The Singita Blog

Fascinating Flora: The Sickle Bush

October 28, 2014 - Did You Know?, Environment, Kruger National Park

Sickle Bush | Singita

The sickle bush (dichrostachys cinerea)

Sickle Bush | Singita

Singita Kruger National Park, South Africa

The sickle bush (dichrostachys cinerea) is one of the many splashes of colour that our field guides associate with this time of year, as it generally flowers from October to February. It goes by many names; bell mimosa, Chinese lantern tree, Kalahari Christmas tree and, perhaps most curiously, ‘acacia puncture tyre’. While not in the acacia family at all, it happens to have extremely hard spines capable of puncturing a tyre. The spines are modified stems rather than modified leaves (which you would find in an acacia) and this makes them even harder to break.

Sickle Bush | Singita

Singita Kruger National Park, South Africa

The name “sickle bush” stems from the seedpods which are packed close together and each single pod curves in the shape of a sickle. It is a tree that has a preference for brackish soils, and is a highly aggressive encroachment species. In Cuba, where it is known as ‘Marabou weed’, it has become a serious invasive species problem, occupying close to five million acres of agricultural land. It can, if not managed correctly, grow to the point of impenetrable thickets.

Sickle Bush | Singita

Singita Sweni Lodge, Singita Kruger National Park, South Africa

The sickle bush is one of the most widely used medicinal trees throughout Africa. Abdominal pains, eye ailments and snake bites can be treated using parts of a sickle bush. In fact, some of our guides have first-hand knowledge of this powerful natural anaesthetic! One of them reported chewing the leaves to help kill the pain of a toothache, for which it worked brilliantly. The only problem? Within minutes your tongue turns numb as well and then you can’t talk – not ideal for narrating a game drive!

Follow our monthly Wildlife Reports to learn more about the beautiful flora and fauna to be found at our 12 lodges and camps.

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Tanzania’s Serengeti – A Year-Round Destination

October 22, 2014 - Experience, Lodges and Camps, Safari, Singita Explore Mobile Tented Camp, Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Singita Grumeti, Singita Mara River Tented Camp, Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Singita Sasakwa Lodge, Singita Serengeti House, Wildlife

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

The Serengeti in Tanzania is inextricably associated with the annual wildebeest migration in the imagination of most travellers in search of the ultimate African safari. However, once the wildebeest have moved on in their perpetual search for grazing, the Serengeti offers diverse and fascinating game viewing, from big predators to prolific prey, on its vast open plains and along its river banks.

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

Warm and fairly dry, January to March is a great time to visit the region with large herds of topi, zebra, eland, giraffe and Thompson’s gazelle starting to gather on the open plains. This is also the calving season and thousands of these animals, including big herds of wildebeest that stay behind, give birth over a period of a few weeks.

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

The concentrated herds attract the attention of predators, especially the big cats, and sightings of leopard and lion are common. Scattered rain showers freshen up warm days and produce bright green landscapes and crisp, clear skies conducive to beautiful photography. As it’s the end of the dry season, the Mara and Grumeti rivers start to recede forcing the animals to congregate close to available water sources which makes them easier to find.

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

The months of April and May are known as the season of the long rains, transforming the landscape as lush, longer grasses grow and rivers, lakes and pans start to fill up with water again. Large herds of herbivores, including significant breeding herds of elephant and buffalo, are common sightings. During this time, throughout the Serengeti there is greater exclusivity at wildlife sightings and increased flexibility when it comes to planning itineraries.

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

By May there is a sense of anticipation in the Serengeti as the migration could arrive at any time to seek dependable water sources and start grazing on the long, golden grasslands. Industry insiders consider it to be the most underrated month to visit with fewer people, prolific game sightings and mild, sunny days ideal for bush walks and picnics.

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

The dry season commences again in June and continues until the end of October. Considered high season in Tanzania, it is characterised by pleasantly warm, sunny days and easy game viewing due to the short grasses. September and October are fantastic months in the Lamai, with multiple daily Mara River migration crossings, increased predator action and excellent crocodile, hippo and hyena sightings.

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

In September and October, diverse game congregates along the Grumeti River and in pans, while river crossings by thousands of wildebeest and other migratory plains game are always a thrilling sight. October is Singita head guide Ryan Schmitt’s best time of the year in the Serengeti, due to the all-round excellent game viewing.

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

Tanazina's Serengeti - A Year-Round Destination

The short rains in November and December are characterised by brief, spectacular thunderstorms that give way to clear skies and amazing colour contrasts for photography. Awesome cheetah and lion sightings are common, there are large numbers of babies and youngsters amongst both predator and prey species, and migratory birds return to the newly green landscapes.

Discover the Serengeti through our monthly Wildlife Reports, which are written by the field guides themselves, and describe thrilling wildlife sightings, beautiful landscapes and unusual species. Please contact our Reservations team to find out more about visiting our six lodges and camps in Tanzania.

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Highlights from our Wildlife Reports

October 20, 2014 - Safari, Wildlife

Monthly Wildlife Reports from Singita

The next best thing to being in the bush yourself has to be catching up on the monthly Wildlife Reports, written and photographed by our field guides. Staggering landscapes, noteworthy sightings, thrilling kills and – our personal favourite – updates on the latest little newborns, fill the pages of these journals. Here is a recap of the latest stories straight from the bush:

Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe

Monthly Wildlife Reports from Singita Pamushana
We have a couple of sunken photographic hides at various pans on the property, but the most popular in the last
month has been the one at Whata Pan. The hide offers the most amazing opportunities to observe animals that are usually shy of human presence. For example, a family of warthogs trotted in with great speed and enthusiasm and were the noisiest visitors by far, signalling their arrival with a fanfare of snorks, snorts and grunts.

Written and photographed by Jenny Hishin. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report September 2014

Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

Monthly Wildlife Reports from Singita Grumeti
If August was ‘big zebra’ month, September must go down as ‘big cat’ month. It was a great month for predator activity and guests witnessed several hunts and kills. September also saw thousands of wildebeest moving through
the concession, mostly in a south and westerly direction into the Serengeti National Park.

Report by By Stuart Levine. Photos by Alfred Ngwarai, Braya Masunga and Joe Kibwe. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Grumeti Wildlife Report September 2014

Singita Kruger National Park, South Africa

Monthly Wildlife Reports from Singita Kruger National Park
There were 99 separate lion sightings in August. The Mountain Pride seem to have moved out of the guarri thickets around the northern areas and are spending most of their time out the concession near the Gudzane East windmill. The Xhirombe Pride male seems to have taken on a companion male and one of the male cubs was moving on his own along the river for half the month, scavenging off the male leopard.

Report by Danie Vermeulen and Nick du Plessis. Photos by Nick du Plessis and Barry Peiser. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Kruger National Park Wildlife Report August 2014

Singita Sabi Sand, South Africa

Monthly Wildlife Reports from Singita Sabi Sand
As the lioness got closer the larger male hippo started thrashing the water with his head, gaping and defecating – all signs of aggression to indicate to the lioness that he wanted her to move out of his comfort zone. But she moved closer, with a bit more caution, and wasn’t deterred from taking a long drink. The rest of the pride took courage from this and approached the edge of the water.

Report by Mark Broodryk, Leon van Wyk, Crystal Perry, Dave Steyn, Francois Fourie and Andy Gabor. Photos by Ross Couper, Andy Gibor and Dave Steyn. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report August 2014

Singita Lamai, Tanzania

Monthly Wildlife Reports from Singita Lamai
The Great Migration arrived in Lamai at the end of June and the wildebeest were a continuous presence throughout July. August did not disappoint either as the herds remained in the general vicinity, crossing north and south and north again across the Mara River, in the surrounds of Singita Mara River Tented Camp. Guests enjoyed 12 dramatic crossings during the month. One particularly exciting crossing happened right in front of the camp, and lasted for over 20 minutes.

Report by By Lizzie Hamrick. Photos by Ryan Schmitt and Evan Visconti. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Lamai Wildlife Report August 2014

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The Story of Eksoni Ndlovu

October 14, 2014 - Did You Know?, Experience, Kruger National Park, People of Singita, Wildlife

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Like many of the trackers who work at Singita, Eksoni Ndlovu grew up in a small rural community near the Kruger National Park. He learned the basics of tracking and animal interaction as a young man, while tending his family’s cattle and keeping them safe from wild animals. He has since spent more than 23 years honing his craft as an expert tracker and is respected the world over for his skill and perseverance.

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“Tracking is an art, not everyone can do it. You need to be patient and you need to be persistent… A good tracker needs to think like an animal. They need to listen, keep quiet and always be aware.”

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Eksoni’s passion for wildlife conservation is apparent to all those around him. He spends a considerable amount of time passing on his knowledge and experience to apprentice bush rangers so they too can help to preserve this beautiful wilderness. “I’m giving my skills to the community because I want them to learn and follow in my footsteps”.

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Guests also play an important role in protecting, maintaining and enhancing the land. Enos, one of the guides, observes: “We are giving back to conservation by educating our guests about the animals and how we take care of them for future generations.” Singita not only preserves large tracts of land but also works to ensure that people like Eksoni pass on their knowledge to others and in so doing preserve this ancient skill.

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Watch this short video to learn more about Eksoni’s story:

Find out more about Singita’s conservation efforts on our website. You can also share this and other #singitastories via our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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Recipe: Mango and Caramel Swiss Roll

September 29, 2014 - Cuisine, Experience, Kruger National Park, Lodges and Camps

Singita Lebombo Lodge

Mango and Caramel Swiss Roll | Singita

Did you know that the Swiss Roll isn’t even from Switzerland? The first references to this teat-time favourite are in fact British, and variations now abound as far afield as Hong Kong, India, Portugal and Spain. Each region has its own twist on the original, including Singita Kruger National Park‘s mango-and-caramel-flavoured one. Chef de Partie and pastry queen extraordinaire, Christien Schrecker, shares her recipe for this delicious sponge cake roll:

Ingredients – what you’ll need:
For the yellow sponge:
5 egg yolks
1 egg
50g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
yellow food colouring
45g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
20g melted butter

For the chocolate sponge:
5 egg yolks
1 egg
50g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
30g self-raising flour
15g cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
20g melted butter

For the filling:
1 cup whipped cream
¼ cup Caramel Treat or dulce de leche
2 cups diced fresh mango

Method – what to do:
1. Whisk the egg yolks, whole eggs, sugar and vanilla together until white and fluffy.
2. Add the yellow colouring a little at a time until the desired colour is achieved. (We use 2-3 drops of a concentrated colouring gel)
3. Gently fold in the flour and xanthan gum and then fold in the melted butter.
4. Spread the batter onto a Swiss roll tray (2cm thick) and bake at 160˚C for 10 minutes.
5. As soon as the sponge comes out of the oven, turn it out onto a clean, dry tea towel.
6. Roll the sponge up tightly while still warm, and keep aside until cool.
7. Repeat steps 1-6 with the ingredients for the chocolate sponge.
8. Unroll the yellow sponge and spread the caramel over it then sandwich the chocolate sponge on top. Spread the cream over the chocolate sponge and scatter with mango.
9. Roll the cake up tightly and trim the edges for serving.

Here’s a handy online volume converter if you need help with the metric measurements and you can find more great recipe ideas here.

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World Rhino Day 2014

September 22, 2014 - Conservation, Sabi Sand, Sustainable Conservation, Wildlife

World Rhino Day was established in 2010 and serves to celebrate all five species of rhino: Black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhinos. It is celebrated every year on 22 September and has grown to become a global phenomenon, uniting NGOs, zoos, cause-related organisations, businesses, and concerned individuals from nearly every corner of the world.

Singita Anti-Poaching Unit | World Rhino Day 2014

It is devastating to think that 500 000 rhinos once roamed the continents of Africa and Asia, and that this figure has dwindled to a mere 29 000 rhinos living in the wild*. Large-scale poaching of this now critically endangered species has prompted intensive conservation efforts in recent years, not least of all by our wildlife teams at Singita.

Singita Anti-Poaching Unit | World Rhino Day 2014

Today, the environmental stakes couldn’t be higher, as poaching methods have become increasingly sophisticated and poachers more daring. One way in which Singita Sabi Sand takes a stand against the unlawful massacre of these majestic creatures, is with the dedicated in-house anti-poaching unit that secures the safety and preservation of the species in the reserve. Working with specialists in counteracting illegal hunting and wildlife trade, a highly trained tracker dog unit was created to track both animals and humans. This tactic is being included in many national parks’ security operations, including the Kruger National Park and the units have become an integral part of Singita’s anti-poaching measures.

Singita Anti-Poaching Unit | World Rhino Day 2014

Mark Broodryk, Head Guide at Singita Sabi Sand says, “The biggest advantage of a dog unit is that the dogs track using their keen sense of smell and thus are extremely effective – even tracking in pitch darkness.” The dogs’ work rate and endurance surpasses that of a human and they ask for very little in return for the unenviable tasks they are called to do. Highly trained and able to perform multiple functions from pursuing intruders to tracking sick or injured animals or sniffing out products from illegal possessions, the dogs are highly valued, professional assets supporting important conservation initiatives.

Singita Anti-Poaching Unit | World Rhino Day 2014

Another reason for the success of the canine operation is that their presence acts as a deterrent to potential poachers. Once tracking dogs have been deployed into an area, the news quickly spreads amongst poachers and criminal syndicates and the level and frequency of poaching incidents is shown to drop dramatically.

*Statistics courtesy of savetherhino.org

Sustainable tourism is what allows Singita to be able to carry out this important work. Each guest represents a valuable contribution towards conservation measures in the reserve. Not only does the revenue from tourism support conservation initiatives, but just by coming to see this place, putting value on it and sharing the beauty with others, it inherently makes a world of difference.

For guests seeking to make a larger contribution, donations are accepted and welcome. Please contact Pam Richardson at pam.r@singita.com.

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Recent Facebook Highlights

September 19, 2014 - Experience, Lodges and Camps, Sabi Sand, Safari, Wildlife

Singita’s Facebook community has always been an active space where guests and fans share their thoughts and memories alongside beautiful snapshots by our rangers in the bush. In particular, there have been a number of stunning wildlife photos posted by field guide Ross Couper from Singita Sabi Sand recently that have been shared far and wide. Here is a brief selection:

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A pack of wild dog entertained each other, whilst guests watched in awe at the social interactions taking place. A perfect spring morning.

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A tender moment of an elephant calf that was deserted and shortly afterwards adopted by another female elephant.

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Confident, self assured, tranquil – a few words that come to mind whilst watching the Nyeleti male leopard grooming himself.

Facebook Highlights - Singita - Copyright Ross Couper

A young male leopard keeps attentive to his surroundings as the afternoon light fades to darkness.

You can see more of Singita Sabi Sand’s wildlife and landscapes in this “week in the life” video, shot by another of our talented field guides, Dylan Brandt:

Follow us on Facebook and join 13 000 other wildlife lovers who get regular updates from all twelve lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. One such example is this incredible face-off between a hippo and a pride of lions, captured by a guest.

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Creatures Great & Small: The Giant Snail

September 09, 2014 - Did You Know?, Experience, Sabi Sand, Safari, Wildlife

Giant snail

With the green vegetation sprouting along the roadsides and over the grasslands, creatures from large to small are on the move. A few days ago, and within minutes of leaving the lodge, we noticed movement on the road. A giant African land snail glistened in the morning light.

Like almost all pulmonate gastropods, these snails are hermaphrodites, having male and female sex organs. Although giant African land snails primarily mate with one another, in more isolated regions they are capable of reproducing on their own. Giant African land snails lay around six clutches of eggs every year, laying an average of 200 eggs per clutch – that amounts to about 1 200 eggs per year! What is really incredible is that around 90% of snail hatchings survive.

Giant African land snails are active during the night and spend the daytime hours safely buried underground. They reach their adult size by the time they are six months old and although their growth rate slows at this point, they never stop growing. Most reach between five and six years of age but some individuals have been known to be more than ten years old. The giant African land snail seals itself inside its shell to retain water. They do this about three times a year, depending on the areas which they inhabit. During periods of extreme drought, they practice aestivation which is a type of ‘summer sleep’.

Singita Sabi Sand, South Africa

Driving along looking in various directions for a twitch of an ear or a flicking tail, your eyes scan through the bush up and down, left and right. Often when looking for something large and obvious you miss the smaller treasures, without even realising it.

This description of an encounter with a giant snail by Ross Couper first appeared in the November 2013 Wildlife Report from Singita Sabi Sand. The monthly ranger diaries are written by the field guides themselves and contain plenty of delightful stories and stunning photographs from the bush. You can catch up on the Wildlife Reports from all the Singita lodges and camps here.

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Cocktail Recipe: The Sabora Special

September 04, 2014 - Cuisine, Experience, Singita Grumeti, Singita Sabora Tented Camp

Singita Sabora Tented Camp

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It’s often the simple things in life that are the most rewarding; a good book, soft, fluffy towels and a quiet afternoon by the pool. At Singita Sabora Tented Camp in Tanzania, moments like these are easy to come by, as guests unwind in the peaceful seclusion of 350,000 acres of untouched wilderness. Simple pleasures also come in the form of the camp’s signature non-alcoholic cocktail, the recipe for which is shared with us by Lodge Manager, Wilson Owino:

Ingredients – what you’ll need:
Equal parts:
* Fresh passionfruit juice
* Fresh mango juice
* Fresh lime juice
And then:
* A drizzle of honey
* A splash of grenadine syrup

Method – how it is made:
The fresh juices are all shaken together with ice, with a small drizzle of honey for sweetness. The concoction is then poured into a hurricane glass in front of the guest at check-in along with a splash of grenadine to give a feeling of a sunrise in the glass.

Cocktail Recipe: The Sabora Special

You can spike the Sabora Special with vodka or rum for some extra zing, or add pomegranate seeds for a fruity twist. Share your version with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and check out our other delicious recipes here.

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What to Pack: Singita Pamushana Lodge

September 02, 2014 - Did You Know?, Experience, General, Lodges and Camps, Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Malilangwe, Zimbabwe

Packing for a safari in the African bush can be a little bit daunting for the uninitiated. What shoes do I bring? Are shorts appropriate? Do I need a long-sleeved shirt? Does it get cold enough for a jacket? Should I bring my own binoculars? We’ve answered these and many other questions in the “Tips for Travellers” section for each lodge but we thought a quick refresher might be in order.

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Malilangwe, Zimbabwe

The gear and clothing required for each lodge is relatively similar, but this time we’ll focus on Singita Pamushana Lodge, situated in the beautiful and mostly untouched Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in Zimbabwe. The area is home to hundreds of baobab trees and an unrivalled gathering of birds with more than 500 species, including many raptors. During a stay at Singita Pamushana Lodge, you are likely to spot a great variety of wildlife, including species such as black rhino, white rhino, Lichtenstein hartebeest, sable, nyala, klipspringer, cheetah, wild dog, lion and leopard.

Singita's essential safari gear

Singita's essential safari gear

CLOTHING
Lodge Manager, Emily Capon, says that layers are the most important thing to consider when packing for the bush. In summer (October to April), the weather is warm during the day and cooler in the morning and evenings. She recommends casual summer clothes (shorts and cool shirts) and a warm sweater for the cooler times of day. During the fall and winter (May to September), the temperature during the day is usually fairly mild, with plenty of sunshine, but colder in the mornings and evenings. In these cooler months, casual light clothing and a very warm parka or jacket is recommended for the extremely chilly mornings and nights. It is suggested that you stick to a tonal, neutral colour palette (khaki, beige, light brown) and avoid dark colours as they absorb heat, and bright colours as they can attract bugs.

Fishing at Singita Pamushana lodge in Zimbabwe

Other essential items of clothing include comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots for walks; sandals to wear around the lodge, a sturdy cap or sun hat, and a swimming costume or bathing suit so that you can enjoy the stunning infinity pool that overlooks the dam. Please note that in the event of rain during a game drive, waterproof ponchos will be provided for your comfort.

The pool at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

ACCESSORIES & EQUIPMENT
It’s a good idea to pack your favourite sun block, lip balm and mosquito repellent, as although all of these items are provided at the lodges, you might want to bring along your preferred brand. Sunglasses are also essential, along with an extra pair of correction glasses (if required), contact lens solution, an extra set of contact lenses (if required) as well as a sufficient supply of any prescription medication.

You’ll no doubt want to capture those precious memories with your camera and/or video camera, and don’t forget spare memory cards, your tripod and lenses, and any charging equipment (220V although we do have international adapters in all the rooms). The lodge does have a number of pairs of binoculars that guests are welcome to use on game drives or when bird-watching from the lodge. Your own pair of compact, high quality binoculars will greatly enhance your game-spotting ability however, and offer the best possible close-up of the local wildlife.

Game drives at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Emily Capon has worked at Singita for just over five years. She says: “Zimbabwe is home for me, I grew up here and there are so many reasons to love it! The most common comment from guests is about how friendly all the people are and that is definitely true. I love Singita Pamushana Lodge as it is so different to anything else and so vibrant and happy!” You can get in touch with our reservations team to find out more.

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