Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 1 at Sabi Sabi in South Africa

To get to Sabi Sabi - a private game reserve in northeast South Africa - we embarked from a small airfield outside Jo’burg.
On the low-flying prop plane we were seated next to an engaging, charming couple from Australia that owns another private game reserve nearby Sabi Sabi (both are located in the larger Sabi Sands reserve, which abuts the public Kruger National Park). 
Upon landing we were greeted by our ranger for the next few days, Joe, who we immediately recognized as a dead-ringer Forrest Whitaker look alike. Joe loaded us onto the massive, rugged Land Rover and headed to Sabi Sabi’s Earth Lodge resort through brown and green savannah. 

On our cruise into the Earth Lodge, before we began any of our six separate safaris, we were greeted by an enormous kudu sauntering adjacent to the lane. We took his calm presence as a sign of good things to come. 
Upon arrival, we were greeted by a joyful staff bearing hibiscus and mint welcome drinks. The Earth Lodge is rightly popular with environmentally-responsible tourists for its incredibly eco-friendly design. Each lodge is built into small rolling hills, and the walls are poured from a mixture of local straw and sand mixed with cement. 
Bits of straw protrude from the final product creating a sense of oneness with the surroundings. All of the benches and smooth finish counter-tops are crafted from an abundance of local driftwood borne of severe flooding in the late 1990s. We were extremely excited to be upgraded to the palatial Amber Presidential Suite, which bested our DC condo in size and which is the definition of sophistication and grace. The most magnificent part of the room, besides its expansive view of the bush from every room, is the carved tree trunk headboard that hovers over the king sized bed. 
After a smart lunch and taking in the ever-present chirping of the bush from our private pool, we headed out on our first-ever safari. It did not disappoint, as 5-minutes in we came across this noble beast:
Fifteen minutes later, we were on fire when these long-necks ran across the road right in front of us in a half gallop.
Unfortunately we went dry for a bit after that, but then like a lighting bolt, one of the highlights of the trip. The cheetah, sadly now an endangered species so elusive that some rangers hadn’t seen one in a year. This guy strutted his stuff for us for a good half hour before we moved on. Stunning.
To top off the awesome day of sightseeing, on the way home several wise old owls analyzed our activities from above:
We toasted the big day with a five-course boma (i.e., a dinner served outside under the star-fired sky).

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