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.
Singita COO Mark Witney has always loved the wilderness in all its forms. His great thirst for adventure has led him from flying light aircraft across the Atlantic to scuba diving in Mexico and tracking wild animals through the African bush. In 1994, he helped to open Singita Ebony Lodge, the first Singita property, and ran it for many years before moving into his head office role. With over 20 years of history with the company, he is uniquely qualified to explain what makes Singita unique and, in this excerpt from an interview with ShopLatitude’s Wanderlust blog, he does just that:
Q: Describe Singita and its mission.
A: Singita’s mission is to secure and protect pristine wilderness in Africa for future generations. We achieve this by creating a balance between sustainable tourism operations, a complete commitment to conservation and sound community projects. When we find opportunities to create conservation projects our basic goal is to restore or maintain the land in as near as possible to its original state of biodiversity before the interference of man.
Q: Which location is your favourite Singita Lodge and why?
A: That is a very difficult question. Each of our locations is so different and each has its own unique features, species and landscapes. I love the wide open spaces and abundant herds of Singita Serengeti, the wildness of our Kruger Park property with its unspoiled landscape and large lion prides, the leopard and cheetah sightings at Singita Sabi Sand are unrivalled and Singita Pamushana is one of the most bio-diverse areas under conservation, rich with species that we do not see on any of our other properties.
Q: What are the three things you never leave home without?
A: My Zeiss binoculars, a supply of strong painkillers (for that unexpected injury in the middle of nowhere) and a good guide book of the birds, mammals and trees of the destination.
The Globetrotter column on the Wanderlust blog profiles stylish jet-setters and well-known world-travellers. Mark has also recently been featured in a piece on Jacanda Travel, where he elaborates on what makes the Singita experience so special.