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Dec 10

Sundowners at Salt Lick

Sparkling wine served by a smiling waiter at a silent hilltop location in the middle of nowhere. Three lively musicians making hypnotic music – just for us. A spread of tasty snacks of samosas and other spicy treats. Cool, crisp mountain air. A slight breeze. The outline of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. A sublime sunset… sigh. And a lion’s roaronly kidding!

These are the kinds of experiences that fiancés planning marriage proposals pray for – the sorts of experiences that travel writing couples have when they’re working when they wish they weren’t. Working that is.

As much as some holiday rental owners try to create special experiences for their guests that are on par with those offered by the very best hotels – and we’re thinking about the extent that owner-/manager-concierges such as Rusty Irons in Austin, Susan in Costa Rica and Shirley in Cape Town will go to in order to make their guests happy – very few holiday rentals can match hotels when it comes to creating truly memorable moments. Or can they?

The sundowners I described above that were organized by Ephantus, the assistant manager of Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge, was a singular experience that restored our faith in fine hotels. It wasn’t the kind of romantic experience it could have been if Terence wasn’t taking photos, if I hadn’t been videotaping and making notes, and if Terence ultimately hadn’t joined the band for a jam session. But that is another post. But, ah, I could very easily imagine how special it could have been… sigh.

If you stay at Salt Lick, Ephantus can organize a romantic candlelit meal up there for you. Or even a party – there are five, open, thatched-roof huts with tables. And there’s a dance floor – which you can see getting tested out above by one of our happy waiters!

What I’m curious to know is whether there are holiday rental owners/concierges out there who can organize experiences as special as these? Have you as a traveller ever had such an experience in a holiday rental? Are you planning something special – a proposal or anniversary for instance – and would prefer to spend it in a holiday rental instead of a hotel if they could carry out your dream plan? Or do you think this is something that a hotel simply does better? After almost 11 months in holiday rentals, we’re curious. We’d love to hear your thoughts…

If you want to organize something special at Salt Lick, just email Ephantus and say we sent you: ephantus.maina@sarovahotels.com. Tell him you want what we had – only without the video camera, camera and notebooks. And more champagne please. And have a couple of glasses for us, won’t you? ;)

5 comments

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  1. Susan Ranger

    I, for one, feel confident that staying in a rental home does not limit your possibilities in the least. With a little direction from the guests about expectations and the desired effect, I am sure that my staff and I could come up with something as special and unexpected as your wonderful experience at Salt Lick. Of course, after reading this post, I may have to go and check it out for myself, just to be sure…
    Greetings from halfway around the world,
    Susan in Costa Rica

    1. lara dunston

      Hi Susan – thanks for dropping by! We have no doubt that you could organize something just as special there! But just to be sure, you better head to Salt Lick to check out what they’re doing there – in the name of research of course!

  2. Shirley Engers

    We are always happy to cater to our guests’ every need. Whether it is a picnic hamper to take to Kirstenbosch gardens or a booking for a paragliding lesson or shark cage diving. For the very adventurous we can organize a spin in a fighter jet (Cape Town is currently the only place in the world that offers this) or a few laps of Killarney race track in a racing car. For the romantics, how about a wedding on a wine farm, on the beach or on Table Mountain.
    For relaxation you can have a massage on the beach or we can organize one in the privacy of your room. Come and put us to the test, and we’ll try our utmost to surpass your expectations!

    1. lara dunston

      Is that an invitation to return?! ;) Ah, but do they offer champagne on the runway *before* or *after* the fighter jet flight? ;)
      We didn’t know you offered half of these things – otherwise we would have taken you up on a couple (I’m sure Terence would have loved a spin around the raceway) – but it’s good to know. I knew if any of the owners we’d met this year could organize experiences equally as special it would be people like you and Susan, above, from Costa Rica.
      Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Antonio

    Hi Lara, Hi Terry!
    we believe that the ultimate experience in a holiday rental is that which makes your stay unique. And as you mentioned in a previous post, it is “the little things that make the difference”. Even when you organize something like the experience you described so nicely in this post, the little touches that surround the environment can add that extra feeling that makes the moment a truly unique one.
    We think of our own place and the people who come in to relax and we want them to have the best Sardinian experience they can ever imagine. So from next year, we will be staying in one of the apartments during the summer months, as we want to give our personal touch to the services we provide. A nice, self branded bottle of delicious Sardinian red wine upon arrival, which will mark the “Casa Teulada Wine from Santadi Estate”, will add a more personal, exclusive feeling to their home away from home, as well as on demand breakfasts, where guests can once in a while decide not only to cook themselves breakfast, but also have us prepare it for them and select a wide choice of homemade Italian delicacies that my wife and I will be peparing expressly for our guests (i.e. salted cakes, cookies, teas, authentic Italian coffe, etc.). Alternatively, we will organize cool, refreshing happy hour cocktails for guests coming home from a day on the beach, and they will sip them on our “boat” in the cobblestone courtyard of their Casa. Again, we will prepare romantic dinners for two upon requests, with homemade Italian dishes and a small selection of tasty menus to choose from. This will be good both for surprise dinners or family gatherings. Finally, we’ll be opening a little “SPA” in the summer within our CASA. That means that my wife will be available for all our guests seeking a soothing ayurvedic massage or reiki treatments after a day at the beach, as she’s currently specializing in Italy’s main Ayurvedic massage school in Milan. Together with the small welcome gift we’ll provide to all our guests, like the one you had, we’ll think about a goodbye gift as well, to make their memories of their Sardinian experience even more rewarding and sweet, once they are back home: a nice couple of complimentary bottles of Santadi’s Red Wine labeled “Casa Teulada”, that will not only serve as great social event (if they decide to drink the bottle with friends back at home) but also as a candle holder in their home if they want. This way, they’ll remember their time in Sardinia every time they light a candle using the bottle as a candle holder…and maybe they’ll decide to come back one more time to live another memorable holiday.

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