Love bunny rabbits? You’ve come to the right place when you visit Kiara Lodge, slap bang in the middle of spectacular Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Free State, close to Lesotho.
They may not be the main attraction but whole families follow cute Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter rabbits with feed sold at cost at reception. No one knows how they got here but you are welcome to take one or two home- a source of some amusement since departing guests smuggling them out have no need to.
Kiara Lodge easily surpasses the other predominantly timeshare spots I’ve visited. It is maintained to a very high standard and offers so much that you should find plenty. The Maluti Mountains are definitely one of the more beautiful places to be found in South Africa and the quaint village of Clarens is not far off- close enough to have dinner there and pop back afterward.
Kiara Lodge has its own restaurant and bar- Trout and Mallard- run by Max Schwim. The restaurant’s menu is as extensive as the lodge’s offerings. Surprisingly, seafood features prominently, as do very large helpings of all sorts of comfort food (it seems to be a Free State thing). Give the ribs and eisbein a try. They even deliver to your unit if you’re too lazy to fend for yourself.
The restaurant is alongside the Body Bliss Day Spa, where Thato gave me a really good massage. This is a proper spa- equipped with steam room and indoor heated pool and even offering kiddies’ treatments.
Kiddies of all ages are what Kiara’s on-site offerings are all about. An impressive indoor swimming pool complex has just been completed which includes a splash pad for kids, a baby pool, big pool and two Jacuzzis as well as a bubble bed. . Step out from there, cross the new putt-putt course and you are in the sizeable, really jacked up kid’s games room, where dads were jostling youngsters for a slice of the action. From tots to adults there’s fun for all, from colouring-in to table tennis, foosball, air hockey and big screen Xbox.
Playground stuff is plentiful too, including trampolines and a giant Jumping Pillow. There are tennis courts and we churned the waters of the dam at the top of the resort on a paddleboat too. The dam is a great spot from which to get your bearings, with most of the lodge laid out below and mountains and cliffs all around.
Lariska (Lally) Botes, Kiara Lodge’s entertainments co-ordinator and someone who just loves what she does, was our guide and partner in crime and we hiked a short way up from the lodge to admire the views and befriend some dassies. We also headed out to explore the reserve, enjoying a relatively easy and short hike to aptly named Mushroom Rock.
We had an absolute jol, directly opposite the entrance to Kiara, at Di Bus Stop. Quad biking was our adrenalin flavour but they offer a huge array of activities- from art classes to 4x4 trails and abseiling.
Bokpoort, renowned for their horses, was another port of call with views of note, as the farm overlooks the whole of the Clarens Valley, surrounded by the Red Mountains.
And then it was off to Clarens. Had to buy some proper cherry liquor before being thoroughly entertained at ClarensXtreme where guides Lunchbox, Tabs and Fortune proved to be the best entertainment- full of life, smiles and energy. Time did not allow one of their highly rated white water rafting jaunts, but we had fun on the zipline while kids swarmed up the climbing wall.
Back at Kiara, it was great to sit back, relax, and be rewarded with a golden sunset after a brief thunderstorm, the final rays bouncing off the sandstone mountains. That golden glow as the sun kisses the Maluti Mountains goodnight sets the tone for balmy evenings and cool breezes on your balcony, with the built-in braai fired up.
Choose from two self-catering options: either apartment style or chalets. Our two bedroom unit was spacious, well-furnished and comfy. The higher up the hillside the better the mountain views but some prefer to be nearer the kids’ play area below so they can keep an eye out while chilling. Lower down are riverside units tucked quietly away in the dappled light of trees. A different, very tranquil, setting.
If you want a bit of company of an evening there is a sophisticated chill lounge awaits where over 21’s can break away from the younger crowd.
So many choices- all good, very good indeed.
Tel: 058 255 0140 and visit https://www.facebook.com/KiaraLodgeResort