Category Archives: Sabi Sand

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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Highlights from our Wildlife Reports

February 13, 2014 - Kruger National Park,Sabi Sand,Singita Grumeti,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

One of the most popular features of our website is the monthly Wildlife Reports, penned by Singita’s field guides and including many of their incredible photos from twice-daily game drives with guests. These journals cover recent wildlife sightings, seasonal changes in the local flora, birding highlights and stunning landscape shots from all five regions in which Singita has lodges and camps. Here is a selection of photos from some recent entries for you to enjoy:

Wildlife Reports Highlights | Singita

Singita Kruger National Park
Elephants in the Kruger National Park must be some of the most dynamic landscapers to this environment and a safari would simply not be complete without seeing one of these colossal giants strutting its stuff. These giants move prodigious distances over a large home range area rather than marking and protecting a territory, – and this makes sightings of them unpredictable and erratic. Over the past month we had an extraordinary total of 89 sightings, with at least two sightings per day. Even with the huge number of elephants scattered throughout the park and with years of research, theories and estimates on these mythical beasts, so much is still unknown about the species.

Report by Deirdre Opie, Danie Vermeulen, Jani Lourens & Nick du Plessis. Photo by Nick du Plessis. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Kruger National Park Wildlife Report December 2013

Wildlife Reports Highlights | Singita

Singita Sabi Sand
The Nyaleti male had made his way up the bank of the river and appeared in front of us. He casually walked along the bank until he reached a couple of big boulders. Instead of walking around them, he promptly hopped from boulder to boulder all the way across the river to the other side. (Watch the video – http://youtu.be/jMxeZEZGjdQ) We followed him slowly for about five minutes
before a herd of impala struck his interest. We stopped and watched from a distance as he stalked the herd.

Report by Dylan Brandt, Ross Couper, Daniella Kueck, Leon Van Wyk, Jon Morgan and François Fourie. Photographs on location by Ross Couper, François Fourie and Jon Morgan. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report January 2014

Wildlife Reports Highlights | Singita

Singita Pamushana
This first photograph was taken during mid 2011, of a very young rhino calf, that kept charging an old rubbing post, in a very funny case of mistaken identity – the calf seemed to think the stump was a challenging intruder. White rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) have a long gestation of 16 months. Calves stay with their mother for 2 – 3 years. It’s now 2.5 years since the first photo was taken and you can see how much the calf has grown – its mother is on the right in the second photo, and the calf dominates the third photo.

Report written and photographed by Jenny Hishin. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report January 2014

Wildlife Reports Highlights | Singita

Singita Grumeti
By early to mid December, the migratory herds would normally be nearing the short grass plains of Ndutu in the southern-most part of the Serengeti. Ndutu is the calving site for the wildebeest and they will typically spend a few months in the area, giving time for the new babies to build up their strength before they begin their arduous journey north. Calves can be expected anywhere from late December to early February, but, like with all things, some babies come earlier! Two early babies were spotted amongst the herds here, and it’s hard to say at such a young age whether they will survive the southern trek to Ndutu.

Report by Lizzie Hamrick with photographs by Ryan Schmitt and Saitoti Ole Kuwai. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Grumeti Wildlife Report December 2013

Wildlife Reports Highlights | Singita

Singita Lamai
This mountainous horizon marking the border between Kenya and Tanzania is one of the most recognizable features of the Lamai area. It also provides a beautiful background for wildlife photos taken by our field guides.

Report by By Lizzie Hamrick with photographs by Mishi Mtili, Saitoti Ole Kuwai and Eugen Shao. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Lamai Wildlife Report December 2013

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Architecture & Inspiration: An interview with Singita architect Sally Tsiliyiannis

January 20, 2014 - Accommodation,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Castleton

Singita Castleton

Singita Castleton

Formerly the family home of Singita founder Luke Bailes’ grandfather, Singita Castleton is an exclusive-use lodge that has recently been transformed into a charming hideaway catering specifically to groups and families. The property comprises a stone-walled ‘homestead’ and a series of beautifully appointed, air-conditioned double en-suite cottages, offering a unique, private villa experience in the heart of the bush.

Singita Castleton

Set within 45,000 acres of private reserve, Singita Castleton has been designed to combine the best elements of a private safari lodge with the rustic charms of a country farmhouse, with the added benefit of extensive high-end facilities, including a vast garden, swimming pool, wine cellar, gym, tennis court and spa treatment room. Guests can relax together in the courtyard, gather around the traditional ‘boma’ or meet in the country-style kitchen, yet the individual cottages allow guests to retreat to the privacy of their own space as and when it’s needed.

Singita Castleton

Architect Sally Tsiliyiannis, who is a director of the Cape Town office of GAPP Architects & Urban Designers, had the task of overseeing the painstaking restoration of the main homestead, and recently told Men’s Journal USA about the experience:

MJ: When you are working on a safari lodge, how do you make it luxurious without allowing the buildings to overwhelm their setting?
ST: The trick is to let the surroundings be in control – the luxury is already there. Ultimately it’s about making the most ordinary things seem extraordinary and, of course, throwing in all the creature comforts that guests expect.

Singita Castleton

MJ: What styles and touches do you view as uniquely African and thus worth preserving at Singita Castleton?
ST: The existing camp was steeped in history and much loved by many. Although the  existing buildings were actually quite ordinary (simple thatched cottages with small windows, screeded floors and earth coloured plastered walls), we realised the importance of retaining the essence of the place in the redesign. The key to the transformation was the opening up of spaces within and between the buildings and the introduction of new layers of texture and material to blend the buildings more subtly into the landscape. Letting in more natural light helped align the spaces closer with nature.

Singita Castleton

MJ: Which animals are the hardest to keep off the property?
ST: Elephants are the most destructive and have to be kept out of the camp – otherwise pretty much anything can wander in. Monkeys are very mischievous but their antics are irresistible.

Singita Castleton

MJ: What draws you to working in the bush?  
ST: Mostly being outside with the smell of the air and the African sun. Flying low over the bush, site meetings under the trees while elephants take mud baths nearby, the genuine, unpretentious people and the glory of the night sky.

Singita Castleton

MJ: What are the limitations of working in the bush?
ST: The bush is the most extraordinary source of inspiration so there is never a sense of there being ‘limitations’. Things just happen at a slower pace because of logistical challenges so time is inevitably in short supply.

MJ: Are there any great examples of African architecture you draw on for inspiration?
ST: The greatest architecture in Africa is the trees – I constantly use them as a source of inspiration.

You can read all about Singita Castleton’s reopening earlier this year, and see more photos of this gorgeous exclusive-use retreat on our website.

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Christmas Continues at Singita Ebony Lodge

December 23, 2013 - Events,Experience,Sabi Sand,Singita Ebony Lodge

Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

Singita Ebony Lodge has been a hive of activity over the past few days. On Saturday, the team set about adding some festive flair to the public areas and guest suites with homemade wreaths and a dried thorn tree that serves as the main Christmas tree for the lodge. Tomorrow while the guests are on the evening game drive, each suite will receive its own small, decorated acacia tree while the wooden deck overlooking the Sand River is dotted with hurricane lamps that will twinkle in the enclosing dusk.

Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

They will return to find a carefully selected gift for each man, woman and child underneath their personal Christmas tree, as well as sparkling wine with the first turn down and cherry truffle at the second. The lodge will be brimming with festive cheer by the time they awake on Christmas morning, ready to gather together over candle-lit tables, open a few crackers and share in the wonderful spirit of the day.

Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

The kitchen team will serve a celebratory feast, along with extra treats throughout the day, such as these delectable red velvet cakes that are topped with gilded cherries:

Red Velvet Cake Recipe | Singita Ebony Lodge

Ingredients – what you will need:

For the sponge:
350g cake flour
300g sugar
5ml bicarbonate of Soda
5ml cocoa powder
250ml buttermilk or yoghurt
2 eggs
250ml vegetable oil
5ml white vinegar
25ml red food colouring
5ml vanilla essence

For the cream cheese icing:
500g cream cheese
200ml cream
100g icing sugar
5ml cinnamon
5ml vanilla essence

Method – what to do:

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
In a large bowl sift the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder.
In another mixing bowl combine the buttermilk, eggs, oil, vinegar, food colouring and vanilla essence.
Mix into the flour mixture and pour the batter into cake pans.
Bake for 30-40 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool.
For the icing, place everything into a mixing bowl and whisk until thick and smooth.
Place into a piping bag and pipe onto the cake once the sponge has cooled.

If you’re a baking fan, you’ll find plenty of delightful recipes on the blog with an African twist to inspire you. Highlights include Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti, Apple Caramel Cake and traditional Lamingtons. If you need to adjust the metric measurements, here’s a handy online volume converter.

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An African Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

December 19, 2013 - Singita Ebony Lodge

An African Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

It must be very unusual for most visitors to Southern Africa during December to spend Christmas in the sweltering haze of mid-summer. The only snowflakes to be found are made of icing sugar, and Santa’s reindeer are replaced by herds of zebra that graze the open grasslands of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

An African Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

In the midst of the long, hot days, the team at Singita Ebony Lodge commence their preparations for the festive season. As the original Singita lodge, the property is a blend of European heritage and African boldness, with the down-to-earth warmth of a much-loved family home. It is therefore the perfect setting for the Singita staff to spend Christmas with their guests, all part of a new extended family.

An African Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

Lodge Manager, Tom Rutherford, describes this time of year: “It is a time for guests and the team to share a magical evening under the stars, listening to the sounds of the African drum beat around the fire and sipping on some special wines from our cellar. Guests will celebrate in true African style as each room is decorated with festively-adorned acacia trees, under which beautifully wrapped gifts await. The afternoon tea table is laden with appropriately themed treats like candy cane striped biscuits, and children help to bake cookies that will be used to decorate the main Christmas tree. Even the game rangers wear Christmas hats while out on safari!

An African Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

One of the highlights will surely be the sundowner stop out in the bush on Christmas Eve, where the local youth choir from Justicia will perform. The evening will incorporate an African-styled Christmas menu with items such as braised lamb shank with cherry samosas and pumpkin fritters with fruit mince chutney, in our traditional Boma setting.”

ebony_6

It’s easy to bring the magic of an African Christmas to your table with home bakes like these delicious lamingtons. Originally of Australian origin, and named for a governor of Queensland from the late 19th Century, lamingtons consist of squares of vanilla sponge cake coated first in a layer of chocolate icing and then rolled in desiccated coconut. These tea-time confections soon made their way to South Africa, where they are a popular bake-sale item and regularly appear on the afternoon menu at Singita Ebony Lodge.

Christmas Baking: Lamingtons | Singita

Ingredients – what you will need:

For the sponge:
680g cake flour
800g castor sugar
50ml bicarbonate of soda
110g cocoa powder
10ml salt
900ml milk
200ml oil
45ml vinegar
15ml vanilla extract

For the chocolate dipping sauce:
375g icing sugar
60g cocoa powder
20g butter
150ml water
400g desiccated coconut

Method – what to do:

In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and salt.
In another mixing bowl, stir together the milk, oil, vinegar and vanilla.
Making a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, slowly pour in the liquid mixture and combine until there are no lumps.
Pour the batter into a greased baking tray and bake for 20 minutes at 170°C.
Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool before portioning into squares.

For the dipping sauce, place the icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and water in a small saucepan and gently heat so that all the ingredients melt together and become combined.
Allow to cool slightly before dipping the portioned cake in the sauce.
When the chocolate sauce is still wet on the cake, dust them with desiccated coconut and allow to dry

Christmas Baking: Lamingtons | Singita

Christmas Baking: Lamingtons | Singita

If you like baking, you may enjoy our “Sweet Tooth” series from earlier in the year, in which we showed you how to make buttermilk scones, Rooibos shortbread and cinnamon doughnuts shaped like giraffes! If you need to adjust the metric measurements, here’s a handy online volume converter.

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Shopping at Singita

December 09, 2013 - Did You Know?,Experience,Kruger National Park,Sabi Sand

Singita Boutique & Gallery

High-end design and an effortlessly chic safari aesthetic are trademarks of the Singita experience, and something that is carried through in all of our properties, whether classic or contemporary. Over the years, the introduction of boutiques and galleries at the lodges has allowed guests the opportunity to take home a memento that not only reminds them of their safari adventure with us, but adds a unique and stylish touch of Africa to their homes.

Singita Boutique & Gallery

Singita Boutique & Gallery

Guests of Singita are often surprised to discover the retail experience in camp. Shopping on safari becomes a relaxed excursion to enjoy between game drives without any time restraints or pressure to purchase. The original boutique and gallery is at Singita Sabi Sand, and is located in an inviting African colonial farmhouse. The verandah is a delightful place to pause and enjoy a refreshing drink or cappuccino before exploring the treasures in the homestead’s interleading rooms, adjoining courtyard and wine boutique. Many of the items, from decor accessories to clothing, are unique to Singita. Wildlife photographic prints, candelabra, unusual jewellery and Singita’s signature wire underplates are all popular purchases with guests.

Singita Boutique & Gallery

Singita Boutique & Gallery

Singita Kruger National Park offers a similarly indulgent shopping experience, but in a thoroughly contemporary setting in keeping with the chic design of the Lebombo and Sweni lodges. Not all of the properties have fully fledged boutiques; at the smaller or more remote lodges pared-down retail collections are displayed in eye-catching metal and glass cabinets.

Singita Boutique & Gallery

Kim Peter, general manager and buyer for all of Singita’s boutiques and galleries, takes into account each lodge’s location and unique style. She also gauges guest feedback, along with the luxury traveller’s desire for rare or precious artefacts reminiscent of Africa or unique to a particular destination or culture.

Singita Boutique & Gallery

Singita often collaborates with local crafters in a specific region who create sought-after handmade items. In South Africa, Singita’s designers work with a Zulu wire weaving group in KwaZulu-Natal to create the handwoven wire underplates in colour schemes that are unique to each lodge. Kim also sources items throughout Africa to reflect the integrity and beauty of the continent’s myriad cultures and traditions, including rare bronze cast figurines from Benin and colourful, carved dolls from the Namji tribe in northern Cameroon.

Singita Boutique & Gallery

Georgina Pennington, group style, design and procurement design manager for Singita, confirms that guests usually want to take home a little piece of Africa as a memento of their safari. Sometimes, a guest even falls in love with a piece of furniture in the lodge. Where possible, the procurement team will source the exact item or find something similar for that guest. Long after guests have returned home, there is an unwritten, open invitation from Singita to assist them with any future purchases no matter how big or small.

Singita Boutique & Gallery

Singita Boutique & Gallery

You can read more about our collaboration with the Zulu women who weave our wire underplates, and our other community development projects in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. 

 

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Field Guide Favourites: River Crossing

October 25, 2013 - Africa,Did You Know?,Experience,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

You would be forgiven for assuming that lions, the larger and more ferocious cousins of our domestic cats, weren’t big fans of the water. In actual fact, lions are excellent swimmers and although they aren’t prone to daily dips (unlike tigers who use the water to cool down) they will cross a body of water with ease.

Marlon du Toit, a Field Guide at Singita Sabi Sand is an excellent wildlife photographer whose pictures can regularly be seen on this blog, our Facebook page and across various international websites and publications. He was lucky enough to get this incredible photograph of not only two adult lionesses traversing the Sand River, but with six little lion cubs in tow! As Marlon says, “This is a lifetime of waiting and hoping all in one shot… something very special indeed.”

River Crossing by Marlon du Toit | Singita

Our “Field Guide Favourites” is an ongoing series of wildlife photographs from our team in the bush. See more of Marlon’s photographs in previous posts or visit his website for more.

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Mountain Biking in the Bush

October 15, 2013 - Experience,Kruger National Park,Sabi Sand,Safari

Mountain biking at Singita

Among the various activities on offer for guests visiting Singita Sabi Sand and Singita Kruger National Park is the option to go mountain biking, accompanied by your guide and tracker.

Mountain biking at Singita

It offers the more adventurous guest the perfect opportunity to explore the vast beauty of this rugged landscape outside the confines of the game vehicle. Taking advantage of the cooler mornings, guests can follow a sunrise game drive and a scrumptious breakfast with some more game spotting on two wheels.

Mountain biking at Singita

It is a unique way to experience the sights and sounds of the bush; the feeling of the breeze through your hair, blood flowing with the turn of each pedal stroke, only to be halted in your tracks by a giraffe crossing the road ahead of you. He peers down with mild disinterest as he ponders what sort of creature this could be that has appeared before him, then turns and waltzes back through the trees. Only when your feet have touched African soil and you stand looking up at a giraffe from ground level, are you truly able to say “I’m in Africa”.

Mountain biking at Singita

Guests can choose from a variety of activities at Singita’s lodges and camps, including fishing, stargazing safaris, horse-back rides, archery and guided walks. Please contact us to make an enquiry and find out more about the Singita experience.

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Field Guide Favourites: Moving Target

October 11, 2013 - Experience,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

Continuing our series of favourite photographs from our field guides, Dylan Brandt from Singita Sabi Sand gives us some helpful hints on how to capture unusual photos like this one:

Leopard by Dylan Brandt

Low light can pose a number of challenges to any photographer but it is also the best time of day to get shots that exaggerate movement. When we first spotted this young male leopard, he was mostly concealed by the thick bushes that were camouflaging him. He kept to the relative safety of the undergrowth for a long time before making his move. When he did so, dusk had fallen and it was almost dark, so there was little benefit of using a high shutter speed. Changing to a slow shutter and panning the camera while firing off a series of shots in quick succession increases your chance of getting a clear image. The trick is to have the head of your subject steady and in focus while the rest of the body has a blurred movement to it. The subtle lighting and blurred elements will add mood, while the wild animals do the rest.

Keep an eye on the blog for more special photographs from our field guides and explore the archive for previous posts in this series. Our Facebook page is also updated regularly by the guides themselves with their latest pictures from the bush.  

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Singita Castleton Reopens

October 07, 2013 - Accommodation,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Castleton

Singita Castleton - main house

For many years, Singita Castleton, situated in the heart of South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve, was the family home of Singita founder Luke Bailes’ grandfather. The property was later transformed into a charming hideaway catering specifically to groups and families, comprising a stone-walled ‘homestead’ and a series of beautifully appointed, air-conditioned double en-suite cottages.

In keeping with Singita’s trend-leading evolution towards a new style of exclusive safari experience, Singita Castleton has undergone a total renovation, taking private rental to a new level of luxury and comfort. The result is a private villa experience in the heart of the bush where guests can share in the communal living spaces of the main house, with the option to retreat to one of six individual cottages within the grounds for complete privacy. Singita Castleton truly encapsulates a sense of exclusivity within exclusivity.

Swimming pool - Singita Castleton

Set within 45,000 acres of private reserve, Singita Castleton is steeped in history, capturing the spirit of the original Castleton house, and giving the lodge a historical and comforting nature. It has been designed to combine the best elements of a private safari lodge with the rustic charms of a country farmhouse, with the added benefit of extensive high-end facilities, including a vast garden, swimming pool, wine cellar, gym, tennis court and spa treatment room.

Guests can relax together in the courtyard, gather around the traditional ‘boma’ or meet in the country-style kitchen, yet the individual cottages allow guests to retreat to the privacy of their own space as and when it’s needed. All of this is overlooking a waterhole where animals regularly gather to drink.

Bathroom - Singita Castleton

Décor is rich throughout with splashes of colour contrasting with traditional tartans and classic prints. Botanical art references, country furniture and flagstone floors also add a nostalgic, relaxed ambience to the lodge, which comes complete with a private guide, tracker, housekeeper and chef. The former Senior Sous Chef at Singita Lebombo Lodge in Kruger National Park, Chef Calum Anderson, will head up the kitchen at Castleton.

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve borders the Kruger National Park in northeast South Africa. It is the oldest private reserve in the country and is recognised globally for its formidable concentration of the big five, especially frequent leopard sightings.

To ensure the Singita experience is truly unrivalled, Singita Castleton can easily be combined with Singita Sweni Lodge in neighbouring Kruger National Park – a tranquil sanctuary flanking the Sweni River and also available for private rental for up to 12 guests – or Singita Pamushana Lodge, situated in the south east of Zimbabwe, with sensational views over the Malilangwe dam and sandstone hills.

Bedroom - Singita Castleton

Singita Castleton is only available on an exclusive-use basis. For further information please visit our website, or to make a reservation, please contact enquiries@singita.com

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