Sustainable safaris

A pioneer in the upscale eco-safari class, as well as a leader in conservancy, Japie van Niekerk’s Cheetah Plains continues to take a dedicated approach to environmental preservation and local employment in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve where the big five wander at will.

Exclusive, recently built Plains Houses are a bold departure from Cheetah’s humble beginnings as a safari lodge. The bush homes all flow into the indigenous gardens and their wild surroundings.

Each can be shared by a minimum of four and a maximum of eight safari-goers and offers private and shared spaces that include a formal lounge, dining area, wine gallery, and chef’s open kitchen along with a grand sundeck and private swimming pool. Gracing the wall of every house are pieces collected from contemporary artists, as well as acknowledged masters, that leave a lasting impression. Art tours are available to introduce guests to the works of Lionel Smit, Avend Elotf, Loyisa Mkhize and Gail Catlin to mention a few.

A dedicated hospitality team is assigned to each house—a host, personal chef, field guide and tracker. Together, they work to tailor each of their house’s party’s individual preferences and customize their experience. 

Using off-grid renewable energy, grey-water recycling systems for frugal on-property water consumption and special non-glazing glass to reduce heat transfer in guest accommodations, van Niekerk is all-in when it comes to sustainability. The property also collects and ships suitable food waste to a local pig farm as fodder twice a week. 

Daytime adventures range from a series of immersive guided drives to connect with natural surroundings and wildlife, to personal wellness agendas utilizing indigenous products and treatments.

Farm-to-table alfresco dining, on what van Niekerk refers to as soulful meals, and sampling South African wines from the lodge’s extensive collection makes mealtimes here laid-back yet memorable occasions. 

Cheetah Plains is in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve—a 65,000 hectare reserve pioneered by local landowners in the 1950s. Today, many of these families are now third-and fourth-generation landowners, their legacy being the successful conservation of the highest density of big game in South Africa. Even though there is a 50-kilometre unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park, wildlife in the Sabi Sands Reserve is well habituated, resulting in extraordinary close encounters and prolific sightings, particularly of the big five and the elusive leopard. The Sabi and the Sand Rivers run through the reserve, which add further dimension to the biodiversity of this area.

A sensual backdrop for a sophisticated private bush retreat, Cheetah Plains is at the top of its game.

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