Category Archives: Wildlife

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

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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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Field Guide Favourites: Captivated

October 04, 2013 - Experience,Kruger National Park,Wildlife

Singita Field Guide, Ross Couper, is an experienced member of the team 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 shares the story of how he happened to cross paths with this stunning leopardess:

Captivated by Ross Couper

My guests departed early for their next destination and, as it promised to be a beautiful day, I decided to head out into the bush on my own to see what was out there. I grabbed my camera and headed east for approximately thirty minutes, before I turned a corner and happened upon this beautiful female leopard. None of the other guides had started their morning game drive and I was the only vehicle out in the bush. Realising that the leopard was on a territorial patrol, I reversed further down the road in order to give her enough space to walk towards me. I angled my vehicle on a low slope, knowing that she was bound to come over and the photograph would look like I was on ground level with the leopard. It’s not often that you can capture such a beautiful subject in pristine winter’s light on eye level. What made the encounter even more special is that this particular female leopard is approximately 18 years of age; well over the average life span of most leopards in the wild. She has undoubtably been in several thousand photographs and as she gracefully walked past my vehicle, it was evident that her beauty was not defined by age.

This photograph was taken with a Nikon D3s using a 600mm F4 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.

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Field Guide Favourites: Submerged

September 17, 2013 - Kruger National Park,Singita Lebombo Lodge,Wildlife

Ross Couper is a field guide at Singita Kruger National Park, whose love for animals and the African bush makes him a keen wildlife photographer. Here he shares a stunning shot of one of the continent’s most fascinating and dangerous mammals – the hippopotamus:

Submerged copyright Ross Couper | Singita Kruger National Park

The N’wanetsi River flows directly below Singita Lebombo Lodge, which makes the lodge the perfect spot from which to scan for hippos and crocodiles in the water. Some mornings, guests will see the hippos move closer to the man-made weir that allows passage across the river. Originally used by travellers to the Mozambique border post, now it allows for a close and eye-level encounter with one of the most deadly creatures on earth and by far one of the most interesting.

The magical early morning light is fleeting but casts a spell over everything it touches, making for some spectacular photographic opportunities. This particular morning, I waited patiently as the hippos moved under the water, waiting for them to surface briefly for air. Luckily, one appeared in a pool of golden light and every painstaking minute spent focusing through the viewfinder was rewarded.

This photograph was taken with a Nikon D3s using a 600mm F4 lens. You can see more of Ross’ great photos in our Wildlife Reports, where field guides from all of Singita’s lodges and camps keep monthly game-spotting journals.

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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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