort also offers a wellness centre where we both enjoyed a traditional, oil-free Thai massage. Wearing the pyjama-type clothes provided may make you feel a little silly, but it’s the perfect solution for people not comfortable with nudity.

In any event, once the soothing, de-stressing massage begins you will forget all about what you are wearing as you float off into another realm at the hands of the expert Thai therapists. As the 60-minute treatment drew to an end, it was almost, we remarked, like doing a yoga class without having to do any of the poses. For the traditionalists there is the option of an aromatherapy massage as well as a range of other Thai treatments.

Combining what’s on offer at Prana as well as in the surrounding area, if you are looking for the perfect venue to mark a special occasion or even if you are just looking for a getaway with a difference then look no further than Prana Lodge which boasts an enviable setting, relaxing wellness centre, luxurious suites and world-class cuisine.

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