Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve is in the heart of the Little Karoo’s Swartberg mountain range, some 50 km outside Oudtshoorn. A visit there saw ELAINE KING fall in love with the Klein Karoo.

I was invited to Wildehondekloof by PR guru Theresa Gibbon, who has the exclusive Cape Country Routes in her portfolio, of which Wildehondekloof is just one. She is one of those die-hard optimistic people and her request was simple. “They are expecting you today. Just go.”

Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve is the epitome of peace. Pictures: Mark Taylor
Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve is the epitome of peace. Pictures: Mark Taylor

What’s more, it had just snowed on the Outeniqua mountains presenting an even more magnificent spectacle. And so it came to be that during a week of social upheaval in South Africa, I headed off from Knysna for an unforgettable experience.

Some holidays start with long destination-driven boring drives, but not this trip. Whether you are heading from Cape Town, the Garden Route area or the Eastern Cape, this is a trek that is aesthetically pleasing the whole way.

The Wildehondekloof route

There are several routes to take to get to this destination, which include the Swartberg or Outeniqua mountain passes. What struck me apart from the views is that meandering first through George, and then through the town of Outdshoorn, is how pristine these towns are.

Wildehondekloof was bought in 1996 as a barren farm without infrastructure, and construction of guest facilities started in 2002. Now boasting nine luxurious en-suite rooms and a presidential suite fit for a king, this lodge has international acclaim.

Animals at Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve are shy
Animals at Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve are shy

In 2005, a breeding herd of seven Eland was introduced as the first imported animals. The Eland comprised a full-Monty of endemic buck, so now there are Vaal Rhebuck, Klipspringer, duiker, grysbok, Kudu, Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest, Impala and Springbok. And as one would expect from this terrain there are porcupine, honey badger, baboons, leopard, jackals and caracal. Ah, and the shy family of giraffe and Cape Mountain zebra.

Some three and a half years ago the Potgieter family bought this 40 000-hectare paradise.

I was blown-away by the fact that anyone can own their very own mountain range, so Paula Potgieter explains it to me. “We used to mountain bike in this area. One day we saw this property for sale, came down the hill to have a look and the rest is history. We are just grateful caretakers of the property. We walk softly on holy ground.” She takes great pleasure telling me how her husband and sons care for the environment and appreciate every little wonder of nature in their home.

I never thought I would fall in love with the Karoo (the Outeniqua pass separates the Klein Karoo from the Karoo), but the mountains here match any range in the world by their vastness, the way they seem to wrap around you, roll, change colour and mood in their sheer omnipotence.

I hadn’t expected the luxury of this place, since no photos really do it justice. I also hadn’t expected the genuine care lavished on guests by this family. The proudly-South African meals by Andre Goliath are all whipped-up in a kitchen privy to an open plan lounge and dining area, so tantalizing foody smells waft comfortingly any time of the day.

A game drive through the vast Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve is a must. Binoculars and blankets are supplied. Guide Quintin Lottering shares his vast knowledge of the fauna and flora. I learnt that teeth define whether some animals are antelope or buck, and that growing in this vegetation are medicinal plants like Ysterbos that are used for just about every ailment including Covid, I am told. I am grateful for the blanket on the drive and the piping-hot coffee stop.

In normal non-lockdown times visitors to the area are able to visit the Safari Ostrich Farm, explore Oudtshoorn (ostrich capital of the world), and of course see the famous Cango Caves. But for now, be content at Wildehondekloof where you can walk one of several hiking trails through the wide-open spaces of the Klein Karoo and appreciate the beauty of the succulent Karoo, Cape thicket fynbos. One can also mountain bike, watch animals, snuggle up in front of fireplace, read or just simply be.

It allows one to recalibrate one’s route, and to remember why South Africa is still amazing.

What: Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve Little Karoo
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Web: www.capecountryroutes.com
WS