Singita was originally founded in 1993 with the opening of Ebony Lodge on family owned land that became part of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. When Luke Bailes, owner of Singita, bought and consolidated the land from his grandfather, he set about restoring it.
In 1992, Bailes asked his old school friend, Mark Witney, if he was interested in taking time out from the city to open a new safari venture. He was. Soon after, Witney moved to the bush where he assumed multiple roles for many years – lodge manager, safari guide, maintenance man, and even relief pilot for the inter-lodge Cessna Caravan shuttle service – before employing an assistant lodge manager.
Twenty-two years later, Singita Ebony Lodge is set to reopen after an extensive reinvention, elevating the lodge to the same forward-thinking standard of innovation as the recently reopened Singita Boulders Lodge. The end result is a conscious departure from what may have been expected – or anything that has gone before. Instead, a quintessential safari aesthetic that captures the spirit and sentiment of the original while adding a youthful, relaxed charm, has been added.
Singita’s evolution from a single-lodge company to one that is now responsible for more than half a million acres of land, operating 12 lodges and camps in five wilderness regions across three African countries, has always been characterised by a pioneering spirit and a sincere desire to preserve wilderness areas for future generations. Its low-impact, high-value tourism model – fewer guests paying a premium for the privilege of experiencing vast open spaces – exists to sustain these wilderness areas and their resident wildlife, while providing an exclusive safari experience.
Singita Ebony Lodge stands on the banks of the Sand River in the heart of South Africa’s “big cat country”, beneath the leafy branches of the ancient and enormous trees for which it is named. The lodge is due to re-open in mid-June 2015; please contact our Reservations team to find out more.
The story of Singita began in 1925, when a piece of land in the present-day Sabi Sand Reserve was purchased by James Bailes, grandfather of the current owner. Situated in a remote corner of the South African Lowveld, the property was originally procured for hunting purposes and was inaccessible by road. Travelling to this remote location took three days of hard driving from the coast.
Over the years, this pristine 45,000 acre reserve has evolved from being a hunting ground to being an exclusive reserve, teeming with game, where all species of animals, large and small, are protected. In 1993, Singita’s first lodge, Singita Ebony Lodge, opened its doors on the banks of the Sand River on this magnificent tract of family land, and the brand has grown ever since. Today Singita’s unique philosophy lives on in each of the 12 lodges and camps across five diverse regions in Africa – a philosophy committed to preserving and protecting land and wildlife for future generations.
For what the future holds, Singita’s founder and CEO, Luke Bailes asserts, “We will only develop new properties if they are better than, or as good as, those we already have. It’s a disciplined approach, ensuring that Singita’s reputation is continually elevated and continues to deliver the best possible guest experience, while still benefiting the land and communities in which we are privileged to operate.”
The people who work at Singita are among its most precious assets. We are extremely honoured to have a dedicated and hard-working team that works together to create unforgettable experiences for our guests and is committed to our vision.
As we look back on 2013, we are extremely grateful to you for helping us to reach the 20 year mark and we look forward to the next 100 years with you!
The results of the US Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2012 readers’ survey were announced recently and brought to light questions about how Singita is doing business differently. Winning these reputable awards is a highly significant achievement for a relatively small safari company based in South Africa.
Luke Bailes, CEO and founder of Singita, reflected on the approach that Singita takes and how the business is built on a model of time and effort. We captured some of those meaningful reflections on video.
“There is a balance between the way in which we manage nature and the sense of urgency needed to protect nature. When we manage the land, we recognize that we need to be delicate and sensitive, moving with the long-term and slow rhythms of the wild while at the same time being intentional, with a sense of urgency to save the environment quickly.”
Watch the video here…
From the desk of Luke Bailes, Singita’s Owner and Chief Executive Officer, about Singita’s modern conservation model.
In 2002, the Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund (Grumeti Fund) was granted the right to manage and conserve 350,000 acres of land in the western Serengeti, Tanzania (as a comparison, the entire world famous Masai Mara National Game Reserve in Kenya comprises only 370,000 acres). The area Grumeti Fund chose to conserve is among the most vital natural habitats left on the planet. Chief among its wonders is the world renowned wildebeest migration and the multitudes of flora and fauna this strategic buffer zone supports. By undertaking this project, Grumeti Fund and its supporters hope to conserve one of the world’s true remaining spectacles and thereby embrace former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere’s vision to have “a world in which people and wildlife live together sustainably forever”.
Singita’s involvement with the Grumeti Reserves commenced in 2006 and through the work of Singita’s truly talented management team, the property was transformed and upgraded and now includes 3 expanded lodges and the most exclusive mobile tented camp in the world. All situated on 350,000 acres of privately managed land. It is our sincere belief that the only way to protect vast pristine wildlife areas is to practice a model of modern conservation where low impact tourism generates income to assist in funding conservation and community outreach programmes to ensure the long-term sustainability of the reserves.
Without creating this type of virtuous partnership, wildlife will always lose out and the world’s natural wonders will slowly but surely disappear. If we are successful however, there is no doubt pristine, well-protected wilderness areas like the Serengeti will become truly priceless.
Today, Singita Grumeti Reserves is an unqualified success story. It has delivered on its most basic promises; to develop the most prolific wildlife populations in East Africa and become the best managed and protected reserve in the Serengeti. In addition, Singita Grumeti Reserves has been a true leader in the areas of community development and scientific research.
Travel & Leisure, the world’s largest hospitality publication, recently announced the results of its “Top 100 Hotels poll” for 2011 and T+L readers selected Singita Grumeti Reserves as its No1 in the World. This extraordinary achievement bears testimony to man’s desire to experience authenticity and realness, while we believe at the same time promoting sustainability and a true commitment to conservation. These qualities together are what we believe makes Singita Grumeti Reserves and the entire Singita portfolio stand out (as an aside, I am also very pleased to let you know that Singita Sabi Sand took second place in this prestigious poll for 2011).
To read more about Singita and ten unique safari experiences in four regions in Africa, spend a few minutes on Singita’s website.
In the early 1990′s – James Fawcett Bailes’ grandson (the current owner of Singita) – began to once again focus on the work his grandfather had started.
Using the original 1930′s aerial photographs, with the help of environmentalist Dave Wright; he went about restoring the land to its original condition.
In 1993 the first lodge, Singita Ebony, opened its doors and following its huge success Singita created four more luxury game lodges in South Africa.
In recent years Singita has added four additional luxury lodges and camps, beyond the South African borders, to the exceptional Singita offering. In doing so Singita has done more than just realize James Fawcett Bailes’ legacy.