It was Friday morning, the the 15th of September, 2017, as we headed out on the N7 highway, with very little traffic and the going was much easier than anticipated; time was around 8:30AM.
We were not rushed and drove at a leisurely pace to Philadelphia, where we turned left towards the West Coast and passed the historical farm Keert De Koe. This is where we saw the first of many man-made owl-nests. This stretch is just 4.7km. We turned right into the R304, the old road to Darling and travelled for 7.3km, passing through a leafy tunnel formed by huge saligna trees and turned right into Saxonwold Road. We passed the Waldorf school to our left and saw many more owl’s nests. The effort to re-establish owls is encouraging. Following this road, we entered another “tree tunnel” and promptly found El Lions to our right, after having covered 4,1km.
Arriving at the gate shortly after us, were Marius De Vos and Marinda Holtzhausen, who had facilitated the day’s educational visit. We passed through the electric gate and saw a few peacocks doing their prouncing. We parked under gigantic trees next to a large khoi dam, where we were introduced to owners Mario and Lona. We were surrounded by woodlands alternated by expansive lawns and grasslands, with spring flowers blossoming. The setting was picturesque and the two ladies, Karen and Niki, soon took to doing some photography.
As other guests arrived, we were introduced and invited to the lapa, a tented wooden structure made of home-grown saligna and hand-built by Marco. It did not ask but estimate that it can seat approximately seventy guests, maybe more. In the centre is a lovely built-in fireplace and in the one corner, a very neat bar counter from where we were served light snacks and coffee.
We were then taken on a walk to view the facilities and were shown a number of 1-bedroom apartments, each with a sofa, kitchenette, bedroom with double bed, wardrobe and a bathroom with toilet, basin and shower, all very neat and presentable. Each has a two-seater wooden table outside.
From there, we went to the conference centre consisting of two one-bedroom apartments that can also be used as a two-bedroom apartment, with a lovely lounge, there are two bathrooms and two kicthens, of which one interleads into the fairly large conference room.
We also viewed the thirty stables converted into sleeping rooms with two double bunk beds each, a shared kitchen and his & hers bathrooms, each with several showers, toilets and basins. As in all the other facilities, wood sourced from the premises have been used, expertly crafted by owner Mario Baragona.
Finally, there is an indoor swimming pool, pool table and other leisure amenities.
El Lions is set in rustic woodlands covering 21 hectares and there is ample space for team building, mountain biking, quad biking, jogging and other physical activities. There are various braai spots as well as an amphitheatre with a plinthed fireplace at its centre – formerly used as a lunging ring for training racehorses. As someone remarked, there has to be a place where Khumbaya can be sung under a starlit sky.
Groups of twenty or more are welcome and El Lions would be ideal for church-, school-, youth-, cultural- and corporate groups for conferences, team building and training.