Category Archives: Sabi Sand

Sweet Tooth: Buttermilk Scones

January 11, 2013 - Cuisine,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge

Breakfast at Singita Boulders Lodge

The talented team of pastry chefs at Singita Boulders Lodge in the Sabi Sand private reserve have quite a job producing a banquet of tasty treats for our guests in the relative isolation of the African bush. Visitors to the lodge are spoiled for choice throughout the day including morning game drive bush stops, breakfast-time pastries, a sumptuous spread for afternoon tea and delectable after-dinner desserts. Using local ingredients and inspired by the regional cuisine, the uniqueness of these kitchen creations is matched only by the spectacular setting with sweeping views of the Sand River.

Pastry chef at Singita Boulders Lodge

Breakfast in the bush is a particular highlight, and features an array of home bakes; wholewheat cranberry and pumpkin seed muffins, peach and almond Danish pastries, crispy croissants, hand-made granola and fresh-out-of-the-oven breads. Served with freshly-squeezed juices and steaming hot coffee, these early-morning feasts are always a big hit. Chef Christien van der Westhuizen has kindly shared her recipe for the best buttermilk scones which are a highlight of the menu:

Ingredients – what you need:

500g sifted flour
125g cold butter
25g baking powder
125g sugar
280ml buttermilk
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Method – what to do:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
Rub together all the dry ingredients (incl. the butter) with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
Add the milk and lightly mix together (we suggest using a fork), being careful not to over mix as the dough will get tough
Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3cm and cut into your desired shape
Brush the top of each scone lightly with egg wash
Bake for approx. 10-15min until golden brown

Christien will be sharing more recipes and photos with us over the next few weeks so be sure to check back soon. If you need to adjust the metric measurements, here’s a handy online volume converter.

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Man’s best friend comes to the rescue of rhinos

November 16, 2012 - Conservation,Environment,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

From the very beginning, the heart of Singita’s philisophy has been the balance of conservation with the development of communities surrounding the reserves. Each Singita lodge employs a dedicated conservation team focused exclusively on preserving the land and protecting wildlife. The team at Singita Sabi Sand has taken that principle a step further and introduced the use of highly trained tracker dogs in their anti-poaching units.

Dogs in the Field

“The rhino plight is obviously not just our concern, but a conservation issue on a national and global scale,” says Mark Broodryk, Head Guide at Singita Sabi Sand. “Making an impact on current poaching statistics – almost two rhino have been poached per day so far in 2012 – is a daunting task, but we’re up for the challenge”.

Following rhino poaching incidents in the Sabi Sand earlier this year, Dave Wright, head of conservation for the past 32 years, explains that they had reached a point where “we needed a professional, dedicated, in-house anti-poaching unit to secure our own property”.

Rhino | Singita Sabi Sand

So began an initiative between Singita and K9 Conservation, specialists in counteracting illegal hunting and wildlife trade through the use of highly trained tracker dog units. Explains Mark Broodryk: “The biggest advantage of dogs is that they track using their keen sense of smell and thus are extremely effective – even tracking in pitch darkness. A major part of the success of the K9 operation is their presence in the area.” Once trained dogs are deployed into an area, the news quickly spreads amongst poachers and criminal syndicates and the level and frequency of poaching incidents and related crime is shown to drop dramatically.

Rhino | Singita Sabi Sand

The dogs patrol day and night, seven days a week, to protect the wildlife that inhabits the reserve. Population numbers on the reserve are constantly monitored, as well as the movements of the animals. Any unusual activity, such as a congregation of vultures in a specific location, is logged and reported immediately.

We are extremely proud that Singita’s proactive anti-poaching initiative is already proving its worth, and that it has the potential to become a successful model for other wildlife conservation areas.

Baby Rhino | Singita Sabi Sand

You can find out more about the wildlife at Singita Sabi Sand by reading one of our recent Guides’ Diaries from the area.

Thanks to talented photographer and Singita field guide Marlon du Toit for the beautiful rhino photos.

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Shooting in Monochrome – Rhino Road

November 05, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

There is a term photographers use called “leading lines”. This refers to a line cutting through an image, such as a road, fence or river. It draws the viewer into the image and, if done correctly, can tell a great story. This image has meaning to me because I feel it shows the hard road rhinos have ahead of them, fighting a lonely and difficult battle against poaching. This single rhino on a winding road portrays that to me.

Once again, the clarity slider came into effect here and it gives great texture to dark-skinned animals. I try to crop my images as little as possible as to not lose size and quality, and this is an important factor to consider. Always try and think about the final image you want as you take it, and avoid cropping as much as possible in post processing.

I lightened the road in the foreground to give more emphasis to the rhino, and decided not to darken the edges as I wanted to emphasize the sense of space and isolation of the subject. The motion in the front left leg is important as it shows the rhino is active and busy walking down the long and winding path. All these subtle elements combine to make a big, sometimes subconscious, difference in the end.

Rhino Road by Marlon du Toit

Marlon du Toit thrives on adventure and has a deep connection with Africa and its beauty. Growing up near the Kruger National Park he was immersed in nature from a young age and is now a professional field guide at Singita Sabi Sand.

His eye for capturing split-second moments on camera is astonishing, and after years behind the lens, we thought we would give our readers some of his ideas for taking the perfect wildlife photograph when out in the bush. This is the last post in this particular series, but please check back regularly for more of Marlon’s wonderful photographs and expert advice.

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Shooting in Monochrome – The Big Tusker

October 26, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

I am in love with large elephant bulls with beautiful wide tusks. These old bulls are rather “easy” to photograph, as they tend to be more relaxed than the younger bulls. They just have this presence about them and if you can capture that you would have done well. To get this particular shot I had to get close, real close. It was shot with a 16-35mm lens and to create that slightly out of proportionate effect you need to be close. Now don’t go out there and have yourself trampled by a big ellie! Always be careful when in close proximity to these large animals.

Everything works for me in this image. Once again it was a cloudy day and it brought out the texture and folds in the elephant’s skin and trunk. I brushed the elephant separately and used a lot of clarity and contrast on him to emphasize that without making it look too unnatural. The scratches on his ears simply add character and I love it. I also appreciate how the tusks push forward almost giving you the feeling of being stabbed in the eye! That is thanks to being near to my subject with a wide angle lens.

The sky is also important to me. Notice how on the original image below you don’t notice much in terms of cloud cover. Thanks to shooting in RAW format I managed to gain back detail in the sky, something you will not be able to do when shooting in JPEG. This is important to consider as you will not get the best of your images in JPEG format. RAW simply is the way to go and will allow you more freedom when processing. Overall I am absolutely in awe of the “largeness” of the big bull as he fills the frame. It shows power and absolutely screams of Africa.

Marlon du Toit thrives on adventure and has a deep connection with Africa and its beauty. Growing up near the Kruger National Park he was immersed in nature from a young age and is now a professional field guide at Singita Sabi Sand.

His eye for capturing split-second moments on camera is astonishing, and after years behind the lens, we thought we would give our readers some of his ideas for taking the perfect wildlife photograph when out in the bush. Follow the Singita blog for more of Marlon’s tips for black and white photography in the wild.

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Shooting in Monochrome – Leopard Portrait

October 19, 2012 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

I absolutely love eyes. It’s said that eyes are the windows to the soul and I believe it also applies to animals. Wherever possible, always try and capture the eyes, the essence of that animal. It will immediately capture the viewer and engage them.  It also adds that human element or emotion and will make the world of difference. In Lightroom you can isolate the various colours from oranges to blues and brighten or darken them with striking results. Once again the clean background here is essential. I darkened the blue background to make this female leopard stand out more. Her whiskers are a key element and it shows her focus as they stand out against that clean background. I used a fill-brush to work on her exclusively and brought her out with highlights and clarity sliders. The eyes I worked on separately and tried as best to lighten them and to create that glassy feel.

This photograph was taken in the last light of the day with a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second, and at 1600ISO. It was shot hand held with a 400 2.8, at an aperture of f/2.8. This is often the time most people will pack their gear away but if you can manage to capture a few more images you will be pleased at the texture and detail in this kind of light. It is perfect for conversions to black and white. Once again I darkened the edges a little to emphasize this animal and her beautiful posture.

Marlon du Toit thrives on adventure and has a deep connection with Africa and its beauty. Growing up near the Kruger National Park he was immersed in nature from a young age and is now a professional field guide at Singita Sabi Sand.

His eye for capturing split-second moments on camera is astonishing, and after years behind the lens, we thought we would give our readers some of his ideas for taking the perfect wildlife photograph when out in the bush. Follow the Singita blog for more of Marlon’s tips for black and white photography in the wild.

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Shooting in Monochrome

October 02, 2012 - Experience,Kruger National Park,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

Marlon du Toit thrives on adventure and has a deep connection with Africa and its beauty. Growing up near the Kruger National Park he was immersed in nature from a young age and is now a professional field guide at Singita Sabi Sand.

His eye for capturing split-second moments on camera is astonishing, and after years behind the lens, we thought we would give our readers some of his ideas for taking the perfect wildlife photograph when out in the bush. Follow the Singita blog for Marlon’s upcoming articles.

Black and white photography has become a little “washed-out” as of late, excuse the pun. Great photographers such as Nick Brandt have created an epidemic by creating fine-art masterpieces in black and white, and it seems that many are now going down that same route and failing hopelessly. I don’t consider myself the best monochrome photographer out there by any stretch, but I do believe that I have an eye to know whether it will work or not. Simply put, there is more to a black and white image than the simple click of a button. By taking a little time to process your image you can create something breathtaking.

The kind of software you utilize makes a world of difference. The “black and white” button on iPhoto may be fine for your desktop background picture, but if you want something more impressive, perhaps an image for your wall, you need to go bigger. I make use of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. It is an amazing program and will help you immensely. It is easy to figure out and will allow for stunning monochrome images in a short amount of time.

In this upcoming blog article series I will go through 5 of my recent images and explain why I selected them specifically, and why I feel they work in monochrome. The larger of the two images is the final product and the smaller is the original RAW image imply converted to black and white.

A monochrome image often needs to be punchy. You can use your creative freedom to the maximum here as long as you stick to basic principles, such as still having exposure in check, and that your images are nice and sharp. In Lightroom I use a slider called “Clarity” a lot. It gives your image a beautiful look as it deepens the dark tones and highlights the lighter parts. The finish is amazing and you will love it. Contrast plays a huge role here and you need to really deepen the darker tones. It adds dynamic to your image and creates a three-dimensional feel. In Lightroom there’s also a fill-in brush. This allows you to edit specific areas in your image such as, only the face, or only the background. I make use of this tool often and it helps me create dynamic images in monochrome. There are many more techniques and hopefully my comments on the photographs in this series will explain a few more things for you. These are only merely pointers in the right direction and by no means the be-all and end-all of monochrome photography. I hope it helps…keep visiting this blog space – Marlon du Toit.

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Wonders of the Bush

September 11, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

One needs to be careful not to get too caught up in chasing down the big five; this can be both frustrating and very time consuming.  Take time, stop, and listen, or you could miss the sound of the honey guide’s call directing its hungry companion to a sticky feast, or forgo a sighting of nature’s waste army, the humble dung beetle with its polished armour.

Often, when you stop pursuing certain animals, they have the uncanny ability to somehow find you, usually at the most unexpected moments. This being said, tracking is one of the most exciting and crucial aspects about working in the bush. It plays a huge role in both the rangers’ and trackers’ daily routine. The tracker that I have most often worked with, Given Mhlongo, would get off the vehicle at every opportunity. I could see it in his eyes, the surge of adrenalin when we came across a fresh set of lion tracks.  There is always the exhilarating rush of tracking a potentially dangerous animal and the satisfaction of eventually locating it.

The African bush has plenty to offer, a spectacle through a magnified lens: from the herds of impala, the impatient baboons, the shy zebras, to the sun-worshiping reptiles and insects that parade the scorched earth. Even something as simple as watching the sunset set the sky ablaze accompanied by the soft, whistling bird song is a moment to be forever lodged in the memory bank.

Spending time in the bush is an unforgettable experience and it is interesting how Sinigta guests very quickly adapt and are able to spot things that would have been impossible to see on the first day of their safari.  I am often astounded how people from an urban environment are able to connect with the bush and improve their own knowledge. This is when things become interesting and one begins to understand the more discreet behaviour traits of certain species on closer inspection.

The Sabi Sand area is known for its big five sightings, but what really struck me on this last trip was the abundance and diversity of all species from the birds to the large herds of antelope and elusive reptiles. We as guides often joke that it is sometimes harder to find a common zebra then a shy leopard in the Sabi Sand region.   Here, not only were we able to locate and come face to face with the big five but were also able to experience Africa in its vast, untouched glory that really impacts you; to dine at the buffet of nature’s offerings

All images and commentary by James Suter – Field Guide who is trekking across Singita reserves this year to document wildlife and their activities.

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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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