This is our third visit, albeit, that our most recent was 5 years ago. We were glad to see that although additions had been made, the general layout of the property remained unchanged. That being said, they have built a new glass-enclosed lounge, upgraded the accommodation, changed the layout of one dining area, and added three more suites. And all this to enhance the guest experience. The lawn around the lodge is always lush and green and is a source of pride for the management and is often commented on by new and returning guests. The reason for the lushness of the lawns within the camp is due to the fact that their grey water is recycled through a variety of mediums not usually found in an urban garden. Rocks, rhino and elephant dung together with a series of reed beds are just some of those and the water is so clean that fish and even a small crocodile have been spotted in it. It is this water that is used to keep the lawns so lush and attracts the Nyala and warthog populations that call the grounds ‘home’.
We were going to stay in a chalet for our first night and then two nights in the new Makubela suite beckoned. For us, one of the highlights of a lodge stay is being able to use an outdoor shower, and this trip was no different. Although it is a small lodge (23 guests), COVID-19 protocols ensure that it currently is only able to accommodate reduced guest numbers and only 6 guests on a game viewer. The staff is well-known for their friendliness and attention to detail, and we experienced this from the moment we arrived to when we said our reluctant farewells at the end of our stay.
Although comfortable accommodation is a prerequisite, the real motivation for this visit was to find the leopards that have been avoiding us during our visits at other game reserves.
We had just enough time to drop off our luggage and have lunch before heading out on our afternoon game drive.
And what did we find sauntering down the road on our way back to camp? Our first leopard. We took this to be a good omen for the drives that lay ahead.
Our culinary experiences were as different as the animals that we saw during game drives. While lunch was usually served in the same dining area near the hide, all the other meals, prepared and plated by the chef, were enjoyed in either the boma or the dining room near the reception area. As a result of the COVID-19 protocols, meals are not served buffet style but are served to diners on an individual basis.
And it was early to bed(for both the leopards and us) in preparation for the early morning game drive departure.
In the semi-darkness we climbed onto our game viewer and although we had all just climbed out of our beds our senses were on high alert, hoping that the drive would start off with a predator sighting. And it did.
Not one, but two leopards this time. A mom and her cub, out playing on a rocky outcrop close to the lodge. With the decrease in guest numbers across all the lodges in the area, it means that fewer vehicles are vying for space at a sighting, and if we did have to wait it was never longer than a few minutes.
On returning from our morning drive, breakfast awaited. Once again COVID-19 protocols are in place and the items usually found on a buffet, like cereal, fruit, baked goods, and yoghurt, were brought, plated and wrapped, to our table. There was a choice of hot breakfast items that were prepared to order and then delivered to us piping hot. (We were at the camp for the Easter weekend, hence the egg being served in this manner).
After breakfast, we were taken to the new Makubela suites, named in honour of a female leopard that died in the lodge grounds in 2010 and who was well known in the area. The suite was a wonderful space to spend time when not on a drive, eating or just generally relaxing at the main lodge.
Sabi Sands has more than 80 named leopards on the property and we were hoping to get to see some of those.
And find leopards we did…
We found them in the middle of the road.
We found adults up trees.
We found this youngster, more than once, in a variety of different places.
And, most interesting of all we found one sleeping on the deck of a currently closed lodge with another INSIDE the lodge manager’s house.
The same youngster, this time trying out his climbing skills.
During our stay, we went out on 6 game drives and we found leopard on each drive.
From creatures with teeth and claws to a chameleon who made crossing a road seem like a major outing. He changed colour 4 times during his excursion, going from a light green to dark green with prominent black markings.
Standing in the darkness on my deck late on our final night I was surprised by a small herd of elephants drinking out of our pool. I kept a respectful distance as they drained most of the water and then silently vanished into the darkness.
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