When squinting at the glare of my computer screen, with fingers crazily ticking and tacking away at the keyboard as I respond to an ever-flowing stream of emails, I am often met with the frequent question: “What do the rates include at Cheetah Plains?”
This is when I tend to robotically spray out the list of all things that are expected to be had:
– 3 meals – Brunch; High Tea and Dinner (Lunch must be pre-ordered prior to arrival)
– Game drives
– Selected beverages (if enquiring for a visit in 2017)
It can often become quite manic when dealing with both emails and a near-constantly ringing telephone. When this happens and I feel that my patience is sitting on the point of no return, I simply pause for a minute and take a waltz down to the main lodge, drinking in a deep breath of fresh, low-veld air. Sometimes, there will be something interesting happening at the water-trough: maybe a giraffe, with legs all splayed out as it lowers its head for a sip; or perhaps a jostling herd of elephant, spraying themselves and flapping their ears; or even the smile and playful banter between myself and Sakhile as I pass by. One thing is for certain; the sound of the many birds skipping through the boughs overhead, or the sight of a millipede effortlessly gliding over the sandy pathway is enough to ease any anxieties of the day.
It was during one of these walks that I had the thought: What do folks actually pay for when they come to Cheetah Plains?
Is it just the soft down-feather duvets; a steaming mug of fabulous filter coffee; a zesty gin and tonic on safari; a lion’s portion of deliciously prepared dinner and a tick-off on the Big Five checklist?
These indeed are what a person should rightfully expect, after jumping the ocean and braving the potholes of Acornhoek.
Personally, and I have noticed this with many a guest, what is received is much more.
There have been numerous times when travellers have been completely bowled over by the general hospitality – whether it’s a friendly chat at the bar; a chuckle or two at the brunch buffet or just the enthusiasm for sharing daily experiences; it fills us with pride knowing that we have had a hand in making our guests trip to South Africa an unforgettable experience. We as South Africans are undoubtedly doing something right when the comment of “you people are so friendly!” is warmly given.
So, again, just what are guests paying for?
The sight of a lioness as she gently grooms her cubs in the morning after viciously clawing and ripping at a feisty buffalo the evening before. It’s the hearing of a leopard call at 23:00 pm. It’s seeing a dung beetle deftly roll an expertly crafted ball of elephant poop. It the scents of the bush as the sun warms up the vegetation and air. The fireside dinners and colourful personalities of the Cheetah Plains staff. It’s learning something new and hearing exciting stories told by the guides. That feeling of being at home when your real home is over two-thousand kilometres away; and not to forget the sheer adventure of the trip over-land! A drive from any one of the airports is sure to cement a few funny stories to tell friends and family – from being stuck behind cattle in Hluvukani to bouncing over the wash-board-like roads in Seville A and Utah.
Coming to this part of the world is indeed an adventure!
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