Category Archives: Sabi Sand

Creatures Great & Small: The Giant Snail

September 09, 2014 - Did You Know?,Experience,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

Giant snail

With the green vegetation sprouting along the roadsides and over the grasslands, creatures from large to small are on the move. A few days ago, and within minutes of leaving the lodge, we noticed movement on the road. A giant African land snail glistened in the morning light.

Like almost all pulmonate gastropods, these snails are hermaphrodites, having male and female sex organs. Although giant African land snails primarily mate with one another, in more isolated regions they are capable of reproducing on their own. Giant African land snails lay around six clutches of eggs every year, laying an average of 200 eggs per clutch – that amounts to about 1 200 eggs per year! What is really incredible is that around 90% of snail hatchings survive.

Giant African land snails are active during the night and spend the daytime hours safely buried underground. They reach their adult size by the time they are six months old and although their growth rate slows at this point, they never stop growing. Most reach between five and six years of age but some individuals have been known to be more than ten years old. The giant African land snail seals itself inside its shell to retain water. They do this about three times a year, depending on the areas which they inhabit. During periods of extreme drought, they practice aestivation which is a type of ‘summer sleep’.

Singita Sabi Sand, South Africa

Driving along looking in various directions for a twitch of an ear or a flicking tail, your eyes scan through the bush up and down, left and right. Often when looking for something large and obvious you miss the smaller treasures, without even realising it.

This description of an encounter with a giant snail by Ross Couper first appeared in the November 2013 Wildlife Report from Singita Sabi Sand. The monthly ranger diaries are written by the field guides themselves and contain plenty of delightful stories and stunning photographs from the bush. You can catch up on the Wildlife Reports from all the Singita lodges and camps here.

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Robin Hood of Ravenscourt

August 19, 2014 - Did You Know?,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Castleton,Singita Ebony Lodge

Close to the Western boundary of the Singita Sabi Sand private game reserve is Harry’s Pan, a shallow, glassy lake fringed with reeds. It is on a portion of land purchased from the Lewis family in 1992 and features an unusual landmark – a rusting old car atop a termite hill overlooking the lake. Former Singita Field Guide James Crookes recounts the story:

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

The pan was originally named Pam Pam Dam, after Mrs Lewis’ old English Sheepdog, who regularly played in the water of the dam. After Pam Pam died, Mrs Lewis bought a Rhodesian Ridgeback cross Boxer and named him Robin Hood, or Rob for short.

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

When driving past the pan, one immediately notices the old DKW Auto Union jeep that is perched on top of a termite mound beneath a weeping boer bean tree. Harry Gorman, once the caretaker of the Lewis’ portion of the Ravenscourt property, tells us how Rob had a particular affinity for the vehicle: “He claimed the back seat of the DKW for himself and acted as if he owned the jeep; growling, snarling and even biting anyone that tried to push it. Mrs Lewis had to control Rob if strangers tried to get into the jeep and if ever the engine was started, no matter where he was, Rob would come running and join in the ride.”

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

Two days after the Lewis’ left for a holiday in France in October 1975, Rob died at an animal hospital in Johannesburg, where he was being treated for cancer. Mr Lewis phoned Harry Gorman and instructed him to go to Johannesburg and collect Rob’s body, together with his cushions, mattress and blankets. Harry was also to collect the box of leftover medicine, chains and Rob’s leash, made of Kangaroo skin with a silver clip and handle. All of this was to be buried together with the dog at Pam Pam Dam underneath the DKW Auto Union jeep, which was still in perfect working order at the time.

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

When Mrs Lewis next visited Ravenscourt Ranch, she fitted a small brass plaque to the weeping boer bean tree, which read: “Robin Hood of Ravenscourt, our beloved ‘Rob’, March 1964 – October 1975”. This plaque can still be seen today on the tree alongside the jeep.

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

Pam Pam dam has since become known as Harry’s Pan, largely due to the involvement of Harry Gorman in the story of this section of the Ravenscourt property, as well as the proximity of this pan to his home.

Ravenscourt Ranch is the original name of a plot of land purchased by the Bailes family which now forms part of Singita Sabi Sand, a privately owned game reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

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Singita Boulders Lodge: A Sustainable Solution

July 11, 2014 - Accommodation,Conservation,Environment,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge

As the first guests start to experience the newly refurbished Singita Boulders Lodge, we celebrate the achievements of the talented people behind the stunning new look. Responsible for the vision, creative direction, interior architecture and design is Boyd Ferguson and his team from Cécile & Boyd. Drawing inspiration from the natural setting and environment and responsible for recreating the lodge’s physical spaces is architect Sally Tsiliyiannis from GAPP Architects & Urban Designers. Every effort has been made to reuse and recycle all the building materials, as Sally explained in a recent report from the site while the work was under way:

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

“Every door broken out has been repositioned somewhere else. Nearly all the new balustrading is actually just sections of the old balustrade removed from elsewhere and re-used.

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

By this time next week, literally 100% of the stones from demolished walls will have been reused. Natural features that were previously covered up have been uncovered and new decking has been carefully shaped around these so they are now main features within the design. Superfluous areas of decking have been cut back to make way for more foliage and where decks have been lowered the views of the river are less obstructed. Nearly all the building rubble is being used as backfill for the new gabion walls to minimise waste.”

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

This environmentally sensitive approach is an extension of Singita’s dedication to ecotourism and “touching the earth lightly”. Environmentally conscious hospitality, sustainable conservation and the empowerment of local communities is the guiding light for everything we do. You can find out more about our sustainable practices on the website, as well as a recent success story in Tanzania, where Singita Mara River Tented Camp has become our first “off the grid” property, setting a benchmark for responsible but luxurious travel.

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

Photos by Peter Browne, Associate Editor of Condé Nast Traveller who was lucky enough to get a sneak peek before the lodge formally reopened. You can see more photos of the newly refurbished lodge in our latest blog post and follow us on Instagram for more.

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The Newly Refurbished Singita Boulders Lodge

July 08, 2014 - Accommodation,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

Seventeen years after opening, Singita Boulders Lodge in the Sabi Sand has been thoughtfully reconfigured and redecorated to reveal its essential character and define its unique sense of place on the boulder-strewn banks of the Sand River.

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

The original inspiration for the lodge came from the geometry of these ancient, weathered boulders and the natural curve of the river bed. This time around, interior designer Boyd Ferguson has taken further cues from nature, incorporating the colours, textures and elements of the surrounding landscape. Guest areas have been opened up, lowered, and brought closer to the river, allowing full engagement with the magnificent setting beneath the ebony and weeping boer bean trees. Characterised by handcrafted design with the integrity of authentic African provenance, the lodge merges seamlessly with the shifting light, shapes and moods of the environment, providing a soothing sanctuary for world-weary travellers craving a connection with nature.

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

Throughout the lodge, pared-down interiors in a palette of charcoal, chalk, bone, rust, copper and ochre bring out the original colours of Singita Boulders Lodge, and reflect the four elements of earth, fire, air and water. Dramatic sculptural shapes, abstract art, and carefully curated collections of crystals, seed pods, bones and other found objects articulate a deeper connection with the wild. There is a sense that everything has been derived from the earth.

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

Rustic and worn, woven and carved, furnishings include iconic pieces fashioned from fossilised tree stumps, slabs of solid stone, artisanal wrought iron and leather, each element designed to reveal its intrinsic beauty. Awe-inspiring original contemporary paintings, sculptures and soft, sensual textures – a sheep-skin rug to step onto when you get out of bed, the feel of natural flax bed linen on your skin – add subtle layers of luxury.

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

Open to the elements or separated from the outdoors by glass walls, the lodge provides a continuous connection with the prolific wildlife and birdlife for which the Sabi Sand is so well known. Cleverly designed communal spaces, such as the new sociable Copper Bar serving freshly pressed fruit juices, espressos and cocktails, provide new opportunities for guests to connect with their surroundings and with each other.

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

One of the most spectacular vantage points above the Sand River is the chosen site of a new, outdoor dining pavilion with a series of matted, nest-like ceilings suspended at different heights to resemble the branches of a tree. Raw timber decks of varying sizes are suspended above the ground, creating intimate spaces for private dining and relaxation close to the pool. Light comes from clusters of nest-shaped woven lampshades, a central fireplace creates an inviting, focal point and cascading water adds a reflective, cooling quality. Sandblasted driftwood tables are strung out along the river bank to make the most of the views. Copper vases hold simple, found collections of twigs, wild blooms and grasses. Hand beaten cutlery, wonky pottery plates and rustic linen napkins complete the rustic, casual elegance.

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

The 12 privately spaced suites, two of which are designed exclusively for families, blend soulful, sensual Africa with high design to instil a sense of tranquillity and ease guests into the rhythm of safari life. It’s as if the very soul of Singita Boulders Lodge has been fine tuned and stripped back down to the basics, freeing up guests to experience and explore nature like never before.

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

The luxurious creature comforts and attention to detail, for which Singita Boulders Lodge has always been known, have been creatively woven into every aspect of the safari experience so that at every turn there is something new to delight the eye and quieten the soul. Boyd Ferguson explains that in a world where everything at a certain level has become inherently generic, and therefore bland, the eye easily becomes bored – especially when over-exposed to beautiful, aesthetically pleasing surroundings.

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

“Eventually, what happens is that one stops seeing at all. My role in redesigning and repositioning key aspects of the Boulders experience was to enable guests to engage with the lodge from the moment they arrive and throughout their stay. There is a sense of authenticity, earthiness and primal beauty, so that they start seeing things again with a fresh perspective – perhaps even rediscovering aspects of themselves from which they may have been cut off.” This subtle shift in thinking has become a defining moment in Singita’s journey, providing a catalyst for change within the company as a whole.

Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sand

Explore Singita Boulders Lodge further on our website, and contact our Reservations team for more information about the lodge.

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Travel+Leisure World’s Best Hotels 2014

July 03, 2014 - Awards,Kruger National Park,Sabi Sand,Singita

Singita Lebombo Lodge, Singita Kruger National Park | Travel+Leisure World's Best Hotels 2014

Singita Sabi Sand | Travel+Leisure World's Best Hotels 2014

Singita Sweni Lodge, Singita Kruger National Park | Travel+Leisure World's Best Hotels 2014

We are delighted to share with you yesterday’s announcement of the Travel+Leisure World’s Best Hotels 2014, in which Singita Sabi Sand placed 7th and Singita Kruger National Park at no. 19! We are thrilled that Singita Sabi Sand was also voted Best Safari Location in the world.

Singita Lebombo Lodge, Singita Kruger National Park | Travel+Leisure World's Best Hotels 2014

Singita Lebombo Lodge, Singita Kruger National Park | Travel+Leisure World's Best Hotels 2014

Singita Lebombo Lodge, Singita Kruger National Park | Travel+Leisure World's Best Hotels 2014

Singita has always performed consistently well in these awards, determined by T+L readers who vote for their favourite hotels and resorts, evaluating them in categories such as value, food, service, rooms and location. We are extremely proud of this result and extend our congratulations to the rest of the Top 50. Our heartfelt thanks to the lodge and head office teams for their hard work and dedication to Singita’s mission, which is to share a unique part of the world, while maintaining respect for the natural environment and challenging accepted notions of luxury.

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Curious Cats

June 09, 2014 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

Just in! Field Guide Ross Couper from Singita Sabi Sand sent through this incredible snapshot from Thursday afternoon’s game drive. In it, a serval faces off with a pair of cheetahs:

Cheetah vs Serval by Ross Couper

“Upon a approaching a cheetah sighting, a serval and two cubs were seen moving through the grass within meters of the cheetah. The serval’s movement caught the attention of the cheetah after the adult serval attempted to catch a rodent in the grass. A chase ensued and the adult serval was surrounded by the two cheetah. A moment of sheer aggression from the serval saved its life and several tense minutes were felt amongst the guests viewing the interaction. As dusk settled we returned back to the lodge, the fate of the serval unknown. It was a true privilege to witness this interaction in the wild.”

Ross regularly shares his stunning wildlife photos with our Facebook community, so follow us there for the latest sightings, direct from the bush!

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First Sighting of the Hlabankunzi Leopard Cubs

May 19, 2014 - Experience,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

Leopard cubs at Singita Sabi Sand

Last week was a very special one for visitors to Singita Sabi Sand, as the brand new Hlabankunzi leopard cubs made their public debut! The female has moved into the territory of the Ravenscourt female, who was killed roughly a year ago, and now patrols a prize piece of Singita’s 45,000 acre concession. Briefly before the cubs were spotted for the first time, Head Field Guide Mark Broodryk sent us this report:

Leopard cubs at Singita Sabi Sand

“We suspect that she has her cubs under the deck of Room 11 at Singita Ebony Lodge and is as comfortable around the lodge as the Ravenscourt female was. Field guides Dylan, Ruel and I saw Mobeni’s new cubs for the first time yesterday morning, still very tiny and not exactly sure of numbers just yet. She has them close to the Khosa pan area in the Ximobanyane drainage. She seems to be a different leopard now that the Ravenscourt female has gone, she is not nearly as nervous as she used to be and we are able to view her fairly regularly. Her son has become independent and if approached correctly, also provides good viewing. Just yesterday we followed him for about 1½ hours and he curled up to sleep about 10m from the vehicle! Overall we seem to have come out on top with our leopard viewing and looks like the legacy of the leopard viewing for this reserve will continue.”

Leopard cubs at Singita Sabi Sand

Keep your eyes on our Instagram and Facebook accounts to see the latest photos of the cubs, straight from our field guides.

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Lion Line-Up

May 08, 2014 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

This photo of the Mhangeni pride walking in what appears to be military formation through Singita Sabi Sand, was taken last week by Field Guide Ross Couper. Of the unusual and entertaining sighting, he says: “As the honey coloured morning light filtered through the mist on the horizon, we knew we were in for a very good morning.” Ross’ stunning photo was even featured in the Cape Times a few days later, aptly captioned “Dawn Patrol”.

Lion photo by Ross Couper Copyright 2014

Follow us on Facebook to see more wildlife shots straight from our field guides in the bush.

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Elephant Antics at Singita Sabi Sand

April 26, 2014 - Experience,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

One story from our latest Wildlife Report from Singita Sabi Sand got plenty of attention this week and was shared on various news and social media networks worldwide. It’s easy to see why when you look at this amusing series of photos by field guides Leon van Wyk and Ross Couper – they certainly gave us the giggles!

Marula tree at Singita Sabi Sand

Time has once again flown by, and yet another marula season has come and gone. February 2014 saw a real bumper crop of these delicious fruit being produced by the many hundreds of marula trees that are to be found at Singita Sabi Sand. Various animals were seen tucking into this fruity feast with great gusto! Not only the elephants, who are so famous for enjoying these smooth-skinned, large-stoned fruits, but also monkeys, baboons, impala, kudu, warthogs, zebra… and, of course, humans.

Elephant antics at Singita Sabi Sand

There has long been an African myth about the marula fruit intoxicating large mammals that have consumed huge amounts of the fallen fruit. This bush legend played in my mind recently when we had a sighting of an elephant herd moving through the bush, feeding on the fermenting marula fruit. The younger elephants walked behind the older siblings, picking up and eating the fruit as they moved – the older elephants seemed to be ‘teaching’ the youngsters what was safe to eat. An adult cow had forcefully shaken a nearby marula tree, knocking off lots of the fruit, which a few younger elephants passed by our vehicle to eat. We watched in awe because the youngsters definitely seemed to display signs of being rather tipsy!

Elephant antics at Singita Sabi Sand

As amusing as the idea may be, it is in fact extremely unlikely. In reality, an elephant eating only marulas may consume roughly 30kg in one day or approximately 714 individual fruits. This is less than half of the marulas needed to produce intoxication. There have been reports of elephant behaviour that resembles an intoxicated state, but research shows that this is unlikely to occur only from eating marulas.

Elephant antics at Singita Sabi Sand

It has been speculated that the behaviour may be the result of the elephants eating beetle pupae that live in the bark of marula trees. These pupae have traditionally been used by the San people to poison their arrow tips, and this toxin could lead to behavioural changes in animals that consume it. Another explanation is that bull elephants, who are particularly fond of marula fruit, are simply defending their favourite food resource.

Elephant antics at Singita Sabi Sand

The beautiful elephants of Singita Sabi Sand feature regularly in our monthly Wildlife Reports and on our social media pages. Spanning more than 45,000 acres, this concession is also renowned for high concentrations of big game and frequent leopard sightings.

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A Love for Leopards

April 02, 2014 - Experience,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Ebony Lodge,Wildlife

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

As with many South Africans, I grew up visiting game reserves fairly regularly, and going on camping trips in remote locations with my family during school holidays. I completely took for granted that, at a fairly young age, I had seen such incredible creatures as lions and elephants at close proximity, and in their natural habitat.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

It was only a couple of years ago when I visited the Kruger National Park for the first time that I realised that for all my childhood game-spotting, I had never seen a leopard in the wild. Their feline grace, exquisite colouring and enigmatic nature totally captivate me, and we spent a week scouring the bushes for these elusive spotted cats but to no avail.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

In January I was lucky enough to visit Singita Sabi Sand for the first time and was determined to track down a leopard. James and Leon, my tracking-and-guiding team, were duly briefed and we set off into the wakening bush on the first morning game drive in search of one of the area’s resident leopards. There are a number of handsome males with territories that traverse Singita’s concession in the Sabi Sand; Nyaleti, Ravenscourt and Khashane among them. They are regularly featured in the guides’ Wildlife Reports from the region and have even been spotted in and around the lodges themselves!

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

It was an absolute thrill an hour later to discover a male leopard walking casually through the bush in front of our vehicle. We followed him through the undergrowth for a short while, and watched him leap silently into a nearby ebony tree, where he used the height of the branches to get a better view of the surrounding area. We sat in the vehicle and watched him quietly for a few moments, astounded by his beauty.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

I was lucky enough to have two more leopard sightings in as many days at Singita Sabi Sand; both equally breathtaking. It was an experience that rendered me quite speechless and something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

All photos by field guide Ross Couper. Text by blog manager Julia da Silva.

Singita Sabi Sand is a privately owned game reserve in the Sabi Sand Reserve, adjacent to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Spanning more than 45,000 acres, Singita Sabi Sand is renowned for high concentrations of big game and frequent leopard sightings.

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