Incredible sightings herald New Year

Sabi Sabi guests celebrated the festive season with awesome wildlife sightings, described by Operations Director, Rod Wyndham as 'some of the best ever reported on the reserve; and certainly in my seven years here'

Animals and birds turned out in numbers to give guests a fantastic send off for 2006. Cheetah and wild dog sightings were a daily occurrence - a big treat for visitors. One evening a safari party was lucky enough to have three separate cheetah sightings, two lion sightings, an excellent view of a leopard with new cubs (plus two additional leopard sightings), and a wild dog sighting all on one outing.

General game viewing was just as good with plenty of kudu, wildebeest, impala, zebra, giraffe and several other species providing excellent sightings.

Exceptional sightings continued right up until year end. On New Year's Eve, a senior Sabi Sabi ranger, Sidonia Hlatswayo, took his guests for a morning bush walk. The day was exceptionally hot, so he decided to stay close to the lodge, taking a short walk from Bush Lodge to the nearby pan, where impala and other animals were drinking and feeding. While on the path to the pan, Sid had stopped to discuss the surrounding trees, when out of the surrounding bush sprinted a cheetah, running straight past the walking party to take down an impala just metres away from them. After ensuring his guests' safety, Sid and his party walked back to the lodge, boarded a Land Rover and returned to the kill, where there were now two cheetahs feeding. Full of excitement at the experience, the guests decided not to miss the bush walk with Sid the following day (New Year's Day). It was raining intermittently, so again Sid decided on a short walk out of Bush Lodge, this time from the northern point of the camp towards the old runway. The party stopped to observe some kudu and impala and then spotted a wildebeest. As the rain started up again, a female leopard charged out of the bush and onto the wildebeest, killing it right in front of Sid's party. Again, evasive action by Sid ensured everyone's safety and again they returned by Land Rover to the scene, where the leopard had to eat her prey on the ground as it was too heavy for her to lift into a nearby tree. The guests returned to New York full of awe and planning their return trip.

Staff rewarded for decades of service

Sabi Sabi's traditional year end function for staff saw several staff members recognised for 10 and 20 year's service at the company. Some members of the Sabi Sabi team have been there since opening in the late 1970's, says Rod Wyndham.

Pictured here with Rod Wyndham and Lauren Wyndham, Urgent Suwela (Head Chef at Selati Camp), receives an award for 10 years service to Sabi Sabi.

Owl releases successful

A series of owl releases on the Sabi Sabi reserve in the past few months have proved successful, with all rehabilitated owls being reintroduced to the wild. The project focuses on rehabilitating owls that have been injured in suburban areas and ensuring that they are nursed back to health before returning to their natural habitat. Sabi Sabi is home to 11 of the 12 owl species found in South Africa, and is an ideal location for owl releases, providing a pristine environment where biodiversity is carefully preserved.

While owls have generally adapted well to suburban environments, hazards such as domestic pesticides, power lines and cars do cause harm to the birds at times. These sick or injured owls are taken to Leanda Scholtz a Johannesburg-based rehabilitation centre. The birds are given the appropriate treatment before being prepared for release.

The owls are released at dusk at Sabi Sabi's Nkombe Camp, a tented camp used for ranger and tracker training. They are then fed for a few days and monitored to ensure that they are adapting to their new environment and hunting successfully. After that it's up to nature; and to date the success rate has been very high. Says Sabi Sabi managing director, Patrick Shorten: "We are really pleased to be involved with this project."

Selati sparkles with theme dinner

Selati Camp's new deck provided the perfect setting for a themed dinner evening during the festive season. The Long family from the U.S., who booked out the lodge exclusively for a few days in December, opted for the 'African Fine Dining' theme which reflects an elegant African ambience and décor. The themed dinners - which also include 'Classic Colonial' and 'North African Nights' themes - are available to parties with lodge exclusivity; and are set up at the lodge or in the bush.

An extract from the Long's letter to the Camp's management team speaks for itself: 'Thank you for the most wonderful vacation of our lives!...the best aspects of our trip were created by the people on your team…the food, the knowledge, the humour, the kindness…we will be back …in addition to my passport, I left my heart behind!'.

Last word

The cheetah is the world's fastest land mammal. With acceleration that would leave most automobiles in the dust, a cheetah can go from 0 to 60 miles (96 kilometers) an hour in only three seconds.

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