It takes approximately 36 minutes from Mooi River to reach Antbear Eco Lodge, along a pot holed road and then onto about 8kms of dirt road. Even though the lodge is so close to Mooi River, it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere. It is quiet and peaceful with no sounds of cars and trucks, just the sounds of the birds, cows, horses and occasionally the donkeys.
There are 3 different types of accommodation available at the lodge :
Mountain View Suites which consist of a spacious lounge, a large bedroom with a king size bed, an en suite bathroom and a verandah. The suites also include a wood burning fireplace. The bathrooms all have jacuzzi baths and separate showers.
Garden View Suites have spacious bedrooms with a queen size bed, lounge and an en suite bathroom. Some of the units have jacuzzi baths and a separate shower while others just have a shower. All the suites include a wood burning fireplace.
The Luxury Cave is unique with glass doors that open onto a wooden deck with hammock chairs and a panoramic view of the valley and Drakensberg mountains. The cave is very private and totally separate from the other accommodation making it the perfect place to stay to celebrate a birthday or honeymoon or even a romantic getaway. King sized bed, hand carved furniture, jacuzzi bath, shower, lounge and an open wood burning fireplace.
A unique feature of Antbear Eco Lodge is all the incredible woodwork inside the main lodge and in the various suites. Tables, chairs, wardrobes, headboards, the incredible doors for each suite and even wood panels in the shower. Everywhere you turn there is some piece of woodwork to be amazed at.
My daughter and I stayed in room 14 which is a Mountain View Suite. It has a large 4 poster bed, spacious lounge with a big fireplace and a very quirky wardrobe. My daughter is not an unpacker but I like to unpack my suitcase and hang up my clothes, once that is done I can start enjoying my weekend. Our room had a kettle, tea, coffee, a small bottle of sherry and a fridge. Even though there was coffee I just cannot drink instant so I had brought my own ground coffee with and a French Press to make it in. I like my coffee with fresh milk and the kitchen very kindly gave me a jug of milk to take back to my room after supper. This was my second trip to Antbear (the first was in 2016) and I was looking forward to seeing the beautiful sunsets and going horse riding.
The main lodge at Antbear has reception, kitchen, restaurant, honesty bar, wooden deck and a lounge area on the second level. The black board is updated everyday with the menu for supper and Friday’s supper was Citrus Butternut Soup, Creamy Chicken Tagliatelle and Crepe Suzette. This lockdown has cut off people from physical social interaction and even though social media is fantastic at keeping people connected it is just not the same as being able to meet for coffee or a meal. It was wonderful to be able to join other people for a meal and chat to each other (yes we did do social distancing). The meal was as good as I remembered from my previous stay – the Citrus Butternut Soup was so creamy and delicious and the Crepe Suzette was a perfect ending to the meal.
After a great night’s sleep my daughter and I were excited for the day ahead as we were going on a horse ride at 10am. But first we had to have the most important meal of the day – Breakfast. Antbear offers cereal, yoghurt, fresh fruit and the most divine bread and muffins. You can also order a cooked breakfast with eggs, bacon, pork sausage, mushrooms and grilled tomato. A piece or two of toast or a muffin with their homemade jam or lemon curd is a must have.
It was a very misty Saturday morning but the mist had cleared by the time we met with Mlendeni at the horse corral. He was busy saddling up the horses we would ride. I rode Sport while my daughter was given Valentino to ride. I had to ride at the back since Valentino was adamant that it was his place behind the lead horse.
“One can get in a car and see what man has made. One must get on a horse to see what God has made.” Author Unknown
I love going horse riding – the fresh air, the scenery, the warm sun, the birdlife and the feel of the horse as we walked and trotted along the path around the lodge. Mlendeni pointed out the Antbear holes along the path so we had to be careful to not let the horse step into any of them. The ride is under an hour and is suitable for beginner riders. All the horses at Antbear are well looked after and in excellent condition. We were sad to have the ride come to an end, but that didn’t end up our only ride of the weekend as we did go again with Siobhan (Sugar & Spice) later in the afternoon.
After our ride I changed and my daughter decided to have a nap before lunch. I met Siobhan at the main lodge to chat and then we took a walk to see the animals, the vegetable garden and to the upstairs lounge to see and photograph the gorgeous stained glass window. The rest of the group had gone on a hike when we went riding so it was only myself, my daughter and Siobhan that had lunch at the lodge. We enjoyed cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches with a salad out on the wooden deck. It was a bit chilly but it was worth braving the chill to enjoy the mountain scenery. Our second horse ride was at 3pm.
We did have a bit of time to spend in our rooms before we met on the wooden deck for a chat before supper. The Saturday menu was Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup, Braised Pork Chop with Savoury Couscous and Farm Vegetables and Chocolate Mousse. I have never had broccoli and cauliflower soup and it was so delicious that I was surprised that I preferred it to the Citrus Butternut Soup from the night before. The pork chop was tender and juicy and I really enjoyed the fresh flavour of rosemary that was in the couscous. The one word I can use for the Chocolate Mousse is …….Divine.
It was a cold night but we were all excited for our Star Gazing experience after supper. The Star Gazing takes place in a field not far from the main lodge and we would be lying in hammocks. We made sure that we were very warmly dressed and then Mlendeni (he also does the horse rides) lead us out to the hammocks that were set up in a circle. Each hammock contained a blanket and a hot water bottle. It was a laugh trying to maneuver ourselves into the hammocks and then get the blankets over. Unfortunately it was a very bright evening because of the full moon so it was not dark enough to see the stars clearly. Mlendeni told us folk tales about the sun, the moon and the sky and how stars are used to plan planting and harvesting. The stories he told us were told to him and his siblings by his grandmother. Lying in a hammock is the perfect way to see the stars and I would love to do it again. When you stay at Antbear you must book for this amazing experience.
After being out in the cold, my daughter and I were looking forward to a warm bath and I was also determined to get the fire started in the fireplace. I did successfully get it going and made sure it had a lot of wood on it before we went to bed. I lay awake for a while enjoying watching the patterns the flickering flames made in the dark room.
Our wonderful weekend had come to an end and it was time to pack up and leave the silence and the beauty of Antbear Eco Lodge. We enjoyed our breakfast and I made sure to have their homemade bread and delicious apricot jam. We thanked the staff in the main lodge before we left and my daughter and I took a walk to the horse corral to say thank you and goodbye to Mlendeni.
It was such a blessing to be able to get away on a media trip during this horrible pandemic and we could see for ourselves what the leisure travel ban is doing to properties and livelihoods. I pray that this ban is lifted very soon and I hope to see you on the road. Support your favourite places by buying vouchers or booking a stay for the future.
Fenhurst Farm, Giant’s Castle
Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal 3310
Note : This was a media trip and we were hosted by Antbear Eco Lodge.