A feast for the eyes, rest for your soul,
firewood for the times ahead

A feast for the eyes, rest for your soul,
firewood for the times ahead

OUR STORY

Adventure Rooted In Nature’s Beauty

Welcome to Moolmanshoek, owned and operated by the Nel family. Secluded in the majestic Witteberg Mountains of the Eastern Free State of South Africa, Moolmanshoek’s legacy spans centuries, from its early beginnings to the thriving conservation area it is today.

Moolmanshoek offers diverse experiences, from unforgettable horseback adventures to tasteful accommodations, a spectacular wedding venue and serene mountain trails, encompassing 3300 hectares of open sky inspiration.

As a Natural Heritage Site, the Moolmanshoek landscape consists of endless green pastures and mountain streams cascading down rock faces, forming natural plunge pools. Wildlife thrives in this area, providing guests with opportunities to spot eland, black wildebeest, springbok, ostrich, zebra, warthog, porcupine, jackal, caracal, serval and more.

For nature lovers, Moolmanshoek offers stunning views from Visierskerf, Sekonjella’s Hoed, or the Pyramid mountains, which can be explored through epic hikes, trail runs or horseback expeditions.

Moolmanshoek is not just a unique destination, it’s a canvas for family-inspired memories and unparalleled outdoor adventures.

History
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HORSES

The Ride Of Your Life

Our horses are known for their ability to navigate the rugged terrain of the Eastern Free State. Whether you are a seasoned equestrian or a novice just starting your journey into the world of horse riding, Moolmanshoek guided outrides combines the beauty of this region with Western-style riding, creating unforgettable memories.

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CONSERVATION

Return to Eden

We are committed to preserving this precious slice of South African wilderness. Moolmanshoek is dedicated to sustainable practices that protect our environment and wildlife for future generations. Join us in supporting our conservation efforts.

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ADVENTURES

Your Wilderness Playground

Immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of our 3,300-hectare private game reserve. Whether you’re an explorer or a nature enthusiast, Moolmanshoek offers various outdoor activities to delight your senses. From thrilling game drives to serene horseback rides, our diverse landscapes provide the canvas for your next adventure.

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STAY

Elegant Accommodation

Return to our lodges after a day of exploration. Each room is thoughtfully designed to blend with the natural surroundings while offering modern comforts. Whether you prefer a cosy fireside chat or a soak in your private bath, your stay at Moolmanshoek promises pure relaxation.

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CELEBRATIONS

A Unique Destination

Say “I do” amidst the enchanting Poplar forest grove or in the ‘Boskerk’ under the protective canopy of Cedar trees. Should the weather intervene, our Sandstone Chapel provides a charming alternative. Arrive at your wedding in our horse-drawn carriage, and leave your guests in awe as they witness our renowned horse run.

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RETREATS

Leadership Development Centre

At Moolmanshoek, we are deeply committed to fostering leadership development. Just 2km away from the Moolmanshoek lodge, our Leadership Centre (LDC) offers a variety of accommodation options tailored to group needs for corporate groups, adult retreats and school-going children.

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horses

Moolmanshoek Outrides

“Let a horse whisper in your ear and breathe into your heart. You will never regret it.” Our horses are our pride and passion. Under the guidance of Wiesman Nel and his equestrian team, our outrides are customised and guaranteed to ignite your spirit of adventure. All skill levels are welcome and riders will be paired with a horse suitable to their riding experience.

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moolmanshoek outrides

Riding Weekend

Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve boasts 15 wildlife species you can observe while traversing the reserve on horseback. This package includes a delightful stay at Moolmanshoek Lodge with breakfast, dinner and bed included. You’ll also enjoy five hours of riding through beautiful landscapes and a picnic lunch on a Saturday. A minimum of four riders is required to partake.

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moolmanshoek outrides

Bushman Paintings Trail

Embark on a horseback expedition to witness ancient Bushmen paintings, estimated to be over 700 years old. Your journey will lead you through plains and mountainous terrain, offering approximately two to three hours in the saddle. Expect spirited canters where the terrain allows, interspersed with serene moments in the mountain areas, allowing you to savour the beautiful Eastern Free State scenery.

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moolmanshoek outrides

Scenic Ride

Ideal for beginners, our scenic ride invites riders of all ages, even small children, who can be accommodated on a lead rein. Explore the reserve amid the roaming wildlife while your expert guide tailors the ride to the group’s skill level. The ride typically lasts 1 to 2 hours, but experienced riders can venture deeper into the mountains, incorporating more exhilarating canters across the plains.

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moolmanshoek OUTRIDES

Riding To Rosendal

Set off on a picturesque 50km route to Rosendal and back. Begin your adventure with a challenging mountain climb, followed by a scenic descent onto the plains. Canter along dirt roads and indulge in a delightful brunch in Rosendal before returning to Moolmanshoek.

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moolmanshoek OUTRIDES

Ultimate Riding Experience

Our ultimate riding experience is a dream come true for the advanced rider seeking an adrenaline rush. Join our seasoned guides on a challenging ride through the reserve, pushing your limits and taking you well out of your comfort zone. Spend a minimum of two hours in the saddle on an exhilarating journey on our sure-footed steeds.

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moolmanshoek OUTRIDES

Endurance Riding

Moolmanshoek proudly hosts two endurance rides annually, affiliated with the Endurance Ride Association of South Africa (ERASA). Distances vary from 40 to 80km, making it one of the most scenic rides in the Free State. These rides are perfect for training experienced horses and providing novice horses with valuable experience.

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HORSES

Horsemanship Program

Learn more about communication with horses, understanding their behaviours and emotions. Under the guidance of ‘horse whisperer’ Monde, you will witness techniques that go beyond traditional horsemanship, creating a bond between horse and rider that is based on trust and mutual respect.

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wild coast trail

Untamed Wonder

This tailor-made journey of 3-5 days begins in Port Edward and ens at Wave Crest on the Wild Coast of South Africa. Revel in stunning landscapes, river crossings on horseback, beach gallops and mountaintop vistas.

Introducing the captivating Wild Coast Trail, a thrilling addition to our selection of adventures. This remarkable trail invites riders to explore the pristine wilderness of the Wild Coast. Commencing at Port Edward and culminating at Wave Crest, this trail is meticulously tailored to accommodate our clients, offering a journey that spans from three to five days.

Prepare to be wowed by views of both the rugged terrain and the untamed coastline. Immerse yourself in the experience as you navigate rivers and lagoons astride your trusty horse or let the exhilaration of galloping on the sandy shores ignite your senses. Ascend majestic mountains, pausing at their summits to bask in the views of the sea. This equestrian adventure is an absolute must for your bucket list.

To make the most of this extraordinary journey, we recommend booking your ride between the months of March and April or during October. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover the untamed beauty of the Wild Coast with us.

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lesotho trails

Landlocked Beauty

Unleash your adventurous spirit with our Lesotho Trails. Explore Lesotho’s mountainous terrain on our agile and dependable horses. This challenging, once-in-a-lifetime experience offers spectacular views and a sense of accomplishment.

Immerse yourself in the landscapes of the Mountain Kingdom.

Saddle up and prepare to explore Lesotho’s majestic mountains on the back of our reliable, sure-footed, and agile horses. These remarkable companions will guide you through a variety of terrains, offering a thrilling adventure at every turn.

This experience is not for the faint-hearted; it’s a technically demanding ride that will test your trust in your equine partner. But with the challenge comes the reward of a lifetime – unparalleled views that will leave you in awe and a sense of achievement that is truly priceless.

Discover your adventurous spirit and create memories that will last a lifetime.

CONSERVATION

Return To Eden

In its early days, Moolmanshoek was primarily used for crop farming, a common practice during the 20th century. Under the care of Willie, a transformative and ecological shift took place over the past 40 years, converting the land into a private game reserve and wetland habitat. This transition involved a comprehensive restoration effort. Willie recognised the importance of preserving a natural ecosystem, which had been disrupted by years of farming activities.

Today, a wide variety of wild animals roam the plains and mountain slopes of the reserve, including many species of antelope. Guests also have the opportunity to spot some of our other ‘residents’, like the black-backed jackal, caracal, porcupine, mongoose and meerkat. Bird species recorded on the reserve include black eagle, jackal buzzard, bald ibis, grey heron and eagle owl.

Eventually, we realised that our focus needed to shift. Not only did we need to think about profits, but we also needed to uphold nature and the people in this area. It dawned on us that we had been neglecting nature and the people around us, and focusing only on profit. This, it seemed to us, was a big part of the problem. We set about changing our practices to align with this new ethos.

NATURE AND THE PLANET

In our efforts to uphold the natural landscape surrounding our farm, we asked ourselves what is the original purpose of this land – what was it created for? After evaluating how we had been using the land, we realised that we needed a strategy that would align the farming activities with the land’s created purpose – to sustain indigenous wildlife.

FOCUSING ON SUSTAINABILITY

Traditional farming methods had depleted the topsoil and humus structure of our soils. We needed to restore and heal our land if we were to continue on at Moolmanshoek.

RETURN TO CREATED PURPOSE

After much research and toil, the land began to heal. Soil that should never have been ploughed was restored for generations to come. Just look at how lush and vibrant our vlei grass and clover-legume pasture has become!

Restored pastures could now be used for a low-cost animal production strategy, and organic meat was produced. Today we “farm” with grass, and produce clear drinking water. To us, this is what the valley and mountains were intended for.

THE PEOPLE

In 1973, farm workers were mostly uneducated and untrained. We believe that all people are equal before God, and we began the work of trying to uplift the farm workers at Moolmanshoek.

In 1984, we started a programme to provide housing with running water and electricity, schooling (a crèche was added to the farm school), adult learning, and personal development to the workers, without whom none of what we do would be possible.

THE NEXT GENERATION

Today, we are committed to transferring knowledge and skills to the next generation as best as we can. There is a continuing programme of growth and development for all personnel at Moolmanshoek, and we endeavour to improve on this programme at every opportunity.

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adventures

Rekindle The Soul

Escape to Moolmanshoek and let nature’s beauty, adventure, and serenity become your story. Your journey begins here.

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world-class trails

Hiking & Running

Moolmanshoek offers a variety of day walks for visitors. These trails are mostly based near the lodge and cater to different levels of hikers. For those seeking a leisurely experience, you can take a kierie and stroll along vehicle tracks to observe the abundant wildlife in the ‘mini-Serengeti’ area.

Alternatively, more adventurous and fit hikers can challenge themselves by climbing one of the reserve’s high peaks like Visierskerf, Sekonyella’s Hat, or the Pyramid for unforgettable views.

Some of the specific day walks in Moolmanshoek Reserve include:

Langesnek Day Trail: This trail offers both shorter and longer options for day hikers, with excellent facilities available at Langesnek Hikers’ House. The difficulty level ranges from easy to average.

Aunt Mitchell’s High Tea Overhang: A walk to a sandstone overhang that once served as a scenic “high tea” spot, offering stunning views.

The Five Dams Walk: An easy stroll through poplar groves, passing by five dams, allowing hikers to appreciate the scenery and birdlife near the lodge.

Sandstone Gorge: A longer walk to the Waterkloof ravine, providing the opportunity to enjoy the mountain streams and waterfalls in this beautiful gorge.

Moolmanshoek Reserve offers a diverse range of day walks to suit the preferences and fitness levels of its visitors, from leisurely strolls to challenging peak climbs.

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world-class Trails

Mountain Biking

Don’t forget to pack your trusty mountain bike for this adventure. If you’re yearning for panoramic views under a blue sky, our mountain biking trails are the perfect choice. Our trails meander through green foliage, picturesque sandstone formations, and a pristine nature reserve.

Prepare to test your limits and push your riding skills and fitness to the max. This challenging trail is tailored to riders seeking an adrenaline-pumping experience. Along the way, you’ll encounter formidable hill climbs that snake through the remote park roads, offering an invigorating challenge.

Trail Difficulty: Intermediate

Distance: Choose from a 16km ride or explore longer routes for an extended adventure.

moolmanshoek activities at moolmanshoek fly fishing and fishing

rich in wildlife

Fishing

Reel in black bass and carp from natural sprint waters. Remember to bring your own fishing gear. In alignment with our conservation commitment, we operate on a catch-and-release basis, allowing the aquatic creatures to continue flourishing in their habitat.

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rich in wildlife

Birding

Explore over 230 bird species at Moolmanshoek. A conveniently located bird hide near the lodge offers stunning scenery and diverse habitats, including high-altitude grassland, mountains, wetlands, and forests.

While 214 bird species have been documented, there’s room for keen birders to contribute to the list, including sightings of endangered species like the southern bald ibis, Rudd’s lark, Sabota lark, yellow-breasted pipit, wattled crane, and white-winged flufftail. Discover African rock pipits, buff-streaked chats, and mountain wheatears in rocky valleys.

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rich in wildlife

Game Drives

Join our expert guides for an up-close encounter with wildlife in our ‘mini-Serengeti’. Spot eland, black wildebeest, zebra, springbok, blesbok, mountain reedbuck, steenbok, duiker, fellow deer, red hartebeest, oryx and ostrich.

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for the thrill-seeker

Abseiling & Roping

Challenge yourself with abseiling down sandstone cliffs, ranging from 20m to a demanding 40m descent. Gather a minimum of 4 people for this exhilarating activity.

Additionally, we offer a high ropes course at our leadership centre, perfect for personal challenges, team building, or those seeking a more adventurous experience. Again, a minimum of 4 people is required.

CELEBRATIONS

Making Unforgettable Memories

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weddings

An Authentic Setting

We aim to create an extraordinary weekend wedding experience for your guests. Our lodge offers accommodation options that can comfortably host up to 30 people, ensuring that your weekend stay with loved ones and family becomes truly exceptional. Our team is dedicated to helping you plan your special day and ensuring that it becomes a cherished memory for a lifetime. To inquire or seek assistance, please schedule an appointment with our wedding coordinators in advance, or feel free to contact us directly.

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weddings

Charming Venue

Following the reception, your guests will gather on the lawn in front of the Starter Tent Area, where they will be treated to starters and the spectacular horse run, at the most beautiful time of the day. The Function Hall is conveniently situated next to the tent area and forms part of the Sandstone Lodge, where your reception will take place. This space offers you the freedom to select your preferred style and theme for the Function Hall. We have partnerships with top suppliers in the area and can facilitate introductions on your behalf.

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weddings

Bespoke Ceremonies

Awaiting your guests on the forest benches are two delightful options: a cosy fleece blanket during the colder months or a personalised note on a homemade cushion for added comfort. To infuse your day with vibrancy, our carefully curated menu is a fusion of taste and color, designed to leave your guests in awe. With our onsite chef’s expert touch, we guarantee a menu that will have your guests queuing up for second servings.
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ACCOMMODATION

Welcome Home

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HOSPITALITY

Elegant Accommodation

Return to our lodges after a day of exploration. Each room is thoughtfully designed to blend with the natural surroundings while offering modern comforts. Whether you prefer a cosy fireside chat or a soak in your private bath, your stay at Moolmanshoek promises pure relaxation.

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CUISINE

Exquisite Dining

Savour the flavours of the Free State with our gourmet dining experiences. Our talented chefs craft farm-to-table dishes that showcase the region’s finest ingredients. Whether it’s a romantic dinner for two or a celebratory feast, dining at Moolmanshoek is a culinary experience you won’t forget.

classic

Refined comfort

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luxury

Laid-back luxury

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mountain view

Wake up with a view

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retreats

Leadership Development Centre

At Moolmanshoek, we are deeply committed to fostering leadership development. Just 2km away from the Moolmanshoek lodge, our Leadership Centre (LDC) offers a variety of accommodation options tailored to group needs for both corporate groups, adults and children.
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explore our history

The Legacy Of Moolmanshoek

Moolmanshoek’s history is rich, beginning with Petrus Lafras Moolman, the original owner. In 1905, Moolmanshoek was acquired by Thomas Mitchell for his son, Ernst Mitchell, who later married Dora Musgrave and built the main sandstone house between 1928-1933. After Ernst’s passing in 1956 the farm was later auctioned, and Hendrik Erasmus emerged as the highest bidder, becoming the owner in 1968. Hendrik and Hester Erasmus had a daughter named Miemie, who married Willie Nel. In 1980, Willie acquired Moolmanshoek, and the estate expanded with the addition of adjacent farms Langesnek and Waterkloof.

 

The Moolmans of Graaff-Reinet embarked on a journey in 1829 when they migrated to the enchanting Moolmanshoek. Their connection to this valley began with hunting expeditions during their temporary stay in the South Eastern Free State. The original Moolman farm spanned an impressive 6,800 hectares, encompassing nearly the entire valley. Eventually, this vast expanse was divided among the four sons, and in June 1869, the first maps of the farm were created by KJ de Kok. The owners at that time were:

  • AJ Moolman (Andries Johannes)
  • JL Moolman
  • CL Moolman (Christaan Lodewikus) † Ficksburg, who was wed to Maria Amerentia Cronje
  • PL Moolman (Petrus Lafras), married to Isabella Elsie Georgina Moolman

Upon their father’s passing in 1904, the sons who had inherited the upper reaches of the valley, now known as Moolmanshoek, decided to offer it for sale. The purchaser was Mr. Thomas Mitchell, a prominent businessman and farmer in the region. On the 11th of June 1905, he acquired Moolmanshoek for his 17-year-old son, Ernst Mitchell. Subsequently, Ernst married Dora Musgrave, and together they embarked on the construction of the magnificent main sandstone house during its1928-1933, at a total cost of £8,000.

Tragically, in 1956, Ernst Mitchell passed away. Moolmanshoek then found itself under the stewardship of Mr. Muller, who leased the property for the ensuing five years. A pivotal moment in its history unfolded when a bank in Ficksburg decided to auction the estate. Ultimately, Mr. Hendrik Erasmus, in wedlock with Hester du Plessis and hailing from Hofmeyer, emerged as the highest bidder. An agreement was struck, permitting Mr. Erasmus to rent the farm for a maximum of ten years with an option to purchase the land. Seven years into his tenancy, he exercised this option and officially became the owner of Moolmanshoek in 1968.

Hendrik and Hester Erasmus welcomed a single offspring into their fold, a daughter named Miemie. In March 1972, she wed Willie Nel from Smithfield, and together, they took up residence at Moolmanshoek in January 1973. In 1980, Willie acquired Moolmanshoek from his father-in-law, solidifying his status as the fourth owner of this cherished estate. Under Willie and Miemie’s devoted care, Moolmanshoek transformed into the haven we know today. Additional land, including the adjacent farms Langesnek (home to the Leadership Centre) and Waterkloof, was gradually acquired and incorporated into Moolmanshoek. Willie and Miemie’s family expanded with the arrival of three children: Hester, Isabel, and Wiesman. Presently, Moolmanshoek thrives as a thriving family enterprise, a testament to its enduring legacy.

Family Tree