Nambiti Cheetah Ridge Lodge
Impression on arrival
As so often with our travels, we left Durban later than expected and found ourselves rushing to clear the traffic as we made our way past the city limits. Once past PMB we started to relax a bit and enjoy the beautiful scenery that inland KwaZulu-Natal has to offer. We passed through Ladysmith at around 17h00 and headed out on the Newcastle road towards Nambiti. As the sun started to set we got a little distracted and actually missed the turn off to the Nambiti South Gate. After finding a safe spot to turn around we were soon back on the right track, a glorious gravel road where the magic started. The sky turned orange and the sun was setting in the rear view mirror, dust stirred up as we drove creating what can only be described as a romantic African Sunset. Still running a little late and anxious to get to our destination we did not stop to take a photo or even attach the Go Pro, we could just about kick ourselves now. Arriving at the gate we signed the regular indemnities and were soon met by Cheetah Ridge lodge manager Jamie, who guided us to the guest parking lot. Our bags and ourselves were soon on the back of a Land Rover heading for the lodge. Upon arrival we received a friendly and welcoming greeting by the lodge staff and enjoyed an ice cold beverage whilst receiving a quick tour of the lodge. We were soon escorted to our room to find our bags had beaten us there.
Lodge and Room
Cheetah Ridge Lodge is actually the original farm house that existed long before Nambiti was a game reserve. All the lodge amenities are within the boundary fence making it quite safe to walk around the lodge, for those a bit more enthusiastic a tennis court is also available. The 10 luxury suites are all free standing units a few hundred metres from the main lodge.
The room felt effortlessly simple, seeming to have struck the ideal balance between rustic and luxurious. The position of the suite also meant a beautiful view out over the grassy plains that stretched out towards the horizon. The rooms orientation meant that the spectacular view was enjoyed from all aspects of the room without being able to see your neighbour in the suite next door.
The weather was particularly kind to us during our short stay and all meals were served on a beautiful deck shaded by a magnificent old tree, no doubt that has stood guard over the lodge for many years. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style with lots of fresh fruit and veggies and always accompanied with hot homemade bread. Dinner on both evenings turned out to be a 5 star affair and we would go as far as saying that it is almost worth a visit for the food alone.
Game Drives and Scenery
Game drives at Nambiti are always special - there is something about the scenery that is so unique to this beautiful corner of South Africa. Towards the west, glimpses of the mighty Drakensberg Mountains can be seen over the grassy bushveld, and back towards Ladysmith the mountains of Dundee dominate a large part of the skyline. We think it’s fair to say that Nambiti offers a big sky experience, the cold also seems to bring something special to the mix.
Ranger Rynart was an excellent guide as he drove us through the park seeking and pointing out the local wildlife. In our short time we managed to see lion, buffalo, hippo, and even a leopard, a real treat to see in this part of the world. A very close encounter with a large male bull elephant put Rynart’s skills to the test. We are, however, happy to report that his handling of the situation was exceptional and at no point did it feel as if he was not in control of what could have become a very dangerous situation. (For more check out our video of the encounter with Windgat on our YouTube channel)
Cheetah Ridge Spa
Cheetah Ridge also boasts a Spa creating the perfect environment to relax and unwind. A back, neck and shoulder massage was enjoyed followed by a light sleep before lunch. Another tough day in Africa.
To conclude, Cheetah Ridge was an unexpected gem of a bush destination, a 4 star very reasonably priced lodge in one of our favourite places that turned out to be all round just about perfect. I don’t know that we can put our fingers on it exactly - the food was excellent, the staff were friendly and helpful, game viewing was excellent and the view from the room as amazing. There was however something else, something more, some little bit of magic that makes this place so special, perhaps that is what the African bush does to us, but all round we must say that our stay at Cheetah Ridge comes very close to if not top of our list of 2016 visits.
So the question we are always asking, will we be back? Oh yes we will, just as soon as Cheetah Ridge will have us again, hopefully very soon.