Category Archives: Wildlife

The Great Migration Diaries 2013: Part One

June 12, 2013 - Africa,Conservation,Environment,Experience,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

It’s always a special time of year for our staff and guests at Singita Grumeti in Tanzania, when the dull rumble of hooves echoes across the savannah as the Great Wildebeest Migration begins. Over the next few weeks, more than one million animals will travel through the area and up through Singita Lamai, home of Singita Mara River Tented Camp. This year’s event is now in full swing, as the bearded creatures began arriving en masse from the southeast on the 1st of June, passing first alongside Singita Faru Faru Lodge.

Horseback Safari - The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

A few days later, thousands of wildebeest flooded the Nyati plains, with the herds extending southwards into the Serengeti National Park, as far as the eye could see. By Wednesday the 5th, the herds that remained on Nyati plains were growing slowly more and more dense, spreading west and north towards Singita Sabora Tented Camp and the Sasakwa Plains. By Friday evening there was an incessant hum on Sasakwa Hill that originated from the thousands of animals murring on the plains below; a sound similar to that of flowing water.

The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

On the morning of Monday, June 10th, the herds extended throughout Singita Grumeti, surrounding the lodges entirely. As it is also currently rutting season, it has been fascinating to watch the bulls running back and forth to protect their cows and calves from other bulls, while simultaneously having to continue the migration.

The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

Although these herds are completely unpredictable, we expect that they will stay with us at least another two weeks, probably longer! We look forward to watching their antics and sharing more amazing photographs of them with you.

Hot Air Balloon Safari - The Great Migration through Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration is an annual event in the Serengeti in which 1.5 million wildebeest (and 200 000 zebra) travel from the Ngorongoro region of Tanzania up to Kenya’s Maasai Mara game reserve and beyond, following the rains in search of better grazing. This natural phenomenon passes right through Singita Grumeti and Singita Lamai, making our lodges the ideal vantage point from which to observe this epic 1200-mile-long journey.

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Farewell Lady Ravenscourt

June 07, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

We were heartbroken this week when one of the most beautiful and best-loved members of our leopard family was killed in a battle to protect her young by a rogue male leopard. The Ravenscourt female was a familiar sight for visitors to Singita Sabi Sand, many of whom remember her fondly and have shared their experiences on our Facebook page. Field guide Marlon du Toit observed the incident and took this touching photograph of her final moments. He writes: “[She was] a true symbol of captivating Africa, she was pure beauty.  As she lay in the shade of a leadwood and surrendered her bruised and battered body back to the earth, a delicate butterfly came to rest on her soft coat, closing the last chapter on the life of this iconic leopardess. Lady Ravenscourt you will be dearly missed.” This photo is a stunning reminder of the extreme beauty and brutality of life on this majestic continent.

Ravenscourt Female Leopard

You can read more about her life in our earlier wildlife journals and on the blog.

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Cheetah Spotting

June 04, 2013 - Conservation,Experience,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

James Suter Cheetah Spotting at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Cheetah once occurred throughout Zimbabwe, but are now largely absent from both the North and East of the country. Population size is limited in protected areas by shrinking habitat and the abundance of large predators, who compete for the same food source. Unfortunately, today the cheetah has vanished from over seventy seven percent of its historical range on the African continent. With fewer than ten thousand adults left in the wild, the species has now been classified as vulnerable.

Cheetah spotting at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Cheetah spotting at Singita Pamushana Lodge

So we were lucky enough to be were treated to some amazing cheetah encounters on our most recent trip to Singita Pamushana Lodge. A female and her two cubs provided us with some incredible sightings as we located them on a number of occasions. We were also fortunate to be introduced to two young males whose territory overlaps with the female and her two cubs. These males are also the female’s previous litter and have now established themselves as a solid unit, occupying the heart of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve.

Cheetah spotting at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Cheetah spotting at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Viewing these skilled predators was interesting because, unlike most large cats, they are very active throughout the day. This fact, together with the presence of young cubs, meant that there was plenty of activity to keep us entertained. We spent hours with the cheetah, watching them interact, play and stalk potential prey. Since they are relatively comfortable  with the game vehicles, we were afforded the opportunity to view these beautiful creatures from close quarter, which provided us with fantastic photographic opportunities without disturbing them.

Cheetah spotting at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Cheetah spotting at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Singita Field Guide, James Suter, is visiting all of our lodges and blogging about his experiences there. You can read more about his recent adventures or find out about Singita Pamushana Lodge and its surrounds.

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A Remarkable Lion Kill

May 13, 2013 - Conservation,Experience,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

Lions at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Lions at Singita Pamushana Lodge

It had taken three days for us to locate our first pride of lions in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge. We had been preoccupied with the abundance of wildlife and other unique sightings, so I hadn’t realised we had yet to see this member of the Big Five.

Vultures at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Lions at Singita Pamushana Lodge

One morning, while working the Eastern sections of the reserve, we noticed a committee of vultures some distance away, who were circling in the sky and then dropping to the ground. Judging by the number of birds we suspected they had found something large.

Lions at Singita Pamushana Lodge

There was no debate; we began driving in the direction of the scavenging birds. I never tire of the anticipation one feels when following up on a sign that may lead to predators and I was hoping that we would see something special. As we approached we could see the birds waiting patiently above a large figure in the grass which turned our to be an adult bull giraffe; this could only be the work of lions.

Lions at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Lions at Singita Pamushana Lodge

The small pride consisted of just a single adult male, a female and a younger sub-adult male. Lions are powerful animals and hunting in co-ordinated groups greatly increases their chances of success. Being primarily nocturnal, these lions had the advantage of hunting under the cover of darkness and had surprised the giraffe just before dawn. It was an especially unusual kill, considering that lions rarely attack very large prey such as fully grown male giraffes due to the danger of injury. That, combined with the fact that this was such a small pride, means we were very privileged to have seen it.

Field Guide James Suter is traveling through Africa, visiting Singita’s lodges and camps and documenting the wildlife in each unique location. He recently spotted hyena and cheetah near Singita Pamushana Lodge in south-eastern Zimbabwe, where Singita protects and manages an extraordinary 135 000 acre wilderness area next to the Gonarezhou National Park

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Guest Photos From 2012: Mary Robbins

May 09, 2013 - Experience,Singita Explore Mobile Tented Camp,Singita Faru Faru Lodge,Singita Grumeti,Singita Sasakwa Lodge,Wildlife

The memories of a trip to Africa and an unforgettable visit to Singita are some of the most precious that a traveller can experience. And while it can be very difficult to recreate that feeling when a guest is back home, they often have spectacular photos to remind them of the unique landscape and wildlife of our continent. We are always thrilled when these photos are shared with us, along with the wonderful stories behind them.

Great Guest Photos from 2012: Mary Robbins visits Singita Grumeti

Great Guest Photos from 2012: Mary Robbins visits Singita Grumeti

One such visitor to Singita in September 2012 was Mary Robbins, from Lynn, Massachusetts. She travelled to Tanzania and stayed at Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Singita Explore Mobile Tented Camp, Singita Sasakwa Lodge and Singita Sabora Tented Camp. Although an enthusiastic safari-lover, this was her first trip with us and she was especially keen to see a leopard and was rewarded with an amazing sighting during her time at the lodges, as well as spotting plenty of other big cats.

Great Guest Photos from 2012: Mary Robbins visits Singita Grumeti

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Looking back, she writes: “What a fabulous time Frances, my driver, and I had! We drove around the Serengeti and saw wonderful things.  We watched the animals for hours on end and that is the only way to really come to an understanding of the way the animals are – by watching the way they move and interact with one another and with other species and with their environment. This was a true safari – a journey into another world – rather than a quick drive across the plain to fill up the time and make a tourist happy.  Of course we saw all manner of animal and my personal favorites were:

  • The time we came upon a pride of lions lounging on a river bank – then one by one we watched them get up, go to the top of a rock, and splash down into the water and walk/swim across the river to the other side.
  • Watching three 3-month old cheetah cubs jumble and play around their mama.
  • Admiring a fine, big, male leopard in a tree.
  • Watching a pride of lions lounge around a tree and then jump up into it. Watching lion prides and little cubs is always wonderful.

Great Guest Photos from 2012: Mary Robbins visits Singita Grumeti

Great Guest Photos from 2012: Mary Robbins visits Singita Grumeti

Thank you for visiting us Mary, we hope to see you again soon.

You can see other guest photos on our blog from Stephen Saugestad (Canada) and Jeff Thompson (USA). Don’t forget to catch up on our monthly Wildlife Reports too.

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Rhino Horn Treatment Programme

May 07, 2013 - Conservation,Conservation,Environment,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

Rhino Horn Treatment at Singita Sabi Sand

The plight of the critically endangered rhino population is one of the more heartbreaking realities of life as custodians of over half a million acres of land in Southern and East Africa. Singita is proud to be a part of a number of projects aimed at eliminating the poaching of these majestic animals for their horns, including the Rhino Reintroduction Programme at Singita Pamushana Lodge (Zimbabwe) and the anti-poaching unit at Singita Sabi Sand (South Africa) which uses specially-trained tracker dogs to deter and catch would-be poachers.

Rhino Horn Treatment at Singita Sabi Sand

As part of these ongoing efforts, we are now participating in a horn infusion treatment programme, which was pioneered by the Rhino Rescue Project in the Sabi Sand. The horn is treated by infusing it with a compound made up of an antiparasitic drug and indelible dye that contaminates the horn and renders it useless for ornamental or medicinal use. A full DNA sample is harvested and three matching identification microchips are inserted into the horns and the animal itself.

Rhino Horn Treatment at Singita Sabi Sand

This treatment  has resulted in zero losses in areas where it has been applied, and is seen as an important intervention to deflect prospective poachers. Over 100 rhino have already been treated in the reserve and all animals in the initial treatment sample are in excellent health. Since all the products used in the treatment are biodegradable and eco-friendly, there are no long-term effects on the environment. The treatment “grows” out with the horn and so poses no long-term effect and, if a treated animal dies of natural causes, retrieval and registration of the horn is a legal requirement.

Rhino Horn Treatment at Singita Sabi Sand

Please visit the Rhino Rescue Project website for more information and FAQs on the treatment. You can also find out more about Singita’s wildlife conservation initiatives and environmental protection policies on our site.

Photographs courtesy of Singita Field Guide Dylan Brandt. 

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A Lone Leopard at Singita Grumeti

April 15, 2013 - Africa,Environment,Experience,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

I was fortunate enough to have a number of different leopard sightings during my stay at Singita Grumeti. Most of these encounters were brief and had taken place in the lush vegetation along the Grumeti River, where the shy cats are easily able to camouflage themselves.

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

One morning during our visit, I was delighted to hear that a large male leopard had been located in the south western parts of the concession; just a stone’s throw from Singita Sabora Tented Camp. This region is known for its vast, open plains and I hoped to have a sighting of the handsome cat within such a unique habitat.

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

As we approached the area where the leopard had last been seen, we were quickly able to identify the characteristic figure of the large cat while he lay resting in an isolated acacia tree. We approached slowly, making sure not to scare the animal away but he seemed more comfortable than most of the leopards in the reserve who offered us just fleeting glimpses of their spotted hide. This healthy male appeared completely relaxed as he sat guarding a warthog that he had killed and dragged up into the tree, away from other opportunistic predators.

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

I was amazed at the scene of this massive cat perched in a rather small tree in the middle of the Serengeti. After observing him for some time, we noticed a large burrow directly beneath the acacia, which appeared to be active, as indicated by the presence of flies around the entrance. It became clear that this burrow belonged to the unfortunate warthog that was now neatly placed in the upper branches of the tree, a victim of the leopard’s hunting skill and experience.

Singita Sabora Tented Camp - Tanzania

James Suter is an expert Field Guide and talented photographer who is exploring Singita Grumeti in Tanzania and reporting on the wildlife he finds there. You can read more of James’ journey with Singita through Southern Africa on the blog.

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The Great Migration

April 10, 2013 - Africa,Environment,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

Talented photographer and experienced Field Guide, James Suter, spent the better part of a year exploring Singita’s lodges and camps in Southern Africa. Towards the end of 2012, he visited Singita Grumeti in Tanzania and was lucky enough to experience part of the world-famous animal migration through the Serengeti.

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

One of the most popular attractions for visitors to East Africa is the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of zebra and over a million wildebeest and other plains game who follow the rains for more than 1800 miles. Witnessing this natural phenomenon as the animals move through the Serengeti is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially since Singita Grumeti offers the perfect vantage point from which to view “The Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth”.

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

From December to March, Northern Tanzania is home to massive herds of wildebeest who give birth to roughly 500 000 calves over a period of just three weeks in a remarkable, synchronised event. The main reason for this is that very young calves are more noticeable to predators when mixed with older calves and therefore make for easier prey.

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

The month of July is the ideal time to visit Singita Grumeti, as this is roughly when the herds reach their first major obstacle and are forced to navigate across the Grumeti River. The western corridor of the Serengeti National Park – Africa’s No. 1 World Heritage Site - is where the action takes place and is the best place to watch the migration unfold.

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

The Great Migration - Singita Grumeti - Tanzania

We spent some time at Singita Grumeti in September and were blown away by the sheer numbers of game and the large herds of wildebeest. We drove out onto the vast plains and watched while a hundred thousand of the animals advanced slowly towards the game vehicle. The sights, sounds and smells were mesmerising and completely unforgettable.

There are six Singita lodges and camps to visit in Tanzania, including the brand new Singita Serengeti House, an exclusive-use retreat on the slopes of Sasakwa Hill. To learn more about Singita Grumeti and Lamai, read more on our blog or catch up on the monthly wildlife journals from the region.

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An Elephant’s Toothy Tool

March 20, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Safari,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

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The elephants of Singita Pamushana Lodge

It is always awe-inspiring being in the presence of elephants. As the world’s largest mammal, they’re not only physically intimidating but also known to be highly intelligent, functioning in a complex social structure. It is estimated that Zimbabwe has a population of around 110 000 elephants, which is more than twice the optimum capacity; a problem also faced by neighbouring South Africa.

The elephants of Singita Pamushana Lodge

Magnificent elephant tusks

When I first encountered the elephants of Zimbabwe, I was initially struck by the enormous size of the bulls and their colossal tusks, which were noticeably superior in size to most elephants I had observed in the Kruger National Park. These tusks are modified incisors, located in the upper jaw and made of calcium phosphate, more commonly known as ivory. They are essential tools to the animals and assist with eating by digging up roots and debarking trees. They are also used as a weapons during interaction with other bulls, while protecting their more vulnerable trunks.

Singita field guide James Suter photographing an elephant

The elephants of Singita Pamushana Lodge

Interestingly, like humans, theses animals are either right or left “handed”, favouring a particular tusk, with the master or dominant tusk being noticeably worn down due to extensive use. The longest tusk recorded was from an African elephant and measured just over three meters with a weight of over one hundred kilograms. Unfortunately statistical data shows the average weight of an elephant’s tusk has decreased at an alarming rate. In the seventies the average weight was around 12 kilograms and by the early nineties it had dropped to just three.

Elephant tusk

Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe

We contribute this rapid evolution to relentless poaching, as the males with the largest tusks are usually targeted. This in turn has caused the breeding behavior of these animals to change rapidly over a short period of time. It was then even more gratifying to see so many healthy bulls in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve and still in possession of such magnificent tusks.

Follow the adventures of field guide James Suter as he explores the wilderness surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge and its fascinating inhabitants. You can also read James’ previous elephant post on Singita’s grey giants.

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Highlights from our Guides’ Diaries

March 13, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Kruger National Park,Lamai,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

grumeti-environmental-education-class-banner

Did you know that our team of expert field guides write a monthly wildlife journal that chronicles the fauna and flora surrounding each lodge? High summer in Africa is a particularly fascinating time to document the local wildlife. Here are a few photographs from the most recent Guides’ Diaries from Singita Kruger National Park, Singita Lamai, Singita Grumeti and Singita Pamushana Lodge.

Carmine bee-eater

The southern carmine bee-eater (Merops nubicoides) occurs across sub-equatorial Africa, ranging from KwaZulu-Natal and Namibia to Gabon, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. This species is a richly coloured, striking bird, predominantly carmine in colouration (hence the name). They are highly sociable, gathering in large flocks, in or out of breeding season. Unperturbed by the light rain, they continue to move in a large flock as they hunt small insects within the lower areas of the floodplain. This was a sight that we followed for a few hours, mesmerised by their acrobatic displays.

by Ross Couper (Singita Kruger National Park). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Giraffes

I’ve never seen as many giraffe about as there are at the moment. It’s possible that with all the rain and resulting thick vegetation they’ve moved to the few open areas where they can see, from their high vantage, any approaching danger. Giraffe are hunted by lions so it’s best that they avoid any ambush attacks.

By Jenny Hishin (Singita Pamushana Lodge). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Zebra

It is interesting to note that despite all the theories as to why zebra are striped, there is one that seems to be most valid; it’s as a defence mechanism against flies, especially the stinging types, like tsetse and horseflies. Flies are attracted to horizontally polarized light. Zebra stripes are predominantly vertical and, when they lower their heads to feed or drink, this effect is reinforced. It appears that this assists them in avoiding the bites and diseases associated with tsetse and horseflies, in that the flies do not see vertically polarized light.

By Lee Bennett (Singita Lamai). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Cheetah

Our cheetah sightings have been climbing recently and January was the best so far – sixty different cheetah sightings, and most of them consisting of more than one animal! The usual suspects on the property have become more and more comfortable with the vehicles and are less afraid to be seen. Then there are multiple newcomers who continue to sporadically show up. They include two additional brothers and a few single females. All of the newcomers are still quite skittish.

By Ryan Schmitt and Lizzie Hamrick (Singita Grumeti). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Our Guide’s Diaries are published on a monthly basis from our lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. You can read all of them here.

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