‘In the afternoon the baboons come down from the mountain to steal our grapes’, says Anton de Cock, one of the owners of the Blue Gum Country Estate. As we speak, we take in the splendid views of the imposing rock formations looming up in the late afternoon sun directly behind our family suite. As soon as they hear the word baboons our daughters’ faces light up immediately, and they run indoors to grab their binoculars. They had not yet checked baboons off from their Field Guide.
We had driven up that morning across a bumpy stretch of unpaved road. It simply could not be more picturesque. The Blue Gum Country Estate looks as if it had been dropped near the foot of the imposing Overberg by the hand of a giant.
If you are planning to stay at Blue Gum, don’t expect to find a children’s club, modern spa, golf links or other large-scale luxury amenities: the driving force behind this family businesses is primarily personal attention. Anton and his staff greet us as if we’re old friends that have dropped in to see them after many years. Before we came, we had been sent extensive emails loaded with suggestions for activities during our stay. One of the last-named ‘activity’ had immediately awakened our daughters’ interest: ‘See if you can catch a guinea fowl (without harming it) – You’ll be handsomely rewarded’.
And what do we see as we drive up the driveway? An entire flock of guinea fowl. Despite a symphony of mating calls directed at the birds, our little rangers are unable to succeed in capturing their desired prey. We’ll have to leave the reward for another visitor. This is one of those places where children can put on their oldest clothes and romp to their heart’s content, playing with everything they come across. Catching frogs down by the river, building dams on the riverbed, climbing in the enormous oak trees, jumping on the trampoline, taking part in a search for the ‘family Springbok’ that lives on the grounds, riding the neighbour’s horses or looking for lizards and beetles nestled in the cracks in between the rocks.
If that’s not enough and your children are a little older and prefer other forms of entertainment, Blue Gum is also a perfect base camp for exploring the surrounding area. It’s only a ten-minute drive from the picturesque village of Standford: a perfect destination for an ice cream, or a stroll along the main street with its tiny shops loaded with charming trinkets, antiques and bric-a-brac. The Standford River is perfect for fishing and swimming, while surfers (and kite surfers) can ride the waves at nearby Hermanus Beach. And how about a kayaking expedition to see the whales? Quad bikes can be hired within walking distance, you can go snorkelling in Gansbaai and, if you don’t like getting wet, you can go sliding off the Arinston sand dunes. Cape Town is about two hours away by car and the boulders beaches, where the penguins sunbathe on the rocks at your feet, can be reached within 90 minutes. Of course, there are numerous wineries that are open to visitors and where children are also welcome.
Nobody will be bored for a minute with so much to do all around! By the way: the Estate also has tennis courts, a refreshing swimming pool and offers mountain bikes that can be hired to explore the stunning surrounding countryside.
The fact that Blue Gum is a small-scale operation makes it such a pleasant place, with plenty of space for personal attention. The accommodations have been designed and furnished in a typical cottage style, in pastel shades, featuring high ceilings with white-washed walls and floral prints. Comfortable, but not opulent, they offer the same level of luxury you would expect in the English countryside. And at highly affordable prices. Although opportunities abound in the surrounding area for gastronomic delights, we wholeheartedly recommend dining at least once at one of the two restaurants on the Blue Gum Estate. One of these is more formal and intended for adults, while the other, which features an adjoining covered outdoor dining area with a direct view of the large playground, caters more to family-style dining. While the ever-friendly staff pours us a glass of local wine, we can keep a watchful eye on the children. Every few minutes, they run to our table and sit down. Special meals can also be ordered for children in advance.
Anton visits every table to briefly ask how the guests spent their day and offers suggestions for the next day. You can’t help but notice his personalised approach and dedication to his guests’ well-being in everything Anton does. When he stops at our table he smiles broadly when we tell him how much we enjoyed all the activities on the Estate and in the surrounding area: ‘If you are happy, so am I!’ A toast to Anton!
# The enormous offering of activities, concentrated in a relatively small and easily accessible area. Caters to a very wide audience.
# The Estate itself is like heaven on Earth, particularly for younger and more adventurous children. Nobody will voice any criticism for a little sand trailed in by children and, because the lay-out is so well-organised, children are free to wander about all over the estate without their parents losing sight of them.
# The fact that this is a genuine family business is an extra bonus. Perhaps a few details could be better organised, but it is absolutely authentic and charming.