“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” – Nelson Mandela
Supporting the people who live in and around Singita’s reserves is an important part of maintaining the balance between sustainable tourism, community upliftment and environmental conservation. As part of this hands-on approach to community development, the staff at Singita Sabi Sand in South Africa celebrated Mandela Day this past Saturday with a feeding initiative for the children at two local care centres. Guests were invited to join in the making of sandwiches which were then packaged and delivered to the care centres in the neighbouring village of Justicia.
The voluntary involvement of the guests was especially touching, as was the visit by some of them to assist with the distribution of the sandwiches to 350 hungry children. It was a joyful and heart-rending tribute to Mr Mandela’s legacy and especially his commitment to stopping child hunger. It is a desire that Singita shares as part of its community development objectives; a dedication to saving the world, one sandwich at a time.
Mandela Day is held on 18 July every year to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s birthday and in recognition of the life’s work of this great man. Please visit mandeladay.com to find out how you can become a Madiba changemaker and make every day Mandela Day.
You can find out more about Singita’s community projects here.
Singita Ebony Lodge has been a hive of activity over the past few days. On Saturday, the team set about adding some festive flair to the public areas and guest suites with homemade wreaths and a dried thorn tree that serves as the main Christmas tree for the lodge. Tomorrow while the guests are on the evening game drive, each suite will receive its own small, decorated acacia tree while the wooden deck overlooking the Sand River is dotted with hurricane lamps that will twinkle in the enclosing dusk.
They will return to find a carefully selected gift for each man, woman and child underneath their personal Christmas tree, as well as sparkling wine with the first turn down and cherry truffle at the second. The lodge will be brimming with festive cheer by the time they awake on Christmas morning, ready to gather together over candle-lit tables, open a few crackers and share in the wonderful spirit of the day.
The kitchen team will serve a celebratory feast, along with extra treats throughout the day, such as these delectable red velvet cakes that are topped with gilded cherries:
Ingredients – what you will need:
For the sponge:
350g cake flour
5ml bicarbonate of Soda
5ml cocoa powder
250ml buttermilk or yoghurt
250ml vegetable oil
5ml white vinegar
25ml red food colouring
5ml vanilla essence
For the cream cheese icing:
500g cream cheese
100g icing sugar
5ml vanilla essence
Method – what to do:
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
In a large bowl sift the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder.
In another mixing bowl combine the buttermilk, eggs, oil, vinegar, food colouring and vanilla essence.
Mix into the flour mixture and pour the batter into cake pans.
Bake for 30-40 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool.
For the icing, place everything into a mixing bowl and whisk until thick and smooth.
Place into a piping bag and pipe onto the cake once the sponge has cooled.
If you’re a baking fan, you’ll find plenty of delightful recipes on the blog with an African twist to inspire you. Highlights include Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti, Apple Caramel Cake and traditional Lamingtons. If you need to adjust the metric measurements, here’s a handy online volume converter.
Our very own Christmas elf, Ludwig van Tonder, has been carefully documenting the festive preparations and celebrations at Singita Lebombo Lodge in the Kruger National Park over the past few weeks. Today he shares some photos of the last few decorations going up at the lodge, as well as a wonderful afternoon of cupcake decorating for the whole family. We hope that you enjoy these and we wish you and yours the very best for the festive season.
Ludwig will be back next week with some photos of the activities from Christmas Day.
Preparations are underway in the kitchen at Singita Lebombo Lodge in the Kruger National Park as the team busily fills the larder with mouthwatering festive delights. We asked Ludwig von Tonder, our very own Singita Christmas elf, to tell us all about it.
There’s something about the bright red and green colour of strawberries that always reminds me of Christmas. And after the sun has ripened them to ruby perfection, December is the ideal month for making strawberry jam.
If you’re like me and need no excuse to indulge in something sweet, then Sally’s Seed Loaf with homemade strawberry jam is the perfect (almost) guilt-free treat. With the festive season in mind, we have taken the basic recipe and added some cranberries and spices to invoke the spirit of Christmas. Rooibos tea is used instead of water to celebrate our African heritage, while oats, wholewheat and organic rye flour and various seeds combine to make a delicious, fibre-rich loaf that is full of goodness.
Another essential Christmas treat is our homemade fruit mince pies. Generous helpings of raisins, currents and cranberries are cooked together with dark treacle sugar, orange and spices until soft and sticky. The fragrant mixture is then preserved and kept throughout December, always at the ready to be spooned into pastry cases, baked, and showered with icing sugar. These white, powdery mounds filled with their sweet treats remind us that even in Africa we can have some snow for Christmas.
After weeks of preparation, I’m now gratified to see our well-stocked pantry that is bursting with homemade items. Jars of strawberry jam, chocolate chip cookies, macadamia nut rusks, fruit-mince at the ready and our fruitcakes silently awaiting December 25th, only being opened every few days to receive a regular shot of brandy. The days are getting longer and increasingly hotter as we count down to Christmas Day; the excitement building all the while.
For many of our guests, especially those from the Northern Hemisphere, the idea of a warm, sunny Christmas is rather a novelty. And although we don’t have snowflakes and fir trees, the charm of spending this special day in the African bush is undeniable. We asked Ludwig von Tonder, our very own Christmas elf at Singita Lebombo Lodge in the Kruger National Park, to take us through the lodge’s preparations leading up to the big day.
As I self-consciously hum Boney M’s White Christmas to get into the spirit of things, I realize that even here, among the thorn trees and rolling grasslands that never see the snow, there is a sense of timeless tradition in our African Christmas.
We prepare for the much-anticipated celebrations of December 25th by polishing the ornaments, dusting the chandeliers and hanging festive decorations. Fruitcakes are being assembled and bejewelled with fresh cherries, the first gift of the season. The fruit is doused with brandy and then used to stud the richly spiced cake which will serve as a delicious tea-time treat well into the new year.
Even here in the relative isolation of the African bush, nature joins in the party by amazing us with the built-in Christmas decorations of the nearby thorn trees. It’s as if the local flora is equally excited for the festive season’s kick-off.
The next few weeks will be filled with the celebration of Christmas traditions from all over the world, as we stockpile the pantries and adorn the lodge with glittering reminders of the spirit of good cheer. Join us throughout December as we share the food, decor and inspiration behind Singita’s uniquely African Christmas.
The first thing that stood out for me was the clean background and the fact that this image was out of focus delivering more impact on the subject in focus. The posture of the lion is striking and immediately draws the viewer in, a very important factor. I cropped a little from left to right, to exclude the thicker branches in the bottom left corner. The remaining grasses are soft in texture and contrasts with the flashing teeth. The texture in the mane of the lion as well as his barred teeth makes it all work and come together. I have also darkened the edges of the image to draw attention to my subject.
Marlon du Toit thrives on adventure and has a deep connection with Africa and its beauty. Growing up near the Kruger National Park he was immersed in nature from a young age and is now a professional field guide at Singita Sabi Sand.
His eye for capturing split-second moments on camera is astonishing, and after years behind the lens, we thought we would give our readers some of his ideas for taking the perfect wildlife photograph when out in the bush. Follow the Singita blog for more of Marlon’s tips for black and white photography in the wild.
James Suter exploring Singita Kruger National Park.
I awoke early the first morning, packed the vehicle, gulped down some coffee and headed for the African bush. The flooding has been dramatic this year, and even though we were in the middle of winter there was enough surface water in the N’wanetsi River.
My first inclination as I headed out into the concession was to distance myself from the vehicle and walk along the N’wanetsi River. This is the source of all life here and at this time of the year it is a lifeline for many species that occur in the area. The winters are harsh and the precious water attracts a vast amount of game. At this time of the year the real spectacle is the abundance of birdlife found along the river. Many parts of the river have now dried up leaving small stagnant pools filled to the brim with helpless catfish and Tilapia; trapped as the sun rapidly dries up their only means of protection, they consequently fall victim to the many waiting bills.
In the distance I could see a number of Marabou storks sunning themselves in a large Leadwood. It was worth a closer look, as this perch was right on the riverbank. I began walking up the river and noticed a commotion in a small body of water ahead. It was an Egyptian Goose, lying face down in the water. However it was moving, although on closer inspection I discovered this was due to terrapins scavenging on it. An unusual but fascinating sight.
I continued onwards where I had seen the large congregation of storks. Sure enough as I approached the area, surprising a pair of honey badgers, I could see over thirteen different bird species surrounding a single pool of water.
These stagnant pools brought birds from far and wide including the heavyweights: the eagles, storks and herons all competing for the dwindling fish supplies. The catfish wriggled helplessly and were plucked out with ease. The Marabou storks caught my eye, most definitely not blessed with the best looks but a wonder to observe – massive birds with thick carnivorous bills, weighing up to nine kilograms and standing over a meter tall.
What a treat to be able to escape to this paradise surrounded by all things natural and beautiful. I sat down on the bank of the river leaning against the base of a tree and spent the morning enjoying the spectacle of the river and all it had to offer.
The excitement at Singita Kruger National Park has been contagious this week. What’s been causing the stir? Lucien Green.
Visiting from Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen” Apprentice Programme in London, Lucien Green (Senior Training and Development Chef) has hailed an energy at the Singita School of Cooking like never before. Each day has been jam-packed with activities, revving up from one day to the next.
Day One – the Singita team whisked Lucien out into the bush to look for lions.
Day Two – stepping into the kitchen at the Singita School of Cooking for the first time, Lucien observed students elbow-deep in dough and perfecting their focaccia-making skills.
Day Three – Lucien took some time out to review curriculum. He gave the cooking school a thumbs-up!
Day Four – this was a special day – it was marked as the official opening of the Singita School of Cooking. Mark Witney, Singita’s Chief Operating Officer was also present for the honours.
Day Five – then it was back to the kitchen. Lucien conducted a day of teaching, introduced the students to carpaccio for the first time, and iniated a competition to see who could produce some winning results. For the competition the students were split into teams and over two days they’ll compete for the top prize. It is going to be a gruelling, fast-paced stretch. Stay tuned!
It was a proud day last week when students graduated from the Singita School of Cooking 18 month training programme in the Kruger National Park. Well qualified to apply for a Commis Chef position in a professional kitchen at a Singita lodge, or any other safari lodge or hotel, six enthusiastic students now head out to take kitchens in the area by storm.
Chef Skills Developer at the Singita School of Cooking, Oriel Mbowane, himself previously a Sous Chef at Singita Sweni, was actively involved in the Graduation activities and is pleased with the student successes achieved at the school.
What distinguishes this school from similar training institutions, is the opportunity it offers for trainee chefs to practise their craft in the kitchens of Singita’s award-winning lodges. Students during the programme were supported by professional chefs employed at Singita who voluntarily shared their culinary and service expertise with the young talent.
Caroline Burke, General Manager Singita Kruger National Park says: ‘In remote, rural areas equipping even one person with a good job and sound prospects, has a burgeoning effect on members of their immediate family, as well as the broader community. Besides providing a much-needed income, these young people also provide inspiration, energy and leadership to their peers in under-developed areas’.
The school is a living example of Singita’s inspiring approach to ‘giving back’ at each of its 10 different lodges in four destinations in Africa, and of its modern conservation model that recognizes the need for a finely tuned relationship between wildlife, tourism and local communities.
We’re looking forward to the next intake of students – the fifth intake at the school – to commence their training as budding chefs this month. Follow this space.
Further information on how you can become involved in this exciting community development programme can also be obtained from Pam Richardson, the Singita’s Group HR and Community Development Manager: Pam.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The long-awaited graduation day at the Singita School of Cooking is now just around the corner. After an arduous 18-month-long-programme, 6 students are currently completing assignments and going through the assessment process in order to qualify. Excitement for graduation at the end of March, is mounting.
The team at Singita Kruger National Park is already starting to prepare for the next programme – in the next 2 weeks Oriel Mbowane (Singita Kruger National Park Chef Skills Developer) will be finalising details with the educational assessors. April is the planned start date for the new intake and we are delighted that this will be the 5th intake of students at the cooking school since its inception in 2007.
Scroll through the photos and some of the memories from the year – well done to students, Oriel Mbowane, and visiting chefs. It has been a great year.
For more information about the programme at the Singita School of Cooking, take a look at Singita’s website or feel free to contact us for a brochure or further details – SLReceptionmanager@singita.com (General Manager at Singita Kruger National Park).