This Is the Most Luxe Safari Spot in South Africa

Credit: Courtesy of Cheetah Plains

African safaris are the ultimate bucket list excursion, and there’s no better time to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Enter Cheetah Plains in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Nature Reserve. Set among the tall grasses and baobab trees of the bushveld, this iconic carbon-negative oasis is truly in a class of its own. In both sustainability and luxury, Cheetah Plains is the pinnacle of properties. 

Credit: Courtesy of Cheetah Plains

Guests can relish the lap of luxury, all while viewing roaming lions, grazing elephants, and wallowing warthogs. As the first lodge in SA with an entirely electric fleet of custom vehicles, Cheetah Plains clients can get closer than ever to the animals. The EVs are specially outfitted to be more comfortable, with plush, heated seats, and they’re essentially silent, a transformative update on a traditional safari game drive. Travelers get access to a private vehicle for their group, a rarity even in the world of high-end safaris. A seasoned guide and tracker—always a local team of two—uses their knowledge to paint a vivid picture of the Sabi Sands. Catch a glimpse of the Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and African buffalo. Electric vehicles are just a piece of the Cheetah Plains sustainability puzzle; the property has an ever-expanding array of solar panels, enough for the guest spaces to function fully off-grid. 

Credit: Courtesy of Cheetah Plains

On the accommodation side, Cheetah Plains consists of three private villas. Meet Mapogo, Karula, and Mvula. All named after legendary area animals, each bespoke dwelling consists of two main parts: a massive shared living space and multiple standalone guest suites. Out of doors, an infinity-edge pool overlooking the wild beckons for a post-game drive dip. Guest rooms feature a massive bedroom, lounge, fireplace, terrace, and walk-in closet/dressing area. The bathrooms are especially exquisite, with soaking tubs, double rain showers, dual vanities, and a separate WC. 

Credit: Courtesy of Cheetah Plains

Each villa comes equipped with its own full staff including a culinary team with multiple private chefs and servers, butlers, porters, cleaners, activity coordinators, a masseuse, and beyond. There’s even a sommelier who serves the best wines South Africa has to offer, a local love letter to the nation’s vaunted wine history. Pro tip: wine lovers should plan for a wine pairing dinner in the wine cellar, though the team can make almost any possible culinary experience happen at Cheetah Plains. 

Credit: Courtesy of Cheetah Plains

It’s clear that Cheetah Plains is a spectacular splurge, but its exclusive safari experience, beyond talented staff, and gorgeous accommodations make it priceless. 

Top Takeaways

Location: Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, South Africa

Address: Sabi Sand Nature Reserve S36, 1363, South Africa

Rating: Five-Star 

The vibe: Sleek, sumptuous, and sustainable safari 

Food + Drink: All-inclusive with custom menus based on guest preferences. Be sure to request a traditional braii, or BBQ, to get a taste of South Africa!

Our Favorite Part of the Hotel: The pool and pool deck of Mapogo Villa, which is set on a dam (pond) full of hungry hippos! Shari’s boutique, with its expertly curated collection of fine goods from African makers and designers, is another lovely surprise.

Amenities: Beyond the fully staffed house, Cheetah Plains boasts a fitness center, upscale boutique, and a contemporary art gallery, a new collab with South Africa’s famed Goodman Gallery (whose team also curated the art in all three villas). 

What’s Nearby? Cheetah Plains borders Kruger National Park, South Africa’s largest, with a whopping 4.9 million acres (7,523 square miles) of protected land. The nation’s biggest nature sanctuary, Kruger, is also extremely diverse, boasting a wide array of species beyond the Big Five. 

Any personal neighborhood recs? There’s not much of a neighborhood vibe in the bush, but our favorite watering hole is a classic sundowner setup. This outdoor sunset happy hour, often set up for prime wildlife watching, is a must-do on any safari. Cheers with Amarula, a South African creme liqueur made with fruit from the elephant tree. 

Rooms: 3 private villas, each with four guest rooms, for a max of 8 total guests each. Full property buy-outs may be available upon request. 

Pricing: All-inclusive rates at Cheetah Plains begin at $2,200 per person per day for up to six adults in one villa. Additional adult guests, up to 2, are $1,550 per day or $770 per child aged 12 and under. Please note there is a minimum 3-night stay, and rates vary based on time of year. 

Closest Airport: The private Arathusa Safari Lodge Airstrip (ASS) is roughly a 15-minute (or less) drive from Cheetah Plains. Those flying commercial are likely to first journey to Johannesburg, then fly semi-private to Arathusa from O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB). 

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