South Africa`s Fordoun: Holiday within a holiday
Relaxing in this dairy farm turned into a state-of-the-art luxury hotel, enjoying the peace and tranquillity at the 350-hectare property and indulging in activities like horse riding - Fordoun Hotel and Spa is a bonanza for those travelling to Durban.
Situated in the green pastures of Nottingham Road, which has a history dating to the 1800s, the destination is a two-hour drive from Durban.
Built into and around the original 1860s settler homestead and barns as well as the 1950s dairy and cattle sheds, the eight-year-old sprawling property works like a healer for those who want a break from the city`s hustle and bustle.
"The main thing about Fordoun is to relax. We would like people to feel they are in a heaven for relaxation," Jon Bates, the owner and the brain behind the destination said.
"We are a business inside a farm. When you drive down the avenues of trees leading to Fordoun, you almost feel you are driving into another world. Particularly for people who want to get away from people.
"We have designed it in such a way that even when we are full, it must not feel full," he added.
One of the highlights of the property is Spa treatment, and Bates advises guests to book in advance through www.fordoun.com to enjoy all the activities at and around it.
Once relaxed and rejuvenated, one can indulge in various other activities.
"It`s important for a hotel like us to consider all the activities in the area including ours as part of our product. For instance, there are good restaurants in the area - if people want, we make arrangements for them," Bates said.
Walking on trails, mountain biking, swimming and gyming, and horse riding - one can do a lot when there.
"We don`t do horse riding at Fordoun, we send guests to three different places - one is close to the mountain to ride a special breed of horses called Appaloosa. We recommend Appaloosa to those who don`t have too much experience because it`s very easy to ride," said Bates, adding that guests have to pay extra for the activity.
Also on offer are British and Indian style horse riding, which again is a paid activity.
The hotel arranges for special guides to take people to the mountains to view ancient Bushman paintings, but to enjoy such outdoor activities, fitness is important.
Other places that could be visited are a giant castle, battlefields and local schools.
Guests have to pay extra for activities that entail guides.
If you still have the time, try quad biking, shop at Midlands Meander and look at ceramics, including the world famous Ardmore ceramic art.
Bates informed that Ardmore is the best example of high value Zulu creative art that is exported all over the world.
Also enriching is visiting dairy farms.
"Many people have not seen a cow being milked by a machine and this would be the ideal opportunity for such people," Bates added.
Footfalls at the property are satisfactory with 70 percent occupancy throughout the year. Of the visitors, 10-15 percent guests are international travellers.
"We have priced it for the South African market. We do not have a separate price for overseas tourists. So, being priced for South Africa makes us affordable to overseas tourists and that`s one of our biggest appeals," said Bates.
"Our business module is being up-market, but affordable," he added.
Bates comes from an advertising background and when asked how he got into the hospitality business, he said that a developer wanted to develop the area but was turned down as he decided to do it himself.
"I decided to do it personally. I have a close friend and architect and it took us about two years to develop the hotel. We were nervous as my background was different, but it was a good learning experience," he said.
"We created something which I believe is something unique. I love this property," he said, adding that he invested 15 million rands (Rs.93 million/$1.5 million) to develop it.
"Which is not a lot. We worked cleverly and used a lot of materials existing on the farm. We tried to bring old bricks, not to save money, but to have an old feel about the place," he said.
As far as his other activitie go, Bates indulges in cattle farming and also grows indigenous African plants like Artemisia Afra and hypoxis, commonly known as African potato used for making oil, soaps and scrubs.
"Virtually everything that one come across in their rooms or in the spa is made here," he said.
Fordoun started yielding profits within the first six months.
"We sell packages and some of them include spa treatment," he said.
One part of the farm is nature reserve too.
How to get there:
Several airlines operate direct flights from New Delhi and Mumbai to Durban. An economy class round ticket costs in the region of Rs.60,000.
From Durban, Fordoun is a two-hour drive.
Tariff: A Superior room costs 2000 rands and a luxury room 950 rands. This is inclusive of VAT, breakfast and free use of the pools, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, gym and floatation pool at the spa.