Zero emissions were the initial incentive behind the design of the new safari trucks, which cost about $100,000 each. (That’s double the price of a regular safari vehicle.) But the byproduct of the environmentally friendly fleet of Toyota Land Cruisers— which are fitted with the latest Tesla battery technology and, fully charged, can drive for hours over any terrain—is a nearly silent safari, meaning closer encounters to lions, leopards, giraffes, elephants, and the rest of the native wildlife in the 45,000-acre Sabi Sands Game Reserve. For wildlife photographers, in particular, the real advantage is the low hum of the engine and the unobtrusiveness of gliding quietly through the bush.
Cheetah Plains is the latest property to launch in the Sabi Sand, a private game reserve made up of mainly family-owned concessions. At around $8,500 per acre, the Sabi Sand is the most expensive land under conservation in South Africa. Along with all of its native predators, sightings of its famous leopards are the reason why safari-goers pay top dollar to vacation at its swanky lodges.
In line with its boundary-pushing approach to game viewing, Cheetah Plains offers just three private villas, each designed with cutting-edge sustainability credentials by Cape Town–based architect Stefan Antoni, who is better known for designing futuristic luxury hotels in places like Thailand and the Seychelles than safari lodges in Africa. The houses have the latest in gray-water recycling systems and, by April, will operate 100 percent on solar power.