Category Archives: Sabi Sand

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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A Tribute to the Ravenscourt Female: December 2001 – June 2013

September 10, 2013 - Conservation,Experience,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Ebony Lodge,Wildlife

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

It is with great sadness that I write this tribute to the Ravenscourt female leopard, as, for me, she is and always will be synonymous with Singita Sabi Sand.

My primary motivation for wanting to become a field guide in the Sabi Sand was to gain an insight into the traditionally secretive and private lives of leopards and the Ravenscourt female gave me more of an insight into her life than I ever could have wished for.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

Although once the topic of much debate, photographic evidence now shows that the Ravenscourt female was born in December 2001 to the Makwela female. In her latter years, she could be identified by the 3 notches in her right ear as well as her 2:3 spot pattern (the ratio indicates the number of spots on the left and right hand side of its snout).

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

My interaction with her began during my first experience at Singita in 2009, during which time she was exhibiting an unusual behavioural phenomenon of simultaneously raising a new litter of cubs and still feeding and tolerating the presence of the Xindzele male from her previous litter. This meant that it was not all unusual to see four different leopards together, lounging in a marula tree, during a visit to Singita Sabi Sand. This surprised me and only further fuelled my desire to find out as much as possible about these beautiful animals.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

From the day I started the guide training course in January 2010, I was enchanted by this leopardess. As a guide I was always quick to discourage guests from anthropomorphizing and would remind them that our goal is to watch these animals in their natural environments without getting too attached to any individuals. Unfortunately, while I managed to do this for the most part, I developed a soft spot for this particular female leopard. I suppose this can be expected when one is spending close on eight hours a day either tracking or viewing a particular animal.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

In this case, it was exacerbated by the fact that Singita Ebony Lodge and Singita Boulders Lodge, as well as the staff village, were situated in the middle of her territory. This meant that I had many more interactions with the Ravenscourt female than any other leopard at Singita. It seemed as if she wanted to let us know that this was still her territory as she would stroll through the staff village or lodge with her rasping territorial call carrying into the night. Often I would wake up to this call, part the curtain in my room, and see her walking along the corridor outside my window. With this kind of interaction, it is almost impossible not to become attached to an animal.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

Most animals seem to shy away from human activity, but she seemed to be unperturbed and even seemed to be more comfortable around the lodges. This was epitomized by the fact that she gave birth to three litters of cubs in the immediate vicinity of the lodges. Whilst this can be partly be attributed to the dense vegetation on the banks of the Sand River being particularly suitable for leopard den sites, I feel that she may have decided that the human habitation would discourage other predators that may pose a threat to her cubs.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

For the two years I spent at Singita, I felt a part of her life and she was most definitely a part of mine. The first time I saw leopards mating was when she was mating with the Kashane male in the Ximobanyane riverbed. My first ever glimpse of leopard cubs was when her three cubs cautiously crept out of a rocky crevice in the Millennium koppies to nurse from her. She was the first leopard I ever followed on a hunt. Whilst often unsuccessful, it was a fantastic experience to eventually witness her catch and feed upon a vervet monkey. She was the first leopard I ever bumped into on foot and I also spent many hours with the trackers following her spoor. If there was ever a stable sighting, I would often go out on my own, in between game drives, and sit with her and her offspring, hoping to glean something new. In fact, my last few hours at Singita were spent sitting alone with her and her two cubs as they fed on an impala on top of the Boulders koppies.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

These are just a few of the many memories I have of her, memories that I’ll treasure for many years to come.

I often questioned her maternal skills given the statistics. All in all, she gave birth to six litters comprising 14 cubs, of which only four males have survived to maturity (Xmobanyane male of ’06, Xindzele male of ’07, West Street male of ’09 and the current Ravenscourt young male of ’12). In the end, however, she proved me wrong by paying the ultimate price in order to protect her near independent cub from a rogue male leopard. To me, this illustrates just how difficult life is for a female leopard and despite her 29% success rate in raising cubs, she was clearly an extremely dedicated mother.

I am so grateful for the two years I got to spend watching and following the Ravenscourt female and her offspring; she made such a difference in my life as I know she did in the lives of many rangers, trackers and guests at Singita.

Lady Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

© Photos copyright James Crookes 

Field guide James Crookes worked at Singita Sabi Sand for a number of years and has always had a passion for these elusive cats. He says: “I chose to work in the Sabi Sand Reserve based on its reputation for amazing leopard viewing, arguably the best in the world. Not one to usually have checklists, I must admit that I did have one regarding leopards. My goal was to see a leopard kill, leopards mating and leopard cubs. These experiences have been nothing short of amazing and I will always cherish the memories I have of these times at Singita.”

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Field Guide Favourites: Baby Elephant

September 05, 2013 - Experience,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Ebony Lodge,Wildlife

Second in our series of our field guides’ favourite wildlife photographs is this delightful snap of a baby elephant by Marlon du Toit at Singita Sabi Sand. The Sabi Sand is a privately owned game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park, and together the two areas make up some of South Africa’s most incredible and pristine land.

Marlon du Toit | Baby elephant

“All babies are simply adorable and well worth spending time with. Little elephants have great personalities and make for stunning images. This one had huge ears and this unique pose works very well, and the soft light compliments the skin texture.”

Subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss the next installment in this wonderful photography series and get more from our field guides by reading our monthly Wildlife Reports.

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Field Guide Favourites: Rays of Light

August 29, 2013 - Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Ebony Lodge,Wildlife

Singita’s field guides are required to have a number of skills; the powers of observation, knowledge of various bird calls and animal spoor, good awareness of their surroundings and a passion for the African bush among them. Some of them also happen to be talented photographers and are responsible for many of the wildlife shots you see on this blog.

We will be showcasing some of their favourite photos over the next few weeks, with some words from the field guides themselves about the moment they captured through the lens. First we have Dylan Brandt from Singita Sabi Sand, a regular contributor to our blog and Facebook page:

Rays of Light copyright Dylan Brandt

Light has a wonderful way of creating mood. All it takes is a keen eye and a little patience and the rest will unfold in front of you. We had been following the roars of lion for an hour before we found two lionesses lying on the edge of a barely driven, two-track dirt road. The lionesses started moving and roaring only to attract a coalition of males nearby. It was a misty overcast morning, cool and damp with the sun nowhere to be seen. We spent an hour enjoying the pride hoping for a break in the clouds to cast a bit of sunlight for a quick image or two.

Male lions have a habit of snoozing the day away and opportunities for unusual photographs are few and far between. We were fortunate however to have a wonderful ray of sunlight beam through a thick canopy to light up the head of one of the adults. The rest of the image contrasted in shade made for a great chance to capitalise on light.

A keen eye, a little patience and the rest will unfold in front of you.

Keep an eye on the blog for more special photographs from our field guides and catch up on our monthly Wildlife Reports for more.

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Highlights from our Wildlife Reports

August 20, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Kruger National Park,Lamai,Sabi Sand,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

Every month, field guides from the five regions in which Singita has lodges and camps, send us first-hand reports from the bushveld. These delightful wildlife journals describe the recent animal activities, unusual game-spotting, local birdlife  and seasonal shifts in the landscape, accompanied by spectacular photographs. Here is a selection of snaps from some recent diaries for you to enjoy:

Singita Kruger National Park

sknp

Over the last month we had a total of 29 leopard sightings, but what was impressive was not the number of sightings, but rather the quality of sightings that we experienced. One sighting that stands out in particular of the Sticky Thorn female and her two cubs was when they were feeding off an African rock python that she had caught and hoisted into a large leadwood tree. It made for outstanding viewing!

Report by Nick du Plessis. Photos by Nick du Plessis and Ross Couper.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Kruger National Park Wildlife Report July 2013

Singita Sabi Sand

sss

After months of huge anticipation and many attempts at getting a glimpse at these young cubs, the day finally arrived, and boy did I soak in all the goodness! To see eight little bundles of lion fluff bounding towards your vehicle across the white beach-like sand of the aptly named Sand River is an absolute dream come true. These lion cubs remained well hidden within the thickets along the banks of the river for many weeks, a useful method of protecting them, especially in the absence of their mothers. We would get a glimpse of a cub every now and then, but to see all of them right there in the open was incredible.

Report and photos by Marlon du Toit.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report July 2013

Singita Pamushana

sp

We were watching a small bachelor group of elephants when we noticed one of the bulls had a most impressive set of tusks. He was not a big elephant but his ivory was magnificent. He seemed to know that he needed to be cautious and made a hopeless and very funny attempt to hide behind a bush. As we were watching him a large shadow loomed to our right. A much larger bull with small tusks came to act as a buffer and make sure we meant no harm to him or his ‘brother’.

Report and photos by Jenny Hishin.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report July 2013

Singita Grumeti

sgr

The arrival of The Great Migration on the 1st of June kicked off what would prove to be a very exciting month for viewing wildlife at Singita Grumeti. On the first day, thousands of wildebeest began arriving from the southeast, making their way north and west. They surrounded Faru Faru Lodge and the Nyati plains, and after about ten days were spread across nearly all of Singita Grumeti, from Faru Faru Lodge in the east, to the central Sasakwa plains below Sasakwa Lodge, and all the way west past Sabora Tented Camp. They milled about grazing for about four or five days and then they began to move, forming never ending lines heading back east again and then north through Ikorongo.

Report and photos by Ryan Schmitt and Lizzie Hamrick. This photo by Saitoti Ole Kuwai.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Grumeti Wildlife Report June 2013

Singita Lamai

sl

The rains have held off this month, giving the area a chance to dry up a bit and colours to change. This, combined with a hot easterly wind, has turned the palette from all shades of green to burnt amber, ochre and dark browns with just a pale under-shading of green to remind us of what was, and what is, to come. The plains east of us have been exceptionally productive over the month, with regular sightings of elephants, buffalos, rhinos, lions and plains game. Hyenas pass the heat of the day lying in the little pools of water in the now almost dry drainage lines, and cheetahs stalk the plains on their long legs, cubs in tow, as they search for something to chase down and eat.

Report and photos by Lee Bennett.
See more wildlife reports from Singita Lamai.

Visit the Wildlife Reports section on our website to catch up on more recent reports, and keep in touch with us by subscribing to our newsletter using the box on the right.

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