Category Archives: Singita Ebony Lodge

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt

August 19, 2014 - Did You Know?,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Castleton,Singita Ebony Lodge

Close to the Western boundary of the Singita Sabi Sand private game reserve is Harry’s Pan, a shallow, glassy lake fringed with reeds. It is on a portion of land purchased from the Lewis family in 1992 and features an unusual landmark – a rusting old car atop a termite hill overlooking the lake. Former Singita Field Guide James Crookes recounts the story:

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

The pan was originally named Pam Pam Dam, after Mrs Lewis’ old English Sheepdog, who regularly played in the water of the dam. After Pam Pam died, Mrs Lewis bought a Rhodesian Ridgeback cross Boxer and named him Robin Hood, or Rob for short.

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

When driving past the pan, one immediately notices the old DKW Auto Union jeep that is perched on top of a termite mound beneath a weeping boer bean tree. Harry Gorman, once the caretaker of the Lewis’ portion of the Ravenscourt property, tells us how Rob had a particular affinity for the vehicle: “He claimed the back seat of the DKW for himself and acted as if he owned the jeep; growling, snarling and even biting anyone that tried to push it. Mrs Lewis had to control Rob if strangers tried to get into the jeep and if ever the engine was started, no matter where he was, Rob would come running and join in the ride.”

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

Two days after the Lewis’ left for a holiday in France in October 1975, Rob died at an animal hospital in Johannesburg, where he was being treated for cancer. Mr Lewis phoned Harry Gorman and instructed him to go to Johannesburg and collect Rob’s body, together with his cushions, mattress and blankets. Harry was also to collect the box of leftover medicine, chains and Rob’s leash, made of Kangaroo skin with a silver clip and handle. All of this was to be buried together with the dog at Pam Pam Dam underneath the DKW Auto Union jeep, which was still in perfect working order at the time.

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

When Mrs Lewis next visited Ravenscourt Ranch, she fitted a small brass plaque to the weeping boer bean tree, which read: “Robin Hood of Ravenscourt, our beloved ‘Rob’, March 1964 – October 1975”. This plaque can still be seen today on the tree alongside the jeep.

Robin Hood of Ravenscourt | Singita Sabi Sand

Pam Pam dam has since become known as Harry’s Pan, largely due to the involvement of Harry Gorman in the story of this section of the Ravenscourt property, as well as the proximity of this pan to his home.

Ravenscourt Ranch is the original name of a plot of land purchased by the Bailes family which now forms part of Singita Sabi Sand, a privately owned game reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

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A Love for Leopards

April 02, 2014 - Experience,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Ebony Lodge,Wildlife

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

As with many South Africans, I grew up visiting game reserves fairly regularly, and going on camping trips in remote locations with my family during school holidays. I completely took for granted that, at a fairly young age, I had seen such incredible creatures as lions and elephants at close proximity, and in their natural habitat.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

It was only a couple of years ago when I visited the Kruger National Park for the first time that I realised that for all my childhood game-spotting, I had never seen a leopard in the wild. Their feline grace, exquisite colouring and enigmatic nature totally captivate me, and we spent a week scouring the bushes for these elusive spotted cats but to no avail.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

In January I was lucky enough to visit Singita Sabi Sand for the first time and was determined to track down a leopard. James and Leon, my tracking-and-guiding team, were duly briefed and we set off into the wakening bush on the first morning game drive in search of one of the area’s resident leopards. There are a number of handsome males with territories that traverse Singita’s concession in the Sabi Sand; Nyaleti, Ravenscourt and Khashane among them. They are regularly featured in the guides’ Wildlife Reports from the region and have even been spotted in and around the lodges themselves!

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

It was an absolute thrill an hour later to discover a male leopard walking casually through the bush in front of our vehicle. We followed him through the undergrowth for a short while, and watched him leap silently into a nearby ebony tree, where he used the height of the branches to get a better view of the surrounding area. We sat in the vehicle and watched him quietly for a few moments, astounded by his beauty.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

I was lucky enough to have two more leopard sightings in as many days at Singita Sabi Sand; both equally breathtaking. It was an experience that rendered me quite speechless and something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Leopards at Singita Sabi Sand

All photos by field guide Ross Couper. Text by blog manager Julia da Silva.

Singita Sabi Sand is a privately owned game reserve in the Sabi Sand Reserve, adjacent to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Spanning more than 45,000 acres, Singita Sabi Sand is renowned for high concentrations of big game and frequent leopard sightings.

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Christmas Continues at Singita Ebony Lodge

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

Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

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

Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

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

Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

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

Red Velvet Cake Recipe | Singita Ebony Lodge

Ingredients – what you will need:

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

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

Method – what to do:

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

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

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An African Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

December 19, 2013 - Singita Ebony Lodge

An African Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

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

An African Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

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

An African Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

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

An African Christmas at Singita Ebony Lodge

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

ebony_6

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

Christmas Baking: Lamingtons | Singita

Ingredients – what you will need:

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

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

Method – what to do:

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

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

Christmas Baking: Lamingtons | Singita

Christmas Baking: Lamingtons | Singita

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

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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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Travel + Leisure World’s Best Hotels 2013

July 04, 2013 - Awards,Kruger National Park,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Ebony Lodge,Singita Lebombo Lodge

Travel + Leisure World's Best Hotel Awards 2013

Singita has a proud history with the annual Travel + Leisure Magazine World’s Best Hotels Awards, consistently placing multiple lodges in the top ten, thanks to the votes from their discerning readers. We are thrilled to announce that this year is no different! For T+L’s 18th poll, Singita Kruger National Park was awarded third place, with its sister property, Singita Sabi Sand coming in at number ten.

Singita Lebombo Lodge

Singita Lebombo Lodge

Singita Lebombo Lodge

Singita’s concession in the Kruger National Park features two beautiful lodges with treetop suites and riverside rooms. Our mission in this area is to create and maintain a balance between conservation, community development, and ecotourism. Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge have been built with this ideal in mind and both integrate the ‘touch the earth lightly’ philosophy into every aspect of their daily operations.

Singita Sweni Lodge

Singita Sweni Lodge

Singita Sweni Lodge

Glass-walled Lebombo overlooks the plains and the Lebombo Mountain Range, while Sweni is nestled among trees along the Sweni River. Join the twice-daily game drives and request a guided walk for a good chance of sighting lions, zebras, giraffes and impalas.

Singita Ebony Lodge

Singita Ebony Lodge

Spanning more than 45 000 acres, Singita Sabi Sand is renowned for high concentrations of big game and frequent leopard sightings. As the first jewel in Singita’s crown, Singita Ebony Lodge stands steadfast amongst enormous trees on the banks of the Sand River. A blend of European heritage and African boldness welcomes visitors with the down-to-earth warmth of a much-loved family home. Spacious interiors are styled with a varied mix of rich colours, and inviting textures and layers, making Singita Ebony Lodge an idyllic retreat.

Singita Boulders Lodge

Singita Boulders Lodge

Nearby Singita Boulders Lodge is a celebration of the tranquility, space, and light which flows throughout this incredibly vast area. Inspired by the geometry of the boulders on which it rests, the lodge is an inviting oasis where organic interiors integrate seamlessly with the raw African beauty outside. Singita Boulders Lodge is perfectly at home in its pristine setting and whether through walls of glass or open-air areas, the surrounding landscape and animals can be seen and enjoyed from every angle, making for a truly immersive safari experience.

Please visit the Press section of our website for more detail on recent awards.

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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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