Rhulani Safari Lodge – Our Experience

We recently published a review of Rhulani Safari Lodge in Madikwe. This follow up post is to share our experiences while on this trip.

Reviewing a lodge, based on a trip like this, is too factual and doesn’t give the opportunity to convey the adventure we did, or didn’t, have. So here we go, three nights at Rhulani!

First Day at Rhulani

We arrived at Rhulani around midday on Saturday and as we drove to reception we were greeted by lodge staff with beaming smiles and waving hands.

Once checked in and unpacked we had some time to relax with our private plunge pool. We haven’t been to many places with this, and it was very welcome. Summer in Madikwe is HOT!

Rhulani Plunge Pool

Private Plunge Pool

The afternoon drive was going to start earlier than usual that day because we’d been offered, and agreed, to go Drumming For Rhinos later that night.

There had been a lot of rain in Rhulani the week before so there was water everywhere. This is fantastic for the bush although it does make sightings sparse when on a drive. We didn’t have many sightings on the first drive and me being me, I kept fell asleep. That’s a first during the day!

We did get to see swarms of stunning butterflies and see how many zebra, with foals, are currently on the reserve.

Butterflies at Madikwe

Drumming for Rhinos

On our drive in to Rhulani we received a phone call asking if we would like to join the Drumming for Rhinos event that night. We didn’t know much about it but agreed to go. We figured it would be drumming lessons.

After dinner on our first night we loaded back into the game vehicle and were taken to a remote location in the centre of the reserve. There were so many vehicles and people mulling about!

So this turned out to be a fund raiser for the anti poaching units in Madikwe. Guests from all the lodges were taken to this location and given drums, similar to bongo drums.

We were coached through some basic rhythems and together with the drum lead, we drummed under the African sky with only the full moon to light up the areas. It was spectacular. It was fun and it was for a good cause!

I should also mention the Rhulani guides did a very good job of keeping us lubricated.

Madikwe Lion

On the drive back I somehow managed to fall asleep again. Seriously, this isn’t normal! I was woken up to see a beautiful specimen of male lion, one on the prowl and the other, this fellow, resting casually in the road.

Rest and Relaxation

We made the decision to skip the morning drive on Sunday. This comes down to the very late night and excessive libation, thanks guys!

We made our way back to our room after a delicious breakfast. We would spend the rest of the morning at the plunge pool and soaking up the sun. My plan was to nap, but the lure of the pool got the better of me.

We enjoyed our high tea and had a wonderful afternoon drive. More butterflies, many more zebra. We were lucky to see two of the big five; White Rhino and Elephant.

Scrub Hair Babies

Our drive had some great after sunset highlights too. Hyena hunting some impala. An incredible sighting of an owl next to the road. The drive ended with a scrub hair and two babies suckling in the middle of the road. We watched them for a good while before heading back for some much needed sleep.

A Worthy Extension

We were going to leave Rhulani on Monday after the drive. I am so glad we didn’t as we had spectacular sightings all day.

Our morning drive had sightings aplenty with more Rhino, elephant, lion, hyena, butterflies and excellent opportunities for us to practice our bird photography.

The lodge staff were fantastic with extending our stay. It was as simple as telling them we wanted an extra night. They told us the price and that was it.

Our drive that afternoon was perfect. Leopard! We haven’t had a good leopard sighting in a very long time. We left another sighting of Big 5 when a call came over the radio. Riaan, our guide, had to track down the young male, and when he found him we were able to spend a good amount of time with him.

Madikwe Leopard

Other vehicles eventually queued up for the sighting so we had to move off. We had our sundown drinks not far away and bore witness to and incredible sunset. The sunset was so fitting for out last night under the African sky at Rhulani and Madikwe.

Farewell Rhulani Safari Lodge

Our last morning drive was beautiful. We had bountiful sightings and even more opportunities to practice our bird photography.

Alas, we had to say our goodbyes and make our way back to the city. Rhulani gave us that feeling of home away from home and with heavy hearts we pulled away.

African safari lodges are very good at refreshing your soul and Rhulani was no different. We will be back and until we return, we have many fond memories and sightings to serve as a reminder.

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Meiringskloof and the Surrounding Area

Meiringskloof

Why Meiringskloof?

We have been on far too few trips this year and as a result decided to do something different this time round which is why we ended up in Meiringskloof Nature Reserve.

We wanted somewhere to stay that was within four hours drive of Johannesburg that had a number of activities in the surrounding area and Meiringskloof came in at the top of the list because of:

  • Distance
  • Price
  • Accessibility
  • Activities

From OR Tambo International Airport, Meiringskloof is a comfortable 332km drive and the roads are in excellent condition.

Meiringskloof has a number of activities ranging from 4×4 trails, horse riding and hikes.

They offer self-catering accommodation as well as camping and this time round we decided to forgo the camping and stay in one of their twelve self-catering chalets.

Meiringskloof is 3km outside of Fouriesburg in the Free State and 33km from Clarens with it’s host of galleries and activities. Another big draw for us is that Meiringskloof is 13km from the Calendonspoort Border Post to Lesotho.

Travelling to Meiringskloof

There are a few routes to take from Johannesburg to Meiringskloof and the quickest, easiest according to the GPS is the N3 to Villiers then on through Reitz, Bethlehem and arriving at Fouriesburg.

We had plenty of time to spare and decided to take a more scenic route so we jumped off the N3 at Heidelberg, went past Deneysville towards Sasolburg then through Heilbron, Lindley (yes, there is a place called Lindley), Bethlehem and Clarens before arriving at Meiringskloof.

We made the route up as we went and in the end were very happy with the results. We had an hour stop-off in the middle of nowhere for a leg stretch before hitting an unexpected 40km stretch of dirt road leading to Lindley. The dirt road is in excellent condition and we comfortably traveled it at 85km/h (with the exception of the last 2-3km which had to be done at about 60km/h due to potholes).

The scenery was stunning and the drive very comfortable.

On our way through we stopped in Calerens for a late breakfast and some window shopping, not to mention a beer tasting at the brewery.

Meiringskloof Accommodation

After arriving at Meiringskloof in the early afternoon and spending what seemed like ages for someone to open the office and check us in, we made our way to Zonbessie, the chalet we would spend the next three nights.

The chalets are nicely spaced and Meiringskloof is set deep within the ravine so there is not much of a view, besides the cliffs towering above you on either side. There is dense vegetation around the chalets and camp site which gives you both privacy and a good, wild, atmosphere.

The chalet was poorly decorated. You can see efforts were made to decorate the accommodation with African themed decor, unfortunately there was a lot of mismatching of items and evidently cheap furnishings.

That said we were relatively comfortable for our three night stay although more attention should have been paid to the lighting in the chalet. Because of the mountains towering up on both sides, you’re in the shade from early afternoon and coupled with the dense vegetation and tiny windows, the lights in the chalet struggled to do much good lighting up the place.

The campsite, which was not too far from out chalet, was fantastic. It was neat, spacious and beautiful. The pool was clean and large enough with a nice surrounding area to allow for a day at the pool should you so desire.

Not too long after arriving we met one of the campers and together decided we’d try the Didibeng 4×4 trail the next day.

Meiringskloof 4x4

4×4 and Golden Gate Highlands National Park

As became customary on our 2013 Road Trip earlier this year, getting up in the morning was triggered by the sounds of Jason making coffee.

After getting ready and waiting for the other vehicle, we set off in our convoy of three 4x4s to the Didibeng 4×4 trails which were a few kilometres away.

We spent the entire morning in the mountains and while most of the trails we did were not too challenging, there are a few obstacles there that warranted caution, patience and nerves of steel.

The views from the mountains were absolutely incredible and we could have spent all day there.

We had to cut our vehicular mountaineering short as we still wanted to make a trip into the Golden Gate Highlands National Park to have a look around.

It was a pleasant trip, I would not recommend going if your goal is to spot game as you will be sorely disappointed, however, the views and scenery is breathtaking to say the least. Mountains, valleys, ravines and rock formations make for one of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen.

We got permission from the office to make a trip up to the mountain cabins and from what we saw this is the perfect getaway for people wanting to relax in a beautiful and secluded environment. The cabins are high up on one of the mountains and although there is a bit of a climb to get there, even the humblest of hatchbacks will make it with no problems.

On our way down we stopped at the Vulture Feeding Project and learned some interesting facts about the vultures as well as the projects underway to conserve them.

After Golden Gate it was time to head back to Meiringskloof with a short stop at the Windmill Pub & Grill in Fouriesburg for our last contact with the outside world before disappearing into the kloof and our chalet for the evening braai.

The Windmill had a wonderful atmosphere and we had a good chat with some of the locals about life in Fouriesburg and the fact they won Town of the Year. The best part about the Windmill was they had cellphone signal, a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere and were only a few kilometres from Meiringskloof.

Lesotho Highlands

Lesotho and Afriski

The next day was dedicated to a trip into the Lesotho mountains. We spent the best part of the night before trying to decide where to go as we had a number of options and it was only right before leaving Meiringskloof that we settled on visiting Afriski.

Afriski is only 95km from Meiringskloof however you need to allow at least two hours to make the trip, and that’s in summer. The roads are in excellent condition, however, you climb thousands of feet in a very short distance and that makes for treacherous mountain passes and very slow driving.

Afriski, even though in summer, was incredible. You could just picture the winter vibe with snow-covered mountains. We had a good chat to Heather, one of the managers, and have decided to dedicate a whole trip to Afriski next year, and as a result, I wont go into any more details here.

Meiringskloof Closing

Our last morning at Meiringskloof was, after the customary coffee courtesy of Jason, spent packing up and then heading back into Clarens for breakfast and some last minute souvenir shopping.

We had an absolutely lovely time travelling around that part of the Free State over our three night stay and Meiringskloof was great. There were some negative aspects which I’ve already mentioned, but the main one in our opinion is the complete lack of house-keeping.

We WILL be back, maybe to camp and certainly to play on the 4×4 trails some more.

Have you been to any of these places? How was your stay? Let us know all about it!