KIEPERSOL, South Africa -- The marketing types write up the Blue
Mountain Lodge here as a kind of "Out of Africa" setting come to
life. They are right.
Furthermore, this small property on an estate of nearly 500
acres can be described as an upscale outpost little-known across
the Atlantic, but that may change.
Last year, the lodge came into American hands when Rex Maughan,
owner of Phoenix-based Forever Resorts, fell in love with the
property and bought it from its creators, Koobus and Valma
For the Bothas, Blue Mountain Lodge had been a family business
set on a large farm, where they still grow their own fruits and
vegetables. There are five kinds of avocados, for example.
The property, which pays 20% base commission, is located in
low-rise mountains a one-hour drive from Kruger National Park. But
the lodge is high enough -- at 2,000 feet above sea level -- to be
out of range of mosquitoes.
Until recently, Forever Resorts concentrated on domestic lodges
and hotels, often in park settings; houseboat and other boat
rentals; retail stores and restaurants; and a ranch.
Darla Cook, vice president of sales and marketing for Forever
Resorts, said Maughan is a conservationist who "wants to let more
people know about" Kruger National Park.
Forever owns four other overseas properties; two are near Kruger
National Park: the 22-unit Tulani Safari Lodge and the 59-unit
Impala Inn. Its other overseas properties, acquired this year, are
Vergenoeg Castle in Windhoek, Namibia, and Hotel Kastely in Szirak,
Blue Mountain accommodates 34 guests in two manor houses (two
suites in each); a presidential suite; eight Victorian suites (in
four cottages, two suites each); and four quadrant suites.
I stayed in a Victorian suite; each of these units has a unique
decor, with themes ranging from French or Italian to a romantic
ambience. Each suite comprises a large room with fireplace, seating
area with sofa or wingbacks, bath with a tub and separate shower
plus a private veranda and views of the property's fields.
The chef, Elvis Minisi, is a member of the Shangan tribe who
learned to cook by watching his grandmother, who cooked for pioneer
Paul Kruger. Minisi described the learning experience: "I stole
with my eyes."
Examples of his inventiveness are sundried tomato with smoked
salmon; roast ostrich fillet; and pasta with vegetables "splashed
with turnip coulis," all of which I either ordered or tasted.
He makes chili and rose petal ice creams, but they weren't on
our menus. Breakfast and dinner are included in the room rates.
Only 7% of the property's business comes from the U.S.; the
bulk, 80%, originates in Europe, said Bradley Brouwer, Blue
Mountain's manager and Forever Resorts' director of marketing for
South Africa. Ninety percent of bookings come from agents.
Visitors might run into a celebrity or two, Brouwer said; at a
minimum, clients can sit in the chair where Nelson Mandela relaxed
on the veranda during his stay here.