Wildehondekloof: A Wonderful Weekend in the Karoo
Every once in a while you experience something that makes you appreciate your heritage and fall even deeper in love with our beloved South Africa. Our weekend at Wildehondekloof in early November last year happened to be filled with such moments! You might remember that the Springboks triumphantly won the Rugby World Cup in November 2019 and that is the same weekend that Nanje and I found ourselves at Wildehondekloof, a game reserve at the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains in the Klein Karoo ─ two unforgettable events that will stay with me for many years to come!
The Klein Karoo and more specifically the Matjiesrivier District has a very special place in my heart, as it is where one half of my family comes from. I grew up with anecdotes about the area and our visit almost felt like I was coming home. As soon as we turned onto the gravel road to Matjiesrivier from Calitzdorp’s side we rolled the windows down to breathe in the fresh air and the desert-like scenery quickly made it clear that we were in the heart of the Karoo.
By this time Nanje and I were very eager to arrive at Wildehondekloof and it was definitely worth the drive once we saw the lodge waiting for us at the end of the gravel road. The stark contrast between the green grass around the lodge and the brown, mountainous landscape was surprising and yet so beautiful.
As soon as we pulled up, Riaan, the lodge’s friendly manager, emerged from the reception area and welcomed us with hot cloths to wipe our hands and we immediately felt at home. We were shown to our deluxe room and couldn’t wait to unpack and get our weekend started. After our drive we felt like doing something active and opted for a short hike starting next to our room. The easy route was clearly marked and the scenery was spectacular. Some of the trees were labeled with their scientific and common names and we brushed up on our knowledge of trees. Shortly after crossing the river near the end of the route we spotted the lodge through the trees and the view made me realise that this is a special place ─ Skyscrapers were replaced by Karoo koppies and thousands of scurrying people were replaced by nyala grazing the green grass around the lodge.
While relaxing on our patio a bit later, I was mesmerised by the nyala casually grazing a few metres from us. For us city dwellers this was quite unusual and added to the unique character of the lodge. Shortly thereafter it was time for dinner in the dining room. We had placed our order earlier that afternoon and I could not wait to feast on my warthog carpaccio, ostrich bobotie with vegetables and salads, and apple crumble with ice cream for dessert. It was a dinner fit for a king and we paired it with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Karusa Wine Farm in Oudtshoorn. After such a wonderful first day we wondered what the next day would hold and soon retired to our prepared room to get some much-needed rest.
The second day started early with our much-anticipated morning game drive at 07:00. We met Quinton, our guide, in front of the lodge where he was already busy packing the vehicle. He handed us our binoculars, blankets and water bottles ─ ready for the day! Not far from the lodge we spotted our first game and I decided that this would be one of my new favourite pastimes. Staring at the ever-changing veld while baking in the warm Karoo sun and waiting for an animal to appear was complete bliss! We saw eland, kudu, nyala, gemsbok, springbok and black wildebeest grazing behind bushes and in wide open fields.
Quinton shared many interesting facts about the vegetation, mostly renosterbos and ysterbos, and animals in the reserve and it reminded me of what a remarkable place the dry Karoo is. Despite the serious drought it is still a place of unparalleled beauty! Half way through our drive we made a quick stop next to a river for some much-needed coffee and delicious rusks. Once we were refuelled we continued our journey on the reserve with the majestic Swartberg Mountains in the background.
Back at the lodge a couple of hours later we sat down in the dining room for a delicious buffet breakfast and coffee. We enjoyed some fresh fruit, cheese, cold meat, muffins and yoghurt before we ordered omelettes as a main dish. One thing is certain: you’ll never go hungry at Wildehondekloof!
After breakfast we returned to our room to freshen up and get ready for the Rugby World Cup. Everyone at the lodge was extremely excited for the match and it was incredible to watch it with all of the staff and the owners in the lounge. It felt like a normal Saturday at home watching the game with my dad! Not being a massive rugby fan myself, I was just there for everyone’s running commentary and the celebration. We had a blast and when Siya lifted the cup at the end of the match we celebrated with our beloved country!
For the rest of the day we just wanted to take in the environment and enjoy the tranquillity before we headed back to the city the next morning. We lounged next to the swimming pool in front of the lodge and snacked on some sweet treats prepared by the wonderful kitchen staff while the dogs kept us company. We could not believe that we almost had to leave again, but before that we got to go on a sunset game drive!
The owner, Paula, mentioned earlier that the sunset game drive is truly spectacular and that we should not miss it, so we met Quinton in front of the lodge again later that afternoon. This time we followed a different route on the reserve and were lucky enough to see some more animals. It was absolutely wonderful to witness these animals in their environment. We stopped at the top of a hill overlooking the reserve and the Swartberg Mountains to enjoy some sundowners and snacks. We toasted an unforgettable weekend with refreshing G&Ts while admiring the view. I could not think of a better way to spend a Saturday evening!
Our last dinner at the lodge was another delicious meal consisting of tomato soup and roosterkoek for a starter, beef fillet with vegetables and salads and delectable chocolate pudding and ice cream for dessert. During dinner we were treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets, colouring the sky pink and orange above the dark Karoo koppies. Both of us were way too full after our meals and decided to go to bed early ─ we had to get our rest in before hitting the road early the next morning.
After rising early and packing up we headed for the dining room to enjoy our last buffet breakfast. We were quiet around the table as we each got lost in our thoughts about the last couple of days spent at Wildehondekloof. It truly felt like we were part of the family and we were sad to leave!
The time came to greet this wonderful gem in the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains and as we drove off we kept our eyes open for a final sighting of game.
A big thank you to Kristy from Wildehondekloof for the invitation to visit them again and to Riaan, Paula and all the staff at the lodge for their warm hospitality and kindness!
Feature image and all other photos: Daniëlle Terblanche