After an extremely comfortable nights sleep, we arose bright and early, excited to see what another day at Cheetah Plains would bring.
As always in the African bush, the wildlife is more active during the cooler parts of the day, making getting up early totally necessary. Normally early wake-up calls are my arch nemesis, but the promise of the wildlife made it much better…
As did the coffee(s)!
While caffeinating, the resident hippos of the Mapogo house were extremely active and very playful – our morning was already off to a very good start.
Finding the wildlife came quickly for us on this morning. Not too long after departing from Cheetah Plains were we met with a large herd of stunning ellies, which included several cheeky babies!
It was so wonderful to watch the elephants play and interact with each other, I honestly could have stayed and watched them all day, but much like the previous evening, the promise of other wildlife kept us moving.
We ended up then going a little while without spotting anything, so we decided to take a break and have our morning coffees. However, mere moments after I started to sip my Amarula-spiked coffee we found ourselves with unexpected (yet very much welcome) visitor!
This gorgeous rhino strolled right past us, stopping briefly to check us out, and then went on his merry way!
Morning coffee breaks just don’t get more special than this.
One of our guides was also a keen photographer, which meant that we got some lovely shots of the experience.
After the rhino had left us, we completed the caffeination process and got back on the road.
It’s funny, people say that you know you are getting older when you get excited by household goods like fancy vacuums and washing machines, but I don’t think this really applies to those of us who travel extensively. Instead, I would argue that the biggest sign of ageing for travellers is starting to become interested in birding!
Even a year ago I found myself utterly disinterested in birds, and now, well, I am starting to see the appeal!
I am gonna have to trade in my ‘semi-adult’ status for the real thing any day now.
Eventually, we did manage to find some gorgeous lions! However, they eluded us until it started to get quite hot, so by the time we found them they were far more interested in sleeping than anything else, but they were still stunning to see.
Right about the time that it started getting too hot for the lions, it also got a bit too hot for us! So, we decided to end our morning drive and head back to the comfort of the lodge to cool down, eat breakfast and relax.
We were met on our arrival home to a perfectly fresh and light breakfast – which was exactly what we needed after our previous days overindulgence.
We consumed freshly baked pastries, juicy fruit and outrageously creamy cheeses, all while the hippos played in front of us.
Gotta love when your meal comes with a show!
Back at our room, I finally had the chance to really appreciate where we had lain our heads the previous evening.
Owned by Japie van Niekerk, Cheetah Plains is a culmination of a focus on sustainability, inspired design and true innovation.
When it comes to eco-friendly and sustainable design, Cheetah Plains is in a league of its own. The entire property runs completely ‘off the grid’, using an extensive range of solar panels to run absolutely everything. Automatic lights ensure that energy consumption is minimal, whilst never being something that the guest actually needs to think about. All of the vehicles owned by Cheetah Plains are electric – including the off-roading game vehicles! Not only is this great for the environment, it also means that the wildlife isn’t so disturbed as they may be with noisy engines. A grey water recycling system minimises water consumption, while reusable metal water bottles ensure that there isn’t a single-use plastic in sight.
In terms of design, Cheetah Plains brings forth a sense of earth and the bush. The use of raw, plain and natural materials such as concrete, brick, wood and leather evoke a natural warmth and raw modern luxe.
These materials are complemented by shag carpets, small touches of glass and handpicked African art from the likes of Emilio Eftychis, Loyiso Mkhize, Greatjoy Ndlovu and more.
Fans and lights can be controlled by the touch of a button whilst in bed, and more ingeniously, so can the mosquito net. Simply press a button and these enormous grey nets will electronically move themselves to shield you from any mozzies that may have made their way inside.
Each private suite is also equipped with a minibar and coffee station, a double headed rain shower, an enormous bath which overlooks the bush in front of you, as well as a private deck and day bed.
There are three plains houses, all of which have four private villas attached to them. Villas 1 and 2 are detached in each set up, whilst villas 3 and 4 are only semi detached, making them well suited for visitors with children. As neither Chelsea or I are yet to put our uteruses to use, the semi detached villa 4 was instead used as our spa room.
Each plains house comes with a designated field guide, tracker, chef, host, sommelier and wellness therapist. Guests can utilise their private wellness therapist as much as they like, there are absolutely no limitations to this service. Basically, if you want massages three times a day, that can definitely be accommodated!
After Chels and I had both had an amazing massage, we made our way back to the Mapogo House to enjoy what was left of our afternoon. We arrived to find a truly phenomenal drinks selection waiting for us! I had mentioned my appreciation of gin and whiskey, so of course, that was what we were provided with.
We wasted no time in mixing up some delicious G&Ts and jumping in the private lap pool.
I also finally got a chance to take Droney Boi out for a spin, however it is worth noting that flying a drone in this area does require special permission and such flights are limited to the Cheetah Plains Reserve, the Sabi Sands NP is a no-go zone for drones.
If you look closely in this next shot, you can see the huge amount of hippos that call this lake home! I can count at least 18 hippos in this shot – how many can you see?
After working up an appetite, it was time for another high tea indulgence, and let me tell you, ‘indulgence’ is just about the only word to describe what we were presented with! In addition to the picture-perfect desserts that you can see in this next picture, we also devoured the most insanely delicious jalapeno poppers – honestly, if I had to choose either the jalapeno poppers or a night with Leo DiCaprio (circa Titanic) well, it would certainly be a close call!
That evening, we went out for another game drive, however this one ended up being rather eventful! We had difficulty finding any wildlife at all, and after persevering for a few hours, the reason for the scarcity of wildlife soon became abundantly clear – a storm was coming!
We ended up speeding back to the lodge while lightning struck seemingly every other second. We arrived mere moments before the sky opened up with vengeance. This wasn’t just a rainstorm, this was a hailstorm too!
So while, the weather was wild, we sought refuge in our plains house private wine cellar and waited out the worst of the weather whilst being treated to an extended wine tasting with our private sommelier.
The plan had been for us to dine by the boma, but Mother Nature nipped that plan in the bud. Instead, the braai was brought inside, and we filled our bellies by the warmth of the fire.
The storm passed during the night, and when we awoke, it was like it had never happened. Once again, the landscape looked dry and arid, and the wildlife still seemed to be in hiding.
Our last game drive wasn’t exactly our most successful in terms of sightings, but it was still a wonderful morning. Once again, we stopped for an Amarula spiked coffee in the bush and soaked up our last moments in the gloriousness of the South African bush.
Just as I had started to give up hope that we would see much of anything on this drive, a lovely leopard made a short but sweet appearance. It made for a wonderful last few moments in the area, and we left with enormous smiles on our faces. We were so sad to leave, but we were leaving with wonderful memories which we would cherish forever.
Our two night stay at Cheetah Plains was special beyond explanation and indulgent beyond imagination.
It was the adventure of a lifetime.
Getting to Cheetah Plains: From Johannesburg you have multiple travel options. Direct flights to the Arathusa airstrip can be booked through Federal Airlines, flights to Nelspruit or Hoedspruit can be booked with Airlink (followed by a land transfer) or you can create a kickass Spotify playlist and spend the morning on a pretty epic road trip!
Cheetah Plains: For more information about visiting Cheetah Plains, click here
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8, M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: Don’t try and stick to a diet during your stay at Cheetah Plains, you will definitely leave looking six months pregnant, and it will be so undoubtedly worth it!