Voëlroepersfontein* Guest House & Writers’ Retreat lies hidden between magnificent trees in the historical town of Albertinia in the Western Cape. For more than a century underground water has been welling up from the dark, fertile ground, filling two dams and providing the sweeping gardens with water. The origin of this hidden source is 21 fountains – often referred to as the “eyes” of the desert – on 1.6 hectares first named Kannafontein. It still serves its life-giving purpose for the new owner, who aptly renamed it Voëlroepersfontein three years ago.
In no time at all, the fauna and flora-loving owner has created a haven for our feathered friends. Even the chickens have names and the birds enjoy a menu according to taste and preference.
The old-world charm of the house – in the shape of a bird – with massive rooms facing north, was built by a mayor in the days of yore. From the living rooms on the ground floor and the library and balcony upstairs, two enormous wings flow symmetrically, slanting towards the back. On both sides two enormous wild fig trees stand waiting. Both have been nominated as South African Champion Trees. The larger of the two, The Whispering Tree, is being accorded Champion Tree status by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. At night the two gigantic Ficus burkei are lit up and the twisted trunks create a magical sphere. Dimmer lights invite exploration of Voëlroepersfontein’s footpaths.
The guest house and retreat is ideally suited for group accommodation (reunions, weddings, family gatherings, workshops and corporate retreats). In 2014 Vincent TV GMBH, a film crew from Berlin, Germany, utilised the accommodation for seven months as stay-over and head office while filming the tapestry of the Western Cape fauna and flora: the cheetah breeding program at the Game Lodge situated five kilometres from Albertinia, the Addo elephants, the penguins at Betties Bay, the sharks at Mossel Bay, the dolphins and whales, as well as the breathtaking Bird Sanctuary and Monkeyland at Plettenberg Bay. Three times a year the distributors of the aloe factory, Aloe Ferox, utilise the facilities and accommodation of Voëlroepersfontein for their training program. For the past two years it has also housed the entertainers of the Albertinia Aloe Festival: Heinz Winckler, Billy Forrest, Dalene & Clive Bruce, Wynand & Cheree, Hugo Nieuwoudt, Deon Terblanche.
On equal footing with the above, those seeking solitude, i.e. noted artists, authors as well as those struggling to find their voice – or their story! – find solace and clarity in the natural, peaceful surroundings of Voëlroepersfontein.
Aside from the usual facilities of tea and coffee, mini fridges and DSTV in the rooms with airconditioning, access to laundry and ironing facilities, guests have a well equipped kitchen at their disposal to prepare their own food – if they so wish. Free access to internet. Security cameras ensure safety inside and out, also with regard to parking.
Voëlroepersfontein is a place of rejuvenation and inspiration, where you reconnect with nature and – enveloped in the shade of the century old Ficus burkei – experience something of your own place in the universe, in harmony with Albertinia’s tourism theme of “Healing through Nature”.
*“Voëlroepersfontein” loosely translated means the place with fountains where birdcalls abound.
Things to do (when you're not writing or otherwise occupied) at Voëlroepersfontein writers' retreat and Guest House
- Your privacy is guaranteed – if you so wish
- At sunset you take a casual cushion and linger a while on one of the benches next to the water, in the bush, under the welcoming trees – with your glass of cold white or mature red. (And your Peaceful Sleep…)
- You cast a line in the dam, and return the fish to the water
- You enjoy a gourmet dinner at the historic Albertinia Hotel or be enchanted at the Garden Route Game Lodge where you dine with the Big Five visible at short distance. If you prefer doing things like braai your own way, you order your own small portable braai/barbecue with coals along with Albertinia boerewors* and chops from the kitchen – and your own little pot of pap-en-sous**.You can sit round the big fire at the lapa, braai your own meat, or simply order your barbecue and side dishes from the kitchen
- Mornings you take your place at the table for a scrumptious breakfast or you venture into the yard and retrieve as many eggs as you like from the nests and prepare it the way you prefer it in your own kitchen. You bond with the chickens – stroke the feathers and give love. The stately Buff Orpingtons you greet with a respectful nod only. But the glistening silkies you carry around like silken dolls, if you wish. The devious old farm hens – on top of the seniority chain in the yard – are easily fooled into following you all the way to the breadbin where you invite them to enjoy a few small bites with you. At sunset you drag a chair close to their nests and enjoy a chuckle at the chicken politics before they retire on their perches
- Early morning you take your salt shaker and eat fresh tomatoes straight from the vegetable garden or munch on gooseberries or the sweetest, coolest figs until you’ve had your fill. Tunnel the fertile soil with your bare hands if the thought of it appeals to you. Venture out barefoot and water the garden with the abundance of Voëlroepersfontein’s underground water
- Evenings you sit on the balcony reflecting or writing to the sounds of night
- You retire to the comfort of your own room with a work station, DSTV, small fridge, facilities for coffee and tea. Every so often your eyes stray to the slopes of the Langeberg Mountains
- Upstairs you delight in Voëlroepersfontein’s extensive library
- You enjoy a sojourn with the abundance of birds – you can even help doctor their ailments big or small when those afflicted present themselves for devoted attention. That’s what the birds of Voëlroepersfontein do
- At night you lie and listen to the sound of silence before your dreams overtake you
*boerewors: delicious locally made sausage
**pap-en-sous: mealiemeal dish with chakalaka,