We have been going to Moholoholo Forest Camp for over a decade (we usually go there for our anniversary in August) and it gets our vote as the best value game reserve in the country!
The camp is located in a small but beautiful game reserve which nestles against the foot of the spectacular Swadini escarpment of the Drakensberg range. It's not a Big Five reserve as it is too small for elephant, lion or buffalo, but it does have hippo, white rhino and leopard.
However, the big attraction for us is seeing smaller and more unusual species, many of which are rehabilitated animals that have been released from the Moholoholo Animal Rehab Centre (see review elsewhere), which is also on the property. We have often seen animals such as bush pig, civit, genet, bushbaby and brown hyaena here which are hard to spot in the bigger reserves.
The huts are scattered through the riverine forest, and fit in unobtrusively to the beautiful surroundings. The huts are comfortable and have recently been upgraded. A wonderful development is the addition of a two bedroomed hut, where parents and children can stay in the same unit, but parents still retain some privacy (just be aware of the fact that the second bedroom opens off the first one if you're considering booking this unit for two couples travelling together). Each unit has its own private viewing deck, and the decorating style is best described as a slightly eccentric variation of 'bush chic' (tree branches instead of door posts, for example). Buck - particularly bushbuck and nyala - wander freely through the camp, and a herd of bush pig visit in the evenings to forage on the kitchen scraps: these marvellous animals are not to be confused with the much more common warthog, and look like reddish variations on a European boar theme.
The food is good, simple and plentiful - hearty farm cooking with something for everyone (including fussy kids). The bar works on an 'honesty box' system and is the only additional cost: otherwise, everything else (including game walks, night drives and guided tour of the rehab centre) is factored into the price. This is a real bargain, as most game lodges charge these items as extras, which can leave you feeling rather resentful when your invoice is presented prior to departure. The staff is knowledgeable and extremely obliging, and we have been touched by the trouble that they have taken to anticipate and accommodate our changing needs (from madly-in-love brand new couple through new parenthood to middle aged old farts with school age children in tow!).
For some reason, Moholo does not seem to be as widely known among South Africans as one might expect, and the majority of the clientele are from overseas. The rehab centre has an intern programme where volunteers (usually gap year students) from all over the world come to offer cheerful slave labour: these volunteers stay elsewhere, but do come to the camp for their meals, and add another interesting 'game watching' dimension!
Update (November 2011): I have just been making bookings for my parents for January 2012, and am delighted to discover that Moholo is even better value than ever. For bookings made in November 2011, people travelling in January and February 2012 qualify for a 25% discount on their first night and a 50% discount on nights thereafter. At current rates, that means R973 and R695 per person sharing full board, including all activities ... if you can find better value, then I want to know about it!
Quite simply, we think that Moholo is perfect, and so do our kids!
If you're looking for an upmarket game lodge with an infinity pool and on-site spa, then this is not for you (but don't despair, as there are plenty of other options in the area which fit this bill).
If you're looking for good value accommodation which you can treat as a 'home from home' and know that you are going to be treated as family, then this is the place for you! The game viewing is often out of the ordinary, and the setting is gorgeous, with the rehab sanctuary being a bonus for anyone interested in wildlife rehabilitation and conservation (or just seeing the animals closer up). Perhaps what we like most about Moholo (as we call it) is the friendliness and hospitality, as well as the laid back atmosphere. Nothing is too much trouble for the camp manager and his team, and we find it interesting that they are as capable of catering for couples looking for a romantic getaway as they are of accommodating families with young children.
The owners operate two other lodges in the area: Mountain View on the adjacent property and Ya Mati, which also offers wedding facilities!
It is also only 60km from the Orpen gate of Kruger National Park, so can easily be tacked onto a Kruger expedition (where you have the opportunity to see the Big Five).
There is no swimming pool in the camp. We usually go to the Swadini resort (about 20 minutes drive away) which has lovely open air thermal pools set against the jawdropping Swadini buttress - however, Swadini seems to have recently discontinued the option to enter as a day visitor, which is a real pity.
Moholo also hosts game ranger courses from time to time, which present an unusual opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to develop a deeper understanding of the bush and its complex ecosystems. And of course, you can despatch your moody teenager as a volunteer to the rehab sanctuary in the certain knowledge that they can't get into too much trouble as Brian will work them to death!
I spent 2 nights at the Panzi Bushcamp and can't say enough about the great hosts--Bev, John & Glynn, originally from England.
Panzi means "down" and describes the Bushcamp in the low hollow area of the Guernsey Conservancy area. It is closest to the Buckbrushridge area and less than 1 hour from the Orpen Gate to the wonderful Kruger National Park (100% driving only thru the park).
They were wonderful hosts with Bev being masterful in the kitchen and serving great meals, John handling "braii" or BBQ duties with a genuine South African flavor, and Glynn taking me on a great nature hike to a nearby elevated "lookout" over a waterhole with great scenic views plus a late evening game drive through the large compound areas where I saw giraffe (nature's gardeners), wart hogs, zebra, wildebeest, impala, cape buffalo and I just missed a leopard on the property.
Access to the bushcamp means a 45 minute off the main road for a trip down a unimproved dirt road to the camp's main guarded and gated security entrance and then another short drive to the camp's entrance on a game-drive road to another gate where guests then traverse over a suspension bridge and indigenous wooded gully to get to the main, open-air, lodge which houses a stocked bar, TV, couches, and dining tables.
The afternoon I arrived there was time for a welcome drink and then off for a late afternoon/early evening gamedrive before returning to a delicious dinner and drinks. The camp is quiet and a perfect place to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.
The individual "tent-lodges" are fully self-contained and complete with one electrical outlet, fan, 2 twin beds, mosquito bed nets, reading lights, and an open, but 3/4 enclosed attached, outdoor bathroom with regular toilet, washbasin, and (hot water) shower. All the tent-lodges are accessed by wooden-slat walkways and have wood bases, wood floors and siding with thatched roofs.
I spent most of my next 2nd day inside Kruger Park (see my other entries) before returning to Panzi for another excellent dinner prepared by Bev and John and the following morning before the trip back to Johannesburg, Glynn provided a opportunity for a short Bushwalk to an elevated lookout he built that offered a nice view of a waterhole and the surrounding mountain ranges.
CAUTION: Glynn (thankfully) checked a fold-up chair for me before I sat in it and shook out a small scorpion. There are insects and bugs that should prompt one to look before sitting, touching, etc.
NOTE: Don't figure exact times for distances unless it is on a major road. Many roads can be slow-going for a variety of reasons.
Panzi has 16 beds in different fortified thatched "tent-like" setting with each accomodation separate from the others and reached by wooden walkways.
The camp offers:
Bush walks, game drives, a pool, sundowner drives, bird/frog/insect watching, & pure relaxation in a natural setting.
There is also available:
Microlight safaris, hot air ballooning, white water rafting & tubing (in season), day trips to Kruger National Park (about 45 minutes to Orpen Gate & 90 minutes to Phalaborwa, panoramic route tours of the area, Moholoholo Rehabilition Center, Hoedspruit Cheetah Project and Big 5 game drives.
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