Tracking the temperamental black rhino has to be one of the most exciting and challenging activities for a field guide. Black rhino are notoriously aggressive, and will not hesitate to charge, even when one is in the confines of a vehicle. Singita Pamushana Lodge is home to a healthy population of these animals, which offered me a fantastic opportunity to learn more about them.
Our mission was to locate the fresh spoor of a black rhino and continue to follow the tracks until we finally located the animal. In order to optimise our chances of seeing one, we decided to set off early in the morning when the day is still cool and rhinos are the most active.
They mainly drink at night or early in the morning, so the logical place to start was at one of the larger pans. It was a challenging task, as we had to select one particular track that seemed the most promising. It had to be the freshest track and not only would we have to distinguish this spoor from the hundreds of others surrounding the waterhole, but we would also have to make sure we continued trailing the same one. After circling the pan a number of times we selected the tracks of a single bull and set off with our noses to the ground.
We were headed south, straight into the thick Mopane forest. I noted the fresh dung as well as the broken branches the rhino had left as clues. As we went deeper into the scrub, I felt my heart rate quicken and my ears and eyes sharpen, all the while considering the black rhino’s fearsome reputation.
The startled oxpeckers alerted us to the proximity of our quarry when they took to the air as we approached, pricking the ears of the large figures below them in the undergrowth. We kept silent and still, wary of giving away our position. Suddenly the wind changed against us and the rhino caught our scent, lumbering straight for our hiding place. The best response when being charged by a rhino is to find a tree to climb or hide behind (since rhino have bad eyesight, they usually can’t distinguish between a large tree trunk and the perceived threat of a person). We promptly found a thicket to hide behind, hearts pounding, and quietly watched the rhino retreat into the shadows of the forest, feeling great respect for these massive but agile beasts.
James Suter is an experienced Singita field guide with a passion for photography. Check back regularly for more of James’ stories from Singita’s private reserves in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
One of the most interesting observations I made while visiting Singita Pamushana Lodge was the incredibly high population of hyena that inhabit the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. We spotted these unusual-looking and highly entertaining characters on nearly every excursion. Game numbers are high in this area, providing an abundant source of food, while the lion prides that compete for similar prey are small and widely dispersed.
The spotted hyena is one of the most gregarious of all carnivores and their clans function within a strict dominance hierarchy essential to the success of their society. I am fascinated by hyenas and enjoy observing them so I was determined to find a den site and spend time with these intriguing creatures. Their social life is centred on a communal den, with some clans using the same one for years, while others may use several different sites throughout the year.
An opportunity arose when we located a large clan that had recently killed a young wildebeest. They had separated the individual from the herd and used their strength and cooperation to overpower the animal. Once they began to feed we could clearly see the strict hierarchy structure being enforced, with even the lowest ranking female being more dominant than the highest ranking male. It was captivating to watch the low ranking males giggling in submission, accepting their lower status and biding their time, waiting patiently for the females and higher ranking males to finish feeding.
We spent the morning watching the clan feast as the heat set in and the carcass slowly got picked clean. The clan then led us to their den site where we were given a rare and intimate opportunity to enjoy their company for the rest of the day.
Follow the adventures of field guide James Suter as he explores the wilderness surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge and its fascinating inhabitants.
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.
Early one morning we set out to locate a female cheetah and her young cubs, who had been spotted hunting the previous afternoon. Cheetah territories are often located in areas where there is a rich supply of game, such as the open areas south of Singita Pamushana Lodge where game congregates around the Banyini Pan, a constant supply of water.
Traveling towards the pan, we soon discovered her resting near a large acacia accompanied by her two cubs. We sat there quietly, savouring the moment, and watching these beautiful animals who were totally at ease with the presence of the vehicle.
Then I noticed something in the distance – the vague shape of two figures, much larger than the female and approaching at great speed. I held my breath as the two large male cheetahs pounced on both of the youngsters who immediately assumed a submissive posture and were yelping in fear. It was a tense moment after what had been such a peaceful sighting, and had now turned into a life or death situation for the cubs.
The female desperately tried to protect her cubs; she was extremely distressed and afraid. Fierce fights like this one between adult cheetahs, usually in the defence of territories, can result in serious injury or death.
As quickly as the commotion had started however, the males appeared to both lose interest and calmly joined the female and her cubs in the shade of the acacia. It was a somewhat bizarre sight – we were now sitting with five cheetahs who had been fighting tooth and claw not moments before, but now seemed comfortable and familiar with one another.
Nature is often full of surprises and after speaking to one of the local guides, we managed to piece it all together. The two males were from the female’s previous litter and whom she had left as usual at the age of eighteen months. These two brothers had subsequently formed a coalition, surviving as a team and appeared to be in very good shape. The reunion with their mother, while tense at first, became a touching family portrait as they sought refuge from the heat together with their younger siblings.
Field guide James Suter is exploring the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve that surrounds Singita Pamushana Lodge. Check back next week to learn about the local hyena population, accompanied by more of James’ stunning photography.
Singita Pamushana Lodge is easily described as one of the most beautiful places on earth. Situated in the heart of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in south-eastern Zimbabwe, it is an oasis of beauty, thriving with both wildlife and a rich archaeological and cultural heritage. It is home to over four hundred species of birds, including fourteen species of eagle and ten different types of owls. The area is dotted with majestic baobabs and cathedral-like mopane forests, as well as impressive rocky outcrops littered with nearly a hundred rock painting sites dating back over two thousand years. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to discover all the wonders of this untouched wilderness area for myself.
The reserve was established back in 1994 in order to conserve forty thousand hectares of land, its environment and its wildlife. A strong focus was placed on safeguarding protected species such as the black and white rhino, the roan antelope, and Zimbabwe’s most rare antelope, the Lichtenstein’s hartebeest.
Malilangwe is also where I had my most memorable and unusual cheetah sighting. I saw my first ever pangolin here, a unique species with its shy and nocturnal habits making it almost impossible to observe in the wild. I came face to face with the ill-tempered black rhino and lived to tell the tale. I scaled the massive sandstone outcrops, embracing the scenic treasures and meandered along the Chiredzi River.
I truly soaked up every minute and cherished every unique sighting, and I can’t wait to share all my experiences at Singita Pamushana Lodge with you over the next few weeks.
Find out more about the unique rock art that surrounds the lodge by reading our recent blog article. James Suter will be back next week with the extraordinary tale of an unfortgettable cheetah sighting.
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.
One of the most remarkable things about Singita Mara River Tented Camp is the exceptional food that is whipped up in the kitchen by our resourceful team of expert chefs. In the Lamai’s hot climate guests are kept cool with light, healthy cuisine conducive to refreshing and re-energising the body. Restorative fresh fruit smoothies, iced Fair Trade coffees and teas, crunchy salads and ethically sourced ingredients, such as organic eggs and grass-fed meat, are the order of the day with luscious desserts and homemade ice-cream adding a touch of sweet decadence.
Chef Donna Patterson, who forms part of the kitchen team at Singita Grumeti, has kindly shared the recipe for her delicious chilled carrot and spicy mango soup. Its bright, zingy flavours and refreshing lightness epitomise the type of beautiful and surprising meals our guests enjoy.
Ingredients – what you need:
1 white onion
5 large carrots
1 red chilli (medium heat)
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tblsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 ripe mango
1L mango juice
Mascarpone to garnish
Method – what to do:
Chop the onion, peeled carrots and chilli roughly into equal sizes.
In a medium saucepan fry the chopped carrots, onion and chilli for a couple of minutes.
Reduce the heat and add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick lastly cover with the mango juice. Allow the soup to simmer slowly until the carrots are soft.
Blend in an electric processor and strain through a sieve.
Season the soup to taste with salt and white pepper.
Place the soup in the fridge to cool down.
Lastly finely dice the fresh mango and keep refrigerated until serving.
To serve, place the diced mango into the soup and serve in bowls. I like to garnish it with a dollop of mascarpone.
Like the sound of this soup? Why not browse more of Chef Donna’s delightful recipes on the blog. Here’s a handy online volume converter you can use to adjust the metric measurements if necessary.
We are thrilled to share the first pictures from our brand new camp, Singita Mara River Tented Camp, situated in the Lamai triangle, the northernmost tip of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The camp offers a pared-down approach to the quintessential Singita safari without compromising on any creature comforts.
Singita’s philosophy of preserving iconic locations by offering ‘fewer beds in larger areas’ is epitomised by Mara River Tented Camp’s remote position in the Lamai triangle – with only 16 beds surrounded by 98,000 acres of untouched wilderness. It is a wildlife viewing area with abundant year-round concentrations of resident plains game, big cats and elephant in addition to the Mara River’s large populations of crocodile and hippo.
Remote and unspoilt, Singita Mara River Tented Camp has been designed with the growing need for our guests to make an authentic and meaningful connection with nature, that leaves behind a lighter footprint. Close to the ground and off the grid, the concept and design of the camp encourages constant engagement with the wild. Each of the six guest tents offers priceless solitude, peace and sheer luxury of space. Conceptualised and designed by Cécile & Boyd’s, the attention to detail in the camp is breathtaking – arguably our most beautiful interiors yet.
In keeping with the concept of sustainable living, the camp is built from natural and recycled materials including wood, stone, canvas and raw leather. It is 100% ‘off the grid’, relying entirely on a central, custom-designed solar power array using photovoltaic technology – a system that uses solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity.
There has been a conscious focus on sourcing original work from talented young designers and craftspeople, celebrating the best of contemporary African design and inspiring guests to see local creativity in a fresh, new way. Campaign-style retro travel chests made from pale wood; wooden turned lights fashioned from sustainable Jacaranda wood; decorative wire baskets the exact shape and design of traditional grain-sorting baskets; and splashes of primary red and blue with black in Masaai-inspired patterns. The ambience is pure boho-glamour – relaxed and cool, fun and functional – while retaining that elegant yet relaxed, feet-up style that defines the Singita brand.
Find out more by reading our online brochure, and check back later this week for a special foodie report from chef Donna Patterson on the unique cuisine of Singita Mara River Tented Camp.
Donna Patterson, Singita Chef, spends a few days at one of the Singita Explore tented camps, helping out the team. We asked her to share her” insider” insights into the experience…and her favourite time of the day.
When the sun sets, the cool of the evening starts to rest over the comfortable tents of the Singita Explore. The fires crackle, the lanterns flicker and the evening sounds become loud, musical choirs against the pitch-black silence. The stars are scattered like twinkling Tanzanite and appear brighter than diamonds. There is a certain clarity among the guests’ voices that eagerly share stories about their adventures from the day.
For many, evenings at Explore are perfection beyond words. You cannot fathom the quiet that acts as a backdrop to the sounds of the wild – the hyena calling in the distance. . . “whoo-hoop” – and the muffled roars of lion far, far away. As your chef prepares a culinary treat – baked, grilled, steamed or fried over the open flames – you sip on the drink of your choice and are entertained with bush stories from your guide.
As the local Swahili staff will say “lala salama” ~ sleep well”. And indeed you will!