I’ve unlocked a whole new region in South Africa, and I can’t believe it took me so long to discover it! I recently spent a weekend at Emdoneni Lodge in Hluhluwe, a 3-star lodge located on a small game farm near the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.
Hluhluwe is located about an hour away from St Lucia, and the whole area between the two is beautiful. It’s green and lush – with either forests, sugar cane fields, thick bush or the beautiful wetlands located closer to St Lucia.
Emdoneni Lodge, which is located about 6.5 hours from Joburg and 2.5 hours from Durban is an ideal base to explore the surrounding attractions.
The game farm itself is home to its own wildlife along with the cats within the Zululand Cat Conservation (more on that later on). But, apart from that, it’s also just 30-minutes away from the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve which is home to the big five. The lodge offers game drives to the park with their expert guides or, if you have your own car, you can easily do a self-drive in the park.
The accommodation at Emdoneni Lodge
There are four accommodation options at the lodge: standard or de lux chalets; African-style rondavels and the Windfall Cottage. The rondavels are great for families, while the Windfall Cottage with its secluded location is perfect for honeymooners.
We stayed in one of the chalets and found it perfectly comfortable. It’s simple with a large bed, small lounge area, tea-and-coffee-making station and en-suite bathroom. The décor is elegantly African – with a large painting of one of the cheetahs.
All rates are dinner, bed & breakfast
All rates are based on dinner, bed and breakfast – which makes for a completely relaxing holiday! There’s a huge dining and bar area, along with an outside seating section where all meals are served.
The breakfast menu has a few of the normal options: fruit & muesli, eggs and bacon, omelettes, and pancakes. With fresh scones to start – complete with jams, cheese, cream and preserved figs!
Dinners were sophisticated, yet homely. Each evening has a different menu, which you select from ahead of time. It’s a three-course affair! And we found everything delicious.
There’s lots to do
The lodge has a swimming pool, games room, spa and kid’s area. It also has facilities to host weddings and conferences.
But, now onto the real highlight of the lodge…
Zululand Cat Conservation
The Emdoneni Cat Project has been in operation for almost 25 years and focus on rescuing, rehabilitating, rewilding and releasing wild cats back into nature. The project is located at Emdoneni Lodge and you’re able to take a tour and learn about the project while meeting some of the cats.
They’ve taken in over 100 cats over the years, including Cheetahs, African wildcats, Caracals and Servals. So far, in four Cheetahs, four African wildcats, 13 Caracals and 22 Servals have been released back into the wild. Currently, they are taking care of four African wildcats, eight Cheetahs, eight Caracals and nine Servals. Two Caracals and a Serval are hopefully going to be released into the wild soon.
We joined one of the tours where we were able to see some of the cats being fed, and even enter into a few of the enclosures. At first, I felt slightly uncomfortable about it. I don’t agree with humans interacting with wild animals (for fun) and it broke my heart to see the cats in the enclosures.
But when listening to their stories about what the project is doing and aiming for. It started to make sense. Firstly, it’s a strictly no touching zone, which I was extremely happy to hear (please, don’t ever go petting wild cat). And secondly, all of the cats were there for an important reason.
They were either brought in for breeding purposes (Cheetahs have extremely complicated genes), were rescued from nearby farms or surrendered by previous owners. Their ultimate goal is to rewild and release all cats, but unfortunately, it’s just not possible for all of them. And those are the ones that we were able to meet.
The cats are all beautiful and healthy and it was really special to be able to see them up close. I have a whole new love for Cheetahs – they really are incredible animals.
Apart from the cats in their enclosures, the game farm is also home to a variety of other antelope which you can see when going on walks around the property.
Other activities in the area
While staying at the lodge you can also enjoy various other nearby activities. The lodge organised a boat tour for us in St Lucia with Heritage Tours.
It was about a two-hour boat trip on the St Lucia Estuary. You are guaranteed to see hippos and almost always guaranteed to see a few crocs plus loads of birdlife. We were lucky enough to spot a few pods of hippos and about 15 Nile crocs all chilling on a sandbank. Plus, a kingfisher, fish eagle and another super rare bird with its baby (I can’t remember its name, sorry, I’m not a birder).
It was a great experience and highly recommended if you are in the area. It’s one of the major activities to do in St Lucia, along with visiting iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the beaches.
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at Emdoneni Lodge. The staff are all friendly, the food was delicious, the were rooms comfortable and the whole atmosphere was just really relaxing. If you’re heading to the area, it’s a great base to explore the surrounding game reserves or to just simply relax by the pool.
Our stay at Emdoneni, including the Zululand Cat Conservation tour and Boat Trip with Heritage Tours was hosted. As always all views are my own.