This award-winning private game reserve in the eastern Free State is the vision of Willie and Miemie Nel, who, from 1973, transformed their livestock and dairy farm into a wildlife retreat where guests can experience its natural beauty on foot or on horseback.

Did you know?

Did you know that meerkats have nictitating membranes (an extra, transparent eyelid), like birds?

One of the many reasons that Moolmanshoek Game Reserve in the Free State is an award-winning tourist destination is because of the personal attention guests receive from the Nel family throughout their stay.

Founded by Willie and Miemie Nel, this award-winning private game reserve in the eastern Free State is the Nel family’s realised dream. As a longstanding conservation steward, Willie Nel recognised the rich natural offerings of their 3,500-hectare property and developed it into a conservation area and natural heritage site.

To sustain their dream the Nel family strives to ensure that everyone who visits experiences more than they expected and receives the highest level of hospitality from the family-run team.

The reserve nestles in the Moolmanshoek valley in a horseshoe formed by the Witteberg Mountains that feed several mountain streams. This water-blessed valley is rich in plains game, including springbok, zebra, black wildebeest, blesbok and ostrich. It also features 230 bird species.

Hiking, horse trails, fishing, and San (also known as 'Bushman') paintings are all on offer. For the horse riders, South African boerperde ('farmer's horses') and endurance Arabs are bred at Moolmanshoek. Horse safaris are managed by Willie and Miemie’s son, Wiesman, for groups of between two and 15 riders, and these are accompanied by a well-trained guide.

Horse and hiking trails offer a range of views and the must-see San paintings, one of which features a warrior.

Moolmanshoek also offers a meerkat experience, where guests can get close to wild meerkats that are habituated to humans. For the anglers, there are black bass and carp dams or you can flyfish in the natural springs.

The lodge is built from the eastern Free State’s characteristic sandstone, with 15 en-suite bedrooms, including fireplaces or Queen Ann stoves. The lodge has an honesty bar, library and sunroom are part of the lodge. Meals are of a high standard, enhanced by ‘fresh from the farm’ products and flavours such as figs and pomegranates.

At Moolmanshoek, they call their cooking ‘boere cuisine’ ('farmers' cuisine') because it features typical South African dishes such as pumpkin fritters and leg of lamb.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 51 933 2220
Isabel Arangies (nee Nel): + 27 (0)82 855 54 54

How to get here

Moolmanshoek is 3½ hours' drive from Johannesburg, four hours' drive from Pretoria, 2½ hours' from Bloemfontein, and close to Ficksburg, which is on the Lesotho border.

From Gauteng (Johannesburg): Take the N1 to Kroonstad. Look for the R76 towards Senekal, following the Steynsrus/Bethlehem signs. At Steynsrus, turn right towards Senekal. Drive through Senekal on the N5 towards Bethlehem. About 5km after Senekal turn right on the R70 to Ficksburg/Rosendal. Exactly 10km past Rosendal turn left on a gravel road. Continue for 7,5 km till you see the Moolmanshoek gate on the left.

GPS reading: 28 37’58S 27 59’56E

Best time to visit

Moolmanshoek is lovely all year round. Winters are icy in the morning and at night, when the surrounding mountains are often covered in snow.

Get around

On the reserve you can hike, ride horses or go on 4x4 drives.

What will it cost

From R600-R800 per person, for dinner, bed and breakfast.

Length of stay

Stay three to four days if you have the time.

Where to stay

Moolmanshoek has a lodge with 15 en-suite bedrooms.

What to eat

Moolmanshoek has a restaurant.