A tranquil retreat in the heart of the Swartberg Mountains

Brian Berkman is thoroughly charmed by a nature reserve and its hospitality in the Klein Karoo. Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve is about 60km outside of Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape on the road that leads past the Cango Caves.

A tranquil retreat in the heart of the Swartberg Mountains
Visitors can sit around the fire pit and take in the open skies at Wildehondekloof.
Photo: Brian Berkman
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From the reserve’s gate, it is 3km into the valley of the Swartberg mountains to where the Matjies River runs. Along its banks, nyala nibble on the soft green lawns and, later in the day, come even closer to the lodge to sleep.

During a June visit, after a lot of rain, the river was so fast flowing that the hike along its banks, intended as a circular route once the river had been crossed, was scuppered.

There is an alien-tree clearing programme underway and many uprooted trees next to the river are waiting to be chopped into firewood.

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There are plenty of droppings, mostly antelope types and baboon, which field guide Hannalize van der Colff says are “shaped like ice-cream cones”. She leads the daily game drive that is included in the stay.

The team at Wildehondekloof is small and everyone, including owner Paula Potgieter, is hands-on and wears many hats.

The excellent massages, for example, are offered by housekeeping staff who have been trained by an expert spa consultant.

The ‘spa’, which includes two plinths so that a couple can enjoy a treatment together, is in one of the self-catering rooms and warmed by a roaring fire on the chilly day we visit. There are plans for a standalone spa in the near future.

Both the appearance of the room (robes at the ready, neatly rolled towels, soft lighting and candles flickering) along with the massage itself are of a professional standard. And, at R475 for 45 minutes, it represents value for money.

In fact, the phrases ‘value for money’ and ‘professional standard’ keep coming to mind during our wonderful two-day visit.


There are 4 000ha and much of it has not been farmed. The former agricultural areas are a favourite with the springbok, who want the relative safety from high visibility in the cropped grasses.

We see a herd of eland in the crevice of the mountain, but they move away as we approach. The giraffe, however, are more than happy for us to watch them from relative proximity.

A nyala near the lodge.

“Seeing blue wildebeest and the black wildebeest in the same area is quite rare,” says Van der Colff while the animals seem to clown around hither and thither.

There are some Cape mountain leopard in the reserve although they are rarely seen, and mountain zebra too, which we glimpse in the distance.

The blesbok appear to be in prime condition as the sun bounces off their slick-looking pelts.

Wildehondekloof was intended as the retirement farm for Paula and Hendrik Potgieter, who also own De Zeekoe, just outside Oudtshoorn, but they soon realised that offering De Zeekoe guests a game-lodge experience with which to extend their visit to the region made business sense.


There are six rooms in the main lodge building and self-catering units are a short distance away.

Although all the rooms are decorated to a very high standard and will please the most exacting of customers, the Presidential Suite (room 1), which has the great benefit of an L-shaped stoep and opening floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors, offers the most privacy and the very best lookout.

The Presidential Suite has a sitting room with a fireplace, a vast bedroom and a large bathroom with corner tub from which to game watch.

There are sun loungers and a hanging chair as well as an elegant outside table and chairs for private dining. Although the area is malaria-free, all beds have large mosquito nets.

Although the area is malaria-free, Wildehondekloof beds are draped in huge mosquito nets.

Decor is contemporary and elegant, and other than two mounted trophies on the chimney and skins covering outside tables, Wildehondekloof is not decorated in a safari or traditional game-lodge style, which is to its credit.

The main lodge building is a typical high-roofed A-frame with a central two-sided fireplace. The dining area is further along and has an indoor braai at which your private chef grills food while you wait.

For a group together there is a large table, but there are also smaller tables if you want a romantic dinner. Chef Hatim Zouheir is at the helm and brings his global experience (including top Cape Town and Dubai restaurants), Moroccan roots and French training to deliver excellent meals enjoyed.

Ostrich, cooked to medium rare on the fire after a bath in a spicy marinade, is accompanied by a pea purée, blistered tomatoes and fondant potatoes. For breakfast we relished a spicy shakshuka with slow-cooked eland meat.

For our second dinner, Karoo-lamb shank was prepared in the Moroccan tagine style. Meal times and possible dishes are discussed ahead and the timetable follows your desires.

Under a canopy of trees is a boma and fire pit if you’d prefer to sit and eat outdoors.

Wildehondekloof is sufficiently small and affordable to be fully reserved for a private holiday with family or friends, or for a big celebration.

You won’t have a Big Five-game experience here, but there are buffalo at a nearby farm, which is open for visits.

The long, narrow swimming pool is set into a rolling lawn. You can also take a swim in the river, especially where it flows in front of the lodge. From the welcome by André Goliath, offering moist hand

Email i[email protected], phone 082 551 3019, or visit whkloof.co.za.
Bookings also via Cape Country Routes.