These special moments in the wilderness have now been brought to life in a series of videos from his year-long journey through each of Singita’s private reserves and concessions. We hope you enjoy these and encourage you to share them with others who might enjoy a taste of our Africa:
WALKING WITH ELEPHANTS AT SINGITA PAMUSHANA LODGE, ZIMBABWE
A CHEETAH FAMILY AT SINGITA PAMUSHANA LODGE, ZIMBABWE
ELEPHANT HERD AT SINGITA FARU FARU LODGE, TANZANIA
MAGNIFICENT PLAINS GAME AT SINGITA GRUMETI, TANZANIA
MIGRATING WILDEBEEST AT SINGITA GRUMETI, TANZANIA
All videos shot on location by Oliver Caldow with James Suter, an independent field guide who works with us from time to time. If you enjoyed reading about James’ adventures on the blog, you may also enjoy our monthly Wildlife Reports, written by our other Singita field guides. You can also follow our new Vimeo channel to see the latest Singita videos.
Sitting poolside at Singita Faru Faru Lodge at tea time, in the dappled shade of the acacia trees, our guests are treated to a feast of sweet and savoury delights before their afternoon game drive. It is a wonderfully indulgent spread; all manner of cakes, candies and confections are on offer, all washed down with homemade lemonade, iced coffee and exotic teas. It might be very hard to imagine that the hands of the pastry chef responsible for these heavenly morsels were also once those of a poacher.
Peter Andrew was born in a small village on the outskirts of Singita Grumeti in Tanzania. At the age of 15, with no apparent employment alternatives available to him, he started poaching. He was a skilled huntsman and extremely fast on his feet, which made it easier to escape from conservation officers. This deadly combination made Peter a force to be reckoned with but it wasn’t an easy or ethical way to make a living.
In 2003, Peter was approached by Brian Harris, former Wildlife and Community Development Manager of Singita Grumeti, who wanted him to stop poaching in exchange for a job at one of the lodges. He was hesitant initially due to his lack of education, but after further prompting from his grandmother, Peter was eventually persuaded and started off helping with the construction of Singita Sasakwa Lodge. The following year, he was accepted as an apprentice in the kitchen at Singita Sabora Tented Camp, where he excelled in his position. Peter also took it upon himself to specialise in pastry and learn English so that he could improve his situation further. He developed so quickly in fact, that in 2005, Peter was promoted to Commis Chef and then moved to Singita Faru Faru Lodge in 2011 as a full-time Pastry Chef, where he remains a vital part of the kitchen team.
Peter’s achievements are numerous: he turned his back on poaching, found himself a wonderful new profession, worked hard to overcome his circumstances and changed his life for the better. He is rightly proud of himself, as we are proud of him, and the determination and strength of character that make him an invaluable member of the Singita family.
This is the third in a series of short films profiling the people of Singita, many of whom come from challenging circumstances to become artisans and professionals in their chosen field. These #singitastories share a common thread; of people from humble beginnings who choose to effect positive change in their lives, and the lives of those around them. Read more about the anti-poaching unit at Singita Grumeti and subscribe to the blog to make sure you catch the next video in the series.
Photographer and Singita Field Guide, Marlon du Toit, is traveling through Tanzania, visiting Singita’s lodges and camps in the area. Most recently, he has been at Singita Faru Faru Lodge where he was fortunate enough to spot a cheetah in action on the plains of the Serengeti:
“We spied this particular male cheetah reclining in the shade of a prominant Dhalbergia tree. He looked very comfortable so we weren’t sure whether we were in for any excitement, but we got far more than we hoped for!
The thought had hardly crossed my mind when he stood up, stretched and started with his afternoon patrol. He seemed focused on marking his territory which came as no surprise considering all the rain we have had here at Singita Grumeti and would have washed away previous scent-postings. He moved south and although he passed a few herds of gazelle, they were quite far away so he paid them little attention.
Then his whole body posture changed. His eyes opened wide and his head lowered. As I looked up towards where his eyes were fixed I spotted a herd of about twenty wildebeest. He wasted no time at all and within seconds his ambling gait turned into full velocity sprint as he opened up the after-burners in pursuit of the now fleeing wildebeest. Cheetah can achieve speeds of over 100km/h and I am pretty sure he was not far off his top speed. In a cloud of dust and flurry of legs he wrestled one sub-adult wildebeest to the ground and within in less than 10 seconds it was all over.
After subduing his prey, he sat up and scoured the surrounding area to see if there were any other larger predators attracted by all the commotion, but the coast was clear and after getting his breath back he began to feed.
What an amazing last day here on assignment at Singita Faru Faru Lodge.”
Singita Faru Faru Lodge is set in Grumeti in northern Tanzania, forming part of the Serengeti Mara ecosystem. Built on a gently sloping hill, the lodge is a mix of contemporary, organic style and the quirky practicality of a traditional botanist’s camp. With such close proximity to the river and plains, guests have the unique opportunity to experience a very close connection with the wilderness.
A horseback ride over the vast plains of the Serengeti is an exhilarating experience transporting you to the charm and nostalgia of days gone by. Singita Grumeti offers Africa’s most exclusive horseback safari experience, where guests can roam over 350 000 acres of exclusive-use concession in Tanzania’s magnificent Serengeti. Equestrian safaris are ideally suited to more experienced riders and take guests on a journey of exploration to some of the Reserve’s most remote and romantic sites.
Martin Dodwell, a member of our dedicated team who run the Singita Equestrian Centre at Singita Sasakwa Lodge, has sent us an update on the recent migration activity in the Serengeti and the game they have spotted on their regular outrides with guests:
“The month of July provided us with perfect riding conditions as the wildebeest arrived, grazing across the plains and clipping the grass, allowing for faster-paced riding. Our first guest ride to Singita Faru Faru Lodge was particularly spectacular, as we rode across Sasakwa Plain with herds of antelope and giraffe, before crossing the Grumeti River and viewing elephant, buffalo and lion all in one ride!
In early September, we took a four-night safari to Singita Explore Mobile Tented Camp in the Maji region, where the grass is fresh and short, offering excellent ground conditions for riding. Our group comprised four guests from Ireland who have ridden in Kenya and Botswana, and were happy to report that our horseback safari is the best they had ever experienced.
Later in the month, we took some guests to explore the Ikorongo Game Reserve while based at another Singita Explore camp near Lion Rocks. We rode across the main road near to Muchuli Hills and out onto open plains with short, green grass. We traveled more than 10km into the Reserve and were lucky enough to ride alongside huge herds of zebra and buffalo. The guests were so impressed with the riding terrain that they have booked a return safari with friends for next year.”
The Singita Equestrian Centre is located at the top of Sasakwa hill, very close to Singita Sasakwa Lodge overlooking the endless plains of the Serengeti. The stables are home to 18 magnificent horses, ranging from 15.1 to 16.3 hands in height. The stables are superbly well maintained and the horses all in excellent condition. All the horses have been carefully selected for temperament and pace and include South African Boerperd, an indigenous African breed, Thoroughbreds, and a variety of cross breeds.
To find out more, please visit our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get further details from our Equestrian Manager.
For equestrian enthusiasts, there must be no more thrilling adventure than experiencing the great wildebeest migration on horseback. With this year’s event now in full swing, the stables at Singita Sasakwa Lodge have been extremely busy preparing our horses for daily outrides with guests to witness the influx of animals. These rides are completely tailored to guests’ needs and skill level, usually lasting several hours. In addition to the herds of plains game, it is not uncommon to spot giraffe, eland, buffalo, zebra and elephant on these rides.
For the more experienced riders, our tailored Equestrian Safaris combine long rides exploring remote areas of Grumeti Reserves with wonderfully relaxing afternoons. The exclusivity of the concession means that your experience is sure to be unique and private; just you, your magnificent horse, expert guide and the enchanting Serengeti all around you.
Moving on horseback allows you to penetrate herds of zebra and giraffe, travelling among them as if part of the group. Combine Singita Explore Mobile Tented Camp with a stay at one of our permanent lodges, Sasakwa or Faru Faru, to gain the ultimate Serengeti horseback experience. Singita Explore is the perfect base for days of remote exploration and a truly immersive bush adventure, while the luxury of Sasakwa and Faru Faru offer the heights of style and relaxation.
The pace is moderate with the opportunity for faster paced canters in places, and a choice of English, Western or South African trail saddles. The magnificent herd, mainly comprising Thoroughbreds and Boerperds from South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe, have been carefully selected for their temperament and range between 15.1 and 16.3 hands in height.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The memories of a trip to Africa and an unforgettable visit to Singita are some of the most precious that a traveller can experience. And while it can be very difficult to recreate that feeling when a guest is back home, they often have spectacular photos to remind them of the unique landscape and wildlife of our continent. We are always thrilled when these photos are shared with us, along with the wonderful stories behind them.
Looking back, she writes: “What a fabulous time Frances, my driver, and I had! We drove around the Serengeti and saw wonderful things. We watched the animals for hours on end and that is the only way to really come to an understanding of the way the animals are – by watching the way they move and interact with one another and with other species and with their environment. This was a true safari – a journey into another world – rather than a quick drive across the plain to fill up the time and make a tourist happy. Of course we saw all manner of animal and my personal favorites were:
The time we came upon a pride of lions lounging on a river bank – then one by one we watched them get up, go to the top of a rock, and splash down into the water and walk/swim across the river to the other side.
Watching three 3-month old cheetah cubs jumble and play around their mama.
Admiring a fine, big, male leopard in a tree.
Watching a pride of lions lounge around a tree and then jump up into it. Watching lion prides and little cubs is always wonderful.
Thank you for visiting us Mary, we hope to see you again soon.
The next time you bite into a decadently chocolate-filled brownie at Singita Faru Faru Lodge, you may be surprised to know that the Pastry Chef in the kitchen who makes these creations, has a very interesting past.
(Peter is standing with the bow.)
Peter Andrew was born in 1979 in Fort Ikoma village on the outskirts of Singita Grumeti Reserves. Peter’s mother died when he was 16 years old; his Dad remarried and thus Peter was forced to leave his home and village to fend for himself. At the time he had no options for employment but poaching. He learnt hunting and tracking skills from a man much older than him, named Matere Muita, a father figure who taught him everything he needed to know about the skills of the hunt. They hunted together on foot day and night to harvest bush meat, tusks from elephants and skins from Colobus monkeys. Peter remembers that they took pride in never being caught – “You were not a skilled poacher if a Wildlife Officer caught you”.
However everything turned a corner in 2003 when Peter learnt that a good-hearted man named Mr. Harris, was offering jobs to poachers in neighbouring villages. This was Peter’s chance to change his life and earn an honest wage without fear of being locked in jail or eaten by lion. So Peter started work at Singita Sasakwa Lodge as a temporary employee helping with construction. He was interested in cooking and in 2004 took the opportunity to become the staff cook at Singita Sabora Tented Camp. He excelled in this position and developed quickly, so much so that in 2005 Peter became a Commis Chef at Singita Sabora and then further moved to Singita Faru Faru in 2011 as a full-time Pastry Chef where he currently works.
Stories like that of Peter Andrew continue to provide encouragement for the investment made by Singita in valuable conservation efforts.
With over 500 000 acres of land under management, Singita offers luxury safari, tourism opportunities whilst pursuing a core vision: the protection of vast wilderness areas that are home to magnificent wildlife populations and sensitive landscapes, for future generations.
Controlling poaching in the area has been a key priority facing Singita Grumeti Reserves since 2002. This illegal industry threatened the dynamics and balance of the eco-system and undermined the potential of the commercial tourism venture, required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the area. With the establishment of an effective anti-poaching unit consisting of 120 game scouts and thanks to the support of the Tanzanian Wildlife Division, Singita Grumeti Reserves has to date been able to achieve an increase of game populations by up to 600% in some species. Now Singita Grumeti employs close to 600 members of staff (a large proportion from local villages) in its effort to conserve the enormous tract of land in its care, and to support special Singita-style service to the guests that visit Singita Grumeti Reserves.
To read more about Singita’s community development and conservation projects in four regions around Africa, please take a look at Singita’s website.
Bjorn Annegarn – Singita Faru Faru Lodge Manager – talks about the experience of creating Christmas on the plains of the Serengeti.
As you can imagine sourcing all the traditional readymade decorations or even materials to make your own Christmas decorations out in the Serengeti can be a challenge. Singita believes in touching the earth lightly and holds this as a core value. We at Faru Faru wanted to remain true to this philosophy and create an environmentally friendly Christmas tree.
We tried to work with some readily available materials that we have within the camp and also use items that have been recycled. After much deliberation and some serious brainstorming sessions we decided on the best ideas and got to work in creating our 2010 recycled Christmas tree.
Beautifully recycled ornaments, created with care.
A Christmas cake snow man, a Christmas tree ginger biscuit, chocolate truffles and biscuit candy canes – our surprises this week for our guests… Father Christmas will just have to share.
Singita Faru Faru Lodge is the most modern of three Singita Grumeti Reserves lodges. Suites are spacious and they seem to breath by themselves, no doubt aided by the large electronic windows that open at the touch of a button (technology in the African bush is so much more impressive than technology in the city).
Singita Faru Faru Lodge décor is fresh and modern and it perfectly suits and amplifies the setting.
The food is sublime, the lodge is tranquil in that close-to-water kind of way, the spa is unbelievable – not because of its size but because of its location and its view – and then there is the feeling, the essence of the experience that is Singita Faru Faru Lodge. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what this essence is but it is the reason that Singita Faru Faru Lodge makes a guest feel like a child being introduced to the magic that is the African bush, for the very first time.