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Issue 2
Africa Travel> Issue 2
UPDATED: August 27, 2014
Spirit of the Cheetah
Africa's big cats in all their raw splendor
By Jo Kromberg

Cheetah cub reared at Abo Shamani Game Reserve

One of the greatest things about South Africa is the natural spiritual generosity of its people, one of which is Zoleka, who meets us with a drink at the gate as we enter the magical world of Abo Shamani Game Reserve on the Sunshine Coast in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

We met the owner of this piece of paradise, Russel von Ruben, and together we drive on to the Lodge through lush forests hidden away in majestic ravines, and I half expect to hear Tarzan's primordial cry dancing over the top of the trees. The next minute through savannah plains open up in front of us like a scene from Out of Africa. The flora is stunningly diverse.

The Lodge itself is the epitome of rustic African ambience - in the parlance of pretentious decor magazines. It's located on the river banks and the silence and tranquility immediately makes itself at home in weary and jaded hearts and souls.

The thatched chalets blend in with the bush perfectly and apparent care has been taken in the design in terms of respecting and reflecting the environment as well as creating a cozy, gorgeous interior - yet the most decadently eclectic Victorian bath I have ever had the pleasure of being cleansed in.

Over the next couple of days I am treated to fine dining (the venison with pesto tagliatelly is an epicurean dream), great game drives (we came across an elephant herd with tiny babies and had to retreat very quickly when they became a little aggressive), a tour around the beautiful sleepy hollow of Kenton-On-Sea and the awesome site of nine young lions feeding.

Russel took me to see these fascinating creatures in their breeding enclosure and I also met his "children," two teenage cheetah brothers which he hand reared. They are

cuddly and friendly, just like cats, yet they still have that raw, wild instinct innate in all Africa's animals. What he didn't prepare me for, however, was a stealth female ostrich creeping up silently behind me. Never mind lion and cheetah, this strange madam made me jump sky high.

A sight I will never forget is the moon rising over the water on the Saturday night in a brilliant fiery vermillion display, nebulously broken by a scattering of clouds.

Abo Shamani is an incredible bush experience for a short stay but Russel also has another, completely unique vision for the Reserve.

The first phase of five sites has been launched for full-title ownership on the Reserve. Russel took me to see the sites and they all have unparalleled views of the river and the distant, hazy blue mountain ranges of Frontier Country. "Owners will also participate in the daily life of a working wild life ranch, plus have all the usual game reserve facilities and activities available with easy river and beach access," he says.

In my mind's eye I could picture coming here on vacation. Lazy days, sleeping until your natural body clock tells you it's time to wake up for a sundowner and a barbeque, going on adrenaline-filled game viewing walks, horse trails, bird watching, fishing, water sports or exploring sites such as Diaz Cross or the nearby Alexandria forest. Falling asleep with the roar of a lion and the haunting cry of the jackal in the distance, under a million brilliant stars.

As I'm driven back to Port Elizabeth in the warm mid-day winter sun, I imagine what it would be like to have a place like that to go to anytime for however long you want. Sign me up...

For more information go to http://www.aboshamani.vonruben.com/

Getting there:


South African Airways introduced direct flights between Beijing and Johannesburg in 2012. Go to http://www.flysaa.com/za/en/flyingSAA/News/Saa-introduces-non-stop-flights-to-beijing-china.html. Once in Johannesburg, low-cost airlines fly to Port Elizabeth or East London.

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