Hotel check: Protea the Ranch

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Background

The Ranch has its origins in a family-owned motel that sprung up in 1960 on the road between Pretoria and Messina – the northernmost town in the South African province of Limpopo, and the gateway to Zimbabwe. In those days, The Ranch consisted of a little motel, with a restaurant, pub and a few rooms for overnight accommodation. Today it is still owned and run by the Shearer family and May 2010 saw them celebrate 50 years at The Ranch. From those small origins, today it is a large resort-style hotel, with plenty of accommodation and a host of amenities and activities. As a sign of the times, the Shearers have invested heavily in their conferencing offering, and The Ranch has become the venue of choice for corporates and South African government departments in the north, looking for a well-equipped and comprehensive conferencing venue, that offers plenty in the way of non-conferencing activities, as well.

What’s it Like? 

The Ranch is an old-style family holiday resort with comfortable accommodation, excellent food, a homely feel and a multitude of activities to keep both adults and children entertained. It’s also a large conference venue and potential corporate getaway, offering a host of conference options in different settings. As a family-owned and run property, it retains that personal touch and guests and delegates alike will leave feeling as if they’ve been well looked after.

Where is it? 

The Ranch is approximately 25 kilometres south of the city of Polokwane and located adjacent to the N1 highway. It’s approximately 285 kilometres from Johannesburg, straight up the N1 in the direction of Polokwane (Pietersburg). The turn-off, off the highway, is sign-posted ‘The Ranch Star Stop/The Ranch Hotel’. From there, the hotel is a couple of kilometres drive away on the other side of the highway, and is well sign-posted.

Room Facilities

In all, The Ranch has 150 rooms, including 20 two-bedroom 5-star suites, with self-catering facilities, overlooking the par-3 golf course. Among those 150 rooms are two Presidential Suites and four Executive Suites – all with a jacuzzi. We had the benefit of enjoying the comfort that the Presidential Suites offer and it is considerable. Whilst the style is still relatively old-fashioned, in terms of its dark red, green and mahogany colours, the comfort and space is first class. Upon entering, the turn to the left took us through to the separate bedroom, which was furnished with a king-size bed, two dressers, mounted TV (with selected satellite channels), tea/coffee-making facilities, large en suite bathroom with separate bath and well-sized shower, lounge chairs and door leading out onto a patio area, where the jacuzzi was situated. The right turn at the entrance took us into a large separate lounge area, which was furnished with a flat-screen TV, full lounge suite, work desks, drinks cabinet and guest bathroom, as well as another exit onto an outside patio area. The remaining rooms are a combination of family suites and spacious deluxe rooms, all furnished with air-conditioning, fans, TV (with selected satellite channels), separate en suite bathroom, bedroom and lounge areas, 18-hour room service, private parking and free Wi-Fi Internet access throughout the property. All rooms are designed with large cottage-style windows, which allow for maximum light. The hotel accommodation has a 4-star grading, whilst the self-catering chalets overlooking the golf course are rated 5-star. These rooms were added in 2010, just in time for the Soccer World Cup. They’re also quite flexible, with more than one entrance, so that the units can be divided into one-bedroom and two-bedroom offerings, with a large, spacious lounge in the middle, with kitchen, patio and braai area, which looks onto the golf course. Additional accommodation is available at the Kolobe tented camp, which can accommodate up to 76 guests.

Restaurants & Bars

The Ranch has a standard Protea-type breakfast room, which also serves lunch and dinner. But, one shouldn’t look any further than Basil’s Restaurant, when weighing up where to have an evening meal. It is located adjacent to the breakfast room or Buttery Restaurant, as it’s known, and also has a deck leading out the back, which we didn’t access, due to it being a cold winter’s weekend! We dined at Basil’s twice and on both occasions had two exceptionally memorable meals. First I sampled the glazed pork belly, which was done to perfection and came with a delightful selection of vegetables, whilst night two saw me go for the quail, which I don’t usually consider, due to the fact that most eateries make it too dry. Not on this occasion, as I tasted a succulent dish that was delicious, accompanied by mash potato and more vegetables. Really, two fantastic evening meals and something worth recommending – both of which were accompanied by a great wine selection and tasty-looking desserts, which we never had the space to try! I believe the kitchen chefs are locally-based, having received their training from colleagues that one of owner Tom Shearer’s sons brought out from Dubai a few years ago. They’ve subsequently left The Ranch, but their legacy is a local, well-trained kitchen that the hotel can be proud of, if the meals we were served are anything to go by. There’s also an on-site bakery located between the Buttery and Basil’s Restaurants. Joe’s Bar is the local watering hole in the hotel and is made up leather and upholstered couches and plasma TV’s, with a wide selection of beers, wines and cocktails.

Meeting & Business Facilities

The Ranch has 13 different conference and meeting facilities, dotted in and around the hotel, ranging from a capacity of 15 right up to nearly a thousand. All the venues are climate-controlled and are well-equipped with the latest audio-visual equipment. Obviously, there’s the free Wi-Fi Internet access, which delegates are able to benefit from, as well, and catering is available from the hotel. The hotel also has an airstrip and helicopter for VIP speakers/guests.

Leisure & Fitness

The standout leisure activity at The Ranch is the Walking with Lions. Here, a group of well-trained guides lead groups of approximately 10 on well-controlled 90-minute walks through the bush, with two fairly fully-grown lions – allowing for you to have your picture taken walking next to a lion in the wild. A really memorable experience. The Ranch has approximately 30 lions, a few white lions and a pair of hyenas to observe, as well. Other activities include horse riding, game drives and bird watching. There’s also a small, but well-equipped gym located adjacent to the large pool and lapa area. Finally, there’s the 12-hole par-3 ‘pitch and putt’ golf course, which is in excellent condition (considering the winter conditions) and offers a great activity for families, partners or corporates to enjoy, away from their conference. The golf clubhouse also has a well-stocked bar and restaurant area, with patio looking onto the golf course.

Verdict

The accommodation at The Ranch may not be graded 5-star, but they pride themselves on “offering a 5-star experience”, and I think it’s fair to say that they do. All their amenities are in top-notch condition, Basil’s restaurant serves outstanding food, and the accommodation is more than comfortable, without being luxurious. All in all, the perfect family getaway, retreat or conference venue, offering just about all you could want from a ‘bush’ location.

Fact File

Address: Protea Hotel Ranch Resort, 25km south of Polokwane on N1, Limpopo
Tel: +27 15 290 5000, theranch.co.za

Dylan Rogers

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