Category Archives: Safari

The Great Migration Diaries 2013: Part Three

July 11, 2013 - Experience,Lamai,Safari,Singita Mara River Tented Camp,Wildlife

The Great Migration at Singita Lamai

If you’ve been following the blog for the past few weeks, you will have seen that we’ve been tracking the progress of this year’s wildebeest migration. Singita’s lodges in Tanzania are perfectly situated in the path of this epic annual event where over one million wildebeest and other plains game travel over 200 miles of grasslands, following the rains in search of better grazing.

The Great Migration at Singita Lamai

The Great Migration at Singita Lamai

Having passed by Singita Faru Faru Lodge in early June, and then moving through the Serengeti to surround Singita Sabora Tented Camp and Singita Sasakwa Lodge, the herds have now reached Singita Lamai. As you will see from these amazing photographs, which were taken earlier this week, huge numbers of wildebeest have started gathering across the river from Singita Mara River Tented Camp.

The Great Migration at Singita Lamai

The Great Migration at Singita Lamai

They began by crossing the river in small groups, but soon larger herds began to traverse the water, all the while threatened by waiting crocodiles. Greater numbers are expected to cross over the coming weeks, eventually crossing back over multiple times, possibly even into September. The annual migration will draw to a close at the end of the year, until only a few stragglers remain.

The Great Migration at Singita Lamai

The Great Migration at Singita Lamai

The Great Migration at Singita Lamai

Read Part One and Part Two of this year’s Great Migration Diaries, and find out more about Singita Lamai.

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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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The Great Migration Diaries 2013: Part One

June 12, 2013 - Africa,Conservation,Environment,Experience,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

It’s always a special time of year for our staff and guests at Singita Grumeti in Tanzania, when the dull rumble of hooves echoes across the savannah as the Great Wildebeest Migration begins. Over the next few weeks, more than one million animals will travel through the area and up through Singita Lamai, home of Singita Mara River Tented Camp. This year’s event is now in full swing, as the bearded creatures began arriving en masse from the southeast on the 1st of June, passing first alongside Singita Faru Faru Lodge.

Horseback Safari - The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

A few days later, thousands of wildebeest flooded the Nyati plains, with the herds extending southwards into the Serengeti National Park, as far as the eye could see. By Wednesday the 5th, the herds that remained on Nyati plains were growing slowly more and more dense, spreading west and north towards Singita Sabora Tented Camp and the Sasakwa Plains. By Friday evening there was an incessant hum on Sasakwa Hill that originated from the thousands of animals murring on the plains below; a sound similar to that of flowing water.

The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

On the morning of Monday, June 10th, the herds extended throughout Singita Grumeti, surrounding the lodges entirely. As it is also currently rutting season, it has been fascinating to watch the bulls running back and forth to protect their cows and calves from other bulls, while simultaneously having to continue the migration.

The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

Although these herds are completely unpredictable, we expect that they will stay with us at least another two weeks, probably longer! We look forward to watching their antics and sharing more amazing photographs of them with you.

Hot Air Balloon Safari - The Great Migration through 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 1200-mile-long journey.

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A Lone Leopard at Singita Grumeti

April 15, 2013 - Africa,Environment,Experience,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

I was fortunate enough to have a number of different leopard sightings during my stay at Singita Grumeti. Most of these encounters were brief and had taken place in the lush vegetation along the Grumeti River, where the shy cats are easily able to camouflage themselves.

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

One morning during our visit, I was delighted to hear that a large male leopard had been located in the south western parts of the concession; just a stone’s throw from Singita Sabora Tented Camp. This region is known for its vast, open plains and I hoped to have a sighting of the handsome cat within such a unique habitat.

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

As we approached the area where the leopard had last been seen, we were quickly able to identify the characteristic figure of the large cat while he lay resting in an isolated acacia tree. We approached slowly, making sure not to scare the animal away but he seemed more comfortable than most of the leopards in the reserve who offered us just fleeting glimpses of their spotted hide. This healthy male appeared completely relaxed as he sat guarding a warthog that he had killed and dragged up into the tree, away from other opportunistic predators.

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

I was amazed at the scene of this massive cat perched in a rather small tree in the middle of the Serengeti. After observing him for some time, we noticed a large burrow directly beneath the acacia, which appeared to be active, as indicated by the presence of flies around the entrance. It became clear that this burrow belonged to the unfortunate warthog that was now neatly placed in the upper branches of the tree, a victim of the leopard’s hunting skill and experience.

Singita Sabora Tented Camp - Tanzania

James Suter is an expert Field Guide and talented photographer who is exploring Singita Grumeti in Tanzania and reporting on the wildlife he finds there. You can read more of James’ journey with Singita through Southern Africa on the blog.

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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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Travel Essentials for a Successful Safari

April 02, 2013 - Africa,Did You Know?,Experience,Safari

Singita

For many of our guests, an African safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The relative isolation of each lodge and camp and the unique daily itineraries, call for certain travel essentials to make the trip as comfortable and memorable as possible. We asked Jason Trollip, Tourism Manager at Singita Grumeti, Singita Serengeti and manager of various Singita lodges for almost a decade now, to tell us what he recommends guests pack for a safari.

Jason has a passion for wildlife and has travelled large parts of Africa himself, visiting wilderness areas and working with local communities on development projects around game reserves. As a result, he has an intimate knowledge of the African bush and experience with all the practical challenges such an unusual location can pose.

Jason Trollip on the plains of the Serengeti

Good quality camera
While the lenses on today’s mobile phones are incredibly good, they are no match for a high quality, digital point-and-shoot or SLR when you’re trying to capture the perfect landscape or wildlife shot.

Small binoculars
Compact, high quality binoculars will greatly enhance your game-spotting ability and offer the best possible close-up of the local wildlife. The best ones are made by companies like Leica, Swarovski and Zeiss, although mid-range brands such as Nikon and Bushnell also make excellent options.

Singita

Headgear
A lightweight canvas hat with a brim that covers the ears to protect you from the hot African sun, and that will stay on in a moving vehicle, is a very handy item indeed. Backcountry and Tilley both have an excellent selection of good quality safari hats in different styles.

Long-sleeved shirts
A light, durable, long-sleeved shirt will offer practical comfort by protecting you from the midday sun while keeping you warm on those cooler morning and evening game drives. Columbia makes a great range in a huge variety of colours and styles.

Singita

Other clothing
Summer in southern Africa begins in October and runs until April, during which time it is most comfortable to wear shorts and lightweight shirts and t-shirts. A light fleece or long-sleeved top may be required if the temperatures drop when the sun goes down. It remains relatively warm in winter (May to September), so you are unlikely to need more than a good sweater to keep out the chill. A raincoat is recommended at all times of the year, but especially during the wet season which is from March to early May and from late October to early January.

Cotton clothing in neutral colours is recommended for game drives and neutral colours are compulsory for all walking safaris. Keep whites and dark colours to a minimum, as these colours attract certain bugs. Formal attire is not required.

Sunscreen
A small range of sunscreen is available at each lodge, but in case your preferred variant is not available, we would recommend that you bring this with you. The sun in Africa is particularly fierce so a high, broad-spectrum SPF is strongly recommended.

Singita

Malaria prophylaxis
Since malaria is present in all the regions in which Singita lodges are situated, it is essential to ensure that anti-malarial precautions be taken. Yellow fever inoculations are also compulsory when visiting Tanzania. Please consult your doctor or pharmacist for further information.

Insect repellent
Mosquitos and tsetse flies can be a nuisance on safari so it is advisable to make use of a mild insect repellant while visiting our lodges. We stock a small selection of products for this use but also recommend Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard as one of the most effective.

Singita

Reference books
While each lodge keeps a number of excellent bird books and informational titles on the local fauna and flora, any enthusiastic ornithologist or game-spotter will tell you that keeping a personal record of your sightings by ticking them off in your own book is essential! Roberts Birds of Southern Africa and the Sasol Guide to Birds of Southern & East Africa is a particularly good one for the twitchers among you. Other good reference material includes Dr. Richard Estes’ The Safari Companion, an excellent field guide to observing and understanding the behaviour of African mammals.

Singita

For further information, please contact our knowledgeable reservations team who will be happy to answer any of your questions.

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An Elephant’s Toothy Tool

March 20, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Safari,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

sasakwa

The elephants of Singita Pamushana Lodge

It is always awe-inspiring being in the presence of elephants. As the world’s largest mammal, they’re not only physically intimidating but also known to be highly intelligent, functioning in a complex social structure. It is estimated that Zimbabwe has a population of around 110 000 elephants, which is more than twice the optimum capacity; a problem also faced by neighbouring South Africa.

The elephants of Singita Pamushana Lodge

Magnificent elephant tusks

When I first encountered the elephants of Zimbabwe, I was initially struck by the enormous size of the bulls and their colossal tusks, which were noticeably superior in size to most elephants I had observed in the Kruger National Park. These tusks are modified incisors, located in the upper jaw and made of calcium phosphate, more commonly known as ivory. They are essential tools to the animals and assist with eating by digging up roots and debarking trees. They are also used as a weapons during interaction with other bulls, while protecting their more vulnerable trunks.

Singita field guide James Suter photographing an elephant

The elephants of Singita Pamushana Lodge

Interestingly, like humans, theses animals are either right or left “handed”, favouring a particular tusk, with the master or dominant tusk being noticeably worn down due to extensive use. The longest tusk recorded was from an African elephant and measured just over three meters with a weight of over one hundred kilograms. Unfortunately statistical data shows the average weight of an elephant’s tusk has decreased at an alarming rate. In the seventies the average weight was around 12 kilograms and by the early nineties it had dropped to just three.

Elephant tusk

Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe

We contribute this rapid evolution to relentless poaching, as the males with the largest tusks are usually targeted. This in turn has caused the breeding behavior of these animals to change rapidly over a short period of time. It was then even more gratifying to see so many healthy bulls in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve and still in possession of such magnificent tusks.

Follow the adventures of field guide James Suter as he explores the wilderness surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge and its fascinating inhabitants. You can also read James’ previous elephant post on Singita’s grey giants.

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Highlights from our Guides’ Diaries

March 13, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Kruger National Park,Lamai,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

grumeti-environmental-education-class-banner

Did you know that our team of expert field guides write a monthly wildlife journal that chronicles the fauna and flora surrounding each lodge? High summer in Africa is a particularly fascinating time to document the local wildlife. Here are a few photographs from the most recent Guides’ Diaries from Singita Kruger National Park, Singita Lamai, Singita Grumeti and Singita Pamushana Lodge.

Carmine bee-eater

The southern carmine bee-eater (Merops nubicoides) occurs across sub-equatorial Africa, ranging from KwaZulu-Natal and Namibia to Gabon, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. This species is a richly coloured, striking bird, predominantly carmine in colouration (hence the name). They are highly sociable, gathering in large flocks, in or out of breeding season. Unperturbed by the light rain, they continue to move in a large flock as they hunt small insects within the lower areas of the floodplain. This was a sight that we followed for a few hours, mesmerised by their acrobatic displays.

by Ross Couper (Singita Kruger National Park). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Giraffes

I’ve never seen as many giraffe about as there are at the moment. It’s possible that with all the rain and resulting thick vegetation they’ve moved to the few open areas where they can see, from their high vantage, any approaching danger. Giraffe are hunted by lions so it’s best that they avoid any ambush attacks.

By Jenny Hishin (Singita Pamushana Lodge). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Zebra

It is interesting to note that despite all the theories as to why zebra are striped, there is one that seems to be most valid; it’s as a defence mechanism against flies, especially the stinging types, like tsetse and horseflies. Flies are attracted to horizontally polarized light. Zebra stripes are predominantly vertical and, when they lower their heads to feed or drink, this effect is reinforced. It appears that this assists them in avoiding the bites and diseases associated with tsetse and horseflies, in that the flies do not see vertically polarized light.

By Lee Bennett (Singita Lamai). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Cheetah

Our cheetah sightings have been climbing recently and January was the best so far – sixty different cheetah sightings, and most of them consisting of more than one animal! The usual suspects on the property have become more and more comfortable with the vehicles and are less afraid to be seen. Then there are multiple newcomers who continue to sporadically show up. They include two additional brothers and a few single females. All of the newcomers are still quite skittish.

By Ryan Schmitt and Lizzie Hamrick (Singita Grumeti). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Our Guide’s Diaries are published on a monthly basis from our lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. You can read all of them here.

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Maternal Instinct

February 26, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

Leopard at Singita Sabi Sand

Francois Fourie, Field Guide at Singita Sabi Sand, had the great fortune of spotting the female Ravenscourt leopard last week, while in action defending her young. The Sabi Sand Reserve is well known for frequent leopard sightings (as well as a general diversity of game), since the big cats are attracted to the camouflage afforded them by the lush riverine flora. You can read regular updates on wildlife sightings in the area by following our fascinating monthly Guides’ Diaries.

It was once again one of those mornings that will stick with me forever. We are so privileged to wake up in this amazing place every day and get to see such incredible things; this morning just proved that we really have the best job in world.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

We headed out from the lodge with our main aim being to spot a leopard. We headed south and not even ten minutes into the excursion, our tracker Sandile saw the spoor of a female leopard and her cub. We knew she must be in the area because there had been a report that she had killed a young impala lamb the day before. She wasn’t on the site of the kill, instead there were plenty of hyena tracks and a drag mark suggesting that she lost her lamb to a hungry pack.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

We followed the fresh tracks and about 15 minutes later we found her and the cub with another impala lamb hoisted in a marula tree. Lurking hopefully at the base of the tree was an opportunistic hyena, while the Ravenscourt female lay not too far from the tree keeping a wary eye on the predator. Suddenly the cub decided to come down from his perch and with that motion the hyena promptly got to his feet, most likely assuming that the leopard had dropped the kill.  In the blink of an eye, the protective female was up and flying to attack the hyena that was threatening her cub, successfully warding him off. It was amazing to see how quickly and naturally her mothering instinct kicked in within a matter of seconds and I will remember it along with some of the greatest moments experienced in the bush.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

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A Bit About the Buffalo

February 12, 2013 - Environment,Experience,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Safari,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

James Suter in front of a buffalo herd

It’s not an uncommon sight to see massive herds of African buffalo in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge, often exceeding four hundred in a single group. These animals are active throughout the day and night with, on average, around eighteen hours of the day being spent feeding and moving.

African buffalo are found in a variety of habitats, including open savannah, grasslands and woodlands. They occupy a stable home range, usually based near water holes as they need to drink on a daily basis in order to survive. Their grazing fodder of choice is tall, coarse grass which they effectively mow down to make way for more selective grazers.

Buffalo herd

Although they may resemble a harmless cow, buffalo are in fact very dangerous animals on account of their large size and temperamental behavior, especially the bulls. If injured or threatened they have been known to attack humans but on the whole, if left in peace, they are placid creatures with a sociable nature.

Viewing these large herds is a marvelous spectacle and we enjoyed their company on a number of occasions, with the vehicle often being completely engulfed by hundreds of buffalo. Watching and listening to them while they feed is an almost therapeutic experience, although often interrupted by the screech of an oxpecker, the gregarious birds that dine on the buffalo’s ticks.

African buffalo at Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve

African buffalo drinking at the water hole

One particular sighting that stands out occurred near a beautiful pan. It was dusk and four massive bulls were approaching the water. We strategically positioned ourselves downwind and waited for them to approach in the beautiful light of an African sunset, which gave me the opportunity to photograph them closely without being detected. Watching them quench their thirst in this small, isolated pan, with the sun ablaze in the distance, was a moment I will not forget.

Lone African buffalo

Field guide James Suter is documenting the fauna and flora of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve so check back regularly to see his latest photos and read about his most recent adventure. You can catch up on his earlier posts from the region here.

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