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.
If you have ever had the pleasure of standing on the wide wooden deck at Singita Lebombo Lodge and looking into the distance, you will have noticed the unusual rock formations on the horizon. This dramatic rhyolite and granophyre ridge is characteristic of the area and divides the eastern plains of the Kruger National Park from the Lebombo koppies.
It is a favourite spot for bush dinners with guests; an unforgettable private dining experience under the stars. The evening game drive will start as usual in the late afternoon, as your field guide and tracker take you on a winding journey through the 33 000 acre concession as the sun begins to set. You are likely to spot any number of wildlife – perhaps a leopard sprawled on a leadwood branch, a herd of elephants bathing in the river or even one of the famously large prides of lion, on the hunt for their meal.
After a brief sundowner stop, you’ll begin to make your way back towards the lodge, or so you will think! As you approach the granophyre, you’ll see the twinkling light of hurricane lamps through the branches of the prolific euphorbias, as the stars begin to emerge overhead. The vehicle descends into a clearing over which the enormous granite rocks loom, and you see your banakeli waiting with a crisp glass of sparkling wine and a candlelit dinner table.
What happens next is the stuff of fantasy for most: you are served an elegant meal by a private chef, each course paired with your favourite wines, as recommended by the lodge sommelier. The flickering light dances on the rock face as you relive memorable moments from your visit to Singita Kruger National Park, and the moon rises slowly above the trees. It is an evening that you are unlikely to ever forget.
Singita Kruger National Park’s mission is to create and maintain a balance between conservation, community development, and ecotourism. The properties in the concession, Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge, have been built with this ideal in mind and both integrate the ‘touch the earth lightly’ philosophy into every aspect of their daily operations. Find out more about Singita’s conservation and community development initiatives on our website.
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:
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.