Review: Kubili House, South Africa

Did your parents ever sit you down and tell you that you’re an accident?  Probably not.  We don’t all live in the This is Us world of perpetual sorrow.  Yet it turns out accidents aren’t all just something we should point, laugh and openly mock all our friends about, for they have created a new trend amongst luxury resorts: the accidental hotelier.

Kubili House joins this group – a bunch of wealthy individuals who decide to commercialise their properties by renting their homes to scum like me.  The homes start as an owner’s vision, a second, third or ninetieth home, bespoke to their exact requirements.  After a while,  friends and family will be asking to use it.  Then before you know it they’ve got some hay, a donkey, and virgins giving birth and suddenly they’re in the hotel business.

Exactly how I remember it in the Bible

Kubili House is an exclusive-use, 5 bedroom, 4 swimming pools safari lodge that also has a spa, steam room and an abundance of covered, open and indoor sitting and dining options.  It has an area for archery, Japanese rock gardens and offers Segway-safaris.  You know, just your average kinda home.  It’s an art-lovers dream, with immense thought put into every centimetre of the property.  It’s a love affair, even down to the name –  Kubili means twins, after the owner’s children.  Their handprints are outside of Villa #1 and #2, which says they’re better kids than I was, cos I’d have just stuck the middle finger in there and laughed about it for years.

A large dam offers the idyllic surroundings for Kubili House, with animal sightings straight from the property.  It’s also one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever been, which is only 25% attributed to my abandoning my family and going by myself.  It was erm research and therefore a business trip.  It’s also somewhere I’ve visited, but not stayed, before, so I’m starting to think the only reason I visit hotels and write about them is so I can remember it when someone asks me “what did you think?” and I can Google it.

As I had come alone and my wife reads this, and clearly I was missing them all so much that I was struggling to enjoy myself here.  But theoretically, let’s just assume for a moment that I did have fun.  I’m not saying I did, as clearly I was this trip was strictly business, but just entertain me and use your imagination.  Just pretend that I managed to find a small amount of joy in a property that welcomes you with a Japanese rock garden, entertains you by the grand piano, relaxes you with their gorgeous infinity pool and spoils you for choice with the rooms.

Being beside the dam, they really put a water-themed focus on the property.  The property opens up to reveal the surroundings like a picture.  As you get closer you’ll see the fish pond, which looks onto the spectacular infinity pool, beside a lounger that gives you uninterrupted views of the waterfront.  There’s little walkways with water features in between rooms and then my favourite area, the boma, with some giant-sized beanbags around the relaxing, trickling sound of water.  It all builds into a property that truly makes you feel something.  I suspect when I’m at bed-wetting age the dripping sound of my own urine will bring back fond memories of Kubili.

Back in my day we respected….oh right, no one

The spa is tucked away beside the swimming pool.  It’s a single treatment room which also homes a steam room.  A masseur is the only member of the 15-person team not full-time, so they call in a freelancer whilst guests are on-premise.  I had a treatment, which felt more like a physio appointment than a relaxing treatment I asked for, until bowls were placed on me and hit so that vibrations could ring through my body.  Then I figured I took a wrong turn and ended up in some “did my own research” doctor’s office.

Of the 5 bedrooms I had to choose between, there’s Villa #1 and Villa #2, each identical and offering a huge bathroom, living/bedroom, kitchenette, dressing room and swimming pool.  Then there’s the Kubili Suite, dam-facing, offering everything you could want inside, whilst outside there’s a recently-built large plunge pool and private garden, or you could choose one of the two Guest Suites.  They set up both the Kubili Suite and Villa #1 so I could take my pick.  I chose Villa #1, cos anything that makes me feel the best is an immediate yes.   This presented some real first-world problems, because the room is brilliant, yet the rest of the property is even better.

The pools are heated, but even at 28C, it wouldn’t be enough to get me in during the warmer months, let alone during winter. It was t-shirt weather in that during the morning drives I was wearing a t-shirt.  Plus a jumper, coat, hat, gloves, two hot water bottles and a poncho.  Everything is of such quality, from the beautiful safe, which is used as a bedside table, to the homemade bath salts.  The toiletries are Aesop, so they’ve not gone as crazy as places like Fregate where they make their own and it smells like bat shit.

The only other negative I can throw on the rooms is the light switches.  They had to give me an entire tour of how they worked, which I obviously forgot within about 3 seconds.  Just as I thought I’d figured it out on the final day, I started getting it all wrong again. When you need a tour of how the lights work it might tell you you need them better labelled.

Once I finalised the booking, Tina and Wayne, the House Managers, took over all correspondence.  The journey of Kubili begins early on, as they sent out their menus in advance and ask you to remove items you don’t like.  I love to see how properties handle pre-arrivals and this was the first time entire menu options were available.  To jump ahead, it resulted in some brilliant meals.  Any chef that makes French Toast covered in melted parmesan totally gets me.  In fact, every meal was brilliant.  Breakfast is a large selection of fruit, bread, cheese, meats, like your own buffet, with a daily cooked special and a daily healthy juice, but I didn’t sign-up for fat camp so I just asked to be pumped with hot chocolate.  When I didn’t like their hot chocolate they came back with four other options.

As you might imagine with 15 staff and one guest, I received a rather large amount of attention, yet never to the point where it became annoying.  What is abundantly clear is the desire to personalise the stay to the guest and focus on what works for them.  I also found it interesting that the owner of the property, who is based in New York, is so interested in each guest’s experience and checks in with management to see how every stay is.  

Exclusive lodges: the only place you go for absolute privacy, only to then tell everyone about it

Tina collected me from the airport and we made our way on the 45-minute drive to the lodge.  The room was set up beautifully, although what initially caught my eye was this tiny jar of sweets.  Kubili House is the first safari lodge I’ve visited that decided stuffing you with 18 meals a day isn’t a mandatory part of being on safari.  At first, I was feeling short-changed like these rules were definitely made for being broken, cos that’s what safari is: 95% food, 5% looking at animals.  However, it turned out to be the right move.  Not only was everything replaced so promptly, but it set the right tone that maybe emulating a truck driver by sitting on my arse half the day and eating the other half isn’t really the dream lifestyle we all expected as a 5-year-old.

As you’re in the Thornybush game reserve, it’s private, but not exclusive use land.  I did see other vehicles around, notably from Royal Malewane, but in this rarest of cases, I would complain that there were not enough vehicles.  For you see, I was starting to feel like I was in Westworld and the guy in charge of the animals was off sick.  During my time in The Farmstead in Thornybush three years ago I had incredible viewings, but this time I legitimately didn’t take a single picture.  The closest I got was seeing a lion near a buffalo on the other side of the dam, but I know lions and I’m convinced someone just feeds them McDonald’s every day, as all they seem to do is sleep.  I can only assume that the lack of other guides around meant less chance of sightings.  So whilst sitting in my 5 bedroom property, I can rightfully scold you all for not going to the other camps and helping me out.

If you sniff enough of these bath salts you might actually begin to see some wildlife

Whilst these African, exclusive-use lodges have proven to be the best properties, due to their amazing facilities, lack of schedule, unlimited menus and not having to consider anyone else, in a way it was a shame to come here alone.  All the facilities, excluding the spa, are designed for groups.  If anything it was a bit selfish for Lucie to fall pregnant and bestow this burden upon me.  However, not for a single moment was I bored.  On the second day, I skipped the morning drive and stayed on the property, just to enjoy it, relax and, most importantly, desperately seek some criticisms of the place in order to not make this sound like an advertorial.  I didn’t succeed on that.

As I departed to Cheetah Plains, everyone came out to dance and sing “bye bye”.  These things are normally pure cringe, but this was done in the same way everything at Kubili House is, with pure class.

The Good

  • Segway safari

The Bad

  • I have managed to avoid mentioning Arijiju once in this review.  The Kubili lawyers get very upset if you suggest they’re similar.  Actually, It’s because I’m going to do a follow-up post and don’t want to ruin this one with endless comparisons between the two.  Kubili House is a brilliant property that stands up by itself.

The Luxurious

  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • Service
  • Abundance of space
  • Tranquillity and exclusivity

Rating

Luxurious

Video

Conclusion

Kubili House is an extraordinary property, and luckily it’s one that continues to strive to get even better.  They recently added a pool for the Kubili Suite and during my stay were adding the finishing touches to a secluded, outdoor bath setting facing the dam.  A gym is being added, as well as an art studio, and there might even be more on the horizon.

I don’t want you to bother reading this review, I just want you to book here and enjoy yourself.  Just not too much.  I don’t want rumours spreading that I had an amazing time.

Room type: Villa #1 Duration: 1 June > 4th June, 2022.  Prices start from $8500/n

3 Comments

  1. I was having a kinda shitty day and this cheered my right up, laughing as I read it. Thanks! I also forwarded to my husband and proclaimed you all our imaginary new couples friends. (I know that sounds potentially creepy but is meant as compliment). Originally found your blog researching Bisate in Rwanda, where we’re headed later this year. Anyway. Appreciate your working through the gems & duds out there- cheers!

  2. Just inquired; think you’re nightly rate indication is slightly off (like by a factor 5!) since you need the rent the whole place. Ambitious pricing, love how they make Arijiju look like a bargain… better be exactly like heaven.

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