23 Apr

On a much-needed mom and daughter adventure, Mia and Katrine discovered Karkloof Safari Villas: a lush paradise which is just as much a destination for curious little minds as it is for adults in need of recharging their batteries.

story and pictures katrine ankernilssen

Heat envelops us as we drive through the glorious greenness of Karkloof one early Thursday afternoon. But we hardly notice its stickiness and the ominous warning of a storm, because this gorgeous reserve is teeming with wildlife. We are surrounded by beautiful creatures; a warthog family kneel to graze while a Hamerkop cools down on the edge of a small dam and giraffe move slowly and gracefully – seeking shade under Acacia trees that are oh-so-typical of my beloved Africa. Nothing beats being at one with the bush, and this time I finally get to enjoy it with my six-year-old daughter. She’s been waiting to be big enough for her first safari for a long time, so this is a very special experience for both of us.

Karkloof Safari Villas’ charming wooden walkways among magnificent trees and trickling streams bring on an instant inner peace, forcing you to leave all your worries behind. As a visitor to this little piece of heaven, you’re sure to enjoy the healing power of nature as you soak up 3 000 hectares of pure magic.

Game ranger Delicious Dhori, sporting a big, warm smile, takes us on a slow drive up the hill to the lodge, which overlooks valleys, grasslands and green rolling hills. Here we are treated as princesses from the moment we arrive and rightfully so, according to Mia – as being spoilt should surely be part of the package when on a mom and daughter adventure.

When lightning flashes and rain starts falling hard, we realise that the planned afternoon game drive with Delicious is not going to happen. So we order indulgent toasted sarmies with crispy French fries and seek refuge in the cosy library to wait out the storm. After studying every single waterbird of southern Africa in great detail, as well as alluring big cats, Mia and I borrow umbrellas and make our way to our private villa to freshen up for dinner. Wrapped in fluffy gowns we giggle as we stretch out on an enormous bed, which Mia reckons could fit about eight people, and listen to the joyful calls of frogs that rain always brings. Head waiter Tinei Makuvarara told Mia earlier that she could come to dinner in that very fluffy gown, but she is not convinced – despite the fact that Tinei assured her that when at Karkloof Safari Villas, you get to do exactly what you want.

Dinner is one decadent course after another. Tender beef fillet and home-made ice-cream appeal to the younger tastebuds, while I savour pan-fried salmon and a pear and chocolate tart. Tinei promises Mia, who is fascinated by the patterned butter balls served with our freshly baked rosemary and garlic rolls, that he will teach her how to make them the next day. I am not sure he realises she won’t forget this promise.

With nature’s lullaby filling the night we sleep like » babies, no peas under our princess mattress. Excitement about the much-anticipated safari experience leads to an early wake-up, and we enjoy coffee and hot chocolate along with a spectacular view from our bed before we meet Delicious at the lodge – eager to take us to the legendary waterfall. A short drive through a misty, cool morning is followed by a walk up a steep but beautifully laid out path of wooden walkways and steps, and we reach the top platform within 20 minutes. The climb is worth it, even for little feet. Up here we’re mesmerised by the powerful masses of water tumbling down in front of us and we’re soaking wet within a couple of minutes – much to Mia’s delight. Our game drive afterwards – as the sun breaks through the clouds – allows us to add a large number of animals to Mia’s checklist – including an optimistic jackal lurking among a herd of impala.

A long and scrumptious breakfast later, we feed the resident fish and dip our feet into the large outdoor swimming pool before deciding it’s time to explore the lodge’s surroundings on foot. We get very up, close and personal with nyala and warthog, which is such a humbling experience. Sitting in silence for ages, surrounded by and observing the animals curiously observing us, is a moment we’ll both remember forever. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to take Mia for her first bush experience, and as we leave – sunkissed and blissed out – we make a pinky promise that this is a first of many more mom and daughter adventures to come.

Karkloof Safari Villas is a hidden gem indeed, right on our doorstep and just waiting to be explored by young and old. For those staying longer, the spa is worth a visit and mountain biking, birding and fishing can be arranged too.

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