By Lyn Dobrin
Sabi Sabi's Earth Lodge
The next morning, after a breakfast buffet overseen by Chef Sean Watson, we found our leopard again. He was in classic leopard position, draped over a tree branch, patiently waiting above two wart hog holes.
We didn’t find out if he got lunch that day because we moved on to watch other animals looking for a meal or working out turf issues.
An African hawk eagle, circling above, was dive bombed by drungos; wild dogs--not always seen on safari--were chased into the brush by zebras; and the hippo who lives near the lodge faced down a rhino, establishing his momentary superiority.
We had the rest of the day at leisure. Each of the 12 secluded suites has a private plunge pool and outdoor shower. The thick walls of our suite were made of earth with bits of straw and seeds throughout, the floors were a glossy dark red with scattered rugs and in the large bathroom was a tempting bathtub shaped like a giant oval coconut shell.
That night on safari, we watched a troop of two lionesses with eight youngsters as they hunted. We left before they had any success, ready for our own delicious dinner, served outdoors by candlelight.
Singita's Ebony Lodge
After a few days, we moved on to Singita, staying at their Ebony Lodge. The impressive open air lounge is a successful blend of antique English and French furniture with vibrant African colors and textures. Singita, too, is an intimate experience with room for only 18 guests. It has received worldwide accolades, named World’s No.1 Destination by Condé Nast Traveler 2001/2002 and Best Resort in Africa, Condé Nast Traveler 2003.
On safari that afternoon we chatted with Bo Wilson, a Texan who now lives in Cape Town. This was Bo’s second visit to Singita. "I don’t rough it," he said. "The people are very friendly and helpful, and the food is terrific."
Dinner confirmed his assessment. Head chef Gary Coetzee prepares dishes inspired by African, Asian and European influences, taking advantage of local product such as lamb from the Karoo region, beef raised especially for the hotel and fabulous peaches from the Cape.
Our suite was very comfortable and very private. It was soothing to take a hot shower and look out through the glass shower wall and through the picture window in the bathroom over to the hill dotted with grazing zebra and wildebeest. Later on the porch next to our plunge pool, I spent a lovely hour trying my hand at a watercolor of the scene with the paints and paper thoughtfully supplied by the hotel.
The game viewing at Singita was as satisfying as that at Earth Lodge. We learned that impalas synchronize births so that all the females in a group (generally something like 30 females and one male) all give birth within 72 hours. This abundance of young makes for a better chance of survival after the predators have had their feast (McDonald's of the bush, we were told).