Located in the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve within South Africa’s world-renowned Sabi Sand Reserve, Earth Lodge offers some of the best game viewing in all South Africa. Big game abounds and roams freely throughout this pristine part of the ancient African continent as the fences between the Sabi Sabi region and Kruger National Park came down in 1993. The diverse habitat is home to magnificent wildlife including the Big 5 – lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant – as well as cheetah, wild dog and some 200 other animal species indigenous to the area. Our stay here was nothing short of spectacular.
Described as the most environmentally sensitive lodge in Africa, Earth Lodge is built into the hill and almost completely hidden in the landscape. We were met by the lodge managers, a husband and wife team and lead down an almost secret corridor. Thick wooden doors open to reveal a stunning 180-degree, uninterrupted panorama - our home for the next two nights.
After a quick freshen up we meet back in the main lodge for a quick briefing before heading out on our first of three game drives with Candy and Chanyn, our tracker and guide for the duration of our stay at Earth Lodge.
Word quickly comes through on the two-way radio that there has been a leopard sighting and we are off to find it. Candy is perched in his tracker’s seat at the front of the vehicle, Chanyn, looking forward at Candy begins to reverse the vehicle over some serious terrain, she never once looked back, only at Candy as he gives her directions. He is her eyes and the trust between the two is amazing to watch, they have been working together for years.
Minutes later, there he is, the most breathtaking leopard you could hope to see. The sun is low in the sky, and leopard is glowing in the sunlight. We are one of only two vehicles at the sighting and Chanyn gets our vehicle amazingly close, the leopard doesn’t even flinch.
I could have spent hours there taking it all in but there is plenty more to see. We head off leaving the leopard stretched on the rock enjoying the last warmth of the sun.
We spend another hour exploring the reserve. We see elephant, rhino, giraffe, birds, warthog and many antelope. I could do this for days. The sun is about to set and in Africa this means it’s time for Sundowners. Candy and Chanyn take us to the most remarkable rock formation, we climb to the top and the view is stunning. They lay out a spread and open the esky. We dink and snack as the sun slowly disappears. What an amazing memory.
It is now dark, and Candy is holding his high beam torch that he slowly sways from side to side. We are back on the hunt for our leopard, surely, he is hungry by now and on the hunt himself. Candy’s well-trained eyes spot him a mile off. Chanyn manoeuvres the massive land cruiser like it is a mini, suddenly she kills the engine and the silence is deafening. There he is, the leopard is right next to our vehicle, I could have reached out and touched him, that’s how close he is. He is stalking a steenbok. The excitement in our vehicle is rising, to see a kill on safari is the ultimate. The leopard slinks off into the bushes after the steenbok and to our surprise from the grass behind the leopard emerges a hyena! She is heavily pregnant, and Chanyn explains that the hyena patiently waiting for the leopard to make his kill in the hopes of stealing it.
Sadly, we didn’t see a kill, instead we head back to the lodge for an amazing Boma dinner. Sharing our stories of the African wilderness around the fire with fellow travellers. Tomorrow is another day and we are excited for what amazing sights we will see.