1% Travel Guide: Leopard Hills, South Africa

By Playboy.com Staff

This week's luxury destination will have you running for your life.

Welcome to the 1% Travel Guide, your bible of the most tricked-out, exclusive destinations that money can buy.

It’s a scorching afternoon; you’re relaxed, Mojito in hand, as you drift in and out of consciousness on an unnamed white sand beach in tropical Nowhereland. Despite the fact you’re dreaming, the five minutes since you slammed down the snooze button seem like an eternity of bliss, which you only hope can last more than an ephemeral moment. It’s only with the disconcerting growl of your five-year-old son shouting “RAWR” and tackling you out of paradise that reality begins to once again take shape around you. Uttering a sigh, you reluctantly get out of bed, only to step on one of the little bastard’s toys. You recognize it as a leopard, the most lackadaisical of the big cats. Not only does it sleep in trees all day without a care in the world, it relies on the takeout availability of the animal world – basically anything that happens to walk by its perch.

Thinking back to this morning’s events, you occupy your mid-morning break with a Google search of the big cat, maybe out of jealousy or perhaps out of spite – but what catches your eye is not just an animal but the enduring name of a place: Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve. Intrigued, you click through and are brought to the realization that you too can live the privileged life of comfort, at a cost of course. Weighing your options, the idea of a trip into the vast expanse of Africa becomes increasingly compelling, and before you come to your senses you’ve entered your credit card details. No turning back now.

After somehow convincing your wife that the trip is a gift from the boss for your long hours of torturous consulting work (fat chance), the kids are shipped off to the grandparents as you board the long flight to Johannesburg. Upon arrival, you’re guided to catch your connecting flight north to wide-open plains that are home to the famous Kruger National Park. After touchdown, you’re greeted by your private chopper waiting to carry you to your final destination. Cruising over the flatlands below, you spot an elephant herd storming through the brush as your wife points out the vultures circling above. As she begins to compare their flared beaks to that of your mother, you momentarily fantasize that vultures might prefer your wife to the carcass scraps they’ve been awaiting.

Upon first glance at the luxury lodge you’ll be nesting in for the next week, you’re momentarily stunned by the modernity of it all. Here, within Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, one of the oldest and most prestigious game reserves in the world, you have five-star service and amenities awaiting your every whim. With a hard pinch to reassure yourself that you haven’t nodded off once again, your gracious guide welcomes you in both Afrikaans and English. This is going be a legendary vacation, and while the rate of 8300 South African Rands a night per person ($1000 USD) is reasonable at luxury standards, there’s always the cost of getting here!

Walking into your room for the first time, you’re faced with a wild combination of a bush-inspired luxury hotel suite one would be jealous to receive in Manhattan, with doors framed with arched tree trunks, and thatched wooden roofs reminiscent of something out of The Jungle Book or Tarzan. As your wife departs in search of the promised gargantuan wine cellar, you head to your private balcony where alongside your soon-to-be-used built-in plunge pool you regard the dramatic landscape of the waterhole below you.

As your week in the wild progresses, you quickly learn your favorite element has to be the trips into the grassland with just a guide, the silence and an open-air Land Rover. Within various distances, you’ve encountered a pride of lions, stalking the antelope as you do your wife after your kids go to bed; the massive Cape buffalo, who stage a standoff with the rare rhinos over a plot of water; and of course the elephants, whose sheer size terrifies and captivates you and your wife beyond all means. However, as your final day approaches, you still haven’t met the namesake of this glorious retreat from the world.

As you take a leisurely stroll one night to a thinking stump of sorts that has become a mainstay for you, you take a seat and listen to the calls as the sun begins to collapse over the horizon. Suddenly you hear a deep purr behind you. Not wanting to become fast food, you carefully crane your neck towards the branches above when you meet the eyes of the owner. Here, face to face with a leopard of Leopard Hills, you immediately see the how the dark tan spots blend amongst the thick branch that supports its lofty body. The eyes intelligent, the paws as big as your face, you’ve met your target mere feet away. And as you slowly back away to a safe distance, the big cat raises its head; with a loud yawn it displays its perfectly sharp teeth for you to see. Actually it’s the last thing you see…you know, before hightailing it back to the lodge before becoming dinner. Out of Africa, you’ve had an experience to remember, but until next time, you’ll stick with your son’s plastic toys to save your life.

Check it out at www.LeopardHills.com.


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