The Singita Blog

Mountain Biking in the Bush

October 15, 2013 - Experience, Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand, Safari

Mountain biking at Singita

Among the various activities on offer for guests visiting Singita Sabi Sand and Singita Kruger National Park is the option to go mountain biking, accompanied by your guide and tracker.

Mountain biking at Singita

It offers the more adventurous guest the perfect opportunity to explore the vast beauty of this rugged landscape outside the confines of the game vehicle. Taking advantage of the cooler mornings, guests can follow a sunrise game drive and a scrumptious breakfast with some more game spotting on two wheels.

Mountain biking at Singita

It is a unique way to experience the sights and sounds of the bush; the feeling of the breeze through your hair, blood flowing with the turn of each pedal stroke, only to be halted in your tracks by a giraffe crossing the road ahead of you. He peers down with mild disinterest as he ponders what sort of creature this could be that has appeared before him, then turns and waltzes back through the trees. Only when your feet have touched African soil and you stand looking up at a giraffe from ground level, are you truly able to say “I’m in Africa”.

Mountain biking at Singita

Guests can choose from a variety of activities at Singita’s lodges and camps, including fishing, stargazing safaris, horse-back rides, archery and guided walks. Please contact us to make an enquiry and find out more about the Singita experience.

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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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Singita Castleton Reopens

October 07, 2013 - Accommodation, Experience, Lodges and Camps, Sabi Sand, Singita Castleton

Singita Castleton - main house

For many years, Singita Castleton, situated in the heart of South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve, was the family home of Singita founder Luke Bailes’ grandfather. The property was later transformed into a charming hideaway catering specifically to groups and families, comprising a stone-walled ‘homestead’ and a series of beautifully appointed, air-conditioned double en-suite cottages.

In keeping with Singita’s trend-leading evolution towards a new style of exclusive safari experience, Singita Castleton has undergone a total renovation, taking private rental to a new level of luxury and comfort. The result is a private villa experience in the heart of the bush where guests can share in the communal living spaces of the main house, with the option to retreat to one of six individual cottages within the grounds for complete privacy. Singita Castleton truly encapsulates a sense of exclusivity within exclusivity.

Swimming pool - Singita Castleton

Set within 45,000 acres of private reserve, Singita Castleton is steeped in history, capturing the spirit of the original Castleton house, and giving the lodge a historical and comforting nature. It has been designed to combine the best elements of a private safari lodge with the rustic charms of a country farmhouse, with the added benefit of extensive high-end facilities, including a vast garden, swimming pool, wine cellar, gym, tennis court and spa treatment room.

Guests can relax together in the courtyard, gather around the traditional ‘boma’ or meet in the country-style kitchen, yet the individual cottages allow guests to retreat to the privacy of their own space as and when it’s needed. All of this is overlooking a waterhole where animals regularly gather to drink.

Bathroom - Singita Castleton

Décor is rich throughout with splashes of colour contrasting with traditional tartans and classic prints. Botanical art references, country furniture and flagstone floors also add a nostalgic, relaxed ambience to the lodge, which comes complete with a private guide, tracker, housekeeper and chef. The former Senior Sous Chef at Singita Lebombo Lodge in Kruger National Park, Chef Calum Anderson, will head up the kitchen at Castleton.

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve borders the Kruger National Park in northeast South Africa. It is the oldest private reserve in the country and is recognised globally for its formidable concentration of the big five, especially frequent leopard sightings.

To ensure the Singita experience is truly unrivalled, Singita Castleton can easily be combined with Singita Sweni Lodge in neighbouring Kruger National Park – a tranquil sanctuary flanking the Sweni River and also available for private rental for up to 12 guests – or Singita Pamushana Lodge, situated in the south east of Zimbabwe, with sensational views over the Malilangwe dam and sandstone hills.

Bedroom - Singita Castleton

Singita Castleton is only available on an exclusive-use basis. For further information please visit our website, or to make a reservation, please contact enquiries@singita.com

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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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Al Fresco Dining: Chocolate Macadamia Cheesecake

September 19, 2013 - Cuisine, Experience, Kruger National Park, Singita Lebombo Lodge

Eating Al Fresco | Singita Lebombo Lodge

Eating Al Fresco | Singita Lebombo Lodge

Singita Kruger National Park is found on the south eastern reaches of the Kruger National Park, on South Africa’s border with Mozambique. Situated on 33 000 acres, this exclusive concession is one of the most incredible territories in the park and is home to exquisite selections of flora and fauna in four different eco-zones. This is where you will find Singita Lebombo Lodge.

Eating Al Fresco | Singita Lebombo Lodge

Eating Al Fresco | Singita Lebombo Lodge

Like a collection of eagles’ nests perched along the rugged cliff faces above the N’wanetsi River, Singita Lebombo Lodge looks out regally across the landscape. This boldly dramatic lodge, home to fifteen loft-style suites, set beneath endless African skies. Imaginative wood, steel and organic interiors, all encased in glass, create a stylishly contemporary feel in the suites and make the most of the astonishing views overlooking the river.

Eating Al Fresco | Singita Lebombo Lodge

Eating Al Fresco | Singita Lebombo Lodge

The pastry team at Singita Lebombo Lodge is headed up by Christien Van Der Westhuizen, whose delectable recipes you will have seen before in our Sweet Tooth blog series. Today she shares her recipe for an indulgent chocolate macadamia cheesecake, which is best enjoyed with a cup of tea on the shaded deck, overlooking the swimming pool with the N’wanetsi River beyond.

Eating Al Fresco | Singita Lebombo Lodge

Singita Lebombo Lodge | Chocolate and Macadamia Cheesecake

CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA CHEESECAKE RECIPE

Ingredients – what you need:
800g cream cheese
200g mascarpone
200g dark chocolate, melted
6 eggs
1tsp vanilla essence
200g toasted macadamia nuts

Method – what to do:
Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and mascarpone until smooth.
Add the eggs and vanilla essence, scraping the side of the bowl to ensure everything is mixed.
Mix the macadamia nuts through the cheesecake mixture.
Divide the mixture in half and add the chocolate to one of them.
Pour the vanilla micture into a greased cake ring.
Spoon the chocolate mixture over and marble the two using a teaspoon.
Bake the cheesecake at 130˚C for 30-40 minutes or until the cheesecake has a firm wobble.
Allow to cool completely before serving at room temperature.

Have you seen our other “al fresco” recipes? Find out how to make a delicious banana and date loaf and sundried tomato & peppadew dip. If you need to adjust the metric measurements, here’s a handy online volume converter.

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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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Al Fresco Dining: Sundried Tomato & Peppadew Dip

September 12, 2013 - Cuisine, Experience, Kruger National Park, Singita Lebombo Lodge, Singita Sweni Lodge

Dining Al Fresco | Singita Kruger National Park

Dining Al Fresco | Singita Kruger National Park

Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges lie in the southeastern reaches of the Kruger National Park, on South Africa’s border with Mozambique. Situated on 33 000 acres, Singita’s private concession is an isolated piece of pristine wilderness where a unique wildlife population thrives across four distinct ecological-zones. This area is especially well-known for the remarkable concentration of the ‘Big 5’ and a number of particularly formidable prides of lion.

Dining Al Fresco | Singita Kruger National Park

Dining Al Fresco | Singita Kruger National Park

Daily game drives with professional guides and trackers provide the perfect opportunity to get up close to Africa’s incredible animals, and the late afternoon bush stops in particular are a wonderful opportunity to spot a great variety of wildlife while sipping a sundowner. To accompany a cold drink or crisp glass of wine, our kitchen teams prepare a delicious snack-time spread. Items on the menu can include crisp fried tortilla with sundried tomato and peppadew dip and creamy guacamole, a selection of local and international cheeses, fruit and preserves, smoked crocodile and springbok carpaccio, homemade breads, watercress salad and smoked salmon trout from the Franschhoek Valley.

Dining Al Fresco | Singita Kruger National Park

If the sound of that makes you hungry, here is the recipe for the wonderful sundried tomato and peppadew dip for you to make at home, from head chef at Singita Kruger National Park, Archie Maclean:

SUNDRIED TOMATO AND PEPPADEW DIP RECIPE

Ingredients – you will need:
400g sundried tomato, chopped
100g peppadews, chopped (if you can’t find peppadews, substitute with any pickled peppers or capsicum)
1 small onion, chopped
150ml vegetable stock
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method – what to do:
Put a deep frying pan on a medium heat and add a little olive oil
Sweat off the onion in the olive oil until it begins to soften
Add the tomato and peppadew, and cook gently for 2-3 minutes
Add the stock and boil until it is reduced by half
Remove from the heat and then blend together until smooth (use a stick blender or food processor)
Season with salt and pepper, then allow to cool and serve

We’re giving you a taste of the eating al fresco in the African bush in our current blog series – read the first article from Singita Sabora Tented Camp! 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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People of Singita: George Nkuna

September 03, 2013 - Africa, Community Development, Conservation, Experience, Kruger National Park, Singita Lebombo Lodge

Tracker George | Singita Sabi Sand

The people who work at Singita are among its most precious assets. Each member of staff that works in the lodge, at head office or out in the bush is part of a carefully crafted team whose primary goal is to create unforgettable memories for our guests. Many of them are from the local community and have overcome significant hurdles to pursue their chosen career with us. In this blog series dedicated to the inspiring group of people we are proud to work alongside, we introduce you to some of the most interesting characters in the team. Today is the story of tracker George Nkuna, as told to Mark Broodryk, Head Guide at Singita Sabi Sand:

Tracker George | Singita Sabi Sand

How did you get started at Singita?
I started in March 2003, on the day that Singita Lebombo Lodge opened. I was part of the original team at Singita Kruger National Park and then moved to Singita Sabi Sand about five years ago. I started working at one of the neighbouring lodges in a back office position, then one day a tracker was sick and they needed someone to fill in. They asked me if I could track and I jumped at the opportunity and said yes although I had never officially done the job of a tracker. They hadn’t seen a leopard on the property for over two weeks and I found two different leopards on my first drive and haven’t stopped tracking since. That was nearly 20 years ago.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What inspired you to become a Tracker?
My father used to work as a field guide for the Kruger National Park. I used to visit him during the school holidays and he arranged for me to go out with the scouts. We would record everything we saw and make observation notes. I really enjoyed being in the bush and seeing how happy my dad was in this environment and realised I could make a career and earn a living while still being in the bush. The guides and scouts used to make me write tests once a week to see what I had learnt and ask me tough questions which I was able to answer. I was the first person from my village to become a tracker and earn a living doing this job, and have tried to be an inspiration to others in my community.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What would be the highlight of your career so far?
I have many highlights! Of a personal nature, I’m very proud of my family and especially my children. The early days of the Singita Kruger National Park were very exciting times, getting the lions used to our presence and finding animals in unchartered territory. From a tracking perspective, my highlights would be achieving my senior tracker qualification on my very first attempt and being asked to go and track leopards in Azerbaijan, as well as running the tracker training school or training and assessing trackers up in Botswana.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What is a memorable guest and or wildlife experience?
My favourite thing is seeing how one is able to totally delight guests and making their dream trip to Africa a reality. One memory that stands out was in the early days at Singita Kruger National Park, with a guest who had been coming to Africa for many years but had never seen a kill. We found a cheetah, the very first sighting of a cheetah at Singita Lebombo Lodge in fact, after tracking it for many hours. The guest said he wanted to stay with it for the entire morning in the hope that it would hunt. Sure enough our patience paid off and the guest got his wish and was able to film the entire scene from start to finish.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What do you love about the wilderness?
I love being in the bush, yes it has its problems but nothing like living in a city. I am happiest when I’m in the bush, nothing else seems to matter for those few hours each day when you are out there.

Singita Lebombo Lodge

In your opinion what is important about the work that you do for conservation?
Teaching guests about the environment, trying to teach those around me to appreciate nature and to encourage those in my village to learn the skill of tracking so they can create a livelihood for their families. By conserving the environment we have jobs to support our families and making it sustainable for future generations to appreciate and care for in years to come.

You can read the previous article in this series, an interview with chef Michael Matera from Singita Grumeti. Visit the website to learn more about working at Singita. 

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