It is our last day at Safari Plains; tomorrow Anne and I will be doing one last morning game drive before transferring back to Johannesburg for our flight back to Cape Town. It’s a rather depressing thought.
I try not to ponder it too much and instead focus on the beauty of The Greater Mabula Game Reserve. Coursing along a windy road, and passing a large herd of impalas that are nibbling on grassy shoots. Russel points up ahead at a steep, rocky track. “We are going to stop for a coffee break at the top of the mountain”, he says, putting the vehicle in gear. “It has got to be one of the most stunning places of the entire reserve”.
We can see why. The panoramic views over the landscape below are truly breathtaking. We climb out of the game drive vehicle and, while Russel busies himself unfolding a small wooden table and draping it with thermos flasks and breakfast snacks, I take myself off for a quick bathroom stop.
Walking up along a bend in the road, I am soon out of sight and, since we haven’t come across any other vehicles all morning, I forego delving into the bush to find a private place. All set to relieve myself only a metre or so beside the road, I suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, hear the sound of a car engine drawing closer. Darn! Having to call things short, I hastily pull up my shorts and step back onto the track, giving the Mabula staff members a wave of my hand as I pretend to be out on a casual stroll. Phew! That was close!
When we get back to camp, a large herd of buffalo are scattered out across the plains, moving along the open savannah grasslands in front of our tent; we can still see them as we head down to the main building for breakfast.
Our waiter presents with a prettily printed menu, which offers an elaborate listing from the Continental Breakfast Buffet. There are assorted sliced fruits, a choice of grains and yoghurts, muffins, croissants, Danish pastries plus a selection of cured meats and cheeses and fresh fruit juices. Then there are eggs to order, along with a number of sides. Or we could opt for the Chef’s Breakfast Special. A frittata; an open omelette served with onion, tomato, mushrooms and cheese. It is not an easy choice.
Enjoying the restful comforts of our special private sala, we are back at the table for lunch only a few short hours later. It’s a miracle my clothes still fit! Still, that does not deter me from savouring the slice of chocolate cake, beautifully plated with flower petals, strawberries and a swirl of honey.
Before we know it, we are back out again for the afternoon drive. It has been a relatively quiet day in terms of animal sightings, but we are not too fazed. We simply enjoy the loveliness of the area and the peaceful gatherings of plains game in the shade of a stand of acacia trees.
It is almost dusk. We have just left our sundowner stop close to a small dam surrounded by tall scrub and are now back on the road. The sun is setting and, feeling happy and slightly mellowed from our white wine, we are laughing and chatting in the back of the vehicle when Russel suddenly slams on the brakes. It is a moment I’ll never forget. There, a few metres to our right, out in the open, sitting calmly on the road, are the two cheetah brothers! It takes a few seconds to sink in; I virtually cannot believe what I am seeing.
I feel an incredible rush of excitement as one of the males gets up and starts walking along the road, soon to be followed by his brother. There is some scent marking on a tree and a veering off into the bushes, but for most of the time, they keep to the sandy track.
“They must have hunted earlier this afternoon”, Russel whispers. “Look at the size of their bellies!”
Both tummies are definitely very distended. With the light fast fading, I am struggling photographically, but I don’t really care too much. It is an intoxicating sighting; unexpected and wonderful.
We stay with the cheetahs for a good ten minutes, driving up slowly behind them, and the opportunity to snap some photos presents itself as one of the males bends down to drink from a shallow pool of muddy water. The sound of engines nearby heralds the onset of other game drive vehicles and, a little reluctantly, we eventually leave the cheetahs and return to camp.
When the next morning our transfer vehicle arrives to take us to the airport, we say our goodbyes with a real sense of sadness. Our stay at Safari Plains and The greater Mabula Game Reserve has been nothing short of fabulous and we leave with just one intention; we will be back!