Where Leopards and Luxury Collide

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Sabi Sabi.

What comes to mind when you hear those words?

For me it’s this…

Gerry van der Walt - Sabi Sabi Wildlife Photography

Panthera pardus.

Leopards.

One of Africa’s most beautifully intriguing and intriguingly beautiful  animals.

In wildlife and nature nothing can ever be guarantee but if you want to see leopards in the wild you will be stacking the odds heavily in your favour by visiting Sabi Sabi.

The photographic opportunities and game viewing, of both leopards and other wildlife, is truly amazing.

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There is however always more to a wildlife experience than just what happens out in the field.  Yes, the reason we go to these places to see, and in a lot of cases photograph Africa’s natural heritage but you have to sleep somewhere.  And eat something.  More often than not the lodges out there just become, well, another lodge.  Nice, but just another lodge.

Having been in the lodge and hospitality industry for many years I sometimes tend to be, not quite blasé, but perhaps a little desensitised to the luxuries and amazing opportunity of visiting incredible lodges.  Please don’t get me wrong, I have never and never will become naive and take for granted the things I get to experience and see, but I have gotten used to appreciating the beauty and unique features of a luxury lodge without gushing about it.

Most of the time this is probably the result of being in work mode and focusing on my guests, and perhaps knowing firsthand the backstage of the world and of what it takes to run these lodges has tainted my vision a bit.  But grateful and appreciative for the opportunity, always.

Then this happened.

Gerry van der Walt - Earth Lodge Sabi Sabi

Having been described as one of the most environmentally sensitive lodges in Africa, Sabi Sabi’s Earth Lodge took my breath away.

I think that in time, once we return home after our bush experience, it’s not the softness of the pillows or the taste of the food that we remember.  It’s not the amazing wine cellar or personal service that makes the experience stick in our minds but rather something more. A combination of all of these things.  And more.

Wildlife sightings apart, it is the way that a lodge makes us feel that defines our experience and I would go as far as to say that it’s not always easy, or even possible, to put a finger on what it is that just makes it work.  It’s a combination of the buildings, the people, the phone call en route to warn you that certain roads might be closed, the vibe – whatever that really is – of the lodge and even things as subtle as the general mood amongst the general staff you meet on the pathways around the lodge.

It is when all of these things come together, and yes it’s the proverbial whole is bigger than the sum of all the parts type scenario, that we feel something at a lodge.

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Earth Lodge didn’t feel like a normal lodge but it did make me feel.

It made me feel close to nature.

It made me feel special.

It made me just feel and that is absolutely priceless!

Gerry van der Walt - Sabi Sabi Wildlife Photography

Now add to this the incredible Sabi Sabi game viewing and some of the most professional and passionate guides I have ever had the privilege of heading out on game drive with – thanks Terry and Dollen! – and it goes without saying that the experience was absolutely breath-taking.

Earth Lodge is one of 4 lodges on Sabi Sabi and they each have their own very unique charm and character.

I did a quick stop at each of the lodges and based on this, and the different way these lodges made me feel, I will most definitely be heading back to Sabi Sabi for not only set photographic departures – watch this space – but also privately guided photo safaris so let me know if you are keen to see and  feel this amazing place with me.

Gerry van der Walt - Sabi Sabi Wildlife Photography

There is a big difference between remembering something and really having felt it.

If you get the the chance, search out the latter.  It’s what makes our hearts beat just that little bit faster.

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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