Hiding a substantial art collection away in the remote African bush might be counterintuitive but it makes perfect sense to Japie van Niekerk. After all, his Sabi Sand Private Reserve eco-lodge celebrates the best of South Africa, so why not hang a Pierneef in the lounge and a Kentridge in a guest bathroom?
Japie’s personal collection has taken years to put together but there’s no attempt to create a gallery setting at Cheetah Plains. Each piece finds its niche in the luxury living spaces of the lodge, designed by Stefan Antoni along clean modern architectural lines immersed in its natural setting. Relaxing on a deep sofa after a game drive, you might dive into contemplation of a huge works by Gail Caitlin or Greatjoy Ndlovo. Or be moved to deeper appreciation of the wilderness by Malcolm Solomon’s Banking Eagle sculpture, which soars beside a lap pool with a natural waterhole as its backdrop.
There is no main lodge at Cheetah Plains. Instead, the three Plains Houses, Karula, Mapogo and Mvula, are separate, exclusive-use clusters, each a home-from-home with four double suites alongside a private villa and pool, looked after by their own dedicated staff. From custom-designed furniture by Okha and ARRCC to Pichulik rope key rings, the interiors are curated with attention to the most thoughtful details. Of course, if you fall irrevocably in love say with one of Loyiso Mkhise’s vibrant portraits brightening the cool neutrals of your suite lounge, all the artworks are available to buy, keeping the collection fresh – The Tretchikoff may have recently sold, but an equally fascinating piece takes its place.
The solar farm that powers the lodge you might not even notice, but you’ll appreciate the whisper silence of the custom electric Land Cruisers with their Tesla batteries - an eco-innovation that transforms game drives – birdsong, cicadas, the distant roars of big cats – no sound is lost to engine noise. Oh, and blissful heated seats! Back at the lodge, the big cat viewing, as superb as you’d expect in the Sabi Sand, is reflected in commissioned bronze cheetahs by Arend Elof, and dynamic cheetah and lion paintings in Conor McCreedy’s signature deep blues.
Total immersion in art, nature and eco-luxury with a sensual touch of glamour is the Cheetah Plains experience.