The Singita Blog

Creatures Great & Small: Leopard Tortoise

December 22, 2014 - Conservation, Did You Know?, Wildlife

Leopard tortoise at Singita

Leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis)

My partner, a tracker named Johnston, is quick to spot wildlife and fun… With his hand raised to stop the vehicle, we stare at his movements and look in the direction he’s looking. While we are expecting him to point out a predator track in the sand or an animal in the distance, he turns to us and says, “Leopard!” Everyone grabs their cameras and looks frantically around to see where this elusive leopard is. Johnston climbs off the tracker seat and saunters off down the road. By this time our poor guests are all speechless not knowing what’s going to happen. Then he points to the ground, smiles broadly, and announces, “Leopard. Leopard tortoise.” Indeed it was a leopard tortoise, and on this occasion it had retreated into its shell after feeling the vibrations of the vehicle. We all sat quietly and slowly a small head poked out and all four legs were set in motion. It may not be a Big Five species, but it is one of the Little Five and shares this accreditation due to their names being similar to the Big Five.

Field guide and tracker

Field guide and tracker

Leopard tortoises all have unique and beautiful gold and black markings on their shells, hence their name. They generally eat grasses, and this must suit them well because they live up to 100 years. They are great diggers although they only burrow when building a nest for their eggs.

Singita Sabi Sand

Singita Sabi Sand

The leopard tortoise is one of the world’s largest tortoise species as they can grow to 70 cm in length and 12kgs in weight. As with other tortoise species, the leopard tortoise has a large shell which protects its softer body. It is able to retract its limbs back into its shell so that no body part is left vulnerable.

It’s easy to forget that there’s more to Africa’s wildlife than elephants, giraffes, leopards and lions; the continent is home to all sorts of fascinating small creatures too. We shine a spotlight on these more diminutive beasties in our Creatures Great & Small blog series, which has previously showcased the flap-necked chameleon and the Giant African land snail.

You can read more stories like this one in our monthly Wildlife Reports, which are written by our field guides and illustrated with their stunning photography.

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A Festive Family Gathering at Singita

December 19, 2014 - Experience, Sabi Sand, Singita Castleton

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At a time where solitude is hard to come by and quality time with loved ones comes at a premium, the exclusivity of Singita’s lodges, camps and private-use properties is the ultimate luxury in a fast-paced world. Each location allows us to share a unique part of the world with our guests, while maintaining respect for the natural environment and making a tangible difference in the local communities.

Family time at Singita Castleton

Families visiting Singita during the festive period are especially fortunate to be able to celebrate the season by spending time together in an unforgettable setting. Each of the five regions in which Singita operates offers something different; from the lush riverine landscape of the Sabi Sand and pristine wilderness of the Kruger National Park to the breathtaking grandeur of the Serengeti and tranquility of southeastern Zimbabwe. There can be no better location for a family gathering at this wonderful time of the year.

Family time at Singita Castleton

Each lodge caters for a variety of group activities, including guided safari walks, mountain biking, archery, star gazing, tennis, cooking classes and wine tasting*. Long, lazy afternoons spent by the pool are also a wonderful way to relax in the company of loved ones. Those craving peace and quiet can opt for a spa treatment, a browse around the extensive Boutique & Galleries or work up a sweat in the gym.

Family Christmas at Singita Castleton

Twice-daily game drives provide the perfect opportunity to see incredible wildlife, while spot-lit evening drives reveal the elusive magic of nocturnal Africa. Game drives are all conducted in state-of-the-art Land Rovers, each accommodating a maximum of six guests. During your stay, you are likely to spot a great variety of local flora and fauna, including all of The Big 5; lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros.

Family time at Singita Castleton

Each game drive features a “bush stop” where guests can stretch their legs, enjoy a snack and share a drink or a cup of freshly-brewed coffee. Meals back at the lodge can be shared in the “boma”, in the main dining area or even in your room for the ultimate private dining experience. The kitchen teams prepare mouthwatering dishes using fresh ingredients from the vegetable garden, while others are locally-sourced or homemade by the talented chefs. A visit to Singita and all that it offers is full of unforgettable moments, not least of which are the hours spent together around the table, making guests feel truly at home.

Family time at Singita Castleton

Chat to our Reservations team to find out more about how the staff at each lodge can customize the perfect African Christmas experience for you and your family.

Special thanks to Brian Futter from The Art of Christmas for the festive decor seen in these photos.

*Please visit the website to see which activities are available at each lodge.

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Christmas under the Sun

December 15, 2014 - Experience, Sabi Sand, Singita Castleton

Across all our lodges, Christmas at Singita is a time of joyful celebration infused with Africa’s seductive warmth, vibrancy and generosity of spirit.

Christmas at Singita Castleton

Christmas at Singita Castleton

Meaning ‘place of miracles’ in Shangaan, Singita is privileged to share the fascinating and diverse wonders of nature with our guests at this festive time of year marked by sharing, feasting and celebration inspired by the sunshine and the magical surroundings of the wilderness.

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Whether visiting us with family or friends, we invite you to connect with your surroundings and embrace the luxury of space and sense of peace inherent in the Singita experience, and become part of our extended family this Christmas.

Christmas at Singita Castleton

Christmas at Singita Castleton

Formerly the family home of Singita founder Luke Bailes’ grandfather, Singita Castleton (shown here) is an exclusive use lodge. It is steeped in history, capturing the spirit of the original Castleton house, giving the lodge a historical and comforting nature. Contact our reservations team to find out more.

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Sunrise in the Serengeti

December 12, 2014 - Experience, Safari, Singita Explore, Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Singita Grumeti, Singita Mara River Tented Camp, Singita Sasakwa Lodge

Sunrise in the Serengeti

For some people, the day begins when the train passes by in the distance or a high-pitched alarm pierces the early morning quiet. They get moving with a cup of takeaway coffee, absent-mindedly scanning the morning paper, getting stuck into their email inbox or dodging traffic on the way to the office.

Sunrise in the Serengeti

Sunrise in the Serengeti

The mornings at Singita are a little bit different. The drone of cars, the ping of cellphones and the whoosh of the espresso machine are replaced by the chatter of birds and the far-off cry of a scavenging hyena. The resident Cape buffalo grunts with contentment as he scratches against his favorite rubbing post shortly before sunrise, then slips away quietly to find a shady spot to rest for the day.

Singita Sasakwa Lodge

Singita Sasakwa Lodge

Ambling to the main lodge with the cool morning air in your face, damp earth disturbed by little paws and fresh spoor on the road is the only evidence of evening visitors. Arriving at the lodge one normally finds a scrub hare getting the last of his fill on the dew-spangled lawn before dashing to the lavender bushes to hide for the day.

Singita Sasakwa Lodge

Singita Sasakwa Lodge

The well-rested guests faces are filled with anticipation as they chat excitedly on the veranda while the sun peeps over the horizon in the east, a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The babblers and hornbills hop about the lodge, signalling that it is indeed time to rise and shine. When the vervet monkeys start stretching their legs on the lawn playing rough and tumble, our guests set off in the open game-viewing vehicles to enjoy a slow bumble across the plains.

Singita Sasakwa Lodge

Brad Murray, Lodge Manager at Singita Sasakwa Lodge in Grumeti, Tanzania, describes an average morning for him and his team. Stylish and graceful, the turn-of-the-century manor house and private cottages at Singita Sasakwa Lodge are a blend of authentic European style and East African influences, and surrounded by breathtaking vistas of the Serengeti plains. View our gallery or watch this stunning video of the lodge to see more.

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Festive Recipe: Hazelnut & Coffee Christmas Cake

December 10, 2014 - Cuisine, Kruger National Park, Singita Lebombo Lodge, Singita Sweni Lodge

What do you think of when you imagine the smell of the holiday season? For many of us, it’s the rich aroma of Christmas baking; cinnamon-dusted cookie dough, spiced fruits and freshly baked gingerbread. It’s not much different in the kitchen at Singita during December, as the chefs prepare to welcome visitors and families from all over the world to our uniquely African Christmas table.

Fruit & nut tart

Fruit & nut tart

Festive Cookies at Singita Kruger National Park

Festive cookies

Hazelnut and Coffee Christmas Fruitcake

Hazelnut and Coffee Christmas Cake

Here Singita Kruger National Park‘s Chef de Partie, Christien Schrecker, shares her recipe for Christmas cake with a delicious nutty twist:

Ingredients – what you will need:
250g sultanas
250g dried cranberries
250g chopped dried peaches
50g glace cherries
250g hazelnuts
250g pistachio nuts
1 cup sherry
1 cup brandy
1 cup Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
1 cup strong black coffee
125g butter
½ cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
½ cup warm water
½ cup plum jam
1 cup cake flour
¾ cup self-raising flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method – what to do:
1. In a large mixing bowl, soak the dried fruit and nuts with the alcohol and cup of coffee for 24 hours.
2. After the 24 hours, strain the fruits and nuts and keep the liquid for later.
3. Mix the tablespoon of coffee powder with the jam and water and keep aside.
4. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer with the paddle attachment until white and fluffy.
5. Add the eggs, mix thoroughly, then add the jam and coffee mixture.
6. Add the fruits and nuts and all the dry ingredients.
7. Press into a greased tin and cover with foil.
8. Bake the cake at 140˚C for 2 hours, then brush the cake with the leftover alcohol mixture when it comes out of the oven.
9. The cake can get basted with liquid until all of it is absorbed, this can be done at 12 to 24 hour intervals over a couple of days.

Singita Ebony Lodge

Singita Ebony Lodge

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We would love to hear what your favourite Christmas recipes are – please share with us in the comments! If you need any assistance with metric measurements, try this handy online conversion calculator.

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Stargazing on Safari

December 05, 2014 - Experience, Singita Pamushana Lodge

Singia Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe

Pumbaa: Hey, Timon, ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?
Timon: Pumbaa, I don’t wonder; I know.
Pumbaa: Oh. What are they?
Timon: They’re fireflies. Fireflies that, uh… got stuck up on that big bluish-black thing.
Pumbaa: Oh, gee. I always thought they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.

Singia Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe

There’s only one guaranteed sighting we can give you on safari, and that’s to lie back in your seat, in the pitch black darkness of a remote African wilderness, and look to the heavens – just as Pumbaa and Timon did in The Lion King.

Stargazing Safari at Singita Pamushana Lodge

On the way back from an evening game drive your guide might ask you to pause for a few moments and quietly absorb the humbling enormity of our night skies. And that’s when the magic starts to happen… As soon as everyone is silent you’ll hear the nocturnal sounds of the wild – the rolling thunder of a lion’s roar, a choir of frogs or the whistling whisper of a nightjar.

Stargazing Safari at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Then your guide, armed with a laser pointer, will take you on an astral journey from one end of the solar system to the other. With no air or light pollution you’ll see stars and planets you’ve never witnessed before with the naked eye. You might be told mythological stories of Orion The Hunter in his eternal pursuit of Scorpio, or given the rather imaginative descriptions ancient astronomers chose for various constellations.

Stargazing Safari at Singita Pamushana Lodge

You’ll lose yourself in the Milky Way, our galaxy which is essentially a floating island of stars in the vast ocean of the universe. You’ll witness where stars are born in nebulas, spin with asteroids and fly on the coattails of comets. You’ll wish upon a shooting star and let the moment live with you forever.

Field Guide at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Jenny Hishin, contributed to this post with her words and the stunning time-lapse photos of the stars. Jenny also writes the monthly Wildlife Reports from the region which document interesting animal sightings and changes in the natural environment. Find out more about Singita Pamushana Lodge and all the activities available at the lodge here.

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Summer Salads: Yellow Salad

December 02, 2014 - Cuisine, Singita Castleton

Singita Castleton, Sabi Sand, South Africa

The weather in the Southern Hemisphere is warming up as we approach the festive season, which means more time spent outdoors with loved ones. The al fresco dining table at Singita Castleton, shaded by the branches of the marula tree overhead, makes the perfect location for a casual summer meal. The table is laden with freshly baked breads, cured meats, homemade preserves and ice cold drinks, but the spread wouldn’t be complete without a deliciously crisp salad. Chef Calum Anderson shares his recipe for a crunchy yellow salad that complements a simple, mezze-style lunch; perfect for the whole family:

yellow_salad

YELLOW SALAD

Ingredients – what you need:

½ punnet yellow cherry tomatoes
1 large yellow pepper (bell pepper/capsicum)
2 small yellow pattypan squash
¼ pineapple
1 cup fresh sweetcorn, cut off the cob
4 baby corn
1 lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method – what to do:

Prepare the vegetables:
- Slice the cherry tomatoes in half
- Slice the pepper very finely into long strips
- Slice the patty pans thinly into rounds
- Core the pineapple and slice thinly
- Blanch and refresh baby corn in iced water and then cut in half length ways
Add all the ingredients to a bowl, along with the sweetcorn.
Mix salad together with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and season to taste.

Serves 4

Singita Castleton is an exclusive use lodge set within 45,000 acres of private reserve at Singita Sabi Sand. The property comprises a main house with communal living spaces, and accommodation located in six individual cottages within the grounds, catering for up to 12 people. Facilities include a vast garden, swimming pool, wine cellar, gym, tennis court and spa treatment room, all of which overlooks a popular waterhole where animals regularly gather to drink. Discover more on our website.

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Awards Round-Up 2014

November 28, 2014 - Awards, General, Kruger National Park, Lodges and Camps, Sabi Sand, Singita Grumeti, Sustainable Conservation

Singita Awards 2014

Singita Boulders Lodge

This year Singita has been honored with international recognition received from leading publications around the world. Recently, five of our properties were named among the Top 20 Safari Lodges/Camps in Andrew Harper’s 2014 “Readers’ Choice Awards” with Singita Boulders Lodge chosen as the best safari lodge in the world.

Both Singita Sabi Sand and Singita Kruger National Park, respectively were named as the #1 and #3 Lodges and Resorts in Africa and the Middle East in Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best Awards”. In addition to this honor, Singita Sabi Sand, Singita Kruger National Park and Singita Grumeti were named among the top 10 “Best Africa Safari Lodges and Wilderness Spots” in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2014 Gold List (USA).

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Singita Boulders Lodge

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Singita Ebony Lodge

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Singita Lebombo Lodge

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Singita Sweni Lodge

Singita Castleton, which was completely renovated and reopened in 2013, was recognized as one of the best resorts in Robb Report’s annual “Best of the Best” issue and was also listed, along with Singita Grumeti, in their May 2014 “Top 100 Resorts” issue.

Singita Awards 2014

Singita Castleton

Singita Grumeti and Singita Sabi Sand were recognized in Condé Nast Traveller’s UK edition of the “Readers’ Travel Awards,” where they were both listed among the top 10 hotels in the Middle East, Africa & the Indian Ocean. Singita Grumeti was honored as the #1 hotel in hotel in the Middle East, Africa & the Indian Ocean and was also ranked as the #2 travel destination in the World’s Top 100. In addition to the “Reader’s Travel Awards”, Singita Castleton was featured on Condé Nast Traveller’s “Hot List” in the UK.

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Singita Sabora Tented Camp

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Singita Sabora Tented Camp

Most recently the 2014 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards (USA) were announced and Singita Sabi Sand was voted #4 in the world/ #2 in Africa and Singita Grumeti #7 in the world/ #3 in Africa.

Singita Awards 2014

Singita Sabi Sand

Singita has been the fortunate and grateful recipient of a number of awards over the years, all of which you can see on our website. Most recently, Singita was honoured with a World Tourism Award at World Travel Market 2014 in recognition of the company’s outstanding contribution to environmentally conscious hospitality.

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Visual Storytelling: Community Development on Film

November 26, 2014 - Community Development, Did You Know?, Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Singita Pamushana Lodge, Sustainable Conservation

Singita - Place of Miracles

Singita truly is a “place of miracles”, with incredible wildlife, elegant design, spectacular food and very special people. It isn’t just about the experience at the lodges however; miracles also happen in the communities around them and in the lives of those living in each concession. The upliftment of these local communities is as important to the success of Singita as the wildlife conservation that drives the core vision to preserve and protect large tracts of wilderness in Africa for future generations.

The highlights of these development programmes were brought to life recently in a series of videos produced by Ginkgo Agency, one of our creative partners. These beautiful and captivating narratives (shown below) perfectly captured the spirit of each project while being informative and interesting to watch.

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTRE

GROWING TO READ PROGRAMME

SINGITA SCHOOL OF COOKING

For our final video in the series, we approached conservationist and cinematographer Kim Wolhuter, when he was based in the Malilangwe Reserve. Shot in his signature documentary style, this short film follows the story of a young schoolgirl who benefits from the Child Supplementary Feeding Programme at Singita Pamushana. This initiative, facilitated through Singita’s development and conservation partner in Zimbabwe, The Malilangwe Trust, provides additional food and nourishment to 19 000 children in the local communities.

CHILD SUPPLEMENTARY FEEDING PROGRAMME

Our Vimeo channel showcases not only this series but also our #SingitaStories, which highlight some of our exceptional team members, and beautiful snapshots of our lodges. You can find out more about the Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Scheme and other community development projects at Singita on our website.

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Close to Nature with Singita Explore

November 21, 2014 - Experience, Lodges and Camps, Singita Explore, Singita Grumeti

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Singita Explore, Tanzania

Experiencing the Serengeti’s acacia-dotted open plains filled with game, eating meals cooked over an open fire, and sleeping under canvas beneath star-studded skies is part of the allure of an African safari. Derived from a Swahili word with Arabic origins, the word ‘safari’ refers to a journey or voyage. The spirit of adventure and thrill of discovery encapsulated in that evocative word is the inspiration behind Singita Explore, our tented camps set up in remote, handpicked locations within Singita Grumeti’s 350,000 acres in Tanzania. As close to nature as you can get, Singita Explore places high value on today’s ultimate luxuries – space, solitude, quiet and freedom.

Singita Explore, Tanzania

Booked on a private-use basis to ensure complete exclusivity, Singita Explore meets a growing demand for tailor-made safaris that allow guests the flexibility to do what they want when they want, without having to share anything or see anyone else. Because the vast Singita Grumeti concession is private, it is unlikely that guests will see another vehicle or hear anything other than the sounds of the wild carried on the wind as it whispers through the grass.

Singita Explore, Tanzania

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Each camp site is chosen to maximise game viewing, depending on the time of year, the weather and the special interests of the guests. The vast herds of game that lend the Serengeti its iconic status are constantly moving around depending on the annual rains and the availability of water and grazing. During the migration, tents are pitched directly in the path of vast herds of grazing wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle. At other times of the year, guests have access to an abundance of game, which may include breeding herds of elephant and the predators.

Singita Explore, Tanzania

There are a total of six guest tents and two mess tents for dining and relaxation, which means that Singita Explore is well suited to multi-generational parties of up to 12 people but can just as easily be set up for as few as two guests. As romantic as they are practical, each khaki tent has an en suite bathroom with a bucket shower and a flush toilet. The Cecile & Boyd-designed interiors, characteristically layered and detailed with every creature comfort, offer easy living and encourage true relaxation. Everything about the camp is designed for minimal energy consumption with little environmental impact. Completely off the grid, the camp is run on solar power.

Singita Explore, Tanzania

Singita Explore (lunch)-1-79

Singita Explore offers the same attentive service that is intrinsic to any Singita safari, coupled with the intimacy of being in a private tented camp. There is time to truly engage with staff so that, after a couple of days, it feels as if they are part of the family. A private guide takes you to the centre of all the game-viewing action, is available to lead an interpretative bush walk in the cool of the early morning, teach tracking skills or play football with the kids after breakfast.

A private chef and camp staff turn every mealtime into an occasion, whether it’s an impromptu picnic beneath a shady tree or a lantern-lit dinner cooked over an open fire with only the yelping of hyenas or the roar of nearby lion breaking the silence. In keeping with the relaxed setting, mealtimes are interactive, sociable and enlivened by unforgettable stories about Africa, usually told around the campfire. The food is rustic, uncomplicated and healthy with lots of generous salads, wholesome soups, bread cooked on sticks over the coals, barbecued meats, and decadent teatime cakes.

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In the early morning, you can lie in bed with your tent flaps open to witness the rising sun while enjoying a cup of Tanzanian coffee brewed the old-fashioned way on the fire. At night, safely tucked up between luxurious sheets, the sounds and smells of the surroundings are there to remind you of the day’s adventures.

Singita Explore (exterior - lodge)-1-24

Singita Explore is a breathtaking private use camp on the plains of the Serengeti, that combines an authentic camping experience with comfortable elegance and modern convenience. You can find out more by visiting our website or reading the digital brochure

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