Category Archives: Sabi Sand

Seeing Spots

August 21, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

There is nothing so remarkable as arriving at the Singita Sabi Sand and encountering a leopard on the first night.  This was the case during my recent visit.  It had been a brief but rewarding sighting as a male leopard walked within a couple of feet of the Land Rover. They are such marvelous animals to watch in their natural environment. Even after spending years observing them, I still have to pinch myself, as it’s barely possible to believe that you can be in such close proximity to them in the wild.

Leopards are not only renowned for their beauty but their incredible strength combined with stealth, making them the ultimate killing machines.  Power to weight they are the strongest cat found in the world.  The male leopard we located was large. There are records of leopards this size hoisting antelope even young giraffes into large trees.  I was anticipating the opportunity of witnessing this in action, as it had been a while since I last saw this raw strength in motion.

Leopards will often hoist their kill, regardless of the size of the prey. This is mainly to protect it from scavenging predators, which are in no short supply in this area!  A short distance from a sizeable drainage line, a small duiker dangled awkwardly in a large tree.  It was rather a macabre sight to see this dead animal wedged between branches, ten feet in the air but not an uncommon visual in the Sabi Sand vicinity and this could only be the work of a leopard.

He had to be close by, the kill was fresh, blood was still trickling from the antelope’s nostrils; my heart started to pound. We scanned the area with painstaking precision, knowing how difficult it is to spot this master of disguise. Patience paid off and eventually I found the leopard seeking shelter from the blistering heat.  It was lying in long grass and with its unique rosettes it was almost impossible to see.

Now the waiting game started. I had seen the leopard and this was good enough by anyone’s standards, but to see it scramble up the tree and claim its prize was what I was after.  I made myself comfortable and positioned the vehicle close to the Apple Leaf trunk where the duiker had been stashed.  It was going to be a good while before the temperature dropped, and I could see the leopard was in no rush to expend any unnecessary energy.

After a good two hours, I heard the leopard coming up behind the vehicle; grabbing my camera I braced myself for what was going to be an incredible show. The animal gracefully leapt into the tree and claimed its trophy.  Almost immediately and on cue, three hyenas, ever the opportunists, scavenged morsels that fell from the tree while the complacent leopard fed.

It was a special moment: one hour of pure bliss where nothing else mattered but the shared company of a wild animal, watching this leopard feed while being surrounded by hyenas in the middle of the African bush. It’s moments like these that you hold on to for the rest of you life.

James Suter, Field Guide, exploring the terrain of Singita Sabi Sand.

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The Shumungu Pride

August 17, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

While driving along the Sand River, I overheard via my radio, a conversation between two guides. They were referring to a lioness that had put her life on the line by chasing off one of the large male lions from the coalition. She was protecting her cubs and this was her duty. Anyone who has ever been confronted by a lioness with cubs present will agree that they are a force to be reckoned with and require the upmost respect. I admired this lion for standing up to an animal twice her size and hoped I would have the opportunity to meet her.

I later found out she belonged to the Shumungu Pride, which spend a fair bit of time within the Singita Sabi Sand reserve. Not long after her interaction with the male lion, the pride had been reported heading east toward the southern boundary of the Singita property. This particular area is breathtaking, where the thick bush gives away to vast, undulating plains. This was an ideal place to spend some quality time with this pride, and due to the topography I felt we had a great chance of locating the animals.

We set out with high expectations, teaming up with two other guides who were also interested in finding the pride. Starting off from Singita Ebony Lodge we headed for the general direction where they had last been spotted. Teamwork is beneficial, often essential as both the guides and the trackers will work together with radio signaling to make the tracking exercise more efficient.

One of the trackers had located fresh tracks of the pride heading east and now into the heart of Singita’s concession.  Now the pressure was on! The lioness needed to gain distance away from the male lion, to ensure the safety of her cubs. It was still a rather cool morning; this meant they could cover ground rapidly and we would need to work quickly.

After some time tracking the cats, the temperature started to rise and the tracks headed towards one of the few densely vegetated patches in the area.

We headed in the direction of the thick bush and to our delight saw a mother and cub. I knew instantly this was the brave lioness that had so courageously fended off the male lion. The two were still in the open but heading for the thicket a hundred feet ahead. The female was calling; she could only be calling the rest of the pride and we knew from all the tracks ahead they were not far ahead of her.

Suddenly the excited family greeted her low calls; all members greeting one another like they had been apart for a lifetime. It was a great moment and special to see the affection between pride members.  They really are social cats, sharing incredible bonds. Family comes first as the brave lioness had demonstrated that very morning.

James Suter exploring Singita Sabi Sand this week.

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The Coalition

August 14, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

I had heard many stories about a new coalition of male lions that had now made their presence felt on the Singita Sabi Sand property. They had already killed one of the Mapogo, a famous coalition of brothers that had established themselves well before my time at Singita.

I was really eager to see these males in action and had been enquiring where would be the best place to start to try and locate them. Unfortunately they had spent the last couple of days outside the Singita property and I thought I would not have a chance to be introduced to this now infamous coalition. On one particular morning we were contacted by a guide in the west who informed us that the males were heading in our direction.  The lions had been following a large herd of buffalo in the hope that they may pick out a straggler.  The excitement started to build.

I first got a glimpse of these animals near a small pan where they had settled as the temperature had started to rise. Unfortunately they had given up on the buffalo they had been trailing, as it was now far too hot for them to maintain pursuit. I was amazed how beautiful these particular lions were, with very few battle scars and long handsome manes. Deciding that they were not going to move for some time, I left them and determined I would return at a later stage when the temperature had dropped.

Later on in the afternoon they were located north of their previous position, very close to the Sand River. I was excited as they had steadily been moving in this direction and I knew there was a possibility that they may cross the river and what a fantastic sight that would be. It dawned on me that I had never experienced a lion crossing the Sand River and what a spectacle it was as they made the first tentative steps to cross. The brothers disappeared and continued to head north once on the other side of the river.  I watched their distinguishable silhouette fade into the distance, elated that I had gained the opportunity to cross paths with the Kings of Sabi Sand.

James Suter exploring Singita Sabi Sand.

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On Arrival

August 08, 2012 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife


The wheels of the tiny plane touched down on the narrow Singita runway situated in the Sabi Sand game reserve. My heart skipped a beat and my excitement levels were in overdrive. I was back in the bush.   Stepping off the plane, I felt the familiar humid air mixed with all the organic smells of the African wild.  I couldn’t wait to jump into the Land Rover and start exploring.

Installed in one of the spacious suites at Singita Ebony Lodge, I set up my equipment and spread out onto the deck which overlooks the Sand River. There were massive floods a month before my arrival and so the river looked amazing, meandering through the lush vegetation as it flowed gently to the east. An elephant bull that had braved the heat of the day to quench his thirst at the water’s edge, greeted me. Leaving him to his business I made my way up to the top garage and the adventure began.

Before I knew it I was in my vehicle heading toward the western section, an almost mystical part of the concession, densely vegetated with large trees and winding tracks. This was the area where a large male leopard had been recently seen with its kill concealed in a suitable tree. I located the remains of the carcass, which was a young male kudu, and investigated the area. There were scratch marks left by the leopard while ascending the tree and the leftovers of the kudu were on the floor below; but no sign of the animal.  It was hot and he had possibly moved closer to the water and found an appropriate place to retreat for the day.

When it was cooler I headed back, armed with my camera, hoping to get a shot of this elusive animal. Darkness was approaching and I was worried about the fading light.

Suddenly a familiar voice crackled on the radio. Another guide had located the animal and I made my way to his position. Pulling off the track I switched off the vehicle. All of a sudden there he was – an attractive large male leopard that is regularly seen in the area. Holding my breath I positioned myself as he walked straight toward the vehicle, walking a meter from my lens showing no sign of fear. I had been at Singita for no more than a couple of hours and already spotted my first leopard. What a fantastic launch of my adventure.

James Suter, this week, trekking across the rugged terrain of Singita Sabi Sand.

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Singita Sabi Sand

August 07, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

I’ve recently arrived back home from a remarkable trip exploring the unspoilt terrain of Singita Sabi Sand.  Home to three Singita lodges in 18,000 hectares, the reserve’s stretches of grassland are punctuated by groves of Acacia and Marula trees.  The trip was extremely successful as the concession was teeming with game and we witnessed some incredible sightings.

Each day I captured as much of what I was seeing from the lens of my camera so I could share it with all of you.  Heading out early every morning offered prime time for wildlife viewing as it was still cool and the majority of animals were still active.  This is always my recommendation as early mornings present the most beautiful sunrises and life begins to stir as another day starts in the African bush – the odd cry of a lone hyena and the cackle of francolins signaling that the dawn chorus has begun.

Once the heat of the middle day has started to lift and ebb away, late afternoons are also a perfect time for exploration.  Between mornings and late afternoons, trekking on foot through the bush or ambling across the grasslands in a Land Rover, just with my camera and radio, I marveled at the memorable moments I experienced.  I was able to tick off the Big Five with relative ease.  The Singita Sabi Sand concession has plenty to offer and the sightings of high profile animals are unmatched. The majority of the game in this area is relatively habituated to the vehicles and this allows one to get up close and personal to a lot of these animals and have the opportunity to view them in their natural environment. If you are cautious, the game vehicles do not disturb them, and you are able to spend time with these animals without altering their behavior in any way.

I also spent a lot of time on foot as this activity really allows one to connect with the environment and appreciate the smaller unique treats the bush has to offer. Without the sound of the vehicle, you allow yourself to hear any noises that may give away the presence of an animal.

Being in the wild heightens the senses in a different way than is normally experienced back at home.  It brings a sense of well-being.  Stay connected with the photographic journals that will be posted over the next few weeks. I hope to share as much as possible with you – and hopefully inspire you to plan a bush experience soon.

James Suter – trekking across the Singita reserves in Africa.

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Exploring the Den

July 29, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

One of the guides informed me that there was an active hyena den site close to one of the major pans in the more central parts of the Singita Sabi Sand reserve. I decided, as it was a rather cool afternoon, to make my way toward the area and see if I would have the opportunity to spend some time with these interesting characters.

I found the small track that cut straight into the thick bush west of the pan, and headed to where I was told the den was situated.  After driving for some time, to my amazement when I rounded the bend there they were, the entire clan, all lying around a large termite mound, which they used as a den site.

The female was suckling her two younger cubs, whilst the third slightly elder cub came forward, inquisitive about my presence.  He approached the vehicle, not knowing what to make of this large solid object.  I sat there for over an hour, savoring the moment, observing from behind tinted lenses, hyenas in their natural environment.  I find people often get the wrong idea about these unusual creatures, often confusing their ungainly appearance with an animal that does nothing but scavenge.  My experience with them however is very different and I have witnessed them hunting with incredible efficiency and a galloping grace.

Stay tuned for more of James Suter as he treks through the wilderness of Singita Sabi Sand this week.

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The Essential Packing List

May 08, 2012 - Accommodation,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Safari

We asked Marianda Venter, Lodge Manager at Singita Boulders, to take a few minutes to compile some handy tips for packing for an African safari.  Hope you find these tips helpful.


Packing for any trip, whether it’s a weekend getaway or a week-long trip, isn’t the most relaxing way to spend your afternoons and evenings prior to your departure. The stress of forgetting something important or packing too much is always in the back of your mind.

But packing for your Singita Boulders’ safari should be an exciting experience and remember, don’t get carried away; stick to the essentials.  We offer laundry service daily so keep that in mind when packing.

If you want to free up a little space in your luggage, it may be helpful to know that we supply the following:

Mosquito repellent and mosquito wipes
International adaptors
Torches/flash lights
We have 5 pairs of binoculars for our guests to use

So what are the essentials?

A camera

Whether  you are an amateur or a professional, make sure you bring a camera to capture the magical moments on safari.  Along with your camera, also include your charger and/or batteries.  We have international adaptors in the rooms and 220 volt plugs to charge in the game drive vehicles. We can also assist with burning photos on to disks but an extra memory card is always handy.  If you have additional tri-pods and lenses, bring those along too as there is often an opportunity to capture an unusual moment in the bush.

What to wear

It’s advisable to pack closed-toe shoes and neutral clothing.  During your morning and afternoon game drives, you’ll stop for a break or your guide might show you something on foot and so it’s often practical to be wearing comfortable, closed footwear.  Definitely pack cool and light sandals and flip flops for wearing around the lodge.  Out on a game drive or bush walk, wearing neutral clothing is essential for blending into the natural environment.   Oh and don’t forget your hat – or make sure to purchase one from the Singita Boutique.

Weather is often unpredictable and it is always good to be prepared for either extreme – hot or cold.  So pack a few layers in lightweight but also warmer fabrics.

Again, back at the lodge some guests prefer freshening up before meals and others come through directly from the drive.  What ever you feel comfortable wearing for meals and lounging around the lodge and pool areas, make sure it’s packed;  we have no specifications.

Sunscreen and sunglasses

These are an absolute must.  We have sunscreen stock available but if you prefer a specific brand we recommend you pop a smaller version in your bag. The African sun can be harsh and daily protection is essential.  You’ll be grateful to have your sunglasses with you throughout the day.

Stay connected

If you need to stay connected, you are more than welcome to bring your mobile and hand-held devices.  We have wireless in all the rooms and public areas and these devices can often be used to download pictures and videos too.  We also have two computers in our library if you need to stay in touch with family or friends.

And don’t forget to contact us if you have any questions about your stay or wonder about any other details at our Singita lodges – enquiries@singita.com

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Tremendous Battles

February 06, 2012 - Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

There are few battles more tremendous than elephant bulls in conflict.  This image shows two such giants battling over the right to mate. With so many breeding herds in the area, females in estrous, and so many musth bulls in close proximity to one another, conflicts like these are inevitable. When their tusks first clashed together, at the initial impact, it sounded more like that of rifle fire than ivory connecting. The contest was short lived and the winner chased the defeated bull several hundred meters before returning to the nearby breeding herd.

What Singita Field Guides encounter every day.  Account by Dylan Brandt at Singita Sabi Sand.  For more exciting encounters follow our Guides’ Diaries posted on Singita’s website every month.

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Wildlife – the News in Pictures

January 16, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

Another spectacular few days of wildlife sightings at Singita Ebony and Boulders Lodges.  Follow the story in pictures provided by Field Guide, Dylan Brandt.

Mapogo male lions following the Ximungwe pride of 4 youngsters and 4 females.

The Marthly male leopard. A massive male leopard that controls a large portion, north of the Sand River.  Lovely pose as he looks over the tall grass at impala in the distance.

Ravenscourt female after feeding from a young nyala kill.

This image is again of the Ravenscourt female, looking and sniffing curious smells under a large fallen Marula tree in a river bed.

The Ravenscourt female leopard – catching her in mid-yawn.

Wild dog pack running through the Sand River in a hurried attempt to cross, avoiding any crocodiles that might be close by.

Follow regional wildlife reports from our Field Guides, posted monthly on Singita’s website.

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Wildlife – the News in Pictures

January 10, 2012 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

A magnificent week of wildlife sightings at Singita Sabi Sand.  Dylan Brandt, Singita Field Guide, shares some of his close encounters from the past few days.

Ravenscourt female leopard.

Perfectly posed – the Ravenscourt female leopard.

Relaxed state of mind – Mapogo male.

Two of the Othawa pride females – in good company.

For regular wildlife updates, don’t forget to refer to our monthly Guides’ Diaries posted on Singita’s website.  Also, if you would like to receive Singita’s blog posts in your email box, subscribe to our blog via email.

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