Tragedy at Leopard Hills

Posted on May 26, 2011

In the early hours of Monday morning we were woken to the alarm call that Suite 1 was on fire.

Arriving on the scene the entire Suite was ablaze with the flames reaching 30 meters into the night sky, illuminating the entire area with an ominous orange glow. With the knowledge that there were no Guest occupying the unit, we immediately set about preventing the fire spreading to the other facilities.

Our emergency action plan flew into operation and we threw all of our resources into combating the blaze. Within minutes our entire Team were in position with our fire fighting equipment up and running, we managed to contain the blaze to Suite one and prevent any further risk to the rest of the Lodge. Colleagues from our neighboring Lodges responded to the call and began arriving swiftly, bringing additional resources to the scene which were put to good use in extinguishing the blaze.

Although this was a tragedy for us in losing one of our beautiful Suites, no one was injured and the Team work was outstanding. From the ashes will rise something even better and will serve as the “benchmark” as we move forward with the plans to re-build.

I would like to thank all the Leopard Hills Team for the dedication you showed under extremely difficult circumstances, I am proud to walk among you and call you friends. I would also like to thank our neighbors, who responded to aid us in such a timely and professional manner, always know we will be there for you in the future as we have been in the past.

In the light of dawn, standing in the burnt out rubble with a fire hose in my hand, dampening down the last remaining embers, a sight to behold emerged from the bushes in front of me. The Xinzele Male Leopard and the Hlaba Nkunzi Female Leopard appeared through the smoke and up onto the smouldering deck at the front of Suite 1. Blinking through smoke affected eyes I wondered if this was some kind of mirage, a trick of the mind, but no, there they were, standing not 5 meters away from me in the early morning light. They stood side by side for a moment surveying the scene, almost a sense of, “we saw the smoke and wanted to check if you guys were fine”. They turned and walked together side by side, up onto the main pool deck and past Suite 8 disappearing into the early morning sunlight.

The pictures below are saddening indeed, but it is now time to concentrate on the future and we have already laid the plans for the rebuild. Everything happens for a reason and in change lies opportunity; we will grasp this with both hands and move forward in a positive manner.

14 thoughts on “Tragedy at Leopard Hills

  1. So sorry that the fire happened.. Looks like a big mess now but in time will be beautiful again. Grateful no one was injured..
    Amazing that the leopards showed up to check things out..

  2. oh Duncan… how utterly devastating. Do you have any idea how the fire started? It is always such a blow to have something destroyed, something you have so lovingly created. You write about the fire so movingly. I am in tears for all of you this morning. The visitation of the leopards is profound. A gift, a blessing on you and your presence in their lives. They know and they understand. We are all connected.

    May you have strength and courage facing the rebuild.

  3. Such sad news but the blessings are there for you all too and I have every faith that something very creative and special will emerge from the ashes!

  4. No words !

    Our hearts are with you and your team.

    But with LH hearts I know a new suite will rise like the phoenix from his ashes !

    all the best building up your new future

  5. Duncan, this is devastating news. I am very sorry for the loss that the Leopard Hills Team have suffered, but also very pleased to hear no one was injured.

    Your positive attitude is so refreshing and inspiring though, and probably one of the reasons Leopard Hills is one of BEST lodges in Africa in the first place.

    My thoughts are with you guys as you embark on the cleanup and rebuild, and I know it will be better than ever when you are done!

  6. Duncan- Our thoughts are with you and your team. We are so glad everyone is safe and that no one was injured, I know that LH will rebuild and cannot we cannot wait to see the new suite when we come back!

  7. I would be far more upset but the arrival of the leopards tells me that you are and will be well. It is so wonderful that they came and blessed you with their presence. You would think they would run from fire; instead they came to be sure you all were OK. Hard as it is to lose something you love to fire (or anything else), knowing you all, magic will happen and, as you said, the beginning of something new and wonderful.

  8. Oh how sad and yet the good news is that no one was injured including our beloved Leopards!!!

    So sorry and hope all will go well in the restoring of Suite 1.

    Good luck to you and my thoughts are with you.

  9. As everyone – so glad no-one was hurt and no animals too!
    I am sure that the rebuild will be spectacular and enhance q wonderful place on earth!

    Take care and well done to your fantastic team

  10. Aaah,such devistation – but as everyone else has said, glad no one was intured and that you have such support in your team and neighbours. The arrival of the leopards is indeed a sign, a promise that the sun will come up tomorrow and you’ll be blessed with a new superb room with your very own special touch! Best of luck and warmest wishes to you all.

  11. Dear Duncan – So sorry for this tragedy and happy to learn that the room was not occupied. I know a new room will be built in no time and this will be behind you quickly. It was wonderful to meet just before this had happened as Leopard Hills is such a gorgeous lodge. God bless and kudos to the fire team (including our guide Justin & Chris from Exeter River Lodge!)

  12. How dreadful…yet good to know that no one was hurt. I think we stayed in this room on our first trip.
    Jody said it all so well, can’t add more to it.

    God Bless.

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