Category Archives: Environment

Conservation & Community: How Tourism Helps

June 24, 2015 - Community Development,Conservation,Did You Know?,Environment,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Sustainable Conservation

For more than two decades, Singita has been a “place of miracles”, offering guests a unique and extraordinary safari experience. Our 12 lodges and camps have been the recipient of numerous awards and the number of guests who return year after year speaks for itself. And while we are extremely proud of this, Singita’s enduring purpose, which is to preserve and protect the miraculous places of which we are custodians, remains our primary focus. Our concessions, reserves, and properties represent some of the most pristine wilderness areas on the continent and we are dedicated to maintaining these incredible pieces of earth for future generations. As well as our commitment to environmentally conscious hospitality, our core vision supports sustainable conservation and the empowerment of local communities.

Malilangwe Reserve, Zimbabwe

Malilangwe Reserve, Zimbabwe

Dr Bruce Clegg, Resident Ecologist at the Malilangwe Trust, Singita’s conservation partner in Zimbabwe, explains the extent to which tourism contributes to wildlife conservation and rural community development in Africa:

Dr Bruce Clegg

Dr Bruce Clegg

“Travel and tourism contributes only 3.6% of the total GDP in Africa, the majority of which is generated from just a handful of countries on the continent. Ecotourism accounts for only a fraction of this relatively small figure, putting wildlife conservation and development of rural communities at a considerable disadvantage.

Wildlife conservation at Singita

Tourism is a difficult business. Africa only attracts 5% of global travellers. The market is very competitive, overhead costs high and profit margins low. In addition the industry is sensitive to shocks caused by political instability, disease outbreaks, natural disasters etc. and it takes many years to develop a credible reputation. This means that little extra money is available for large-scale conservation efforts or community development. Strong competition between companies for bookings necessitates promotion of the charismatic animal species that underpin the industry (most notably lions and the other members of the Big Five) and more urgent conservation needs such as protection of critically endangered, but less captivating plants and animals are overlooked. For these reasons the hope placed in ecotourism as a solution to Africa’s poverty and conservation problems has not been fulfilled.

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Child Supplementary Feeding Programme

However, a small light is beginning to shine at the end of the tunnel. A few progressive organisations have recognised these failings and instead of continuing to base their activities on wishful thinking have changed their approach and setup partnerships between their ecotourism ventures and charitable NGOs or generous philanthropists. These partnerships appear to work better. Ecotourism provides environmentally sensitive employment for locals thereby promoting community development, and the charitable partners provide the extra funds required to conduct meaningful conservation projects and additional community upliftment.

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Singita Pamushana

Singita has taken this approach a step further and also included professional conservation and community development organisations in their partnerships to provide the technical input and experience required to run truly meaningful projects. This has the added advantage of giving the donors confidence that their funds will pay for best practice, and visiting tourists the assurance that their dollars will actually make a difference. A three-way partnership of this nature is very promising and may well be the industry standard of the future. If this approach becomes widely adopted, ecotourism’s role in conservation and community development may at long last reach its full potential.”

Wildlife conservation at Singita

Singita is the trusted guardian of a million acres of pristine land in Africa and responsible for many successful community development projects, making a tangible difference in the lives of the people living and working in and around our lodges. Please visit our website to find out more about the wonderful work of our conservation and community upliftment teams.

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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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Fascinating Flora: The Leadwood Tree

February 25, 2015 - Did You Know?,Environment,Kruger National Park,Singita Lebombo Lodge,Singita Sweni Lodge

There is a classic, if slightly ominous, African image with which you’re probably familiar; it’s the scene of a colony of vultures huddled on the branches of a leafless leadwood tree, black rain clouds looming overhead. It is, in fact, a fairly common sight at Singita’s South African properties (albeit with more blue sky!), where the bush is studded with tall leadwoods that live up to their scientific name; combretum imberbe, meaning “hairless climber”.

Leaded trees at Singita Kruger National Park

The leadwood is one of the largest trees in Africa, and is so called because of the wood which is extremely dense and heavy. As such, it is impermeable to termites and is one of the only wood species that sinks when thrown into water. It’s hardiness also explains why, up to 80 years after a leadwood tree has died, its imposing skeleton will remain intact, and why it used to be the material of choice for railway sleepers. The species is protected in South Africa, although fallen branches and those left behind by marauding elephants are allowed to be used for furniture or ornamental work.

Leaded trees at Singita Kruger National Park

Although slow-growing, they can live to be thousands of years old and flourish in alluvial soil along river beds, like the Sweni and N’wanetsi Rivers that run through Singita Kruger National Park. The leaves are popular with herbivores and you will regularly see elephant, giraffe, kudu and impala munching on them during a game drive.

Leopard in a leadwood tree | All Dolled Up

Singita’s 33,000-acre private concession in the Kruger National Park is home to two of our lodges; Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge. This area is especially well-known for the remarkable concentration of the ‘Big 5’ and four particularly formidable prides of lions. Discover more on our website.

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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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Singita Boulders Lodge: A Sustainable Solution

July 11, 2014 - Accommodation,Conservation,Environment,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge

As the first guests start to experience the newly refurbished Singita Boulders Lodge, we celebrate the achievements of the talented people behind the stunning new look. Responsible for the vision, creative direction, interior architecture and design is Boyd Ferguson and his team from Cécile & Boyd. Drawing inspiration from the natural setting and environment and responsible for recreating the lodge’s physical spaces is architect Sally Tsiliyiannis from GAPP Architects & Urban Designers. Every effort has been made to reuse and recycle all the building materials, as Sally explained in a recent report from the site while the work was under way:

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

“Every door broken out has been repositioned somewhere else. Nearly all the new balustrading is actually just sections of the old balustrade removed from elsewhere and re-used.

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

By this time next week, literally 100% of the stones from demolished walls will have been reused. Natural features that were previously covered up have been uncovered and new decking has been carefully shaped around these so they are now main features within the design. Superfluous areas of decking have been cut back to make way for more foliage and where decks have been lowered the views of the river are less obstructed. Nearly all the building rubble is being used as backfill for the new gabion walls to minimise waste.”

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

This environmentally sensitive approach is an extension of Singita’s dedication to ecotourism and “touching the earth lightly”. Environmentally conscious hospitality, sustainable conservation and the empowerment of local communities is the guiding light for everything we do. You can find out more about our sustainable practices on the website, as well as a recent success story in Tanzania, where Singita Mara River Tented Camp has become our first “off the grid” property, setting a benchmark for responsible but luxurious travel.

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

Photos by Peter Browne, Associate Editor of Condé Nast Traveller who was lucky enough to get a sneak peek before the lodge formally reopened. You can see more photos of the newly refurbished lodge in our latest blog post and follow us on Instagram for more.

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Meet the Lebombo Euphorbia

May 06, 2014 - Did You Know?,Environment,Kruger National Park

Lebombo euphorbias growing along a ridge at Singita Kruger National Park

Singita is very fortunate to share its concession in the Kruger National Park with an astonishing variety of unique and interesting flora. The 33,000 acres of land in the southeastern reaches of the park lie between the red rhyolite-based Lebombo Mountains in the east and the flat grasslands with their extremely fertile basaltic soils in the west. This creates a beautiful and varied landscape filled with rich, verdant plant life.

Lebombo euphorbias growing along a ridge at Singita Kruger National Park

Flora, like fauna, has its own preferences in terms of habitat, and the differences in soil type and topography allow for a wonderful and flourishing spectrum to exist. One such example of this unique vegetation is the Lebombo euphorbia (Euphorbia confinalis), a cactus-like tree with a single trunk and a canopy of upward-growing branches. It is only found in the Lebombo mountain region, and, along with its cousin, the Transvaal candelabra euphorbia, is an incredibly picturesque and exotic part of the local landscape.

Transvaal candelabra euphorbias growing in the boma at Singita Lebombo Lodge

They are very drought resistant and are particularly beautiful from June to August, when they grow small, light-yellow flowers in groups of three along the spine of each cucumber-shaped lobe.

Transvaal candelabra euphorbias dot the ridge along which Singita Lebombo Lodge is situated

Trees of the euphorbia family are filled with a white, milky latex and are extremely toxic. As a result, the tree is not eaten by many animals. Despite this, the traditional uses are quite varied – they include using it to stun fish (making them easier to catch), for treating lesions and wounds on cattle, and as an effective poison for hunting arrows.

Find out more about the local flora of Singita Kruger National Park, as well as interesting game spotting and animal stores by catching up on the latest Wildlife Reports from the region.

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Touching the Earth Lightly: Celebrating Earth Day 2014

April 22, 2014 - Conservation,Conservation,Did You Know?,Environment,Experience,Lamai,Lodges and Camps,Singita Mara River Tented Camp

Singita celebrates Earth Day

Earth Day is honoured every year on April 22, in a worldwide show of support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year. Singita’s lodges and camps are committed to “touching the earth lightly”, and this is manifested in the way the lodges are constructed; how they operate today; and how guests experience the wildlife and the natural habitat around them.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

Singita Mara River Tented Camp is the epitome of sustainable tourism and consciously seeks to eliminate the unnecessary use of energy. In keeping with this philosophy, the camp operates “off-the-grid” and relies on a custom designed solar power system, with an inverter battery bank that ensures an uninterrupted power source at night or on rainy days. The photo voltaic solar panels used to harvest energy from the sun supply electricity to the camp’s energy-saving LEDs lights, pool pump, and washing machines, among other things.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

The camp’s potable water comes from a borehole near the site and is, in turn, heated by solar geysers. Although this water is drinkable, Singita is also planning an additional filtering system which will be in place before the end of the year, eliminating the need to use any plastic bottled water at this location.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

The camp has been purpose-built to be environmentally conscious, and as a result has a clean and efficient recycling programme that is leading the way for the rest of Singita’s lodges. Waste management is extremely important to this process. For example, fresh produce is transported and wrapped using traditional methods, such as recycled wooden boxes and wood chips or sawdust for packing. These boxes are then returned to the local supplier for the following week so that no plastic or modern packaging is used, eliminating unnecessary waste going into the country’s landfills.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

To limit the construction footprint, Singita Mara River Tented Camp makes use of a series of open-air decks instead of separate buildings for the gym and spa. Energetic guests have access to yoga mats, kettle bells and jump ropes, while the spa offers treatments on the decks or in the tents, without using any electrical equipment. Toiletries used in the lodge are also all organic.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

Singita’s achievements with the efficient and environmentally-friendly construction and operations of Singita Mara River Tented Camp are significant in light of our planet’s ongoing struggle to maintain balance and fight climate change. The wonderful “lightness” of this property will serve as a template for all future lodge designs, setting a benchmark for responsible but luxurious travel.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

Conservation lives hand-in-hand with ecotourism and community development at Singita. We believe it’s the responsible way to maintain and extend the sustainability of our wildlife reserves. Read more about our conservation efforts on our website.

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Field Guide Favourites: Best of 2013

January 28, 2014 - Africa,Conservation,Environment,Experience,Safari,Wildlife

The African continent is captivating for many reasons; exotic landscapes, diverse cultures and astounding natural beauty among them. A rich and varied wildlife population is no doubt the highlight for many visitors to Africa, with many unique and mysterious species inhabiting our jungles and grasslands. It is critical that the bio-diversity of this land is protected and conserved, which is why Singita’s core vision is to preserve large tracts of wilderness in Africa for future generations with hands-on conservation teams on each property.

The experienced and highly-skilled Singita field guides play a critical role in this process by educating guests about the importance of conservation and instilling in them a deep sense of appreciation for our natural environment. Their beautiful photos from twice-daily game drives have become an extremely popular feature of the social media accounts and are an inspiration to all members of the Singita family. Here, they have selected their favourites from 2013 for you to enjoy:

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

bestof2013new_11

Catch up on our monthly Wildlife Reports and like our Facebook page for first-hand ranger reports straight from the bushveld.

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Wildlife Census 2013 in Tanzania

December 27, 2013 - Conservation,Conservation,Did You Know?,Environment,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Sustainable Conservation,Wildlife

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

Conservation has always been pivotal to Singita’s existence, as it lives hand-in-hand with Singita’s other two operating principles; ecotourism and community development. We believe it’s the responsible way to maintain and extend the sustainability of the reserves under our care. As we reflect on the successes of the past year, it seems fitting to report on the positive findings of a recent census that took place at Singita Grumeti earlier in 2013.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

The hands-on conservation teams on each property are committed to protecting, maintaining and enhancing the land and its fauna and flora. For example, Singita Grumeti has as one of its goals the rehabilitation of the wildlife populations of Grumeti and Ikorongo Game Reserves and associated wildlife management areas in the Serengeti, Tanzania. Over the last eight years, Singita Grumeti has made a significant investment into the protection of wildlife in the area as well as the infrastructure required to support ecotourism. The effectiveness of these inputs and the management activities that result need to be monitored for appropriate outcomes, the most logical of which is the change in status of the resident herbivores.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

Having an understanding of the number of animals, their distribution and numerical trends forms one of the most basic sets of information necessary for the informed management of a wildlife operation. A starting point is a regular and accurate assessment of population size of possibly all, but certainly the ecologically and economically most important species.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

A census was therefore undertaken by way of an aerial survey between the 23rd of August and the 3rd of September 2013 in the Ikorongo-Grumeti Reserves complex. This survey was the tenth undertaken over a period of 11 years, under particularly favourable counting conditions and with a very experienced team of enumerators.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

At the initiation of this project, the Grumeti Fund management team’s primary purpose was to facilitate the recovery of the resident large herbivore populations in this part of the Serengeti ecosystem. This was seen as an important step in the rehabilitation of this particular region, protecting the migratory herds but also helping to fully restore the tourism potential of the area.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

Notable statistics from the census include the slowing population increase of buffalo (although this species has shown a six fold increase in estimated size over the last 10 years) and this year showing the highest number of elephant in the area since inception. The population estimate for elephant has varied substantially over the last eight years, probably as a result of the animals moving in and out in response to resource availability. Overall, the population showing a gradual increase of 5% per annum over the last 10 years. In addition, the topi, a local migrant antelope, would appear to have stabilised at around 15 000 animals. Fluctuations are likely due both to forage conditions as well as predation.

census_7

Click the image below to see the full-size infographic depicting population growth until 2011:

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

Singita Grumeti also has a highly successful Anti-Poaching Unit comprising 120 game scouts (most of the ex-poachers) who work together with the Wildlife Division to eradicated illegal hunting within the concession. Visit our Conservation page to learn more about how Singita manages the half a million acres of pristine African wilderness that it is proud guardian of.

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The Great Migration Diaries 2013: Part Two

July 01, 2013 - Africa,Conservation,Environment,Experience,Safari,Singita Faru Faru Lodge,Singita Grumeti,Singita Mara River Tented Camp,Singita Sasakwa Lodge,Wildlife

As you will have read in Part One of this year’s Migration Diaries, the epic journey of over a million animals began in earnest a few weeks ago. The nomadic wildebeest began arriving right on time at the beginning of June and soon covered the savannah surrounding Singita’s lodges and camps in Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania.

The Great Migration at Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration at Singita Grumeti

They were expected to move on relatively quickly (not surprising, considering they have 1200 miles to cover!) and landed up spending only a week on the plains, in full view of our lucky guests staying at Singita Faru Faru Lodge in the east, and all the way to Singita Sabora Tented Camp in the west.

The Great Migration at Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration at Singita Grumeti

After seven days, having had their fill of the lush grasslands, they began to move and the view from Singita Sasakwa Lodge changed overnight. Where, just the previous day there had been thousands of wildebeest scattered across the plains, we awoke to the sight of long, organised lines of animals marching due east. This lasted four days and by the 20th of June, only a few small groups of stragglers were left. The bulk of the herds had successfully traveled to the the Ikorongo region and were making their way back into the Serengeti National Park, towards Singita Mara River Tented Camp in the remote Lamai triangle.

The Great Migration at Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration at Singita Grumeti

If they follow their projected route, the wildebeest could arrive at the camp in the next few weeks, readying themselves anxiously for the crossing of the crocodile-filled Mara River. The unique location of Singita’s newest camp provides spectacular opportunities to view these crossings and we look forward to reporting again for you from this next leg of the wildebeests’ annual journey.

The Great Migration at Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration is an annual event in the Serengeti in which 1.5 million wildebeest (and 200 000 zebra) travel from the Ngorongoro region of Tanzania up to Kenya’s Maasai Mara game reserve and beyond, following the rains in search of better grazing. This natural phenomenon passes right through Singita Grumeti and Singita Lamai, making our lodges the ideal vantage point from which to observe this epic journey.

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