“It is better to be making the news than taking it; to be an actor rather than a critic.”
Sir Winston Churchill
Against the magnificent backdrop of the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, and overlooking the secluded Mfazimnyama Valley of the Spioenkop Game Reserve, lies Three Tree Hill Lodge (formerly known as Three Trees at Spioenkop). This Fair Trade certified lodge, places great emphasis on Sustainable Responsible Tourism and offers spectacular scenery, locally grown farm-style country food with superb hospitality. It is the ideal environment in which to unwind and be rejuvenated. This intimate, luxury 20 bedded lodge is owner-managed by Simon & Cheryl Blackburn whose passion and enthusiasm for Africa’s wildlife, history and culture is immediately evident when you visit. You are welcomed into their home, and invited to experience the warm hospitality, and relaxed atmosphere in their four star family-run lodge.
Close to the base of Van Reenens pass, the lodge is also the ideal half-way stop between Johannesburg & Durban, only 27km from the N3 highway. This lodge is the perfect location to base yourself for exploring the major Anglo-Boer War Battlefields in KwaZulu Natal (Battles of Spionkop and Colenso), the Northern Drakensberg Mountains (world heritage site), and within easy (2hrs) reach of the Anglo-Zulu War Battlefields (Battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift).
The name Spion Kop, Spioenkop or Spionkop (Spy or Lookout Hill) was given to this impressive hill by the Voortrekkers in 1837 as they settled along the Tugela River Valley. Spionkop was the original Voortrekker or Boer spelling, and Spion Kop the English version, with Spioenkop as the modern Afrikaans spelling. ‘So, as you wish…’
Your hosts, Simon and Cheryl Blackburn (ex Singita Private Game Reserve and ex Kwando Safari Experience) are both experienced safari & mountain guides. South African-born, they have spent their time together exploring remote parts of Africa. Their four children, Kei, Neo, Jos and Cas have joined them on many of these adventures. On one of their travels, they stumbled across Three Tree Hill Lodge and fell in love with it.
Three Tree Hill employs local Zulu staff from the nearby Hambrook Village, 8km down the road. Most have no previous work experience or formal education, but their great personalities & honest enthusiasm have made training an absolute pleasure. Over the years they have aquired extensive training and skills development through the lodge, with ongoing workshops that inform the staff on current events, technologies & service trends.
The lodge encourages open & honest communication through regular meetings. Staff provide input on various operational issues & suggestions on how to assist the community with upliftment projects. Staff are treated well & fairly, working together as a team. Annual staff appraisals are carried out, which assist the management team in channelling training programmes & team building sessions. This is evident when you are greeted by genuinely friendly, helpful staff.
Three Trees is a certified member of Fair Trade Tourism. Fair Trade certification is based on adherence to specific criteria’s including fair wages and working conditions, fair distribution of benefits, ethical business practice, and respect for human rights, culture and the environment. The certification covering these criteria was chosen on a voluntary basis that is available to providers of tourist accommodation, activities and attractions.
This is a non-profit organisation that promotes responsible tourism in southern Africa and beyond. The aim of FTT is to make tourism more sustainable by ensuring that the people who contribute their land, resources, labour and knowledge to tourism are the ones who reap the benefits. This is done by growing awareness about responsible tourism to travellers; assisting tourism businesses to operate more sustainably; and by facilitating a Fair Trade Tourism certification programme across southern Africa.
Tourism businesses that adhere to the Fair Trade standard use the Fair Trade label as a way of signifying their commitment to fair and responsible tourism.
Three Tree Hill Lodge is a member of the Classic Safari Africa, which is an association of independent, privately owned lodges and camps in some of the most beautiful wildlife areas in East and Southern Africa. Each of these unique establishments offers genuine hospitality and an intimate knowledge of Africa’s environment, and is dedicated to conservation and the involvement of local communities sharing and conserving the spirit of Africa. We do not hesitate in recommending any one of these properties for your next holiday.
NY Times Columnist David Brooks wrote what we believe a vitally important article “The Haimish Line“. We believe that the principles of “Haimish” Travel that he writes about reflect the same principles that we have here at Three Trees. Haimish (heymish) Yiddish word = cozy; homey; familiar This is a measure not by our own hand but one reflected by our guests, and most easily viewed when looking at our Tripadvisor Ratings.
The Blackburns have woven their love and knowledge of nature with the history of the area, which offers guests an unparalleled, diverse, activity-rich experience in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. Being animal lovers, expect to encounter most of the four dogs, some of the seven horses, five cats and twelve chickens during your stay at Three Tree Hill Lodge.
Please be warned; animals & children are free-range!
Before the war, and especially before the Boer War, it was summer all the year round.”
Previous owners Andrew Ardington, and the late David Rattray (world-renowned Anglo-Zulu War historian and owner of Fugitives’ Drift Lodge) built the lodge in 1999 with the main focus of bringing to life the vivid struggle between one of the largest Empires in history and one of the smallest nations in the world at the time. Simon Blackburn & Ron Gold continue to share the events of this dramatic time on the Anglo-Boer War history tours with guests that visit Three Trees.
The Boers, also known as Afrikaners, were the descendants of the original Dutch settlers of southern Africa. Britain took possession of the Dutch Cape colony in 1806 during the Napoleonic wars, sparking resistance from the independence-minded Boers, who resented the Anglicization of South Africa and Britain’s anti-slavery policies.
In 1833, the Boers began an exodus into African tribal territory, where they founded the republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The two new republics lived peaceably with their British neighbors until 1867, when the discovery of diamonds and gold in the region made conflict between the Boer states and Britain inevitable.
Three Trees practices permaculture methods on the property, harvesting as much as possible from their own garden to the plates of their guests. Further produce is obtained from the local farmers co-operative in Bergville.
Great care and research has gone into sourcing produce from small business owners located in the area. Compost & Vermi-compost is made on site & used to nourish the garden. Only organic deterrents (garlic & canola oil) are used in the garden to ward off pests. They have embarked on a program using foods in the kitchen with reduced preservatives, additives & colorants, purchasing only South African made products, where possible.
Examples of the organic produce include stone-ground flour that is grown & ground in the Champagne valley, Mature Dutch Gouda that is made in Greytown, strawberries from Thukela Berry grown in Colenso, the finest pork products from Lovingham in Winterton & their very own Brahman Beef that graze on the farm Three Tree Hill.
Replacement linen & furnishings are bought locally in South Africa by South African designers. Custom-made, hand-embroidered bed covers have been made by a group of farmworker’s wives in the Free State province, just up the escarpment. Darning & repair-work on the linen is done by local ladies in Hambrook village. Doillies (netted food coverings) are made by one of the service ladies at the lodge.
All staff receive a sustainability induction training where they learn about good environmental practices, which apply not only to reducing their environmental impact in the workplace, but can also be applied in their homes and communities. Staff are encouraged to come up with ideas on improving the business as well as projects in the community. Employment opportunities are given to the local community as a first priority and subsequent training not only includes job-related skills training but also includes personal development such as; personal budgeting / savings, relationships and conflict resolution, and wellness training including HIV/AIDS through Life Line, conducted in Zulu.
In order to reduce our overall environmental footprint, Three Trees have comprehensive procedures and systems in place to reduce energy, water usage and to manage waste responsibly. We use energy-saving light bulbs throughout the lodge, insulate our walls and ceilings and purchase appliances and equipment with energy saving in mind. A solar cooker & Wonder Bag are used in the kitchen to further reduce consumption. A monthly electricity monitoring chart is posted in the kitchen, which helps everyone to keep a tab on energy usage trends. All our geysers are fitted with solar tubes to make use of heat provided by the sun. A very thorough recycling programme ensures that not only paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and tins are recycled, but also printer cartridges, old stationery, soap and candle wax are re-used in various forms and then recycled. Tea bags are sun-dried, laced with paraffin & used as firelighters. Cereal & biscuit boxes, toilet rolls and magazines are taken to the community preschool for use in their art classes. All garden and kitchen waste is composted or fed to earthworms, chickens & pigs. Monthly roster in place to dose all septic tanks with bio salts. Water in the jugs in rooms & tables are fresh from our aquifer, which is 120m (430ft) deep. We ask our guests not leave the taps running while they are brushing their teeth or shaving and not to run the water to wait for it to heat. Towels & sheets are put under the basin if guests want them washed during their stay. All our showers are fitted with low flow heads.
We have rain water collection tanks at various points throughout the lodge. This water is used for washing the guests vehicles before departure, and various small uses around the lodge. Greywater from the laundry is all channelled into the garden for further use. The plants in the garden are indigenous & therefore use minimal water. All cleaning chemicals are biodegradable & diluted on site. “Old-fashioned” cleaning recipes are used for washing windows & cleaning ovens, such as bicarb, vinegar & borax mixtures. No bleach or phosphates are used that could possibly affect the enzymes in the septic tanks.
Three Trees supports two different communities in the area. The nearest one, Hambrook community, is where the lodge staff originate from. The other, the Amazizi community, lies adjacent to the Royal Natal National Park. Most visitors to the lodge will visit the park at least once, since this is a fantastic hiking area. The Lodge has implemented a Community & Conservation Levy in order to achieve more with these projects. Funds raised will benefit the people from these two areas, particularly the schools and their children, self help entrepreneurship programmes as well as conservation initiatives.
At present funds are used to assist a daily feeding programme (with vitamin and mineral enriched porridge) at Zamokuhle Learning Centre. Ground staff & teachers are employed at the creche. Guests have donated a jungle gym, books, puzzles, educational learning materials & toys in the past. A number of volunteers have assisted in the transformation of the building from a simple structure to an insulated, well-sealed, painted beautiful building. Teacher training programmes are run throughout the year, with practical workshops during class time in order to evaluate the teachers as they progress.
The lodge has built a computer room at the Nobomi High School, with 25 workstations and internet connection. One of our regular guests sponsored a student to undergo computer training & she is now teaching these classes at the High School.
Read more about our other projects on our blog.
Three Trees philosphy is to involve the local community with fair and sustainable employment, localised goods & services procurement, recycling projects, health education & local school support. Community Development & Environmentally responsible behaviour are the focus whilst the long term vision is to develop the area into a sustainable wildlife, cultural and historical destination.
Should you wish to contribute to the various projects in this community, please follow the prompts on the payment page. Please use payment reference COMMUNITY. Click on the ‘Donate’ button below to launch a page where you can make payment.
Dr. John Coleman / The Committee of 300
The main lodge living area has an open-plan design, with four sets of large double doors leading onto the verandah. The result is a flowing space, where you can relax on a comfy chair, read in the afternoon sun and enjoy convivial chatter. In the winter an open log fire and “Dover” coal stove create a warm, welcoming environment.
The lounge is adorned with historical memorabilia and a collection of Africana for guests to enjoy. Puzzles, board games and a variety of books provide entertainment on a rainy day. Pre-dinner drinks are served in this cosy atmosphere, whilst mingling with the other guests and sharing travel tales from around the world.
This is an elegant room that is separated from the lounge area by a fireplace. With your Three Trees hosts, dining is a family-style affair at a communal table, unless otherwise requested. Buffet style breakfasts and lunches are served either outside on the viewing deck or on the breezy verandah. Dinners are a set menu with three homely farm-style courses followed by port or cognac in front of the fireplace or out under the stars.
The swimming pool area offers complete relaxation under the spreading canopy of an Acacia tree. A short walk down a shady, steep path, brings you to this secluded spot, where the pool is kept warm by an insulated thermal blanket at night. Water temperature ranges between 18 – 24 degrees celsius.
- R3 000-00 Per Person Per Night Sharing (2018)
- R3 838-00 Per Person Per Night Single (2018)
- Sleeps 2 adults
- Child under 12 years sharing with parents R850 per night (2018)
Kiplings Family Cottage
- R8 000-00 Per Night for the Cottage (2018)
- Sleeps 2 adults and 4 children under 12 years
- R3 434-00 Per Person Per Night Sharing (2018)
- Maximum 4 adults or 2 adults, 2 children
- No children under 8 years old
- R3 434-00 Per Person Per Night Sharing (2018)
- Sleeps 4 adults or 2 adults, 4 children
- Three meals per day – lunch on arrival OR departure
(Lunch is served between 13h00 and 14h30)
- Afternoon tea/coffees
- WiFi (available at the main lounge)
- Tourism levy – not applicable
We have special last minute rates for South African residents, all year around. Please contact us for details.
Telephone: +27 (0) 36 448 1171
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 379 1864 / +27 (0) 84 985 4284 / +27 (0) 79 667 1216
Postal: P O Box 3534, Ladysmith, South Africa, 3370
GPS: S 28deg 39′ 41.6” | E 29deg 29′ 13.6”
View in Google Maps
There are many ways to get to Three Tree Hill Lodge:
By Car: Click on the directions below for printable directions.
By Plane: Why not make the trip ultra special? Charter a plane! The nearest airstrip is Ladysmith. This airfield caters only for the charter market. A light aircraft charter can be arranged for you. Please contact us for a quote to fly you in.
By Helicopter: And for the ultimate in luxury, why not hire a helicopter to drop you off right on our doorstep?
Please contact us for a quote for that once-in-a-lifetime experience!