The Singita Blog

Ross Couper: Field Guide and Wildlife Photographer

May 04, 2015 - Did You Know?, General, People of Singita

Singita Field Guide Ross Couper

Field Guide Ross Couper and his stunning wildlife photographs will be no stranger to regular readers of this blog. His keen eye for animals in interesting situations and the gorgeous landscapes surrounding our lodges have produced some of the finest photos we’ve ever had the privilege of publishing.

Copyright Ross Couper

Born in Zimbabwe, Ross grew up at Matopos National Park, where his father was Park Warden, and developed a deep love for capturing nature through painting and sculpture. The impracticalities of these art forms for an enthusiastic traveller like Ross brought forth an interest in photography as a way of documenting his surroundings. In this excerpt from his interview with the South African Tourism blog, he explains more about his passion for photography:

Copyright Ross Couper

Q: When did your passion for wildlife photography begin?
A: Photography happened because of a “don’t know what to get you for Christmas” situation with my wife. As a result she purchased my first camera with the hope of getting on top of my ‘Best Ever Christmas Gift’ list. In short, she has been up there ever since 2009. I had a great interest in art, however due to travelling the globe it limited my scope to take my art further, so receiving a camera was an outlet to capture my artistic view on life during my travels.

Copyright Ross Couper

Q: What inspires your images?
A: Finding an artistic view of capturing a unique moment. Capturing an image where the viewer will be in awe of how the image was captured and evoke a feeling of being in the moment when it occurred. As a wildlife artist, I always had an idea in my head before putting it onto canvas and I find that I have the same inclination when it comes to my photography. I am a photographer that prefers to take time to really study my subjects. I like to effectively capture moments that showcase the beauty of the wildlife in Africa and the scenery that embraces in every inch of the content.

Copyright Ross Couper

Copyright Ross Couper

Q: How would you describe your style of photography?
A: I have a strong drive to acquire uniqueness in my images, by capturing the beauty of the African surroundings and its wildlife, with the hope that my photography will inspire people around the world to travel and visit the wild areas of Africa and experience the imagery that has been captured first hand. I’d describe my style of photography as artistic. I enjoy portraying a wildlife subject as if it were stepping out of the frame and engulfing the viewer to feel as though they were in the moment. Captivating an audience to view an image and wonder, just how was this photograph was captured. A profound quote by Anne Geddes that inspires me: “The best images are the ones that retain their strength and impact over the years, regardless of the number of times they are viewed”.

Copyright Ross Couper

Copyright Ross Couper

Q: What are the challenges regarding wildlife photography, and what attributes should a wildlife photographer have?
A: Patience, timing, light, subject availability are all just a few requirements that come to mind. There are always challenges but I believe it’s how you overcome a challenge that makes you a great photographer. For instance if the light is fading and you don’t get the shot you are looking for, keep persistent to attaining that image, go out again, focus on the goal and keep trying. I can recall an event where I was due to service my car and on route out of the National Park during a day off, I was informed that there was a leopard and two cubs sitting on a rocky outcrop within an hour’s detour to my route out of the park. I called the car dealership and mentioned I was running late. Finding the leopard on the rock and getting a glimpse of the leopard cubs resulted in me sitting in the back of the car with my eye glued to my cameras view finder for 5 hours waiting for a perfect view. After calling the car dealership for the third time I knew it would be better just to cancel as this was an opportunity of a lifetime.

Copyright Ross Couper

Copyright Ross Couper

Q: What would you say to foreigners wanting to come and visit South Africa’s wild spaces?
A; What are you waiting for? There is no place like Africa. It’s place where you cry when you arrive due its beauty and you will cry when you leave because of it’s beautiful people. It will engulf you and sink deep into heart as a special place that you will always return to. It’s a soul enriching visit.

Copyright Ross Couper

Copyright Ross Couper

Read the full interview on the South African Tourism blog and follow us on Instagram to see more of his beautiful photos from the bush.

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Earth Day 2015

April 22, 2015 - Environment, Singita Mara River Tented Camp

April 22nd is always a special day in the Singita calendar, as we honour our environment and take the time to reconsider our role in it, both personally and as a company. The modern definition of “environment” has come to mean more than simply our natural world; it includes all issues that affect our health, our communities and our habitat.

Earth Day 2015 | Singita

Celebrating Earth Day at Singita Sasakwa Lodge today

This more holistic philosophy is perfectly encapsulated in Singita’s mission, which is to facilitate environmentally conscious hospitality, sustainable conservation and the empowerment of local communities. The symbiotic relationship between these three founding principles is what drives all of us at Singita to “touch the earth lightly” and ensure that every day is spent in honour and respect of our planet.

Read last year’s Earth Day post for all the details of how Singita Mara River Tented Camp in Tanzania operates “off-the-grid” as an environmentally conscious lodge. You can also visit the Earth Day Network website to find out more about their year-round mission to broaden, diversify and activate the environmental movement worldwide.

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Dinner & Drinks, On the Rocks

April 16, 2015 - Experience, Kruger National Park, Singita Lebombo Lodge

Bush dinner at the granophyre | Singita Kruger National Park

If you have ever had the pleasure of standing on the wide wooden deck at Singita Lebombo Lodge and looking into the distance, you will have noticed the unusual rock formations on the horizon. This dramatic rhyolite and granophyre ridge is characteristic of the area and divides the eastern plains of the Kruger National Park from the Lebombo koppies.

Singita Lebombo Lodge, South Africa

It is a favourite spot for bush dinners with guests; an unforgettable private dining experience under the stars. The evening game drive will start as usual in the late afternoon, as your field guide and tracker take you on a winding journey through the 33 000 acre concession as the sun begins to set. You are likely to spot any number of wildlife – perhaps a leopard sprawled on a leadwood branch, a herd of elephants bathing in the river or even one of the famously large prides of lion, on the hunt for their meal.

After a brief sundowner stop, you’ll begin to make your way back towards the lodge, or so you will think! As you approach the granophyre, you’ll see the twinkling light of hurricane lamps through the branches of the prolific euphorbias, as the stars begin to emerge overhead. The vehicle descends into a clearing over which the enormous granite rocks loom, and you see your banakeli waiting with a crisp glass of sparkling wine and a candlelit dinner table.

Bush dinner at the granophyre | Singita Kruger National Park

Bush dinner at the granophyre | Singita Kruger National Park

What happens next is the stuff of fantasy for most: you are served an elegant meal by a private chef, each course paired with your favourite wines, as recommended by the lodge sommelier. The flickering light dances on the rock face as you relive memorable moments from your visit to Singita Kruger National Park, and the moon rises slowly above the trees. It is an evening that you are unlikely to ever forget.

Bush dinner at the granophyre | Singita Kruger National Park

Bush dinner at the granophyre | Singita Kruger National Park

Singita Kruger National Park’s mission is to create and maintain a balance between conservation, community development, and ecotourism. The properties in the concession, Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge, have been built with this ideal in mind and both integrate the ‘touch the earth lightly’ philosophy into every aspect of their daily operations. Find out more about Singita’s conservation and community development initiatives on our website

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Sustainability in the Spotlight at Singita Grumeti

April 13, 2015 - Community Development, Conservation, Singita Grumeti, Sustainable Conservation, The Grumeti Fund

Communities close to Singita reserves are key role-players in preserving the integrity of the wilderness and its wildlife. It is therefore important that they understand and benefit from the existence of the reserves. Singita’s long-term, broad community development objective is therefore to assist communities to thrive, both economically and socially.

Singita Serengeti and Bioregional: One Planet Living

One such example of this objective in action is Singita Grumeti‘s partnership with Bioregional in Tanzania; an award winning social enterprise which champions a better, more sustainable way to live. As a registered charity, Bioregional facilitate One Planet Living, a project that aims to create places which enable people to live, work and do business within the natural limits of the planet.

Singita and One Planet Infographic

The One Planet Action Plan was put in place in 2013, and has been focused on building sustainable relationships with local communities as well as staff members, and the practical implementation of eco-friendly measures in and around the lodges. This includes solar geysers for hot water, energy efficient lighting, improved waste management and borehole maintenance. As a result, Singita’s total carbon footprint stabilising, and the per guest bed night emissions falling by 35% since 2011.

sabora_zebras

The local wildlife has also benefited from the Plan’s implementation: over 5000 field patrols were undertaken by the Grumeti Fund and 2013 saw the lowest number of animals killed by illegal means since the partnership’s inception in 2003. At the same time the ongoing conservation and community development work continues to reap rewards with the total populations of large mammal species on the Singita Serengeti concession (combining Singita Grumeti and Singita Lamai) stabilising at about five times the 2003 numbers.

Singita Serengeti and Bioregional: One Planet Living

Future goals for the project include reducing building energy use, generating 100% of electricity from renewable resources, reducing the extraction of water from boreholes by half and the creation of 100 new jobs, more than 60% of which more will be for local residents.

Singita Serengeti and Bioregional: One Planet Living

Beverly Burden, Singita Serengeti sustainability integrator, says: “With guidance from Bioregional, the One Planet framework and our own Action Plan and targets, we are confident and enthused about the progress we can make between now and 2020. True success however, will be in effecting change beyond Singita Serengeti to the wider tourism and conservation industries as well as to other communities, countries and corporations.”

Planned initiatives

Read the Summary Report of the Singita Serengeti One Planet Action Plan Annual Review 2013-2014.

Singita Grumeti, situated adjacent to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, is an integral part of the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem, the home of the Great Migration. Singita manages 140,000 hectares of land in partnership with the Grumeti Fund – a non-profit conservation and community outreach organization – ensuring the long-term sustainability of the reserve through conservation and community partnerships.

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Creatures Great & Small: Mopane Moth

April 02, 2015 - Kruger National Park, Wildlife

Southern Africa is home to a very interesting tree that is host to an even more interesting insect. The mopane tree grows in hot, dry, low-lying areas and has distinctive butterfly-shaped leaves that brighten up the bush with shades of gold and red during autumn.

Field Guide and photographer James Suter comes across a rhino in a mopane forest

Field Guide and photographer James Suter comes across a rhino in a mopane forest

A very important little creature lives in these trees; the caterpillar of the Mopane or Emperor Moth [Gonimbrasia belina], known as the Mopane Worm, provides a nutritious food source for many rural people in southern Africa. It is a nutrient- and protein-rich snack as well as being easy to harvest and preserve.

Mopane moth | Singita Kruger National Park

Mopane or Emperor Moth (Gonimbrasia belina)

The moths are easily identifiable by their markings, which feature a large orange eyespot on each hind wing and two black and white bands isolating two smaller eyespots. Males have long, feathery antennae that they use to find a mate during their brief three-to-four-day lifespan.

This photo first appeared in the February 2014 Wildlife Report from Singita Kruger National Park. These monthly bush journals are penned by our field guides and are packed with interesting stories and photographs. You can read them all here or catch up on the highlights here.

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Sharing #ourSingita

March 31, 2015 - General

Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Tanzania

Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Tanzania

One of the advantages of producing the Singita blog is providing a platform for sharing interesting stories, the latest news and beautiful photographs with our readers. Some of our most popular posts include Highlights from our Wildlife Reports and close-ups of the lodge design and decor, while food-lovers seem to enjoy our unusual Africa-inspired recipes and styling ideas.

Singita Sweni Lodge, South Africa

Singita Sweni Lodge, South Africa

The subjects of animals, landscapes, food, architecture and interiors are reflected in many of our visitors’ own social media posts. As a way of showcasing and celebrating this content, a new page was created on the Singita website to serve as an online scrapbook.

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Guests are now able to share their most memorable moments by adding the hashtag #ourSingita to their Twitter and Instagram posts, which in turn are published on this page along with the latest Singita blog posts. Users are also able to share content via Pinterest and Facebook, or even submit their photos, videos and stories via the website. It’s a wonderful way to stay updated on the latest goings on at the lodges and gain a guest’s perspective of the experience of staying at Singita.

#ourSingita - Place of Miracles

The new #ourSingita page on our website

Keep your finger on the pulse by following Singita on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Vimeo. Don’t forget that you can also subscribe to the blog via RSS for regular updates from our 12 lodges and camps in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

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Bringing Shangaan Culture to Life at the Kambako Living Museum

March 19, 2015 - Community Development, Experience, Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Singita Pamushana Lodge

Richard and Sarah Madden are freelance travel writers and filmmakers currently documenting life in and around Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. Their series of short films from the region is entitled “Bush Tales” and explores Singita’s community development, ecotourism and conservation work in Southern Africa. In this, their latest report, they paid a visit to a unique and culturally significant community project near the lodge.

Kambako Cultural Village, Zimbabwe | Singita Pamushana Lodge

Sarah Madden has a lesson in Shangaan culture

Kambako is the local Shangaan word for ‘Old Bull Elephant’ and is the name chosen by Julius Matshuve for the Living Museum of Bushcraft he founded in 2011.

“Kambako is like a wise, old man who is taking us in the right direction,” says Julius. “The older generation who know the old ways will soon be gone and the aim of the Living Museum is to teach their skills and knowledge to the younger generation before they are lost forever.”

Kambako is located just outside the Malilangwe Reserve surrounding Singita Pamushana and has become a very popular excursion for guests at the lodge. The local Shangaan community are directly descended from the Zulu tribes that split away from Shaka Zulu at the beginning of the 19th Century and came to settle in this area of what is now Zimbabwe.

Kambako Cultural Village, Zimbabwe | Singita Pamushana Lodge

In the recent past, the Shangaan people were hunter gatherers and their traditional lifestyle is recreated through demonstrations of practical skills which visitors can see in action and try them out for themselves. These include making fire from friction, identifying tubers, water divining, bow and arrow making and shooting, snares for trapping small game, smelting and forging iron, basketry, food production and cooking.

Kambako Cultural Village, Zimbabwe | Singita Pamushana Lodge

An intimate knowledge of the natural resources available and an in-depth understanding of animal behaviour is vital for success as a hunter-gatherer and as the Shangaan made the transition to their current agro-pastoral lifestyle, new skills also became necessary such as the construction and use of a smelter and forge.

Kambako Cultural Village, Zimbabwe | Singita Pamushana Lodge

The adaptability and ingenuity of the human spirit is emphasised throughout the visit and the pros and cons of the Shangaan way of life are discussed in relation to a modern first world existence. “Today’s young generation have contact with many foreign cultures and technology is in danger of taking over their lives,” says Julius. “When I was young we could only talk to an older man kneeling down and we were not allowed to talk during meals.

Kambako Cultural Village, Zimbabwe | Singita Pamushana Lodge

“While we would not want to go back to that, it is so important that the old skills are not lost forever. We want to teach the young people how to survive even if there are no shops and no technology. If you are lost in the forest, the young need to know how to survive and make life out of natural resources.”

WATCH THE VIDEO

The Kambako Living Museum is a 45-minute game drive from Singita Pamushana Lodge. Guests can tour the village as well as undertake any number of enriching activities in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. These include visits to significant San Bushmen rock art sites, game fishing in the dam, a romantic sundowner cruise and hitting the trails on a mountain bike. Visit our website to find out more about Singita Pamushana Lodge.

You can see Richard and Sarah’s other “Bush Tales” reports here.

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Cocktail Recipe: Blueberry Gin Royale

March 19, 2015 - Cuisine, Experience, Singita Sasakwa Lodge

Singita Sasakwa Lodge, Tanzania

Perched atop a gently sloping hill in northern Tanzania, with a breathtaking view across the Serengeti plains, lies a turn-of-the-century stone manor house with a sweeping veranda that leads down to a lush, rolling lawn. This is Singita Sasakwa Lodge; an elegant property that harks back to the safari splendour of yesteryear.

Singita Sasakwa Lodge

From Sasakwa Hill, the eye is irresistibly drawn over the endless grasslands and acacia forests below, to the blue mountains in the distant horizon. Year-round, the area boasts an abundance of game and it is a very special experience to watch the animals scattered across the wide plains, or witness the spectacle of a rainbow after a welcome shower of rain.

Singita Sasakwa Lodge, Tanzania

Singita Sasakwa Lodge holds special appeal for those with a passion for refined luxury, ensconcing its guests in comfort, charm and old-world sophistication. The food and beverage menu at the lodge reflects this, and traditional cooking methods are approached with a classic but experimental attitude. One such example is the Blueberry Gin Royale – a fruity, refreshing twist on the more typical Sloe Royale. This cocktail epitomises the regal opulence of the classically beautiful Singita Sasakwa Lodge.

Blueberry Gin Royale | Singita Sasakwa Lodge

BLUEBERRY GIN ROYALE

Ingredients – what you will need:
1 cup blueberries + extra for garnish
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 bottle of sparkling wine
½ cup gin
4 long sprigs of thyme
1 cup ice

Method – what to do:
1. In a small saucepan, bring the blueberries, water and sugar to a boil
2. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the blueberries are soft and the simple syrup has turned to a bright pink colour
3. Remove from the heat then drain the blueberries and allow to cool
4. In a cocktail shaker, add the ice and gin and shake until the gin is ice cold
5. Divide the gin between the four Champagne flutes and add 1 tablespoon of blueberry syrup to each glass
6. Slowly pour the sparkling wine down the side of the glass until it is ¾ full
7. Garnish with fresh blueberries and a sprig of thyme

Makes 4 servings

Singita Sasakwa Lodge is one of five lodges and camps in Singita Grumeti, situated adjacent to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The region forms an integral part of the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem, the home of the Great Migration and excellent year-round game viewing. Learn more about the area on our website or watch this video to see its incredible beauty for yourself.

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The Greatest Show on Earth Has Begun!

March 13, 2015 - Experience, Safari, Singita Grumeti, Wildlife

The Great Migration 2015 | Singita Grumeti

Every year, roughly three million plains game traverse the Serengeti in the Great Migration; a spectacular wildlife phenomenon that is affectionately known as the Greatest Show on Earth. The animals typically arrive in Singita Grumeti around May, as the herds move northwest towards Kenya.

The Great Migration 2015 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2015 | Singita Grumeti

Recent reports from the area indicate a very early migration, as a portion of the wildebeest, zebra and antelope has already arrived. Large herds of wildebeest were first spotted crossing the Grumeti River onto the property last week, and were initially thought to be “strays” who had broken away from the bulk. It only took a few short days however, with thousands more pouring in, for the plains of Sasakwa and Nyati to be overrun by close to 100 000 wildebeest.

The Great Migration 2015 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2015 | Singita Grumeti

Adding to the fun are the younger calves traipsing alongside their mothers. These calves would usually already be three months old by the time they reached these parts of the Serengeti, as the animals spend the first months of the year on the short grass plains of the southeastern part of the ecosystem where they birth their young.

The Great Migration 2015 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2015 | Singita Grumeti

It is speculated that the early migration can be attributed to the dry weather experienced in the southern and central Serengeti this year. The herds have been forced to travel two months ahead of schedule, in order to find fresh grazing – a clear sign of their agility in reacting to environmental conditions. The herds will need to continue on their flexible schedule as there have been no major rainstorms in Singita Grumeti since February, which means that the herd is expected to move on shortly.

The Great Migration 2015 | Singita Grumeti

Subscribe to our RSS feed for the latest news about the migration. You can also see the latest photos on our Facebook page and Instagram feed, as our field guides post there regularly, direct from the bush.

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Neighbour Outreach Programme at Singita Pamushana Lodge

March 13, 2015 - Community Development, Did You Know?, Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Singita Pamushana Lodge

As part of its ongoing commitment to the local community, Singita Pamushana Lodge provides support across a broad spectrum of projects through the Malilangwe Trust, its non-profit development and conservation partner.

Neighbour Outreach Programme | Singita Pamushana Lodge

The Neighbour Outreach Programme (NOP) includes a Supplementary Feeding Programme for children up to school age, support for local primary schools and cultural projects which include the fostering of traditional tribal dance at a young age.

Neighbour Outreach Programme | Singita Pamushana Lodge

The Supplementary Feeding Programme began in February 2003 when, after two years of severe drought, Singita responded to the government’s call for assistance. “At that time, many local children were severely malnourished,” says Shepherd Mawire, NOP Project Co-ordinator. “But the programme has since provided additional food and nourishment to thousands of children in the local communities.”

Neighbour Outreach Programme | Singita Pamushana Lodge

Every day 19 000 children (mostly aged 5 years and younger) are provided with a nutrient rich soya-corn blend. The ingredients are delivered to 436 feeding points and 11 primary schools which are managed by volunteers appointed by the local communities to oversee this core village activity.

Neighbour Outreach Programme | Singita Pamushana Lodge

The programme not only provides much needed nutrition, but also helps the children realise their educational and developmental potential by ensuring that hunger does not get in the way of their ability to concentrate and learn during the school day.

Neighbour Outreach Programme | Singita Pamushana Lodge

The NOP also supports the local primary schools in the form of much-needed extra stationery and books while working with the community on other projects agreed with them. A pilot scheme that will provide honey from bee-hives has been launched and there are five kitchen garden irrigation schemes growing nutritious, fresh vegetables which are otherwise in short supply.

One of the NOP’s most important cultural initiatives is in providing musical instruments, costumes and regalia for the primary school children who compete in the national tribal dance competitions held annually in August.

Sarah Madden | Singita Pamushana Lodge

Sarah Madden asked more about the motives behind the programme – “We want the children to learn about their Shangaan cultural roots,” says Shepherd. “We want the cultural soul to survive into the next generation and to do that we need to start at the grass-roots primary school level. We want the children to know that despite our modern technological world, this was how it was done in the past. It’s all part of our mission to empower and support the local community.”

WATCH THE VIDEO

Richard and Sarah Madden are freelance travel writers and filmmakers. Richard has written for the Daily Telegraph (UK) for more then 20 years and met Sarah while presenting documentaries for the Discovery Channel which were produced by Sarah. Prior to working with Singita, the couple spent two years in Africa writing and filming the multi-media Bush Telegraph column for the Daily Telegraph. The column includes reports on safaris, wildlife conservation and community stories from all over southern and eastern Africa.

You can read their previous report from Singita Malilangwe here.

This film was shot on a Leica V-Lux (www.leica-camera.com)

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