Category Archives: Sabi Sand

Maternal Instinct

February 26, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

Leopard at Singita Sabi Sand

Francois Fourie, Field Guide at Singita Sabi Sand, had the great fortune of spotting the female Ravenscourt leopard last week, while in action defending her young. The Sabi Sand Reserve is well known for frequent leopard sightings (as well as a general diversity of game), since the big cats are attracted to the camouflage afforded them by the lush riverine flora. You can read regular updates on wildlife sightings in the area by following our fascinating monthly Guides’ Diaries.

It was once again one of those mornings that will stick with me forever. We are so privileged to wake up in this amazing place every day and get to see such incredible things; this morning just proved that we really have the best job in world.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

We headed out from the lodge with our main aim being to spot a leopard. We headed south and not even ten minutes into the excursion, our tracker Sandile saw the spoor of a female leopard and her cub. We knew she must be in the area because there had been a report that she had killed a young impala lamb the day before. She wasn’t on the site of the kill, instead there were plenty of hyena tracks and a drag mark suggesting that she lost her lamb to a hungry pack.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

We followed the fresh tracks and about 15 minutes later we found her and the cub with another impala lamb hoisted in a marula tree. Lurking hopefully at the base of the tree was an opportunistic hyena, while the Ravenscourt female lay not too far from the tree keeping a wary eye on the predator. Suddenly the cub decided to come down from his perch and with that motion the hyena promptly got to his feet, most likely assuming that the leopard had dropped the kill.  In the blink of an eye, the protective female was up and flying to attack the hyena that was threatening her cub, successfully warding him off. It was amazing to see how quickly and naturally her mothering instinct kicked in within a matter of seconds and I will remember it along with some of the greatest moments experienced in the bush.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

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Sweet Tooth: Giraffe Cinnamon Doughnuts

February 08, 2013 - Cuisine,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Ebony Lodge

Giraffe cinnamon doughnuts

Late afternoon at Singita Ebony Lodge

There is something magical about the experience of taking what would otherwise be a formal event, such as afternoon tea, and giving it a fresh twist with an African-inspired menu and a unique setting. Tea at Singita Ebony Lodge is a very special occasion, not least of all because it is often served on the vast wooden deck overlooking the Sand River, where it’s not uncommon to see elephant, buffalo and antelope grazing only metres away. The lodge itself has the feeling of a congenial family home, filled with sumptuous coziness that tempts you into relaxation and reflection.

Every day our unique team of pastry chefs lay on a delectable spread of the finest hand-crafted cakes, sandwiches, tarts and scones, along with homemade lemonade and iced coffee. These sweet and savoury snacks are also served with a selection of exotic teas from all over the world, including Japanese TWG Emperor Sencha, Moroccan mint leaf, Bourbon vanilla black and French Earl Grey. One of Singita Ebony Lodge’s signature teatime treats is “giraffe” cinnamon doughnuts, the recipe for which chef Christien has kindly shared below.

Ingredients – what you’ll need:
2 cups cake flour
1 packet dried yeast
1/8 cup sugar
1 egg
70g butter
pinch of salt
¾ cup warm milk
cinnamon sugar, for dusting

Method – what to do:
Place all of the ingredients (except the cinnamon sugar) in a freestanding mixer with a paddle attachment. On a medium speed, allow the machine to work the mixture until the dough forms a ball around the paddle and starts to slap the sides of the bowl.
Wrap the bowl and leave to rise until double in size.
Sprinkle your work surface with some flour and scrape the dough out. Fold the dough in half and press down lightly, then fold again.
Roll the dough out to a thickness of 0.8cm and cut into desired shapes.
Fry them in small batches in hot oil (170°C) until golden brown on both sides.
Place on paper towel to cool down.
Once cool to touch, roll the doughnuts in cinnamon sugar and serve.

Have you tried any of Christien’s other recipes? Please let us know if you have and send us your photos – we would love to see! Here’s a handy online volume converter if you need to adjust the metric measurements.

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Sweet Tooth: Rooibos Shortbread

January 25, 2013 - Cuisine,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge

A morning bush stop at Singita Sabi Sand

The morning bush stop during the course of an early game drive is often the highlight of the day, and not just because of the game viewing! Our guests are treated to a feast crafted by Singita’s hard-working pastry chefs; white chocolate granola bars, caramel apple brownies, fresh fruit skewers and rooibos shortbread. The sight of a spectacular African sunrise, the smell of freshly-brewed coffee, the sound of the bush coming to life and the crisp morning breeze combine to form an enduring memory for those lucky enough to experience it.

A morning bush stop at Singita Sabi Sand

Recreating such a moment in the rush and bustle of daily life can be truly soul-soothing so why not try your hand at making Singita Sabi Sand‘s signature rooibos shortbread at home? Rooibos (or “red bush”) is a herbal tea indigenous to South Africa and is extremely high in antioxidants and contains no caffeine. Chef Christien van der Westhuizen shares a simple recipe for making this African twist on a tea-time classic (makes approximately 60 portions):

Ingredients – what you need:

600g butter
400g castor sugar
800g cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 bag rooibos tea

Method – what to do:

Preheat the oven to 160ºC and line a 30x20cm baking tray with greaseproof paper
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until white and fluffy
Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix to combine.
Flatten the dough lightly into tray and bake for 25 – 30 minutes
Remove from oven and sprinkle with ¼ cup castor sugar
Cut into squares or circles when cool

Enjoy!

The bush stop snack table

The bush stop snack table

Did you see Christien’s recipe for buttermilk scones? Here’s a handy online volume converter if you need to adjust the metric measurements. Don’t forget to check back soon for more from the kitchen team at Singita Boulders Lodge.

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From Cellar to Sideboard: Wine at Singita

January 23, 2013 - Accommodation,Cuisine,Experience,Kruger National Park,Sabi Sand,Singita,Singita Grumeti,Singita Pamushana Lodge

Samp risotto served with white wine at Singita Kruger National Park

Attention to every detail of the Singita experience, including the pairing of food and wine, is just another way that we aim to delight our guests. Our team of wine procurers and sommeliers are consummate professionals in their field and have the enviable task of sourcing and managing hundreds of top-end wines for our highly discerning guests.

Singita Premier Wine is the department dedicated to sourcing and supplying wines for all the Singita properties, and has been in operation for more than a decade. It is headed up by François Rautenbach, who manages the selection, purchase and temperature-controlled maturation and distribution of each and every wine. He also oversees the service of the wines, from hosting informal wine tastings with guests, to managing an in-house sommelier apprenticeship program along with the managers at each lodge.

An evening wine tasting in the bush at Singita Sabi Sand

Each property shares a primary wine list, but it is tweaked with additional wines or older vintages to suit each lodge on the property. On average, a Singita wine list has in excess of 180 wines, many of them at least five years old. “In compiling our lists, we try to include not only unique wines but also lesser known producers to ensure a sense of adventure and newness,” says François.

Sommeliers are on hand at all the lodges, handpicked not only for their wine knowledge, personality and exposure to travel, but also for their love of the African bush. Over the years, many of Singita’s sommeliers have been qualified winemakers mentored by François to guide guests through several vineyards, vintages and cultivars to enhance their knowledge and appreciation of South African wines.

François Rautenbach

It was a logical step to establish Singita Premier Wine Direct, a unique guest service that makes South African wines available as personally selected consignments to take home or to be shipped door-to-door anywhere in the world.  Guests either choose to take their wine with them as carry-on baggage, using specially produced re-usable Singita Poly-bags, or it is sent as an export wine consignment. Exports account for a remarkable 30 percent of what Singita purchases.

“Singita Premier Wine Direct is available to current, past and future Singita guests, but usually comes into play when specific wines have been enjoyed in camp. Key to the service is developing a personal guest wine profile of wines enjoyed and purchased, so that we can offer future wine selections geared to specific preference,” explains François.

Expanding and tailor-making a world-class wine service across the collection of Singita lodges and camps is a constant challenge, but one which François relishes almost as much as mentoring his growing team of sommeliers.

The wine cellar at Singita Lebombo Lodge

For more information or to order wine through Singita Premier Wine Direct please contact us at premierwine@singita.com.

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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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