Category Archives: Wildlife

Beekeeping for Biodiversity

April 04, 2014 - Community Development,Conservation,Did You Know?,Singita Grumeti,The Grumeti Fund,Wildlife

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

There has been much written about the plight of bees on a global scale, and the disastrous impact their dwindling populations could have on commercial agriculture and food production. Looking closer to home, the conservation of bees in particular is critical to the survival of local plant life; a crucial element of sustainable environmental conservation and biodiversity enrichment.

At Singita Grumeti in Tanzania, through the Grumeti Fund and the local outreach programme, beekeeping projects have been promoted in local communities since 2010, who in turn earn an income from the sale of honey. This way, the community is supported while the bees’ natural habitat is preserved, and serves as a great example of how conservation and community development are integrally connected.

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

To date, seven beekeeping groups and various individuals and families have become involved in the project, and are now responsible for 744 beehives. Among the most successful groups is the Bonchugu Community, under the thoughtful leadership of Amos Matiku. He is described as an energetic, enthusiastic and a results-oriented person who never gives up.

“I first heard about the beekeeping project from a Community Outreach officer in 2011 and although skeptical at first, eventually myself and nine others in the community applied to join the project,” Amos says.

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

It started with 20 hives, and members had to contribute 33% of the cost of running each hive, with the Grumeti Fund providing all necessary support needed for the project. In a very short time, the hives were stocked with bees and the members were able to see the fruits of their labour. In June 2012, the group celebrated their first harvest, and just 2 days laters were able to sell all the honey. The income generated covered the initial contribution of each member and they decided as a group to reinvest the profits in order to grow the project.

33 more hives were added, and in 2013, their harvest was the most successful in the whole Serengeti, which afforded them to opportunity to attend an international exhibition in Dar es Salaam. Their organic acacia honey was the show’s bestseller and allowed them to raise additional funds for the project. The group was also invited to attend another regional exhibition and are deservedly proud of their achievements so far.

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

The Grumeti Fund also facilitates training for the group, helping them to stay abreast of the latest in beekeeping technology. Amos says: “Through this programme, we have realised the impact conservation can have on all our lives. The acacia forests which were previously degraded are now flourishing with new growth. Beekeeping has created employment and income for local families, while helping to conserve our land and its wildlife.”

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

The keeping of beehives helps to maintain riparian zones, natural springs, and remnant forest and bush areas as these are the the optimal habitat for the bees. The presence of the hives also prevents timber and firewood harvesting in those areas, and discourages elephants (they don’t like bees!) from trampling the nearby farmland and destroying the crops.

In 2002, the Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund, a not-for-profit organisation, was granted the right to manage and conserve 350,000 acres, for the benefit of Tanzania, Africa and the world. Four years later, Singita took over the management of the property, at the request of the concessionaire and began the task of generating, via low impact tourism, the funds necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the reserve through conservation and community partnerships.

 If you would like more information, please contact Pam Richardson, Singita’s Group HR and Community Development Manager.

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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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Highlights from our Wildlife Reports

February 13, 2014 - Kruger National Park,Sabi Sand,Singita Grumeti,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

One of the most popular features of our website is the monthly Wildlife Reports, penned by Singita’s field guides and including many of their incredible photos from twice-daily game drives with guests. These journals cover recent wildlife sightings, seasonal changes in the local flora, birding highlights and stunning landscape shots from all five regions in which Singita has lodges and camps. Here is a selection of photos from some recent entries for you to enjoy:

Wildlife Reports Highlights | Singita

Singita Kruger National Park
Elephants in the Kruger National Park must be some of the most dynamic landscapers to this environment and a safari would simply not be complete without seeing one of these colossal giants strutting its stuff. These giants move prodigious distances over a large home range area rather than marking and protecting a territory, – and this makes sightings of them unpredictable and erratic. Over the past month we had an extraordinary total of 89 sightings, with at least two sightings per day. Even with the huge number of elephants scattered throughout the park and with years of research, theories and estimates on these mythical beasts, so much is still unknown about the species.

Report by Deirdre Opie, Danie Vermeulen, Jani Lourens & Nick du Plessis. Photo by Nick du Plessis. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Kruger National Park Wildlife Report December 2013

Wildlife Reports Highlights | Singita

Singita Sabi Sand
The Nyaleti male had made his way up the bank of the river and appeared in front of us. He casually walked along the bank until he reached a couple of big boulders. Instead of walking around them, he promptly hopped from boulder to boulder all the way across the river to the other side. (Watch the video – http://youtu.be/jMxeZEZGjdQ) We followed him slowly for about five minutes
before a herd of impala struck his interest. We stopped and watched from a distance as he stalked the herd.

Report by Dylan Brandt, Ross Couper, Daniella Kueck, Leon Van Wyk, Jon Morgan and François Fourie. Photographs on location by Ross Couper, François Fourie and Jon Morgan. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report January 2014

Wildlife Reports Highlights | Singita

Singita Pamushana
This first photograph was taken during mid 2011, of a very young rhino calf, that kept charging an old rubbing post, in a very funny case of mistaken identity – the calf seemed to think the stump was a challenging intruder. White rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) have a long gestation of 16 months. Calves stay with their mother for 2 – 3 years. It’s now 2.5 years since the first photo was taken and you can see how much the calf has grown – its mother is on the right in the second photo, and the calf dominates the third photo.

Report written and photographed by Jenny Hishin. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report January 2014

Wildlife Reports Highlights | Singita

Singita Grumeti
By early to mid December, the migratory herds would normally be nearing the short grass plains of Ndutu in the southern-most part of the Serengeti. Ndutu is the calving site for the wildebeest and they will typically spend a few months in the area, giving time for the new babies to build up their strength before they begin their arduous journey north. Calves can be expected anywhere from late December to early February, but, like with all things, some babies come earlier! Two early babies were spotted amongst the herds here, and it’s hard to say at such a young age whether they will survive the southern trek to Ndutu.

Report by Lizzie Hamrick with photographs by Ryan Schmitt and Saitoti Ole Kuwai. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Grumeti Wildlife Report December 2013

Wildlife Reports Highlights | Singita

Singita Lamai
This mountainous horizon marking the border between Kenya and Tanzania is one of the most recognizable features of the Lamai area. It also provides a beautiful background for wildlife photos taken by our field guides.

Report by By Lizzie Hamrick with photographs by Mishi Mtili, Saitoti Ole Kuwai and Eugen Shao. Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Lamai Wildlife Report December 2013

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Field Guide Favourites: Best of 2013

January 28, 2014 - Africa,Conservation,Environment,Experience,Safari,Wildlife

The African continent is captivating for many reasons; exotic landscapes, diverse cultures and astounding natural beauty among them. A rich and varied wildlife population is no doubt the highlight for many visitors to Africa, with many unique and mysterious species inhabiting our jungles and grasslands. It is critical that the bio-diversity of this land is protected and conserved, which is why Singita’s core vision is to preserve large tracts of wilderness in Africa for future generations with hands-on conservation teams on each property.

The experienced and highly-skilled Singita field guides play a critical role in this process by educating guests about the importance of conservation and instilling in them a deep sense of appreciation for our natural environment. Their beautiful photos from twice-daily game drives have become an extremely popular feature of the social media accounts and are an inspiration to all members of the Singita family. Here, they have selected their favourites from 2013 for you to enjoy:

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

Best wildlife photos of 2013 | Singita

bestof2013new_11

Catch up on our monthly Wildlife Reports and like our Facebook page for first-hand ranger reports straight from the bushveld.

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Wildlife Census 2013 in Tanzania

December 27, 2013 - Conservation,Conservation,Did You Know?,Environment,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Sustainable Conservation,Wildlife

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

Conservation has always been pivotal to Singita’s existence, as it lives hand-in-hand with Singita’s other two operating principles; ecotourism and community development. We believe it’s the responsible way to maintain and extend the sustainability of the reserves under our care. As we reflect on the successes of the past year, it seems fitting to report on the positive findings of a recent census that took place at Singita Grumeti earlier in 2013.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

The hands-on conservation teams on each property are committed to protecting, maintaining and enhancing the land and its fauna and flora. For example, Singita Grumeti has as one of its goals the rehabilitation of the wildlife populations of Grumeti and Ikorongo Game Reserves and associated wildlife management areas in the Serengeti, Tanzania. Over the last eight years, Singita Grumeti has made a significant investment into the protection of wildlife in the area as well as the infrastructure required to support ecotourism. The effectiveness of these inputs and the management activities that result need to be monitored for appropriate outcomes, the most logical of which is the change in status of the resident herbivores.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

Having an understanding of the number of animals, their distribution and numerical trends forms one of the most basic sets of information necessary for the informed management of a wildlife operation. A starting point is a regular and accurate assessment of population size of possibly all, but certainly the ecologically and economically most important species.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

A census was therefore undertaken by way of an aerial survey between the 23rd of August and the 3rd of September 2013 in the Ikorongo-Grumeti Reserves complex. This survey was the tenth undertaken over a period of 11 years, under particularly favourable counting conditions and with a very experienced team of enumerators.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

At the initiation of this project, the Grumeti Fund management team’s primary purpose was to facilitate the recovery of the resident large herbivore populations in this part of the Serengeti ecosystem. This was seen as an important step in the rehabilitation of this particular region, protecting the migratory herds but also helping to fully restore the tourism potential of the area.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

Notable statistics from the census include the slowing population increase of buffalo (although this species has shown a six fold increase in estimated size over the last 10 years) and this year showing the highest number of elephant in the area since inception. The population estimate for elephant has varied substantially over the last eight years, probably as a result of the animals moving in and out in response to resource availability. Overall, the population showing a gradual increase of 5% per annum over the last 10 years. In addition, the topi, a local migrant antelope, would appear to have stabilised at around 15 000 animals. Fluctuations are likely due both to forage conditions as well as predation.

census_7

Click the image below to see the full-size infographic depicting population growth until 2011:

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

Singita Grumeti also has a highly successful Anti-Poaching Unit comprising 120 game scouts (most of the ex-poachers) who work together with the Wildlife Division to eradicated illegal hunting within the concession. Visit our Conservation page to learn more about how Singita manages the half a million acres of pristine African wilderness that it is proud guardian of.

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A Cheetah Kill at Singita Faru Faru Lodge

November 25, 2013 - Experience,Safari,Singita Faru Faru Lodge,Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

Cheetah kill at Singita Faru Faru Lodge | Marlon du Toit

Photographer and Singita Field Guide, Marlon du Toit, is traveling through Tanzania, visiting Singita’s lodges and camps in the area. Most recently, he has been at Singita Faru Faru Lodge where he was fortunate enough to spot a cheetah in action on the plains of the Serengeti:

Cheetah kill at Singita Faru Faru Lodge | Marlon du Toit

“We spied this particular male cheetah reclining in the shade of a prominant Dhalbergia tree. He looked very comfortable so we weren’t sure whether we were in for any excitement, but we got far more than we hoped for!

Cheetah kill at Singita Faru Faru Lodge | Marlon du Toit

The thought had hardly crossed my mind when he stood up, stretched and started with his afternoon patrol. He seemed focused on marking his territory which came as no surprise considering all the rain we have had here at Singita Grumeti and would have washed away previous scent-postings. He moved south and although he passed a few herds of gazelle, they were quite far away so he paid them little attention.

Cheetah kill at Singita Faru Faru Lodge | Marlon du Toit

Then his whole body posture changed. His eyes opened wide and his head lowered. As I looked up towards where his eyes were fixed I spotted a herd of about twenty wildebeest. He wasted no time at all and within seconds his ambling gait turned into full velocity sprint as he opened up the after-burners in pursuit of the now fleeing wildebeest. Cheetah can achieve speeds of over 100km/h and I am pretty sure he was not far off his top speed. In a cloud of dust and flurry of legs he wrestled one sub-adult wildebeest to the ground and within in less than 10 seconds it was all over.

Cheetah kill at Singita Faru Faru Lodge | Marlon du Toit

After subduing his prey, he sat up and scoured the surrounding area to see if there were any other larger predators attracted by all the commotion, but the coast was clear and after getting his breath back he began to feed.

What an amazing last day here on assignment at Singita Faru Faru Lodge.”

Cheetah kill at Singita Faru Faru Lodge | Marlon du Toit

Singita Faru Faru Lodge is set in Grumeti in northern Tanzania, forming part of the Serengeti Mara ecosystem. Built on a gently sloping hill, the lodge is a mix of contemporary, organic style and the quirky practicality of a traditional botanist’s camp. With such close proximity to the river and plains, guests have the unique opportunity to experience a very close connection with the wilderness.

You can also read Marlon’s previous blog post from Singita Lamai. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more regular updates.

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Field Guide Favourites: Ruffled

November 07, 2013 - Experience,Kruger National Park,Safari,Wildlife

Ross Couper is a Field Guide at Singita Kruger National Park and a keen wildlife photographer. As part of our series of favourite photos from our game rangers in the bush, Ross recently shared a stunning photo of a mature and battle-worn female leopard. Today, he sent us this slightly comical shot of a scruffy-looking Bateleur – read on to find out how this photo came about:

Ruffled copyright Ross Couper | Singita Kruger National Park

This photograph could easily be described as a ‘backbreaker’ as I waited over an hour with my camera focused on this Bateleur in the hope that I would be able to capture the bird in flight. A few puffy white clouds were passing by and I knew that if I had a chance I would be extremely disappointed if a cloud appeared behind the bird as it took off. As we both sat there staring at each other, even the Bateleur started to look at me as if I was crazy and decided to groom himself instead. After preening for several minutes, he ruffled all his feathers – in an attempt to dislodge any unwanted parasites – and I was able to get this shot. I was only able to take one photograph with the pure blue sky behind the bird and it turned out beautifully. The eagle continued to clean himself for a further thirty minutes, never taking off from the bare branch, and all the while oblivious to my desire for that perfect in-flight photo.

This photograph was taken with a Nikon D3s using a 300mm F2.8 lens. To see more wonderful shots of the flora and fauna surrounding the lodges, you can catch up on the monthly Wildlife Reports from all of Singita’s lodges and camps, or read our earlier Field Guide Favourites.

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People of Singita: Tengwe Siabwanda

November 01, 2013 - Conservation,Experience,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

Tengwe Siabwanda, Field Guide at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Tengwe Siabwanda is a second generation field guide based at the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in Zimbabwe, with a passion for all the world’s creatures. Today he shares with us his experiences working at Singita, his most memorable moments and his favourite things about the African bush:

Tengwe Siabwanda, Field Guide at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Singita Pamushana lodge in Zimbabwe.

How did you get started at Singita?
I joined the staff at Singita Pamushana Lodge on the 1st of October 2008, having worked for nine years as a guide in various other lodges. I received such a warm welcome from my colleagues at Singita and remember being so excited to be joining such a wonderful team.

Tengwe Siabwanda, Field Guide at Singita Pamushana Lodge

What inspired you to become a Field Guide?
My father used to work in Matusadona National Park in northern Zimbabwe, and every school holiday I would visit him. I enjoyed spending time in the bush, seeing the animals, trees and birds, and learning about their rhino conservation projects. I spent hours in the museum, looking at skulls, insects, butterflies, animal skins and feathers and the natural world became my passion. These experiences inspired me to become a professional guide when I left school.

Tengwe Siabwanda, Field Guide at Singita Pamushana Lodge

What do you love most about your job?
There are many things! I love meeting different people from all over the world and learning about their cultures. I have also learnt so much from my fellow guides and done exciting courses like scorpion identification and handling, and how to capture, identify, handle and treat snakes. I also love taking guided walks in the bush with guests and showing them the reserve at ground level.

Tengwe Siabwanda, Field Guide at Singita Pamushana Lodge

What is one of your most memorable guest or wildlife experiences?
Once, I took three guests on a walk and we came across a group of white rhinos and decided to approach them on foot. When we were about thirty meters from the rhinos, we spotted an elephant bull feeding on a mopane tree nearby. Suddenly, the elephant started charging the rhinos who in turn began running in our direction with the elephant in hot pursuit. Luckily, just before they reached us they changed direction and we took cover behind a big tree. I am not sure what happened between the rhinos and the elephant but it was definitely a memorable experience!

Tengwe Siabwanda, Field Guide at Singita Pamushana Lodge

What do you love about the wilderness?
I love everything about the bush; plants, animals, insects, butterflies, trees and all their medicinal uses.

Tengwe Siabwanda, Field Guide at Singita Pamushana Lodge

In your opinion, what is important about the conservation work that you do?
For me, it’s all about education – teaching people about the important of preserving these species for the benefit of future generations is essential to the success of our conservation efforts.

Tengwe Siabwanda, Field Guide at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Our “People of Singita” blog series has so far profiled a chef, a tracker and a lodge manager. To find out more about working at Singita, please visit our Careers page.

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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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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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