COMPILED BY Gina Dionisio
Looking for perfect South African getaway? These local off-grid hideaways are ideal retreats for those wishing to escape the chaos of city living.
The one thing these cabins all have in common? They’re minimalist in design with their focus firmly placed on the natural surroundings. Here are a few of our favourite local ‘tiny cabins’ which offer up uninterrupted views of rolling valleys, undulating mountain peaks and indigenous fynbos.
Oudebosch Eco-Cabins, Kogelberg Nature Reserve
Nestled within the southern stretch of the Hottentots Holland mountain range, a renowned World Heritage Site just a few hours outside of Cape Town, the Kogelberg Cabins blend seamlessly into the surrounding mountains. When it comes to design, KLG Architects wanted to focus on the preservation of the natural environment and the use of off-grid technology, as far as possible.
Zenkaya Cabin, Pretoria
Back in 2005, the Zenkaya concept was launched at Decorex JHB and for the first time, design-conscious South Africans were presented with a homegrown modular housing solution that was both innovative and aesthetically pleasing. In 2019 the unit was given a second lease on life within a forested glade on the Greenhouse Café-Rosemary Hill property. It now serves as the perfect place for a tranquil and private weekend retreat.
Sondagskloof Wooden Chalets, Overberg
The idea behind the Sondagskloof Wooden Chalets was to build two eco-friendly guest pods that have a minimum impact on the environment. Created by Swissline Design, the 50 m2 insulated timber frame homes are made from a combination of solid Siberian Larch with black sheeting and a charred facade, created using the traditional Japanese method of burning timber.
Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway, Rawsonville
These custom designed SPAAS Pods are made from lightweight steel (LWS), which has many efficiencies: it’s accurate, square, environmentally friendly and extremely strong. The idea behind the Pods is to have a light footprint and minimal impact on the environment, and to be completely off the grid. The matte-black exterior blends into the environment like a shadow, while the soft, warm interiors are inviting and cosy.
KolKol Fynbos Pods, Overberg
The KolKol Fynbos Pods have taken cabin design to the next level – situated in the landscape, seemingly hovering above it, yet also at one with the slope of the mountainside. The “box” shape was cast on site from reinforced concrete and the severe rectangular lines are softened by the curves, as well as by the fact that the exterior of the concrete shell is entirely clad in rough-hewn, dark-stained timber. The wooden doors at the front allow for the views to be panoramic even when the pod is entirely closed to the elements.
Suidster, Langeberg Mountains
When Suidster’s owners Cobus Van Wyk and Ruan Van De Venter moved back to South Africa after a 16-year stint in the UK, they chose a farm between Montagu and Barrydale for its likeness to the western Scottish isles. “It reminds us of Scotland – the mountains and plants,” says Cobus. “And it has the same rugged beauty,” Ruan adds.
Here they have built their own home, and recently added two remotely situated, solar-powered mountain escapes to which guests can come in search of fresh air and fynbos. When initially imagining the cabins, they knew they wanted something that referenced the cottages they had seen in the Scottish countryside. With this in mind, they asked interior designer Hendre Bloem to bring their vision to life.
The Greenhouse, Hermitage Valley
If you’re looking for tucked-away escapes in spellbinding natural surrounds, Fazenda’s Instagram account should definitely be on your list to scope out. The images in question belong to Fazenda Luxury Retreat & Farm near Swellendam, owned by the Van der Merwe family, whose vision has produced their latest “baby” – a conservatory shaded by monolithic boulders, wattles and blue gum trees. Begun and completed within just three short months during lockdown, the greenhouse is the fourth establishment on the working farm of Fazenda, offering guests a luxury mountainside getaway not far from Cape Town. It follows three existing mountain cabins that hug the dam’s fringes – this one, though, bears little resemblance to its siblings.
Caracal Cabin, Montagu
The landscape and the environment were the key design generators from the client’s brief,” say Miguel Ferreira-da-Silva and Andrew Payne of Migs + Drew about the build of the new Caracal Cabin. “Owners Samantha and William Rupert Mellor had identified a potential cabin site on the farm that they loved, which offered privacy from the existing Cabine du Cap accommodation, along with dramatic, jaw-dropping views. Once we saw it, we were sold.”
The Huddle, Rosemary Hill Farm
Using the basic structure of a shipping container, The Huddle celebrates the concept of small spaces. An elevated hideaway made from steel, glass and timber, boasting views of the surrounding bush, it creates a cocoon-like feeling for guests to reflect, relax and unwind in pared-back luxury.
Southern Yurts, Overberg
Partner team Tobin Davenport and Kate Brink started building yurts as a passion project, which fast evolved into a blossoming company with a one-of-a-kind getaway spot in the Overberg where guests can visit their creations. Guests can enjoy a number of activities at Southern Yurts, from soaking in one of our home-designed wood-fired hot tubs to exploring hiking trails, bird watching or paddling a kayak on the dam.
Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve, Graaff-Reinet
Iain Buchanan, conservationist and founder of Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve near Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape, took his family for an extended stay at the reserve during the pandemic. They did quite a lot of camping out in the veld, he says, seeking out some of the more remote (but spectacularly beautiful) spots to pitch their tent.
While the reserve has a lodge and other accommodation, the experience left him wondering how he could offer guests the immediacy of the camping experience – the sense of awe you feel being alone in the vast wide-open – but with a dimension of luxury and comfort. The idea posed several challenges. The Karoo is known for its temperature extremes, so “the traditional old Livingston-type canvas tent just wouldn’t cut it,” says Iain. But conventional building in the “middle of nowhere” is difficult and messy, and scars the landscape. A pod or tiny house, however, might work: a little Scandi-inspired hut, designed just right.
Olive View by untether
Inspired by the confines of COVID-19, James Coetzee and Brandon Muller dreamt up untether to be a collection of nature-steeped stays where people can escape the urban noise of the city without trekking too far or forgoing the work requirements of WIFI.
Located on a 24 hectare farm just outside of Wellington, amongst a bouquet of slowly-returning fynbos where a rumoured resident Cape Leopard and curious caracals roam, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Olive View is just that: a space to reconnect, disconnect or be a digital nomad.
Despite offering every creature comfort a city kid could want – fireplace, SMEG appliances, strong internet, a work station and sunken wood-fired hot tub, to name a few – the farm is entirely off grid. Everything is powered by solar, even the borehole pump.