Category Archives: Lodges and Camps

The Great Migration

April 10, 2013 - Africa,Environment,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

Talented photographer and experienced Field Guide, James Suter, spent the better part of a year exploring Singita’s lodges and camps in Southern Africa. Towards the end of 2012, he visited Singita Grumeti in Tanzania and was lucky enough to experience part of the world-famous animal migration through the Serengeti.

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

One of the most popular attractions for visitors to East Africa is the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of zebra and over a million wildebeest and other plains game who follow the rains for more than 1800 miles. Witnessing this natural phenomenon as the animals move through the Serengeti is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially since Singita Grumeti offers the perfect vantage point from which to view “The Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth”.

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

From December to March, Northern Tanzania is home to massive herds of wildebeest who give birth to roughly 500 000 calves over a period of just three weeks in a remarkable, synchronised event. The main reason for this is that very young calves are more noticeable to predators when mixed with older calves and therefore make for easier prey.

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

The month of July is the ideal time to visit Singita Grumeti, as this is roughly when the herds reach their first major obstacle and are forced to navigate across the Grumeti River. The western corridor of the Serengeti National Park – Africa’s No. 1 World Heritage Site - is where the action takes place and is the best place to watch the migration unfold.

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

We spent some time at Singita Grumeti in September and were blown away by the sheer numbers of game and the large herds of wildebeest. We drove out onto the vast plains and watched while a hundred thousand of the animals advanced slowly towards the game vehicle. The sights, sounds and smells were mesmerising and completely unforgettable.

There are six Singita lodges and camps to visit in Tanzania, including the brand new Singita Serengeti House, an exclusive-use retreat on the slopes of Sasakwa Hill. To learn more about Singita Grumeti and Lamai, read more on our blog or catch up on the monthly wildlife journals from the region.

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Singita Serengeti House: Cécile & Boyd’s Interiors

March 27, 2013 - Accommodation,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Singita Grumeti,Singita Serengeti House

Singita Serengeti House lounge

Singita Serengeti House, in the vast Grumeti Reserves in Tanzania, was opened earlier this year as an exclusive-use retreat, and in response to a growing demand from discerning travellers for privacy and flexibility. Its unique position in the heart of the Serengeti, offers breathtaking vistas from the slopes of Sasakwa Hill across the endless, open plains of this untouched wilderness. Top South Africa design team, Cécile & Boyd’s, crafted the exquisite interiors and have been involved in the conceptualisation of every one of our lodges and camps since Singita Ebony Lodge opened in 1993.

Singita Serengeti House details

Singita Serengeti House bedroom

While what lies outside is rather spectacular, the interiors of Singita Serengeti House are also something to behold. Throughout the house, ample indoor and outdoor lounging and dining areas, all with uninterrupted views, provide relaxing spaces for guests to truly immerse themselves in the beauty of the surrounding landscape while enjoying each other’s company. A cool neutral palette of subtle, sun-bleached colours mimics the Serengeti grass plains, bringing the outside in.

Singita Serengeti House details

Singita Serengeti House interiors

Mirror is used throughout the house to maximise light and space. Humble materials in natural fibres, rattan, grass matting, polished cement floors, bleached, raw timbers and local stones bring an honest, earthy feel to the understatedly glamorous, boldly proportioned, light-saturated rooms curated with a modern African art collection by Kurt Pio and Sarah Pratt, artefacts and objects, and anthropologically relevant tribal sculpture. All the decorative pieces were designed and commissioned or sourced by Cécile & Boyd’s, including witty eye-catching papier-mâché hunting trophies and leather thong chandeliers inspired by Masai skirts.

Singita Serengeti House interiors

Singita Serengeti House dining room

All the suites have spacious bathrooms designed as luxurious extensions to the bedroom and living areas, with outdoor showers and private terraces. The private kitchen and resident chef caters exclusively to the needs of the party staying in the house, taking into consideration everything from individual food allergies to favourite cooking styles and flavours. Delicious food and an excellent wine cellar always forms an integral part of the Singita experience, and meals are carefully planned and orchestrated from candle-lit gourmet dinners to informal picnics in the bush.

You can see more photographs of this incredible property in this blog post, or read the online brochure for more. Please contact enquiries@singita.com for further details on booking the house for a group of family and friends.

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The Singita School of Cooking

February 20, 2013 - Community Development,Cuisine,Experience,Kruger National Park,Lodges and Camps

Joyful and her classmates at the Singita School of Cooking Joyful and her classmates at the Singita School of Cooking

Life at Singita is a constant exercise in gratitude for the environment and the people that make the lodges so incredibly unique. Singita is the custodian of over half a million acres of natural bush in Africa and works actively to protect and maintain this land and its wildlife in their original state.  We partner with the people who live on the outskirts of the reserves to understand the intrinsic value of these pristine areas and experience the benefit of preserving the land for future generations.  Singita and the people from local communities are working symbiotically to provide a better experience for the eco-traveler, whilst ensuring a better future for the land, the wildlife and communities within each region.

 

This story is the first in a series which will offer some insight into the genuine upliftment, improvements, restoration, heart-warming successes and joy brought about by caring and the daily miracles that keep unfolding to transform lives, largely thanks to the people who visit our lodges and are committed to making a difference.

Joyful Nghala, like all intelligent and aspirant young girls, matriculated from high school with dreams of a golden future. The realities of living in a part of South Africa with rampant unemployment soon hit home however, and she was forced to find work that didn’t promise much prospect. Despite her having to work in less than inspiring jobs, Joyful never lost the wonderful spirit for which she is so appropriately named.

A chance stroll to the local post office gave Joyful the lucky break she had been longing for. It was there that she spotted the advertisement encouraging interested parties to apply for places at the Singita School of Cooking (SSC). Joyful duly applied and successfully navigated two tough interviews and a cook-off to receive an invitation to attend the school, where she began classes in May last year.

Joyful at work in the SSC kitchen

There has been no looking back for Joyful since she was given the opportunity to learn all the relevant cooking skills under the expert tutelage of the Singita School of Cooking staff. All areas of professional cooking are explored in the school and students learn by doing. The aspirant chefs prepare food for the staff at Singita in a dedicated kitchen and are given opportunities to learn from the highly trained and skilled chefs who produce the Relais & Châteaux-standard food on a daily basis.

Joyful at work in the Singita kitchen

Joyful continues her education at the SSC where she receives many compliments both from her enthusiastic teachers and those with whom she works in the school kitchen. She is reported to have a healthy competitive attitude and a particular flair for culinary language, with her newly-acquired French vocabulary featuring regularly in her menus. She is already an asset to the Singita family and is on track to become a great chef, probably working in our very own kitchens one day. The Singita School of Cooking would not exist were it not for the generous support of our guests, some of whom have given abundantly to ensure that the futures of Joyful, and many others like her, are indeed golden.

Haute cuisine at Singita Kruger National Park

The Singita School of Cooking is located on site at the staff village that serves Singita Kruger National Park, the home of Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge.  It was established with the aim of encouraging the development of culinary skills amongst local youth from neighbouring communities.  Each year, 8 to 10 students are selected – based upon clear criteria including showing a real interest in cooking – to participate in an 18 month long training programme. You can also find out more about the Singita School of Cooking here.

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Sweet Tooth: Giraffe Cinnamon Doughnuts

February 08, 2013 - Cuisine,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Ebony Lodge

Giraffe cinnamon doughnuts

Late afternoon at Singita Ebony Lodge

There is something magical about the experience of taking what would otherwise be a formal event, such as afternoon tea, and giving it a fresh twist with an African-inspired menu and a unique setting. Tea at Singita Ebony Lodge is a very special occasion, not least of all because it is often served on the vast wooden deck overlooking the Sand River, where it’s not uncommon to see elephant, buffalo and antelope grazing only metres away. The lodge itself has the feeling of a congenial family home, filled with sumptuous coziness that tempts you into relaxation and reflection.

Every day our unique team of pastry chefs lay on a delectable spread of the finest hand-crafted cakes, sandwiches, tarts and scones, along with homemade lemonade and iced coffee. These sweet and savoury snacks are also served with a selection of exotic teas from all over the world, including Japanese TWG Emperor Sencha, Moroccan mint leaf, Bourbon vanilla black and French Earl Grey. One of Singita Ebony Lodge’s signature teatime treats is “giraffe” cinnamon doughnuts, the recipe for which chef Christien has kindly shared below.

Ingredients – what you’ll need:
2 cups cake flour
1 packet dried yeast
1/8 cup sugar
1 egg
70g butter
pinch of salt
¾ cup warm milk
cinnamon sugar, for dusting

Method – what to do:
Place all of the ingredients (except the cinnamon sugar) in a freestanding mixer with a paddle attachment. On a medium speed, allow the machine to work the mixture until the dough forms a ball around the paddle and starts to slap the sides of the bowl.
Wrap the bowl and leave to rise until double in size.
Sprinkle your work surface with some flour and scrape the dough out. Fold the dough in half and press down lightly, then fold again.
Roll the dough out to a thickness of 0.8cm and cut into desired shapes.
Fry them in small batches in hot oil (170°C) until golden brown on both sides.
Place on paper towel to cool down.
Once cool to touch, roll the doughnuts in cinnamon sugar and serve.

Have you tried any of Christien’s other recipes? Please let us know if you have and send us your photos – we would love to see! Here’s a handy online volume converter if you need to adjust the metric measurements.

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Safari Stories: A Fantastic Family Adventure

February 06, 2013 - Accommodation,Experience,Kruger National Park,Lodges and Camps,Safari,Singita Lebombo Lodge

It is a universal truth that joy is doubled when shared, and the same is true of the experience of visiting Singita with your loved ones. A previous guest who traveled to Singita Kruger National Park last year with his wife and two teenage daughters describes the feeling of sharing this unforgettable destination with his family.

Family safari at Singita Kruger National Park

Our lives are full of countless distractions which interfere with opportunities for good family time. It is challenging to find meaningful, trans-generational experiences that bring a family together and create wonderful memories.

We spent three nights with our two daughters at Singita Lebombo Lodge, and in this beautiful environment we shared the most perfect times together. We did special things apart from the more obvious routine of game drives in open vehicles. Most memorable was a walk at dawn that started along the top of a ridge that extends from the edges of the Lebombo mountain range, from there a clamber down the rocks to the N’wanetsi River bank and then under the canopy of the riverine forest beside the river. With the early morning sun rising over the trees and under the expert direction of our accompanying guide and tracker, we saw signs of the nocturnal activities of the night before. The track of a civet, the hop marks of a grey tree frog, fresh elephant dung and the distinctive shuffle tracks of hippo.

The rocky outcrops near Singita Lemombo Lodge

Mark's daughter surveying the scene

We had the excitement of seeing two uncommon species of bird and listened to many different bird calls in the fresh morning air. Our walk took us past caves in the cliffs along the river where white-rumped swifts were returning from their annual intra-African migration and we watched them swoop in and out the caves as they check out and lay claim to last year’s nests. While we were watching the swifts we realised that there was a constant humming noise in the background and further investigation revealed no less than three wild bee hives in cracks in the cliff face. There was a natural spring nearby where fresh water bubbles directly from the earth and flows down to create a life sustaining pool in the otherwise dry river bed.

The view from Singita Lebombo Lodge

Numerous stone age artefacts litter the area and one can imagine how, with the caves for protection and the spring for a reliable water supply, stone age man must have inhabited this gorge in harmony with nature for thousands of years. The girls held the pieces of worked flint in their hands and speculated that the last person to hold that piece of rock may have done so more than ten thousand years ago! We paused and took it all in, nothing had changed except that ancient man was no longer there. Mankind has largely given up this beautiful, simple existence, living with and from nature, in exchange for cities with their noise and stress. Progress? Not so sure.

The game drives were wonderful (we saw herds of elephant, a pride of 28 lion, male lion on a waterbuck kill, lots of rhino and many more) but walking opened up a whole world of interesting things that you miss from the vehicle. We went mountain biking and came across fresh lion tracks (which caused some consternation), we ate dinner under the stars, we breathed the fresh air, we saw sunsets and sunrises and we talked, laughed and loved our time together. It could not have been better.

A walkway at Singita Lebombo Lodge

Singita is extremely family-friendly, with a number of dedicated lodges and camps particularly suited to those travelling in groups and/or with children, including the spectacular new Singita Serengeti House. To find out more about planning a family trip to Singita, please contact enquiries@singita.com or visit our website for lodge availability.

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Introducing Singita Serengeti House

January 31, 2013 - Accommodation,Africa,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Safari,Singita Serengeti House

Singita Serengeti House

Singita Serengeti House, an exclusive-use retreat designed for families and friends, has opened in the 350,000-acre Grumeti Reserves in the heart of the Serengeti in northern Tanzania. Located on the slopes of Sasakwa Hill with breathtaking vistas of the endless, open plains of the Serengeti, the house is Singita’s response to a growing demand from discerning travellers for privacy and flexibility. Itineraries, activities and meals are tailor made and tweaked as guests dictate the day-to-day pace and rhythm of their vacation according to their interests and needs.

Singita Serengeti House pool deck

Early morning and late-afternoon game drives may be interspersed with vigorous swims or lazing around the pool with a good book, a game of tennis, a cooking lesson in the private kitchen from the resident chef, spa treatments or mountain biking. Making it up as one goes along is part of the magic of taking up residence at Singita Serengeti House. There is a waterhole right in front of the house, which is a favourite drinking spot for general plains game as well as a breeding herd of elephant.

Singita Serengeti House veranda

Singita Serengeti House lounge

The house accommodates eight people in two suites in the main house and two further guest suites on either side of the main house, connected by pathways from a central pool deck with a 25-metre rim-flow lap pool. There is also a private tennis court, mountain biking and archery.

Singita Serengeti House bedroom

Singita Serengeti House bathroom

Refined yet comfortable interiors by Cécile & Boyd’s are complemented by a relaxed, unpretentious ambience and warm-hearted service, adding up to a luxurious home environment in the bush. It is a place that encourages a wealth of shared experiences – thrilling game viewing, memorable outdoor feasts, storytelling and impromptu celebrations – from which to shape priceless memories.

Singita Serengeti House wildlife - zebras

Singita Serengeti House wildlife - giraffe

The house may only be booked on an exclusive-use basis and includes all staff, a private vehicle and a safari guide. Besides guided game drives in an open-sided 4×4 vehicle, guests can also do guided walks and horseback safaris. At Singita Sasakwa Lodge, situated an easy 1.5km drive away, there is also a fully equipped gym, yoga room, spa and Boutique & Gallery.

Singita Serengeti House wildlife - cheetah cub

We’ll soon be posting some more photographs of Cécile & Boyd’s stunning interiors at Singita Serengeti House so be sure to subscribe to the blog to avoid missing out! You can also read the online brochure to see more.

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The Tree of Life

January 28, 2013 - Environment,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Safari,Singita Pamushana Lodge

Baobab tree at Singita Pamushana Lodge

The majestic baobab tree is a common landmark found within the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in which Singita Pamushana Lodge is nestled. It is known as the “tree of life” as it provides food, water and shelter to both human and animal inhabitants of the African savannah.

Dwarfing the surrounding vegetation, the tree is shrouded in a heady mixture of mystique and legend. Zimbabweans have long told the charming story of how God planted the trees on their heads, with many local tribes believing that the baobab tree grows upside-down, due to the massive trunk which gives rise to thick tapering branches resembling a root system.

Baobab tree at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Adinsonia digitata can grow to a height of thirty metres and some are estimated to be thousands of years old. This cannot be verified however, as baobabs produce no annual growth rings, making it impossible to accurately measure their age. Their trunks can hold up to one hundred and twenty thousand litres of water, an amount which sustains them throughout the dry season when water is scarce.

People have used these enormous trees with their hollow trunks for various purposes including houses, prisons, storage facilities and even shops. In Zimbabwe the fruit is used in traditional food preparations, being crushed into a pulp and mixed into porridge and drinks containing high levels of vitamin C. The tree provides a source of water, fiber, dye and fuel for the people of Zimbabwe and has been used for centuries.

While driving through the land surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge, one never tires of seeing these mighty trees dotted throughout the grassland, lending this incredible place an even more magical atmosphere.

Baobab tree at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Baobab tree at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Visit us again soon for a new update from James Suter’s exploration of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve and his beautiful photographs of the fauna and flora of this unique area. You can catch up on his earlier posts from the region here.

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Sweet Tooth: Rooibos Shortbread

January 25, 2013 - Cuisine,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge

A morning bush stop at Singita Sabi Sand

The morning bush stop during the course of an early game drive is often the highlight of the day, and not just because of the game viewing! Our guests are treated to a feast crafted by Singita’s hard-working pastry chefs; white chocolate granola bars, caramel apple brownies, fresh fruit skewers and rooibos shortbread. The sight of a spectacular African sunrise, the smell of freshly-brewed coffee, the sound of the bush coming to life and the crisp morning breeze combine to form an enduring memory for those lucky enough to experience it.

A morning bush stop at Singita Sabi Sand

Recreating such a moment in the rush and bustle of daily life can be truly soul-soothing so why not try your hand at making Singita Sabi Sand‘s signature rooibos shortbread at home? Rooibos (or “red bush”) is a herbal tea indigenous to South Africa and is extremely high in antioxidants and contains no caffeine. Chef Christien van der Westhuizen shares a simple recipe for making this African twist on a tea-time classic (makes approximately 60 portions):

Ingredients – what you need:

600g butter
400g castor sugar
800g cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 bag rooibos tea

Method – what to do:

Preheat the oven to 160ºC and line a 30x20cm baking tray with greaseproof paper
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until white and fluffy
Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix to combine.
Flatten the dough lightly into tray and bake for 25 – 30 minutes
Remove from oven and sprinkle with ¼ cup castor sugar
Cut into squares or circles when cool

Enjoy!

The bush stop snack table

The bush stop snack table

Did you see Christien’s recipe for buttermilk scones? Here’s a handy online volume converter if you need to adjust the metric measurements. Don’t forget to check back soon for more from the kitchen team at Singita Boulders Lodge.

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Sweet Tooth: Buttermilk Scones

January 11, 2013 - Cuisine,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge

Breakfast at Singita Boulders Lodge

The talented team of pastry chefs at Singita Boulders Lodge in the Sabi Sand private reserve have quite a job producing a banquet of tasty treats for our guests in the relative isolation of the African bush. Visitors to the lodge are spoiled for choice throughout the day including morning game drive bush stops, breakfast-time pastries, a sumptuous spread for afternoon tea and delectable after-dinner desserts. Using local ingredients and inspired by the regional cuisine, the uniqueness of these kitchen creations is matched only by the spectacular setting with sweeping views of the Sand River.

Pastry chef at Singita Boulders Lodge

Breakfast in the bush is a particular highlight, and features an array of home bakes; wholewheat cranberry and pumpkin seed muffins, peach and almond Danish pastries, crispy croissants, hand-made granola and fresh-out-of-the-oven breads. Served with freshly-squeezed juices and steaming hot coffee, these early-morning feasts are always a big hit. Chef Christien van der Westhuizen has kindly shared her recipe for the best buttermilk scones which are a highlight of the menu:

Ingredients – what you need:

500g sifted flour
125g cold butter
25g baking powder
125g sugar
280ml buttermilk
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Method – what to do:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
Rub together all the dry ingredients (incl. the butter) with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
Add the milk and lightly mix together (we suggest using a fork), being careful not to over mix as the dough will get tough
Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3cm and cut into your desired shape
Brush the top of each scone lightly with egg wash
Bake for approx. 10-15min until golden brown

Christien will be sharing more recipes and photos with us over the next few weeks so be sure to check back soon. If you need to adjust the metric measurements, here’s a handy online volume converter.

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Black Rhino Encounter

January 09, 2013 - Environment,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Safari,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

Black rhino at Singita Pamushana Lodge

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.

James Suter tracking the black rhino

James Suter tracking the black rhino

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.

James Suter tracking the black rhino

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.

Black rhino charging the group

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.

Black rhino charging the group

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.

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