I have been to Nambiti Private Game several times, but this was my first stay at Cheetah Ridge. And like all stays there is always something special just around the corner. The special times here start when you check in and get taken to your luxury suit. All rooms, elegant yet simple, look across a water hole. Within the room the king size bed sits opposite the glass doors which look down to the water hole. Furnishings are simple, no clutter, artwork in keeping to the surroundings, and even a log burner for those chilly winter nights. There is an en-suite bathroom with shower and double sinks. Even the bathtub has a view over the water. As I showered a huge hippo wallowed on the banks opposite me. To my relief he made me look thin. From my very own viewing deck I watched not only hippos: Waterbuck, kudu, warthogs and a variety of birds all came to quench their thirst.
The main lodge is modern yet constructed from traditional materials. Its spacious yet cosy and intimate. There are indoor & outdoor dining areas. We ate an amazing lunch under the shade of the most stunning strangle fig tree and our a la carte dinner was served by candlelight indoors. There is also a boma area, enclosed by rustic poles and branches, offering yet another option where meals are taken, lit only by flames from fire pits and lanterns under the stars. The food was truly excellent from breakfast to dinner, vibrant in taste and colour.
Inside the lodge gardens there is an outdoor swimming pool where guests can keep cool between game drives. There is also a spa where pampering is the order of the day. There are shaded areas under trees and umbrellas with comfortable chairs where you can relax, read or simply snooze. A new bird hide has been constructed offering another option for guests to take a seat and simply absorb the surrounding African bush.
Probably the oldest English spoken proverb reads: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”
On our first game drive under the expert guidance of Themba Nxele, barely ten minutes from the lodge elephants were spotted feeding at the bottom of a valley in front of us. We were positioned on the dirt road looking down toward them from just behind one of the reserve’s many watering holes. It is near impossible to predict an elephant’s movements, so Themba took us to a different vantage point where we could observe the whole herd. The bigger, older, elephants browsed whilst the smaller, youngsters played. The latter chased each other and took part in play fights. But what was becoming clear is the whole herd was slowly making its way up the valley towards the water hole we had just left. The matriarch was clearly leading her herd to drink. We made our way back to where we had originally been positioned just as the first two elephants appeared from the valley. Within minutes the whole herd were taking it turns to drink. To be in the company of the world’s biggest land mammals, of course at a safe distance giving them their space, is always very special. I, like the other four guests just sat and took in the scene in front of us. The gurgling of hundreds of gallons water being sucked up by an assortment of trunks and the splashing of playful youngsters was all that could be heard. One of the smallest elephants, before drinking, played with the water using his trunk to make swirls on the waters surface. He then, like a child blowing bubbles, cleverly managed to produce spirals of water in the air. He finished this off by whipping his trunk up spraying himself between the eyes with an arc of bubbling water.
The matriarch having led the herd to water to drink then led them a short distance away where all the adults calmly grazed and took dust baths. The youngsters, well, they continued where they had left off at the bottom of the valley, mock charging each other, play fighting, and then chasing each other around.
We moved on and left the elephants to go about their evening routine. It had been a real privilege to sit and observe these gentle giants. However, there was a twist in the tale. When we returned to the lodge in near darkness there was a reception committer at the lodge gates. The matriarch had bought the herd to welcome us back. I would say, there they all were, but with barely any light we could just make out occasional movements. But what was clear, was that the herd had found some extra sweet foliage to browse on within meters of the lodge perimeter. Now it was the noise of branches breaking, rumbles of communication from the elephant’s bellies and the occasional trumpet. On our drives we witnessed spectacular sun rises and sun sets where the sky turned from orange to pink to a deep red. There were many more memorable sightings including the most impressive male kudus with magnificent horns. I asked Themba if he got to see secretary birds very often. He replied yes and within two minutes pointed one out hunting snakes in short dry grass. At first light one morning we came across a pod of hippos, out of the water, grazing. Much like the elephants the older hippos just casually went about the business of feeding. The youngsters, mouths wide open, charged and fought each other until one gave in and fled being chased by another.