The Cradle Moon Lakeside Game Lodge has it all – namely amazing running and biking trails, a scenic 32 hectare dam that’s excellent for non-motorised watersports and ample game for you to view. In fact, this gem of a destination offers such an authentic African bush experience, it’s hard to believe it’s located just 36 km from Johannesburg’s city centre.

If you’re anything like me and live in Gauteng, chances are now that summer’s almost here you’re looking for a convenient destination where you can safely work up a sweat and appreciate the great outdoors. That said, let me tell you about my latest favourite spot – the Cradle Moon Lakeside Game Lodge. Set within the 1 500 hectare Cradle Moon Conservancy near Muldersdrift, just 36 km from Johannesburg’s CBD, it offers a whole lot of outdoor fun – from trail running, to mountain biking, game drives and guided walks, open-water swimming and even kayaking – but without the hassle of you having to hit the long road to get there. And, once you’re done shedding your accumulated city stress, you can chill at their well-appointed outdoor terrace and enjoy some fine food while watching the small zebra family take over the place and drink greedily from the pool.

Lake Heritage
The one major feature that makes Cradle Moon Lakeside Game Lodge stand out from the standard, run-of-the-mill eco-resort crowd is Lake Heritage. The dam wall was only completed in 2006, but you’d never say it. Built painstakingly by hand, using rocks sourced from the area, it has an aesthetic, old-world look about it. I’m not kidding, when I first saw it I just assumed it was a hangover from our colonial past, rather than some modern marvel. But what a marvel it is. The end result is a stunningly-beautiful, 32 hectare dam that’s surrounded by the African bush, ample game and a wide variety of birdlife.

Fed by the clean waters of the Crocodile River, this man-made lake is ideal for non-motorised watersports. I particularly enjoy paddling my touring kayak here. Being significantly larger than Emmerentia Dam (my local paddle spot), it allows me to get a better rhythm going and work up a decent sweat without getting bored. And, when I’m taking a relaxing breather, I can just sit there in the middle, fooling my senses into thinking I’m somewhere more exotic than just down the drag from home. Yep, this spot is definitely my happy place.

If paddling’s not your thing, no problem. Open water swimming is also very popular, so if you’re thinking of tackling the Midmar Mile anytime soon, this would make an ideal training venue. Flyfishing is also popular, which doesn’t surprise me in the least – sitting in my kayak in the late afternoons, I’m constantly amazed by the size of the fish jumping. Breeds include Large Mouth Yellow Fish, Bass, Barbel, Telapia and Carp. However, fishing can only take place in designated areas (along the south bank of Lake Heritage and immediately below the dam wall on the Crocodile river). It also works on a strictly no bait, catch and release basis.

And, if all you want to do is be chauffeured around the dam to take in the ambiance and scenery, you can do that too. The Lodge also has a 24 seater pontoon that’s available for charter or spontaneous cruises. Get lucky, and you might even see the resident African Fish Eagle family and their shy, rather elusive hippo!

Biking and running trails
The 1 500 hectare Cradle Moon Conservancy, owned and controlled by a handful of like-minded landowners, also boasts 50 km of trails that can either be ridden or run. The 9.44 km long Blue Route is ideal for beginner mountain bikers or the not-so-fit and follows the base route around the lodge. It includes single track, jeep track and Bermed corners. It also has easy “escape routes” back to the lodge should you want to bail.

The 20.8 km Yellow Route takes you past river frontage, through multiple forest and rocky sections. It features a lot of single track, and you can expect it to take some time to complete as long climbs and technical descents are involved. While the 15.7 km long Red Route is the most technical and only suitable for more advanced riders. When hitting this one you’ll first cross the bridge at the dam wall, then immediately be subjected to a sharp climb up a concrete jeep track. The route features technical climbs, switchback descents and tight forest sections. However, take note: No one is allowed to cut or veer off track – if you get bust doing so you’ll be asked to leave the route immediately.

Other things you can do
If exercise isn’t your thing, but you still want to check out the flora and fauna properly, you can always go on a game drive with an experienced game ranger. The drive traverses the farms Zwartkop and Driefontein (incorporating the old Heia Safari Ranch), Ekudeni, Eduzani, Bell Gables, Aloe Ridge, Riverview Spa, Glenburn Lodge and Kloofzicht. This makes up an area of around 1600 hectares and includes the following possible sightings: Rhino, Leopard, Eland, Kudu, Red Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Duiker, Impala, Springbuck, Blesbuck, Brown Hyena, Jackal and Aardwolf.

Once you’re done working up a sweat or checking out all the indigenous critters, you can always head for a refreshing drink and get some good chow. Their 120-seater traditional restaurant offers both buffet and a la carte options and also features a stone-clad wine cellar. While the outside deck and well-appointed terraces are great spots to have a tasty meal and quench your thirst on some craft beer. The lodge also has 50 secluded rondavels – allowing you to get a proper relaxing break just a stone’s throw away from one of Africa’s most bustling cities.- (c) 2017 NavWorld

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About The Author

Sean Woods

Originally a photographer for the Star newspaper in the bad old days, Sean Woods turned to writing after the first democratic elections in '94. The career shift paid serious dividends, culminating in him becoming associate editor for Popular Mechanics magazine with a number of technology writing awards under his belt. His interests include anything to do with boats, motorcycles and all those fancy tech gadgets that help the modern world go around.

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