THE POOL outside our bedroom door was clear and chilly, and a blue mist hung over the forest. The sun was just starting to light the mountains in the distance, turning their woodlands an amber-green.

African landscapes conjure up images of savannah and jungle. But the scenery around Cybele, one of South Africa's most exclusive hotels, looks like a primeval Switzerland.

Cybele is perched on a hilltop. Above it lies the prairie of the Highveld, below is the savannah of the Kruger Park. It feels as if you're in a small private world, with 400 acres of forest surrounding the former hunting lodge and its paddocks.

The hotel has its own trout stream, lake, cycling and riding tracks, picnic meadows and hiking trails.

Location location location

15 km north of White River, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa (00 27 13 764 1823). Website: www.cybele. Forty minutes' drive from the Kruger National Park, and 30 minutes from the wondrous east-African plain at Blyde River Canyon. We used it as a base, though fellow guests seemed happy enough to stay in the lodge's grounds.


Ideally, you'll need a car to explore the ravishing scenery, which changes from Alpine to tropical garden to bush country within kilometres. Roads are good and it's less than four hours' motorway drive from Johannesburg airport. Or Dragonfly Safaris (00 27 11 884 9911) will fly you from Jo'burg and chauffeur you.

Lying comfortably?

Our suite had in its centre a round bathroom with a hot tub. The bed was enormous and french windows gave on to a terrace with an awesome view. Breakfast was served beside our little pool. The kindly chef did us a special picnic (salmon, iced Cape chardonnay, passion-fruit) and we ate it in a meadow by the lodge's own trout stream. Not being a birdwatcher, I could only guess at the blue, green, red, yellow and purple birds that drank from the stream. A trip to the Kruger Park revealed an old male lion with a crusty mane chasing an impala. Most beguiling of all was the feeling that we were in an enchanted garden, replete with blue gums, frangipani, hydrangeas and buddleias, in the wilds of Africa.


A bottle of Stellenbosch cabernet sauvignon.

Keeping in touch

We wanted to get out of touch - but alas, Cybele is now on the mobile phone network.

The bottom line

Bedrooms from R1,260 (pounds 126) a night for two inc dinner and breakfast, or you could go for a suite with a private pool (pounds 280) or a paddock suite (pounds 360).