Sabi Sabi Newsletter - October 2007
Wild Dogs Settle In | Platinum Award for Wine List | Celebrities Visit Sabi Sabi | A Hippo Named Harry | A New Baby for Bush Lodge

Wild Dogs Settle In

Since August, a pack of African Wild Dogs has called Sabi Sabi home, resulting in thrilling sightings for guests at all four lodges. The family, which includes 14 pups, first settled close to Bush Lodge, but has since moved its den around the Sabi Sabi reserve several times.

A guest at Earth Lodge wrote the following account of her experience of the Wild Dogs: "We were lucky enough to witness the adult Wild Dogs hunt and kill a Nyala one evening. After a frenzied few minutes of feeding, one of the female dogs detached herself from the pack and with a series of short, sharp barks, summonsed the pups, who were waiting a respectful distance away, very close to our Land Rover. Approaching cautiously, the pups stopped a few metres from the kill, standing obediently in a row and waiting for the signal to approach. A subtle call from the female saw them joining the adults for their share of the feast. We were totally amazed by the complexity of the interaction between pack members."

Since this encounter, one of the pups broke its leg, leaving it weak and vulnerable. Because of the Wild Dogs' status as a highly endangered species, Sabi Sabi management called in the state veterinarians from the adjacent Kruger National Park, who recommended that the pup be darted and operated on to repair the damaged leg. In almost 40°c heat, the wildlife team at Sabi Sabi located the pup and kept track of her until the vets arrived. Darting her was no mean feat, with several adult Dogs fiercely trying to protect the pup. Eventually, the vets were successful and the sedated pup was relocated to Mholas Hola Wildlife Centre where she had a pin inserted into the leg. The Wildlife Centre has kept us informed of her progress and has reported that the pup has been integrated into a new pack and is being fed by the females.

Platinum Award for Wine List

Sabi Sabi has received a Platinum Award from Diners Club for its exceptional wine selection. Twelve judges rated Sabi Sabi as having an excellent array of wines and gave the lodges a high grading on criteria that ranged from the inclusion of local estate wines to the stocking of French wines and champagnes, as well as presentation and creativity.

Each of Sabi Sabi's four luxury lodges boasts an impressive wine list. One of the highlights of a stay at Earth Lodge is selecting wine from the collection of more than 6000 bottles housed in the lodge's beautiful underground wine cellar.

All of the Sabi Sabi managers have recently completed a certified wine course which broadened their overall wine knowledge and appreciation, enabling them to better advise guests on their wine choices.

Celebrities Visit Sabi Sabi

Ryan Reynolds visited Sabi Sabi in July 2006, enjoying a break from his hectic movie career, which includes over 20 feature films. Filming has just finished on Fireflies in the Garden (to be released in 2008) in which Ryan stars with Julia Roberts, Carrie-Ann Moss and Willem Dafoe. He was accompanied by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory screenwriter, John August, whose other screenplays include Go, Big Fish and Charlie's Angels.

Superb wildlife viewing marked their stay at Earth Lodge, the privacy and seclusion of Sabi Sabi a welcome respite from their public lives. Both celebrities took the time to unwind and enjoy the peaceful surroundings in between action-packed safaris.

Renowned opera singer, Joyce DiDonato and new husband, conductor Leo Vordoni, chose Earth Lodge for their belated honeymoon in August 2007.

They enjoyed excellent wildlife sightings, sumptuous accommodation, excellent cuisine and the legendary Sabi Sabi hospitality. An excerpt from Joyce's email sums up their experience: "It is with great regret that I send you this email, for that means that we really are far away from South Africa and the amazinc Earth Lodge! We just had the most magical, rich, beautiful time, and your attention to detail and passion for the experience there made it all the more so!"

A Hippo Named Harry...

It is not customary for rangers at Sabi Sabi to name animals on the reserve; but an exception was made when a male hippo took up residence in the small dam in front of Earth Lodge a few years ago.

Bad tempered and irritable, the hippo never failed to put on a show when guests approached in a Land Rover - clashing his huge jaws and grunting noisily, he made it plain that they were intruding. Dubbed 'Harry', the lonely hippo spent two solitary years in the Thlamfi Dam ('Fish' in local Shangaan), before suddenly taking on a mate. Unperturbed by his ill temper, the female hippo wallowed happily next to Harry, finally allowing him to mate with her towards the end of last year.

Rangers and guests alike waited expectantly for signs that a new arrival was imminent; but six months ago the pair disappeared from the dam as quickly and silently as they had arrived. The speculation is that they have moved to a secluded spot on the Sabie River to deliver their baby; and will return to Earth Lodge when it is a few weeks old.

Says Desiree Thomas, general manager at Sabi Sabi: "Harry is an integral part of the Earth Lodge story, and we are all eagerly awaiting the family's return. Each morning we look for a sign from them and we are sure that very soon now we'll be greeted by Harry's grumpy welcome!"

A New Baby for Bush Lodge

Much celebration and rejoicing greeted the arrival of baby Michaela Paige in September, a first child for Sabi Sabi operations director, Rod Wyndham and his wife, Lauren who manages Bush Lodge. Weighing just 2.8kg, the new arrival quickly settled in to her home and is described as 'the sweetest and easiest baby' by her mum. It's a bit early for the reserve's bush babies who will generally arrive after the first rains!

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