After our long drive through the scenic Lowveld region in Mpumalanga, we were thrilled to be greeted by welcoming drinks and the warm smiles of the staff at Tomjachu Valbonne Villa, our home for the next two days.
Stepping into our six-bedroom home away from home was an instant panacea for all that ailed us. As our host, Jack, took us on a private tour around the self-catering bushveld property, he enthusiastically explained how each decorative piece had been hand-picked by his father, Brian. The main lounge and patio could pass for a small museum of collector’s items, antiques and animal skins. A lion skin rug dominated the masculine space and, if you blinked quickly enough, you could almost imagine the epic confrontation between hunter and lion.
At a glance, it was easy to imagine bookworms retreating between the covers and turning pages in front of a roaring fire, before the infinity pool beckoned us to step out onto the patio. What followed was an evening of drinks alongside the still water, overlooking the Bekker Mountains and Crocodile Valley Gorge, before dinner was set up outside on the patio overlooking the mountain bushveld. We were pleasantly surprised by the Asian dishes that the chef had carefully prepared for us to show just how much Tomjachu Valbonne Villa has to offer its guests.
Great food and even better company gave way to a good night’s sleep and we rose early the following morning to explore the estate on foot. We started out enthusiastically, enjoying the therapeutic silence found in our downhill walk amid the thick bush. Returning to the villa proved a bit more challenging, as we huffed and puffed our way back up the hill, our heavy breathing a reminder of our unhealthy city lifestyles.
By the time we reached the villa, the chef had laid out a traditional English breakfast for us in the spacious kitchen and, after a little time to ourselves to recover from our morning walk, we waited jackets-in-hand for the safari Land Rover to take us to a secluded picnic spot by the dam. The mood was set by the tranquil surrounds and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the feet of nature herself, while Jack took us on a trip down memory lane and explained what it had been like for him and his two brothers to grow up in this little spot of heaven. Just when we thought we’d drift off for a peaceful afternoon nap, we were reminded of the game drive and our excitement was palpable.
Jack drove us around the estate’s bushveld and showed us our neighbours in the form of ostriches, zebras and wildebeest. These were ‘made for Instagram’ moments, #onsafari! As day slipped into night, we were surprised with a magical dinner on the mountain – literally under African skies – and our silence was proof positive of the magic that surrounded us. A day of fresh air always brings on a welcome weariness and we retired to the sounds of the wild.
Before we even realised it, we woke to our last day at the villa with mixed feelings of longing – to stay or to go home? Tomajchu had welcomed us as one of its own and it was difficult to say goodbye. Not about to let us leave quietly, we were treated to a farewell breakfast at the main Homestead, which accommodates 14 guests and has three extra cottages. Enjoying our tea and freshly baked scones, we soaked it all in for one last time before somewhat reluctantly making our way back home. Brian certainly left a living legacy in the form of Tomjachu – his sons, Tom, Jack and Hugo!