Bernie admiring the Indian Runner Ducks at Vergenoegd Boutique Hotel and Spa
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Runner ducks in a row at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel & Spa

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If you’re a traveller who craves unique experiences, the 5-star Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel & Spa on seven hectares, is a must-visit destination near Cape Town. Nestled on one of the oldest wine estates in South Africa, this boutique hotel boasts a truly extraordinary experience. 

Vergenoegd Löw Estate near Stellenbosch
Vergenoegd Löw Estate near Stellenbosch

A flock of nearly 1500 Runner Ducks patrol the farm daily to control insects, which is a unique, sustainable farming practice. Nowhere else will you be able to witness this practice (at this scale) in South Africa. The resident Runner Ducks excitedly parade near the Homestead twice daily to receive admiration from visitors. Strangely, it seems as if this is not only the daily highlight for guests but also the ducks, judging from their prancing demeanour.

Bernie surrounded by the Indian Runner Ducks at Vergenoegd Boutique Hotel and Spa
Bernie surrounded by the Indian Runner Ducks at Vergenoegd Boutique Hotel and Spa

From the moment we set foot on the Estate, it was clear that sustainability is not just a buzzword but a deeply ingrained value at the heart of all activities and guest experiences. For example, the hotel grounds are a car-free zone, and therefore, guests are transported in the ‘Duck Express’ (a 13-seater electric minibus) or golf carts around the Estate. The owner and management’s unwavering commitment to protecting the environment and enhancing guests’ experiences is a key factor in what makes a stay at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel & Spa utterly unique.

Vergenoegd is not just another wine farm. It is one of a few that offer more than ordinary wine-tasting experiences and contemporary meals, inviting you to explore the world of wine in a truly unique way.

Please continue reading as I take you on a (written) tour around the Estate to find out what makes this wine farm stand out from the crowd and elevate it to being one of the top wineries on the Stellenbosch wine route. In this article, I will also discuss several aspects that foster the Estate’s commitment to sustainability.

The homestead at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
The Homestead at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
The interior of the lounge in the homestead at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
The interior of the lounge in the homestead at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa

Where is Vergenoegd Wine Estate?

Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate is easily accessible from the motorway and 22 km from Cape Town International Airport. It is also close to Stellenbosch and Hermanus, making it ideal for travellers who are touring the Stellenbosch wine route. Read our 14-day itinerary for South Africa to find the best routes.

Bernie enjoying the gardens of Vergenoegd Löw Estate
Bernie enjoying the gardens of Vergenoegd Löw Estate

Vergenoegd Löw – The history and legacy of a thriving wine estate

Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate has a lustrous history. Since the farm’s inception in 1696, the farm originally belonged to several noteworthy families, such as Colijns (of the legendary Constantia farm) and six generations of Faures from 1820 to 2015. Not surprisingly, the Estate was declared a national monument in 1974.

In addition to its illustrious history, the Estate has received several significant accolades over the years, including being a WWF Conservation Champion, leading the European Heritage Project, and having its Homestead declared a national monument in 1974. And their most acclaimed trophy? The one for healthy ducks, of course.

Enjoying sun downers on the lawns of the original Homestead
Enjoying sun downers on the lawns of the original Homestead

Championing change at Vergenoegd Löw

In 2015, Professor Dr Dr Peter Löw, a German lawyer, respected entrepreneur, historian and chief curator of the European Heritage Project, purchased the neglected Estate. He then pledged to restore the estate “tastefully and respectfully” to its prior glory. Moreover, Prof Löw is committed to producing award-winning wines again and creating an exceptional farmstead that will entice international tourists and local visitors to experience the farm’s peaceful ambience, prolific bird life, and unique natural environment.

Interestingly, the farm is a proud contributor to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). It is successfully championing sustainable tourism with its solar power plant, which allows it to be almost off-the-grid.

Bernie and Petra getting a guided tour of the estate from the manager, Angelo
Bernie and Petra getting a guided tour of the estate from the manager, Angelo

About Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa

The Homestead, Clara’s Barn and Guewels Bistro are located in the perfectly restored Cape Dutch farm buildings, some dating back to 1696. Dr Löw, an enthusiastic custodian of heritage and merchant of luxury, seamlessly combined the old and the new to create a warm and inviting experience for his guests. For example, the newly constructed farm cottages each feature distinctive gables, even though all six have similar interior layouts.

Art lovers can marvel at the prints of paintings by Jan Brandes (1743 – 1808) throughout the Estate, whose original works are on display in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. In addition, several extraordinary sculptures by Dylan Lewis (a respected South African artist) are displayed at various carefully selected spots on the Estate.

The wine farm on which Vergenoegd Low Boutique Hotel & Spa is located

What is the accommodation like at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa?​

The hotel has four Deluxe Rooms, four Vineyard Suites, six Luxury Cottages (where we stayed), and one ingeniously created presidential suite. Moreover, every unit is a masterpiece of skillfully designed contemporary comfort combined with old-world elegance and opulence.

View of the Luxury Cottages at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
Exterior views of the Luxury Cottages at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa

The Deluxe Rooms are housed in the original and restored farm manager’s residence. The most impressive design features of these rooms are the exposed trusses that enhance the Estate’s dense history. Each unit has a lovely private patio and a jacuzzi.

The lounge area of the Luxury Cottages at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
The lounge area of the Luxury Cottages at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
A bedroom of one the Luxury Cottages at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
A bedroom of one the Luxury Cottages at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
The bathroom of one the Luxury Cottages at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
The bathroom of one the Luxury Cottages at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
The lounge area opening up to the heated pool of one the Luxury Cottages at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
The lounge area opening up to the heated pool of one the Luxury Cottages at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa

The Vineyard Suites offer exquisite mountain vistas and tasteful interior designs that create the sense of being isolated in an inviting vineyard setting. With their expansive wooden decks and plunge pools, these suites are ideal for honeymoon couples in need of privacy and old-school romance.

The bedroom of a Vineyard suite at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa
The bedroom of a Vineyard suite at Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel and Spa

The Luxury Cottages are ideal for families or friends who want to enjoy quality time in a warm and luxurious setting. There are two large, equal-sized rooms with en-suite bathrooms featuring freestanding bathtubs, double vanities (often a requirement for Bernie) and stylish rain showers. The expansive communal spaces seamlessly flow to the exterior with floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening to a generous, heated, sparkling pool. 

The units’ communal areas have four-seater dining tables and fireplaces that create the perfect setting for enjoying a glass of wine or playing games during the rainy winter months. These units have everything guests need to enjoy an extended stay because of their well-equipped kitchenettes and ample wardrobe space.

Petra enjoying the vineyard views
Petra enjoying the vineyard views

From the two-bedroom Presidential Suite to the Vineyard Suites and Deluxe Rooms, each offering has modern amenities like WiFi, TVs with many streaming channels, heated towel rails, and underfloor heating (in Luxury Cottages and Presidential Suite). Moreover, each accommodation unit has a practical desk, which is ideal for doing remote work, which has become a necessity in our modern era.

In addition, several units have cosy fireplaces in the lounge area and complimentary mini-bars (replenished daily) stocked with everything your heart desires. You can expect anything from fresh milk to soft drinks, wine, spirits, and coffee and tea stations. Our unit was equipped with cutlery, crockery, a good selection of glasses and cups and, of course, a Nespresso machine.

This luxury hotel clearly understands the difference between good and exceptional! In addition to the above, the bathrooms are equipped with heated towel rails, fluffy white gowns and comfortable slippers, climate control, and so much more that we will let you discover on your own.

Good to know: Children of all ages are welcome except for the Deluxe Rooms, which accommodate children above 12 years of age.

Is Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel suitable for a wedding?

The interior of the chapel on the estate
The interior of the chapel on the estate

Yes, and again absolutely. Petra’s daughter, Silja, is getting married at the end of May (2024) and the first thing Petra said as we drove into the Estate: “This is what I always dreamed of for a wedding venue for Silja; it has everything a bride could wish for and more”. The hotel can cater for 44 adults, seven children under 16 and four children under three years of age. The Owner’s Villa caters for 14 adults and four children under the age of 16. The rental of the owner’s villa is subject to management approval.

A few meters across the lake from the Homestead is a picturesque white-washed Victorian chapel, also called a ceremonial building. The chapel can easily accommodate about 120 guests, and the function room can comfortably accommodate up to 80 guests. And the piece-de-resistance? The hotel offers the bride a trip in their vintage Rolls Royce (at an additional fee) to the chapel from the bride’s dressing room. Check out our Instagram page to see how Petra and I enjoyed a ride in the ‘Old Lady’.

The magnificent vintage Rolls Royce of the estate for transporting the bride
The magnificent vintage Rolls Royce of the estate for transporting the bride
Bernie and Petra admiring the interior of the chapel
Bernie and Petra admiring the interior of the chapel

What activities and experiences are on offer at Vergenoegd Boutique Hotel & Spa?

  • An exceptional wellness centre in the meticulously restored farm stables, which offers a variety of spa treatments, a boutique gym and a yoga room. With the spa’s picturesque surroundings, you are almost guaranteed a new zest for life.
  • Incredible photographic opportunities to capture a bygone era. We captured the most beautiful sunset moments around the lake with its beautiful green rolling lawns.
  • The Estate is a haven for children and a nature sanctuary where children can run free and enjoy peace and tranquillity in a safe environment. There is a small children’s playground next to Guewels restaurant, a mini Stonehenge, a maze and labyrinth, and a herb and vegetable garden.
  • There are several unmarked walking and cycling trails ranging from 5 to 10 km.
  • Farm and cellar tours, as well as heritage talks, are available upon request. Vineyard walks allow guests to witness the Runner Ducks on their snail patrol.
  • Prolific birdlife, particularly on Amy’s island.
  • There are several quiet spots on the Estate where families can enjoy sundowners or an intimate picnic.
  • Chef Bertus Basson and his business partner and head chef Drikus Brink own and operate the fine-dining restaurant (Clara’s Barn) and the bistro (Geuwels) restaurant.
  • The Hearth Room, located in the historical Homestead, is reserved for in-house guests to enjoy traditional South African farm-style breakfasts with the accompanying renowned Vergenoegd Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) – the South African version of champagne.
  • The skilled and knowledgeable staff at the Cape-Duch Homestead, dating back to 1773, presented indigenous South African food (like bokoms, spekboom, meebos, biltong, droë wors, umazi, makataan, and dune spinach) and a wine pairing experience. Leo van Schalkwyk enthusiastically presented our tasting experience to awaken our senses and upskill us in the art of wine tasting.
  • Admire the work of well-respected artists like Jan Brandus, Dylan Lewis and Manuela Holzer.
The duck express at Vergenoegd wine Estate transporting guests to their rooms
The duck express at Vergenoegd wine Estate transporting guests to their rooms

Good to know: Guests receive one complimentary wine tasting per stay. The Boutique Hotel is also the ideal location from which to explore our favourite coastal town, Kalkbay (50 minutes), the acclaimed Cape Point National Park (only 60 minutes), Hermanus (the whale-watching capital of the world), and the West Coast National Park (90 minutes).

Indigenous wine tasting experience at Vergenoegd wine estate
Bernie and Petra enjoying the indigenous wine tasting experience at Vergenoegd wine estate
Seven types of South African Indigenous foods
Seven types of South African Indigenous foods for the wine tasting experience

Do all jobs require a post-school qualification?

While several jobs require a post-school qualification, there are a few that you can apply for without having an education, such as a taxi driver, makeup artist, landscaper, and, our latest discovery, a pest controller on a wine farm. Petra and I learned during our stay at Vergenoegd Wine Estate how to effectively utilise Runner Ducks, a unique and unconventional workforce, to forage vineyards and to reduce or limit pest populations. Something we might consider for our gardens in the Cape (haha!).

Runner ducks and cattle: Regenerative farming practices

Not all jobs are created equal, and not all jobs require a college qualification. Moreover, not all significant jobs need to be performed by humans. Can you think of any job that requires no unemployment fund contribution, no pay-as-you-earn calculations, and no annual sick leave or performance appraisals?

As an avid academic and human resource practitioner, a visit to Vergenoegd Löw was a transformative experience that challenged many of my preconceived notions about job creation and the necessity of qualifications for top jobs. I came to the stark realisation that unconventional workers (like ducks and cattle) could also effectively perform some critical jobs. The cattle fertilise and take care of weeds, while the ducks enjoy savouring snails and other harmful insects for the vineyards. The ducks’ long legs, upright posture and highly developed sense of smell enables them to do a fantastic job!

The working Indian Runner Ducks of Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel & Spa
The working Indian Runner Ducks of Vergenoegd Löw Boutique Hotel & Spa

The sustainability practices applied at Vergenoegd

  • Mix farming traditions with cattle and ducks working in synergy to produce healthy soils, healthy vines, and ultimately healthy ducks and cattle.
  • Drip irrigation is used to limit water usage in the vineyards, and greywater irrigation is used in the gardens.
  • The Estate is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by sourcing local products, reducing the use of plastic and paper and recycling.
  • The solar power system allows for up to four hours of power without the use of backup generators.

Pro tip: Reusable water bottles can be filled at various fountains on the Estate.

How to get your ducks in a row on a wine farm?

The Indian Runner ducks need limited guidance and support to complete their daily duties, which include fertilising the vineyards with their nutrient-rich manure and keeping them clear of unwanted pests.

Is duck farming an exclusively South African phenomenon?

Upon my return from the wine farm, I was curious to find out if this phenomenon was unique to South Africa. I was surprised to find out that Indian Runner Ducks have been utilised for decades in the East, particularly in rice paddies, to hunt insects, slugs, and snails. What is more, I found hundreds of articles applauding this exceptional wine farm for steering clear of unhealthy pesticides and synthetic fertilisers.

Two ladies enjoying the vistas on Vergenoegd Wine Estate
Bernie and Petra enjoying the vistas and excellent wine at Vergenoegd Wine Estate

Highlights of our stay Vergenoegd Löw

In addition to staying in one of the six newly built Luxurious Cottages, we enjoyed marvelling at the working ducks, who were either going to work or returning from the vineyards with the same unending (exciting) energy.

The workers escorting the duck to their paddocks
The workers escorting the duck to their paddocks

When can the Runner Ducks be seen at Vergenoegd?

Guests and day visitors can witness the parade every day at 9:00 in the morning and again at noon midday. These are the times when the ducks waddle to the wine yards and in the afternoon when they return to their paddocks.

How do I make a booking at Vergenoegd Low Boutique Hotel & Spa?

Use our partner code, TRAVEL BUDDIES, when making a booking to receive a surprise DEAL! Click here to visit their website.

Dining options at Vergenoegd Wine Estate - opening and closing times

  • Geuwels Restaurant (Bistro) – Breakfast from 8am to 11 am and lunch from 11.30 am to 15.30 pm
  • Clara’s Barn (Fine Dining) – Lunch from 12 am to 2.30 pm and dinner from 6.00 to 10.00 pm (Thursday to Saturday)
  • Homestead Hearth Room – Breakfast from 7.30 am to 10.30 am and dinner from 6.00 pm to 10.00 pm, Wednesday to Sunday.
  • Tasting Room – 10 am to 4.00 pm daily.
  • Luxury Spa – 9 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Saturday and 9 am to 2 pm Sundays. Closed on a Monday.

Our dinner at the world-renowned Clara's Barn

Our breakfast and lunch at Geuwels

Directions to Vergenoegd Boutique Hotel

GPS Co-ordinates: -34.02767308001099, 18.742640182445083

From Cape Town/Airport – Take N2 towards Somerset West. After 30km, take exit 33 for Baden Powell Drive toward R310/Stellenbosch. Continue on Baden Powel Drive/R310 and run right at Old Faure Road. Look for the Vergenoegd Low entrance on your right. Approximately 45 minutes from Cape Town Center and 25 minutes from the Airport.

From Stellenbosch – Take the Adam Tas Road/R310/R400 and use the right lanes to turn slightly right onto Adam Tas Road/R310. Just after Asara Wine Estate on your right, turn left onto Baden Powell Drive. Turn left onto old Faure Road/M49. Look for the Vergenoegd Low entrance on your right. Approximately 15 minutes from Stellenbosch.

From Hermanus – Take the R43 and merge with the N2 towards Cape Town. After about 55 km, take exit 33 for Baden Powell Drive toward Stellenbosch/R310. Turn right onto Baden Powell Drive/R310. Turn right at Old Faure Road and look for the Vergenoegd Low entrance on your right. Approximately one hour and 15 minutes from Hermanus

Pro Tip: Restaurant booking for non-guests is highly recommended. Accommodations can be booked through their user-friendly online system. There is also an online system available to book wine tastings. Spa bookings should be made via WhatsApp.

A lady in green dress enjoying a cocktail at the Ladies bar
Bernie watching over the chef preparing a master piece at Geuwels Restaurant

Conclusion

Walking the estate grounds with Angelo
Walking the estate grounds with Angelo

From our visit, it was clear that the owners and management of Vergenoegd are not proclaiming sustainability without seriously committing to it! Their commitments are evident in their approach to applying natural pest control solutions, environmentally conscious principles and responsible tourism practices. From their water wisdom practices to their eco-friendly strategies, every detail is admirable for successfully operating a wine estate of this calibre. You can take our word for it; this is one experience that will last you a lifetime!

As we walked the ground with Angelo, the manager of the Boutique Hotel, it was clear from the implemented initiatives and charming facilities that he and his wife, Tina, are extremely proud of what they and their dedicated team have accomplished over a very short period. Their intensive labour of love is evident in the kindness and generosity they show towards their guests. We would be honoured to visit this unique wine farm again in the near future to witness the fruits (or should we say grapes) of their labour.

The farm map of Vergenoegd Estate
The farm map of Vergenoegd Estate

Ford Everest test drive

During our Cape Town tour, we were fortunate to be given a Ford Everest for a test drive. We now refer to it as the only vehicle big enough for the Travel Buddies and their equipment. To say the car drove like a dream is an understatement. With its excellent navigation system we were able to find our destinations without any challenges.

We can honestly say that the Ford Everest is one of the nicest (most practical, fuel-efficient and awesome-looking) SUVS to tour South Africa, and that is quite a mean feat coming from two (xxx; sorry we can’t say.. German) cars drivers.

Our test drive of the Ford Everest
Bernie and Petra test driving the Ford Everest on the Cape Town roads

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