Our travel group of 20 specialist travel agents, was out and about on just another normal game drive – or so we thought. While we were observing a juvenile bateleur preening in a dead tree, we heard our guide Mike Palmer whisper, ‘Cheetah.’ Almost immediately there was a collective intake of breath as everyone in the vehicle refocused their gaze on the wild and very nearby cheetah.
The African cheetah’s body was poised long and low to the ground and in full stalk mode. Everything about the wild cat’s posture indicated action, although it was frozen, dead still in its footsteps. Then suddenly, quicker than we could follow, the cheetah bolted out in front of all us and suddenly he was out of sight.
Just minutes later, after we started easing the vehicle through the thick African bush, we found the proud cheetah, panting with exertion, with an impala locked between its jaws. It truly was a life changing experience for all of us, as sightings like these are incredibly rare and special, even in a place like Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, which is world-renowned for its quality wildlife encounters.
Every trip to Sabi Sabi will be distinctly different and packed with unique encounters, as nothing in the African bush is ever predictable. 'We’re incredibly lucky,' confirmed our game driver Mike as we sat, barely tolerated by the wild cheetah, enjoying its well-deserved kill. 'Incredibly lucky' was pretty much how we all felt whilst we spent our time in the bush. Our hosted trip by Sabi Sabi luxury safari lodge and the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, was truly memorable and we soaked up all of what this incredible province had to offer.
We all knew how incredibly fortunate we were when we tasted executive chef Wilfred Mtshali's chocolate, orange and mascarpone cake at high tea, which was a highlight for the entire group. Another African highlight, was when we came across a herd of playful African buffalo that were enjoying an afternoon splash in a large mud wallow. Watching them glistening and rolling in the thick, chocolate-coloured mud in the evening sun, gave us all a vicarious thrill. We also took a minute to enjoy the breath-taking sun set that had us all in awe. As the sky flamed in defiance of the approaching darkness, we all realised that this was a truly a once-off, never-to-be-repeated show and we were there, watching and devouring every second of it.
As the evening turned from indigo to black and the heat of the day began to seep away, we spotted a wild leopard on the hunt. She ignored all of us completely. Never have we felt so lucky to be ignored as we were then, watching the magnificent wild animal in her element, queen of her domain.
After our experience with the leopard, we arrived at a lantern-lit dinner in a boma (outside eating area) in the bush, where the soft firelight flickered to the rhythm of a group of talented African drummers and dancers. We ate sumptuous food to a mix of music and thrilling night sounds, choosing from a buffet of exceptional variety and quality laid out in the most exclusive, atmospheric dining room of all.
Our experiences at Sabi Sabi stitched together a unique tapestry, a set of memories that will never be forgotten – to hold on to, to remember and to share. As gorgeous as the accommodation is, as impeccable as the service is and as delicious as the food is, it’s the moments that you can’t control – the unexpected gifts you get on a trip like this – that make this such a luxurious experience and a holiday for the books that money just can’t buy.