Paardeplaats Nature Retreat

Magnificent & Mesmerising

paardeplaats nature retreat

Paardeplaats Nature Retreat


On Paardeplaats the pristine nature will mesmerize its visitors in many possible ways.
Waking up each day to a magnificent sun-rise and the song of birds, one can enjoy unspoiled nature on foot,  hiking one of the five walking trails, on the farm.


On arrival at this eco-lodge, with it’s superbly restored old mining ruins, you will find a temporary home in one of the four  spacious cottages.
The Fauna & Flora, as surely as the camera has replaced the hunting rifle, will revolutionized traditional family activities. With the growing popularity of nature walks, a unique attraction when venturing out on foot, particularly on a ‘Full Moon Hike’  is the sighting of one of Paardeplaats’s resident cats: the caracal, the serval, the civet or even the leopard.

The Caracal


Caracal Family in the wild

The Caracal is a medium-sized wildcat native to Africa. The name of this cat comes from the Turkish word ‘karakulak’ which means ‘black ears’ and black ears are a characteristic feature of the caracal.
Although the caracal is considered a small cat compared to other wild cats, it is among the heaviest and fastest. It is also referred to as the Persian Lynx or African Lynx although it is not part of the Lynx family. It is more related to the Serval and the African Golden Cat.
Historically caracals had importance in many cultures around the world. In Egypt paintings of caracals and bronze sculptures have been found and also embalmed carcasses as well.
This means that they were of great importance to the Egyptians. In China, emperors gave caracals as gifts. In India, caracals were used by rulers to hunt small game and also their coats were used to in making fur coats. This also shows that domestication of caracals is not something new but rather started centuries ago.

The Serval

serval in the savannah
Little is known about the African serval– but they are an intriguing species. Their exceptional hunting skills have earned them the reputation as the ‘savannah stalker’. The second fastest running cat, after the cheetah, servals are remarkably successful hunters and catch their intended victims about 50% of the time as opposed to other cats that succeed around 20% of the time.
Strong and slender, these beautiful animals could be the Naomi Campbell of the bush. They have the longest legs of all cats relative to their size, making them one of the tallest cats, with longer hind than forelegs. Their average lifespan is ten years in the wild. The longest living African serval in captivity is estimated to be 23 years of age.

The serval is sometimes preyed upon by leopard and other large cats, but their numbers have dwindled largely due to human population taking over their habitat and hunting them for their pelts. In South Africa, serval is listed under the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Biodiversity Act and as such are subject to rigorous legislation to ensure their welfare and survival.

African Civet

african civet

A solitary nocturnal animal, the African civet is a small, agile mammal found mostly in forested woodland areas where they spend most of the daytime sleeping and resting in the trees, safely off the ground away from predators, which include large cats, crocodiles, and snakes. They are very good swimmers and are rarely found in arid areas as they need to be close to a water source like riverbeds.
They have perineal glands that produce a fluid known as civet, used to mark territories – this is also used in the perfume industry to create the aromatic base, musk. Civets survive on a diet of rodents, reptiles, insects, eggs, fruit, berries and birds.

The African civets are not members of the feline family, which some people are led to believe. They have a short, dense coat that is greyish in color with black spots and have a grey face with a black band around their eyes, making their appearance raccoon-like.
The African civet usually gives birth to 4 young and nests in an underground burrow in order to raise her young safely. Civet babies are quite unusual in the fact that they are born with fur and are quite mobile from a young age. They stay with their mothers until they are old enough and strong enough to fend for themselves.

Rainbow’s End se Boetiek Wyne steel Lydenburg harte

Rainbow's End Wyne

Cobie en Dr Jan Steinberg, Petrus en Sian Steinberg geniet hierdie Rainbow’s End wynproe met oorgawe

Rainbow’s End se wynmaker, Anton Malan, al die pad van Helshoogte in Stellenbosch, om Lydenburgers aan sy boetiek-wyne bekend te stel.

Bacchus sou nogal tuis gevoel het by Lydenburg Wyngilde se 16 Augustus-proe, by Café Crust.

Andre du Preez , charismatiese eienaar van Cafe Crust, moedig Madelyn en Willem Pretorius entoesiasties aan

Andre du Preez , charismatiese eienaar van Cafe Crust, moedig Madelyn en Willem Pretorius entoesiasties aan

Nie net was daar ‘n rekordgetal wyn-entoesiaste nie (skuins duskant 40!), maar wynmaker Anton Malan het al die pad van die Kaap af gekom om sy handgemaakte Rainbow’s End-wyne te laat proe.

Met die Jonkershoekberge van agter en die gesogte Banghoekvalei van voor, is Rainbow’s End nie net skouspelagtig geleë nie, maar ook in vrugbare wingerdgrond.

Wynmaker Anton Malan skink vir Madelein en Cobus Buitendag n glasie van sy spesiale Rainbow's End Mystical Corner.

Wynmaker Anton Malan skink vir Madelein en Cobus Buitendag n glasie van sy spesiale Rainbow’s End Mystical Corner.

Die Kapenaars wat weet, sal jou vertel dat jy hier van die beste Cabernet Franc kan aanskaf – ‘n kultivar wat min wynmakers as enkelversnit aandurf.

Maar dit was die 2016 Merlot wat die Lydenburgers onkant gevang het – verrassend, gelaai met pruim en bessiegeure, gekies as Wyn van die aand.

Maar dan was dit ook net ‘n kortkop agter die 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon…

As beste waarde vir geld-keuse, was Rainbow’s End se Mystical Corner-versnit teen R70 per bottel,  ‘n maklike keuse.

En o-ja, wat Bacchus ook sou geniet het, was Crust se uitbundige voorgereg, gevolg deur Osso Bucco en ‘n gevaarlike Tiramisu-nagereg.

Voorwaar ‘n heerlike aand met gawe mense en gawe wyne!

Wyngilde president Jakkie Swanepoel besing Bacchus se nektar

Wyngilde president Jakkie Swanepoel besing Bacchus se nektar

Die volgende wynproe-datum is Donderdag 20 September, wanneer dr Peet Visser Franse Bordeaux-wyne gaan beproe.

Whatsapp Gerda Whitehorn op 079 515 7799 as jy wil deel in die pret.


Lydenburg Wine Guild blends themselves into the finals of the Blaauwklippen 2018 Blending Competition

One of the most beneficial ways to gain more knowledge on the subject of wine is to share the experience of tasting wines with like-minded friends.

Most wine clubs try to meet at least once a month. Some clubs are perhaps a little more serious with their tastings than others but in the end, they all offer a great way of learning more about the wonders of the fermented grape!

Generally, this means that members of clubs who have been around for some time should have a reasonable idea of what they enjoy drinking as well as knowing a lot more about how wine is produced.

Blaauwklippen Wine Estate

Recognising this as an opportunity, Blaauwklippen Wine Estate offers the oldest wine club contest, called the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition (BBC), which in 2018 is celebrating its 35th year.

This competition has become an institution on wine club calendars and definitely gives the clubs something to look forward to each year.

Amateur wine clubs purchase the BBC blending kit from Blaauwklippen and then try their hand at blending the “perfect wine” after which they will submit their blend analysis for judging by a panel of professional wine experts.

The objective is to give South African wine enthusiasts a real-life taste of the wine industry, as well as a chance to become involved in the process of wine selection first hand.

Blaauwklippen Wines

“Blend and create a playful but chic blend to enjoy any time with friends and family – but with enough backbone to be savoured at a special occasion.”

This was the instruction from Blaauwklippen Vineyards for the 2018 Blending Competition. And Longtom Wine Guild’s blenders happily obliged on Saturday 9 June at Paardeplaats Nature Retreat.

Once the surprise hamper, containing four base wines and a measuring jug arrives, the fun starts.


Dr Jakkie Swanepoel carefully measuring the raw wines during the blending processAs always, dr Jakkie Swanepoel championed this annual educational challenge, ably assisted by Koos Prince, Michelle and Dawie Ras and Brian and Gerda Whitehorn.

Blaauwklippen 2017 Shiraz, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec had to be blended into a wine that meets the criteria.

The group soon discovered that 45% Shiraz and 35% Merlot resulted in a sound base blend, with a satisfying nose and body. Experiments with varying percentages of Malbec and Petit Verdot added a happy aftertaste, more tannins and structure.

Jakkie carefully measuring the wine

Jakkie carefully measuring the wine

Rounds number five, six and seven resulted in comments varying from ‘getting there’ to ‘lekker!’ At round number eleven, it was unanimous that nothing could beat round number seven – with 45% Shiraz, 35% Merlot and 10% each of the Malbec and Petit Verdot.

ScientificMyBra-Dr Jakkie Swanepoel shaking up a Lydenburg/Blaauwklippen blend

Scientific My Bra-Dr Jakkie Swanepoel shaking up a Lydenburg/Blaauwklippen blend.

So chuffed were the happy blenders with their discovery, that Jakkie blended the remainder of the raw wines to accompany Brian’s hearty winter soup. This is certainly the most entertaining wine lesson of the year, with a long lingering aftertaste…

Orange River Cellars Full Cream Sherry

Orange River Cellars Full Cream Sherry

Dr Jakkie Swanepoel (left) took members on a tour of fortified wines, ranging from Monis Pale Cream to ultra sweet Du Toitskloof Hanepoot Jerepigo.

Jan Neethling assisted with the pouring of the sherries. Oranjerivier Medium Cream was voted Wine of the Evening and Value for Money choice.

For the second time in their 31 years’ existence, Lydenburg’s Wine Guild has made it to the finals of the annual Blaauwklippen Blending competition.

Lydenburg is one of only four clubs countrywide, and the only Mpumalanga contestant, who made it to the prestigious finals.

The winner will be announced at Blaauwklippen Vineyards on Friday 5 October 2018 at a prize-giving ceremony for media and invited guests.

Participants received four “raw wines” – a Malbec, Merlot, Shiraz and Petit Verdot. The challenge was to blend and produce a playful but chic blend to enjoy any time with friends and family, but with enough backbone to be savoured at a special occasion.

Jakkie & Jan choosing the sherries

It took the handful of Lydenburg Wine Guild members no less than 11 rounds of careful measuring, mixing, swirling and tasting at Paardeplaats Nature Retreat to arrive at a pleasing result early in June this year.

The news came as a welcome surprise for the Lydenburg Guild, who prefer to be known as wine lovers, eager to learn more at the monthly tastings, every third Thursday of the month. The other finalists include two clubs from the Western Cape and one from Gauteng.

2013 Blending Winner label design

For more info or to join the Lydenburg Wine Guild, contact

Seven Brain habits that will improve your personal and professional performance.


Manus Du Toit from BNI Nelspruit with Brian Whitehorn of Paardeplaats Nature Resreve

Manus du Toit, Nico Burger, Brian Whitehorn

The international business generation and referral organisation, BNI, believes in helping businesses and their owners to grow.

BNI Nelspriut workshop at Paardeplaats

Joey Fletcher, Elmarie & Wayne Jefferis

At a recent workshop, brain-based development practitioner Manus du Toit from Brainy Acts in Nelspruit conducted an informal workshop for members of the Longtom Chapter at Paardeplaats Nature Retreat close to Lydenburg. Du Toit explained how seven basic brain habits could optimise performance and general health.

After an informative interactive session, guests were treated to scrumptious soup and snacks prepared by Paardeplaats’ Saucy Chef Brian Whitehorn.

BNI healthy habits

Manus du Toit, Gerhard & Christine van den Berg, Rentia & Pine Pienaar.

 Seven Brain habits that will improve your personal and professional performance.

Is it possible to optimize your work performance? Very possible, said Manus du Toit from Brainy Acts in Nelspruit. Du Toit, also Area Manager Mpumalanga for the international business generation organization BNI, held a “Brain Basics” workshop for members of the Longtom BNI branch at Paardeplaats Nature Retreat last week.

He shared seven basic brain habits that have been proven to drastically improve not only performance in the workplace but also general well-being, health and happiness.


Manus Du Toit

“Everything you say, think or do, triggers a chemical reaction in the brain,” Manus said.

A negative thought or action releases an inhibitor, he explained to a spellbound group of twenty businessmen and women from Lydenburg, gathering informally at Paardeplaats. “However, should one choose to actively practise seven basic brain habits, improvement is guaranteed.”

ATTITUDE is golden rule number one. No qualification, skill or incentive equips you better for performance.

BRAIN FITNESS is rule number two. The thicker the corpus colossum, the quicker brain messages are delivered. To demonstrate this fact, Du Toit had his audience in stitches, practising simple cross-over exercises that could be performed daily – i.e. touching your left ear with your right hand with the other hand resting on your nose. Playing a musical instrument, exercise, sport and reading are all examples of activities contributing to brain fitness.

Saucy Chef Brian in action

Saucy Chef Brian in action

A HEALTHY DIET is the next prerequisite:

* Drink 8 glasses of water per day – not counting coffee, tea or other drinks

* Protein – more white than red meat and more fish than chicken

* At least 5 fresh fruit or veg per day

* Nuts and avo and other specific brain foods – but don’t overdo quantities

REGULAR EXERCISE  does not only result in a healthier brain but also addresses conflict, stress and general emotional health.

STRESS MANAGEMENT has to become a lifestyle and not only a skill. Breathing exercises, laughing, appropriate music and exposure to nature are readily available methods to achieve peace of mind and equilibrium.

YOUR OWN BRAIN PROFILE contributes to your ability to perform better – a brain-based learning and development practitioner like Manus can assist with this, by means of uncomplicated tests.

SOCIAL INTERACTION is rule number seven, particularly important for introverts or recluses who are drained by people. Extended isolation can lead to depression and unhappiness, he warned.

GENERAL TIPS shared with BNI members:

* Create a vision for yourself and write it down. A sense of accomplishment contributes to happiness.

* Set goals. Continuously ask yourself where you are, where you would like to be and how you will get there. This must be a step by step process. If you want to lose weight, get fit or buy a new car, it will only happen if you formulate how you will get there, day by day.

Healthy habits foster healthy friendships

Healthy habits foster healthy friendships

Challenge your comfort zone but remember who you are, Manus said in closing. A healthy brain leads to a healthy mind and body – and ultimately to peak performance and happiness,

For more information, visit or

What are the differences between Moles & Mole-Rats ?

Mole rat

Mole Rats

African mole-rat, or Hottentot mole-rat, is a burrowing rodent found in Southern Africa, in particular in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Mole Rat facts

  • Mole-rats are stocky, short-tailed rodents with tiny eyes and near-invisible ears.
  • Mole Rats hey have evolved five tiny like fingers forming what appears to be a hand on their front feet.
  • Their coats are rather matt and not as shiny as the golden mole.
  • Their large white incisors are exposed even when the mouth is closed, the lips actually closing behind the incisors.
  • What makes these incisors special is that they move independently and voluntarily. The movement of the lower incisors is analogous to the movement of fingers as they are both involved in grasp and touch.
  • Mole rats utilize their front incisors for exploring their environment, excavating tunnels, carrying and eating food, transporting young, and grooming.
  • Furthermore, their incisors are used in competition for resources, colony defence, and interspecies competition, otherwise known as “incisor fencing”.
  • Mole-rats are herbivorous, and most species rely on storage organs like roots, though grasses, herbs and occasionally invertebrates and even other rodents are eaten by some species too.
  • They live in small colonies, although there can be up to 14-mole rats in a colony.
  • Mole rats throw up mounds along the main burrow to get rid of surplus soil loosened on an excavation. They are particularly active after rain in expanding these burrows, as can be seen in by the extended line of fresh mounds thrown up.
  • The fresh mounds are easily recognised as damp soil pushed out to retain the shape of the burrow, only breaking down in a loose pile as it dries.

 Cape Golden Mole (Chrysochloris asiatica)

Golden moles are small, insectivorous burrowing mammals endemic to Southern Africa, where their Afrikaans names are gouemolle or kruipmolle.

Moles are not blind, as most people believe. They do have eyes and internal ears, but these are very small to prevent them from being clogged up and damaged during tunnelling.

Golden Mole Facts

  • Golden Moles occur only in SubSaharan Africa, and nowhere else in the world.
  • One of their habitats in the southwestern parts of the Kruger National Park. Golden moles live underground in the sandy soil under grasslands with scattered trees and bushes (also known as bushveld).
  • The body of the golden mole is covered with silky cinnamon-brown fur that is getting darker toward the back and paler toward the belly.
  • Golden moles are highly specialized for the underground life. They have muscular shoulders and short, but strong legs, equipped with curved claws, designed for the digging of the tunnels. Webbed hind legs allow shovelling in backwards.
  • Golden moles usually dig their tunnels just below the surface of the ground
  • Although they can see, the mole’s eyesight is poor, and eyes are overgrown with no ability to detect colours, just light from dark and movement.
  • Golden mole has an excellent sense of touch and hearing internal ears), used for detection of vibrations that may signal potential danger.
  • Golden moles are insectivores with teeth almost like a little dog. with which they eat a different kind of insects, earthworms and snails. Termites are their favourite foods
  • In their hunt for earthworms and other subterranean insect prey, they use their smooth leathery snouts to push the soil upwards, which is then moved backwards with the claws of the front feet.
  • The fore-legs evolved into long clawed toes that  are used as burrowing instruments
  • Golden moles are rarely seen in the wild because they are very small, live underground and because they are active only during the night.
  • They normally burrow just below the sand surface, leaving a distinctive humped trail
  • The Cape Golden Mole is solitary. Each adult maintains its own tunnel
Lientjie Cohen
Scientific American
Encyclopedia of Life


A Tradition of Outdoor Cooking & Entertainment


 Saucy Chef Cookery Courses are aimed at share a passion for food – not for food snobs or critics those who enjoy fellowship and, but for people who derive pleasure and fun from the process of planning, preparing and presenting food, and of course, enjoying the pleasures and ambience created around the table.

Our hands-on workshops are not only demonstrations, but rather an invite to a fun party, and meal, enjoying the process while learning. Participants are taught to handle the heat in the kitchen, without burning their fingers, and they receive all the recipes, relating to the course.

One Day Courses are held on the farm and are normally planned around a luncheon accommodating up to 18 people. This can be made up of individuals, groups of friends, birthday parties, or work colleagues, or even year-end or team building functions.

Weekend Courses are intended for couples or friends who share a mutual interest in culinary pleasures. The focus is on fellowship and the courses are intended to be fun, and very sociable, based on the fellowship of friends.

Apart from the fun and games in the kitchen and around the table, Paardeplaats also has many getaway alternatives on offer, such as walking, hiking, mountain biking, birding, wildflowers or just relaxing with a good book and a glass of wine.

Brian Whitehorn
Cell: 082 416 1379


Easter 2018 “Son Rise Service”


With Easter only 3 weeks away, it is again time to plan for the Easter Sunday “Son Rise” service on April 1st on the top of the Jesus hill at Paardeplaats, 12km out of town en route to Sabie (route R37).

The service will start at 06h00, come sunshine or mist. It will be wise to arrive from 05h30 or earlier, to allow yourself time to climb up the hill, and settle in.  Although still in darkness, there will be paraffin lanterns to light your way. If you have good torches bring them along.  There will be ample parking down at the gate, with monitors to direct and help you. For those who can’t make the climb up the hill, there will be a tractor and trailer with benches, which will leave from the gate at the bottom at 05h45. This will be able to carry up to 20 people, and should be reserved for the elderly and those who have health problems and restrictions. One could load blankets and chairs on the trailer to make the ascent easier.

It will be essentially a family affair, non denominational and open to all who want to celebrate this very special occasion. (Most probably the celebration of the most important event in the history of mankind). We will have a fixed program with traditional hymns and songs to be sung.

Wear a pair of good walking shoes, and bring a hat for later when the sun rises, which will be around 06h00. Dress warmly and watch the weather forecast. There are some large logs that can be used as benches. Bring folding chairs, blankets and cushions, tea/coffee and hot cross buns.  The service will take about an hour, and will end with a sharing of the buns and coffee.

This special event is a very inspirational experience, as we gather in the dark to watch the “Sonrise”, and then go off to celebrate at our various churches and with our families.

Please feel free to phone Brian 079 694 9462 or 082 416 1379, to find out more.

The Gurney Sugarbird is alive and well on Paardeplaats says Gauteng Bird Ringers

The Gurney’s Sugarbird is alive and well and living in Lydenburg’s surrounding hills. This was confirmed recently by members of Birdlife Northern Gauteng Bird Ringers Club who came to Paardeplaats Nature Retreat on an annual ringing weekend. In spite of rainy conditions, they caught no less than six Gurney Sugarbirds in their ringing nets – one juvenile and one re-trap from last year’s expedition.

Birdlife Northern Gauteng Bird Ringers Club in action on Paardeplaats Nature Retreat.

The group of avid ringers were joined by Dr Michael Cunningham, a geneticist from the University of Pretoria’s Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology. With his student, Evan Howarth, they took blood samples of Gurneys for research into the relationship of different populations of this scarce species.

The Gurney has been identified as one of four grassland birds in decline and could be added to the list of threatened species, Cunningham explained. This is probably due to the decline in Protea Roupelliae in which the birds build their nests.

Their strongholds are the KZN and Mpumalanga Drakensberg, the Soutpansberg and Waterberg areas. There are isolated populations in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands and they have been spotted as far south as Grahamstown – the only place known where they overlap with the Cape Sugarbird.

Cunningham confirmed that the Gurney’s Sugarbird research done by ornithologist Dawie de Swardt, originally from Lydenburg and for many years now at the National Museum in Bloemfontein, provides a valuable base for students. “But there is still a lot we do not know about this special bird and its movements,” he said.

Birdlife Northern Gauteng Bird Ringers Club

The bird ringers’ efforts add tremendously to the on-going research in the field. Other than the 6 Gurneys, the expedition caught and recorded the following species at Paardeplaats Nature Retreat:

Olive Bush shrike, Malachite and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds, Wailing and Lazy Cisticola, Cape Canary, Long-billed Pipit, Drakensberg Prinia, Mountain Wagtail, Cape White-Eye, Speckled Mousebird, White-throated Robin Chat, Cape Robin Chat, Streaky Headed Seedeater, Neddicky, Bar-throated Apalis, Willow Warbler, Cape Batis, Cape Rock Thrush, Redwing Starling and House Martin.

Julian (17) started his ringing career at the age of two, accompanying dad Chris on birding trips. He has handled well over 1200 birds in the qualifying process and has released more than 430 birds marked with his own rings.


Dainty Sugarbush covers the veld on the Land’s End hiking trail

Hiking on Paardeplaats Nature Retreat is a very popular hiking activity for the whole family. Lands’ End with its panoramic views and the easy trail has to be maintained during the rainy season. Brian made a beautiful discovery this week while cutting the Land’s End trail with a tractor. The dainty sugarbush was abundantly blooming like a ground cover in the veld.

Protea Parvula veld on Lands' End Hiking Trail

Protea Parvula veld on Lands’ End Hiking Trail

Protea parvula Beard. Is a near threatened plant on the red data list from the. PROTEACEAE family. This commonly called Dainty Sugarbush was first found near Kaapsche Hoop in Mpumalanga in 1928 by Dr E.P. Phillips
The dainty sugarbush is one of the summer rainfall grassland proteas. It is a low-growing shrub of below 20 cm in height, which contributes to its demise during fires. The seeds of Protea parvula, fortunately, survive these fires typical of its habitat, however.

Protea Parvula in bloom on Paardeplaats Nature Retreat
For the past 100 years, the population is has been decreasing and is estimated to have reduced 20-30% is estimated based on 28% habitat loss due to afforestation (pines), mining for soapstone and alien plant invasion.
It flowers in December through to March in the Mpumalanga, KZN and Swaziland habitats. Like many proteas, it grows in rocky terrain in acid soil.

Lands End hiking trails where the dainty sugarbush was discovered

The grassland at the high altitude of the habitat is characterised by short grass. Birds pollinate the plant and wind disperse the seed.

Lands’ End -A hiking trail that is definitely worth a visit!

Early Christmas Accommodation Deal

Get your Christmas gift early this year by booking 4 x en suite rooms for a group of 10 people for a minimum of 3 nights or longer and qualify for a discounted accommodation rates of R234pp/night or R7000/10 pax/3 nights.


Brian 082 416 1379 or Gerda 079 515 7799

Rate includes:

  • All activities on Paardeplaats Nature Retreat
  • Total privacy in pristine surrounds on the Longtom Pass.
  • 4 x en suite bedrooms, fully equipped kitchen, braai hearth.
  • Hike to the waterval or the gold mine or chill on the large verandah.
  • Traditional hospitality

Terms and Conditions

  • This offer is only available for self-catering.
  • Applies for December 2017
  • Subject to availability
  • Deposit – 50% to secure the booking