Review: Rockwood Forest Lodge, Karkloof Nature Reserve

When it comes to kicking back and embracing a state of pure relaxation, there is no better place to do so than Rockwood Forest Lodge.

Sleeps: Up to six people in three bedrooms (one king, two twins) 
Baths: 3 – two bath, one shower en-suite
Amenities: Massive patio with outdoor cooking facilities, fireplace, full kitchen, guided hiking trails, jungle gym and hospitality DSTV package.

Surrounded by the indigenous forest of Karkloof Nature Reserve, and the flowing streams of the Godwini River, a stay at this ultimate forest escape will leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. My husband and I were lucky enough to have been invited to review this idyllic hideaway, and will not easily forget the unique experience. 

We set out on our journey early on Saturday morning, looking forward to seeing what our getaway would hold. The journey in itself was a treat – with the lodge being nestled just outside of the celebrated Midlands Meander route. We stopped for a quick coffee at the Farmers Daughter – a rustic gem oozing character – and then set out towards our home for the night. 

Do we really need a transfer?

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Zama, who helped us check in at record time. Although we were in a bakkie, we were advised that a 4 x 4 vehicle would be needed to get to our private lodge, so Rockwood kindly arranged a transfer vehicle for us, which was ready and waiting at check in. Jabu, the lovely housekeeping supervisor (and possibly one of my favourite people) met us at the vehicle and insisted on helping us with all of our stuff. Once we were all packed up, we were on our way. Both my husband and I were skeptical about the need for a transfer, but 5 minutes in, we were super grateful. Our drive had all the elements of an exciting 4 x 4 trail – bumps, bends, and boulders, and even a stream crossing or two. 

Along the way, Jabu gave us a little bit of insight into life at Rockwood. As a local resident, the rich history of the property could not have been better delivered by anyone else. She shared the tale of, Timothy (the owner’s mom) and Nick Hannock (the owner’s dad), and how Rockwood came to be. She also shared a touching anecdote – when she was a small girl, she had asked her father why the area was called Godwini Falls. “He told me it was because the people that used to live there just used to like smoking weed, and Godwini means weed!” she told us, between giggles.

First impressions & forest frolics.

After a short 15 minute drive, we approached a promising clearing in the woods, and were greeted with a beautifully crafted wooden lodge. Large stacks of wood outside massive bay windows ignited instant excitement within me – the one thing I was most looking forward to was a roaring fire, inside an authentic wooden cabin nestled in the woods – a whimsical scene every writer dreams of! Jabu helped us get settled in, and although the inviting ambiance of the lodge beckoned us, we decided to hit the hiking trail straight away, as the weather was starting to turn. 

Our excitement got the best of us, and we stupidly forgot to check the comprehensive guest guide that gave us information about the various hiking trails, so we had no idea how far away the waterfall was, or how long the hike would take. We reached a literal fork in the woods, and had to choose our path – the trail on the left, known as the escarpment trail, or the trail on the right, known as the waterfall trail. Thankfully, I had my heart set on the cascading promise of the waterfall, because when we finally did check the guest guide we discovered that the escarpment hike was a whopping 5 – 6 hour hike, labelled as ‘very strenuous’ – which as a ‘very unfit individual’ would have been a little bit terrifying. 

We reached our destination after about an hour, and were greeted with the tranquil sounds of a light waterfall, and breathtaking views of pure, uninterrupted beauty. During rainier seasons, this waterfall is much more grandiose, but that aside it was a sight to behold. The hike itself was also incredibly beautiful, and despite it being a fairly cold day, it was a wonderful experience being able to splash my face, and drink from, the purest of mountain streams. 

Sitting in the lounge, I felt as though I was still in the woods. The massive bay windows encapsulated me, the glass protecting me from the elements without starving me of the beauty of the Karkloof Reserve.

Games night by firelight

When we returned to the lodge, it was time to get the fire of my dreams going. The lodge was equipped with everything we needed to make this a painless process, and before long my shoes were off, hair was down, and we were ready for a peaceful night in, accompanied by a beautiful full-bodied complementary red.  My husband was thrilled to discover that despite being in the remote woodlands without any cell reception, he still had his sport channels – so we popped the football on in the background and embarked on a competitive 30 Seconds tournament (with the rules slightly changed to accommodate two players). 

Now, my favourite part of this place? Sitting in the lounge, I felt as though I was still in the woods. The massive bay windows encapsulated me, the glass protecting me from the elements without starving me of the beauty of the Karkloof Reserve. We were so lost in the ambiance, the warmth, the whimsy – hours went by until we realised that we hadn’t eaten! I prepared some snack boards, with the well-stocked kitchen ensuring I wanted for nothing, and we continued the evening in our own piece of woodland heaven. 

But… was the bed comfy?

When it was finally time to retire, we had our pick of three luxurious bedrooms, and I opted for the main bedroom with the generous king-sized bed. The bed in question was phenomenally comfortable – with plush linen, silky sheets, and pillows that rival my own. That was a lovely surprise, as I am a pillow snob of note, and 9 times out of 10, am left disappointed with the pillow choices. Chocolates, fresh towels, and all of the small creature comforts were also taken care of, which made they stay that much more comfy. 

I awoke to the morning light streaming through a number of skylights, peppered throughout the bedroom (and the rest of the house) as well as another grand bay window. I lay in bed, listening to a range of chirps from some of the 165 species of bird that inhabit the Karkloof Reserve, their calls so clear that guests who consider themselves more experienced birders would be able to identify them by name. 

Hamba kahle to paradise

After a lovely bubble bath, accompanied by more skylight views, we packed up and went for one last walk through the forest. This time, I was on the lookout for some of the 23 mammal species living in the woods, but gave up after concluding that they were probably just as cold as I was, and had decided to sleep in! 

Jabu met us right on schedule, transferring us back to our vehicle. The extensive rains of the night before made the 4 x 4 even more necessary this time, but Jabu handled the slippery terrain like a true transfer pro. The drive back cemented just how magical the experience of the night before was, and when we got back to the main office, we couldn’t say goodbye without promising tales of our return. With a range of lodge offerings, we certainly will be back – my husband can’t wait to experience the seclusion of the mountain lodge, and I have my eye on the modern, homely feel of the farmhouse – which you can read more about below. We are even excited to go back to the Forest Lodge, this time with a group of friends that can revel in the woodland magic with us, on a summer’s eve that allows us to make use of the outstanding outside entertainment area! 

Rockwood, farewell for now – we will no doubt see you soon!

Rockwood Lodges

Rockwood offers more than just a woodland getaway. Each of the 4 private self-catering lodges is uniquely situated, making every trip different.

Rockwood Mountain Lodge is a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom wooden cottage perched on top of the Mountain at the edge of the indigenous forest of the Karkloof Nature Reserve.  Explore the various hiking paths on foot or mountain bike or enjoy a spot of birding from the privacy of your own entertainment deck.

Rockwood Farm Cottage is a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom cosy getaway. Ideal for the smaller family or a couple seeking a romantic weekend. It’s perfectly positioned to use as a base to explore the Midlands Meander.

Rockwoodood Farm House is a 4 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom luxurious, contemporary, spacious home where you can relax and unwind. The lodge allows the sights and sounds of nature in through large frameless glass doors. The property is close enough for a quick drive into the town of Howick, but far enough to escape it all; rustic enough to give you that old farmhouse feel, but absolutely modern in its amenities.

For rates or bookings, visit their website here.

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