Bokkie droppings decorated the lawn between the Clubhouse Suites and the pool as abundantly as they use fertiliser pellets in Sandton. What antelope had been bold enough to venture so far from cover in such a public area at Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge, high on Robbers’ Pass outside Pilgrim’s Rest in Mpumalanga?
I mulled over this as I tucked into an excellent stuffed, deboned trout at Pointer’s Rest Restaurant at the main buildings. The droppings were too small for bushbuck. Perhaps a duiker or steenbok? I found an answer sooner than expected. Driving back to my comfortable suite under a darkening sky, there were two duikers grazing beside the road. Registering the purr of the Nissan Navara somewhat belatedly, they scampered across right in front of the vehicle and darted into a belt of black wattle, paused and checked me out, their dainty shapes just visible in the gloom.
They weren’t the only wildlife I saw at Crystal Springs. The next day guide Klaas Albat took guests on an early morning game drive through the 5 000-hectare reserve of which this resort is part. Zebra grazed calmly while a couple of hikers passed by, and sightings of giraffe, warthog, kudu, impala and an eland male – too young to have his own herd, but old enough to sport a beard – counted as a quiet day, said Klaas.
However, his stories about the animals and recent sightings kept guests entertained, if envious. You don’t really expect to see a warthog screaming blue murder as a leopard takes it out while you’re sitting in the bird hide with your video camera whirring. Nor do you dream of making a coveted leopard spotting from the deck of your lodge, especially when it shoots out from below you to pounce on the waterbuck you’ve been observing. Not all guests get this lucky.
Apart from leopard and buffalo, which have their own section of the reserve, there are no dangerous animals and guests are free to wander around the five hiking trails or do their game viewing from a bicycle or their own vehicle.
Being at the top of Robbers’ Pass, one of the main routes from the Highveld over the Mpumalanga Drakensberg to the Lowveld, this private reserve enjoys a rich variety of species, whether you’re birding or tree-spotting.
The resort is family friendly, offers a daily programme of activities and has a well-equipped games room, playground, mini-golf course, tennis and squash courts and swimming pools dotted around the property. The clubhouse’s sauna, gym, spa bath and indoor heated pool are open to adults only.
There’s a small shop on site, stocked with everything from toys and snacks to boerewors and trout, as well as an atmospheric pub and two eateries. The coffee shop is open during the day for those who don’t want to self cater in their units, and Pointer’s Rest Restaurant caters for evening diners. Even after a short stay at this mountain refuge, it’s easy to understand why the duikers felt secure enough to wander around so freely. It won’t take long for your kids to enjoy the same liberties.
Top 5 things do near Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge
- Peep through God’s Window on the edge of the escarpment north of Graskop.
- Gape at the cascading Lisbon Falls.
- Drive the scenic Vaalhoek back road from Pilgrim’s Rest to Bourke’s Luck.
- Go on a ghost tour in Pilgrim’s Rest, the historic gold-rush town. Tel 082- 522-1958, www.brummertours.co.za.
- Discover silkworm secrets on a tour at Africa Silks’ farm, off the road to Bushbuckridge. Tel 013-767-1950, www.africasilks.com.
Getting to Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge
Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge is at the top of Robbers’ Pass on the R533 between Mashishing (formerly Lydenburg) and Pilgrim’s Rest, about four-hours drive from Johannesburg.
What it costs to stay at Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge
Accommodation options range from hotel-type rooms with mini kitchenettes and communal braai facilities to fully equipped lodges sleeping up to eight. Self-catering from R369 to R601 a person a night sharing. B&B and DB&B options and discounts for kids under 16 are available. The resort is affiliated to RCI.