Tag Archives: People of Singita

The People of Singita: An Update on Michael Matera

November 14, 2014 - People of Singita,Singita Grumeti,Singita Sabora Tented Camp

Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Tanzania

Towards the end of last year, we kicked off a series of profiles on some of the members of our team. These #SingitaStories introduced blog readers to the amazing women who run Singita Sweni Lodge, an ex-poacher who became a pastry chef and one of the most respected wildlife trackers in the world.

Dining al fresco at Singita Sabora Tented Camp

The first in this series was the story of Michael Matera, then Senior Sous Chef at Singita Sasakwa Lodge. Michael worked his way up from the position of Grounds Attendant at Singita Sabora Tented Camp to assisting in the staff kitchen, where he learned the basic cooking skills that would set him up for a career as a chef. After many long hours at the stove, lots of extra lessons and taking an English course to improve his language competency, Michael was promoted to the main guest kitchen. He flourished here and was subsequently named Tanzanian Chef of the Year, and Senior Sous Chef under Executive Chef, Frank Louw.

Michael Matera and Frank Louw

Michael Matera and Frank Louw

We are very proud to report that Michael continues to be an asset to the team at Singita Grumeti. After another year of hard work and dedication, he was recently promoted to the role of Chef at Singita Sabora Tented Camp. This is especially significant as Michael is the first Tanzanian to hold this position, and as Frank remarks, “makes him an inspiration to so many other young Tanzanians wanting to make a change in their lives.”

The cuisine at Singita Sabora Tented Camp

Michael’s experiences have inspired him to pass on the knowledge and enthusiasm he has developed for cooking over the past ten years. He says: “Training is my passion. I love seeing staff growing in front of me and knowing that I had a small contribution to their new future”. This philanthropic attitude is a striking reminder of one of Singita’s core principles; to make a tangible difference in the lives of the people living and working in and around its lodges.

Michael Matera and his kitchen team at Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Tanzania

Michael Matera and his kitchen team at Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Tanzania

Warm congratulations to Michael for this wonderful achievement! We’ll be sure to keep you up to date on his progress at the lodge. You can read all the “People of Singita” blog posts here, and also watch the #SingitaStories videos on our Vimeo channel.

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The Story of Eksoni Ndlovu

October 14, 2014 - Did You Know?,Experience,Kruger National Park,People of Singita,Wildlife

eksoni_5

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Like many of the trackers who work at Singita, Eksoni Ndlovu grew up in a small rural community near the Kruger National Park. He learned the basics of tracking and animal interaction as a young man, while tending his family’s cattle and keeping them safe from wild animals. He has since spent more than 23 years honing his craft as an expert tracker and is respected the world over for his skill and perseverance.

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“Tracking is an art, not everyone can do it. You need to be patient and you need to be persistent… A good tracker needs to think like an animal. They need to listen, keep quiet and always be aware.”

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Eksoni’s passion for wildlife conservation is apparent to all those around him. He spends a considerable amount of time passing on his knowledge and experience to apprentice bush rangers so they too can help to preserve this beautiful wilderness. “I’m giving my skills to the community because I want them to learn and follow in my footsteps”.

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Guests also play an important role in protecting, maintaining and enhancing the land. Enos, one of the guides, observes: “We are giving back to conservation by educating our guests about the animals and how we take care of them for future generations.” Singita not only preserves large tracts of land but also works to ensure that people like Eksoni pass on their knowledge to others and in so doing preserve this ancient skill.

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Watch this short video to learn more about Eksoni’s story:

Find out more about Singita’s conservation efforts on our website. You can also share this and other #singitastories via our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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Globetrotter Guide Interview with Singita COO Mark Witney

August 14, 2014 - Did You Know?,Experience,Lodges and Camps

Mark Witney, COO at Singita

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:

Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

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.

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

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.

Singita Serengeti House, Tanzania

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.

Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Tanzania

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.

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The Story of the Super Sweni Team

August 05, 2014 - Kruger National Park,People of Singita,Singita Sweni Lodge

Singita Sweni Lodge, Kruger National Park

Guest book at Singita Sweni Lodge, Kruger National Park

Super Sweni Team

There is one word that appears over and over again in the guest book at Singita Sweni Lodge, and it is “family”. It’s not only the visitors to this tranquil, intimate hideaway who feel like part of our family, but also our staff; the men and women who make up the Super Sweni Team! This group of experienced professionals care for our guests with humility and good humour, while sharing the bond of enduring friendship with one another.

Angelique Helmchen, Lodge Manager

Angelique Helmchen, Lodge Manager

Lucky Legong, Amukeri

Lucky Legong, Amukeri

It is a close-knit group whose passion and positivity manifests in every aspect of their work, making a trip to Singita Sweni Lodge a truly magical experience. Lucky Legong is the lodge amukeri, someone who welcomes and looks after the guests, which she does with her warm smile and trademark enthusiasm. “Behind the scenes there is a lot of singing, a lot of laughter. It’s a very nice, loving, supportive environment.”

Thabela Mashile, Banakeli

Thabela Mashile, Banakeli

Oriel Mbowane, Sous Chef

Oriel Mbowane, Sous Chef

Each team member, while responsible for a key part of the operation of the lodge, also complements the others by stepping in to help whenever necessary. As sous chef Oriel Mbowane says, “Sweni angels are always smiling, hard working, always going that extra mile”. Together, this dedicated and spirited group ensure that every visit to Singita Sweni Lodge feels like coming home.

Beauty Mashego, Banakeli

Beauty Mashego, Banakeli

This year we are telling the extraordinary stories of our staff members, the people of Singita who make a visit to our lodges and camps completely unforgettable. Please share these stories via our social media channels and follow the hashtag #singitastories for more. 

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The Story of Peter Andrew

July 16, 2014 - Conservation,People of Singita,Singita Faru Faru Lodge,Singita Grumeti,Sustainable Conservation,The Grumeti Fund

The Story of Peter Andrew | Singita Stories

The Story of Peter Andrew | Singita Stories

Sitting poolside at Singita Faru Faru Lodge at tea time, in the dappled shade of the acacia trees, our guests are treated to a feast of sweet and savoury delights before their afternoon game drive. It is a wonderfully indulgent spread; all manner of cakes, candies and confections are on offer, all washed down with homemade lemonade, iced coffee and exotic teas. It might be very hard to imagine that the hands of the pastry chef responsible for these heavenly morsels were also once those of a poacher.

The Story of Peter Andrew | Singita Stories

The Story of Peter Andrew | Singita Stories

Peter Andrew was born in a small village on the outskirts of Singita Grumeti in Tanzania. At the age of 15, with no apparent employment alternatives available to him, he started poaching. He was a skilled huntsman and extremely fast on his feet, which made it easier to escape from conservation officers. This deadly combination made Peter a force to be reckoned with but it wasn’t an easy or ethical way to make a living.

The Story of Peter Andrew | Singita Stories

The Story of Peter Andrew | Singita Stories

In 2003, Peter was approached by Brian Harris, former Wildlife and Community Development Manager of Singita Grumeti, who wanted him to stop poaching in exchange for a job at one of the lodges. He was hesitant initially due to his lack of education, but after further prompting from his grandmother, Peter was eventually persuaded and started off helping with the construction of Singita Sasakwa Lodge. The following year, he was accepted as an apprentice in the kitchen at Singita Sabora Tented Camp, where he excelled in his position. Peter also took it upon himself to specialise in pastry and learn English so that he could improve his situation further. He developed so quickly in fact, that in 2005, Peter was promoted to Commis Chef and then moved to Singita Faru Faru Lodge in 2011 as a full-time Pastry Chef, where he remains a vital part of the kitchen team.

The Story of Peter Andrew | Singita Stories

Food at Singita Faru Faru Lodge

Peter’s achievements are numerous: he turned his back on poaching, found himself a wonderful new profession, worked hard to overcome his circumstances and changed his life for the better. He is rightly proud of himself, as we are proud of him, and the determination and strength of character that make him an invaluable member of the Singita family.

The Story of Peter Andrew | Singita Stories

This is the third in a series of short films profiling the people of Singita, many of whom come from challenging circumstances to become artisans and professionals in their chosen field. These #singitastories share a common thread; of people from humble beginnings who choose to effect positive change in their lives, and the lives of those around them. Read more about the anti-poaching unit at Singita Grumeti and subscribe to the blog to make sure you catch the next video in the series. 

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The Story of Saitoti Ole Kuwai

June 27, 2014 - Experience,People of Singita,Singita Grumeti

Saitoti Ole Kuwai - Field guide at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

If you have been an avid reader of our blog and monthly Wildlife Reports, then the name Saitoti Ole Kuwai won’t be new to you. He is a regular contributor to the bush ranger diaries from Singita Grumeti, where he works as a field guide, and his photographs often feature in our Highlights posts.

Zebra at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

Saitoti Ole Kuwai - Field guide at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

Saitoti is a proud Masai and grew up in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of Tanzania, where he took his first steps towards his future profession by learning how to track animals from other tribesmen. He was inspired to follow a career in wildlife conservation after seeing the effects of poaching first hand, and pursued his formal training before joining Singita in 2005.

Saitoti Ole Kuwai - Field guide at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

Leopard at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

He describes his work in the Serengeti as “an honour and a big privilege” and is completely dedicated to the protection and conservation of African wildlife for future generations. “My day starts in the dark; I always wake up at 4 o’clock. It’s early in the morning but you can still hear things like hyena and jackal calling and that tells me that the bush is awake.”

Cheetah at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

To Saitoti, game drives are like fishing, where the vast plains are an endless sea and you never know what you’re going to catch. He says: “What’s needed for you is the passion, the passion to wait.”

Saitoti Ole Kuwai - Field guide at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

“I love to tell guests about the traditions, culture, customs and lifestyle of my tribe. The best thing about my job is being involved in ensuring the health and growth of the area’s wildlife. Living in close harmony with animals is important because through them we learn so much.” Watch the video to learn more about this dedicated conservationist:

This is the second in our #singitastories series, introducing you to some of Singita’s team members. We previously featured Time Mutema, a field guide at Singita Pamsushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. Browse our Vimeo channel for more about the people of Singita, interesting wildlife sightings and to see the inspiration behind all our lodges and camps.

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The Story of Time Mutema

June 17, 2014 - Experience,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,People of Singita,Singita Pamushana Lodge

The lives of the people who work at Singita are inevitably entwined with the unspoiled wilderness in which our 12 lodges and camps can be found. Their stories weave through forests, over endless landscapes, and along flowing rivers, touching the lives of our guests and travellers along the way.

Time Mutema, Field Guide at Singita Pamushana Lodge

In this series of #singitastories, we’ll introduce you to some of Singita’s team members; people who dedicate their lives to sharing their passion for Africa. Each tell their story through film – bringing their experiences to life. Follow as we unfold these #singitastories over the next few months and we hope your hearts will be captured as much as ours.

Singita Pamushana Lodge

First is this series is Time Mutema, a fully certified, professional field guide working at Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. He grew up fishing and birding with his friends, and knew from a very young age that he belonged outdoors. He has a lifelong devotion to the bush and all that it inspires. Watch this short film to learn more about Time:

For more of our film and video clips, browse our Vimeo channel for inspiration. You can also stay up-to-date with the latest #singitastories by subscribing to our newsletter using the short form on the right.

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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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People of Singita: Irene Makhabane

October 21, 2013 - Community Development,Experience,Kruger National Park,Singita Sweni Lodge

The People of Singita: Irene Makhabane

The people who work at Singita have always been a point of pride for us; we are extremely blessed to have a dedicated and hard-working team that works together to create unforgettable experiences for our guests. Singita is the trusted guardian of over half a million acres of pristine land in Africa and employs a large number of people from nearby communities, helping to support the local economy. One such person is Irene Makhabane, the Lodge Manager at Singita Sweni Lodge in the Kruger National Park:

Singita Sweni Lodge

How did you get started at Singita and what inspired you to become a lodge manager?
I was appointed through a recruitment agency and chose hospitality because I love meeting people from all over the world. As a woman who grew up in Africa, it is interesting for me to run the lodge while learning about other people’s homes and cultures.

What would be the highlight of your career so far?
My appointment as lodge manager has definitely been a highlight, as well as the support of my colleagues at Singita who give me so many opportunities to grow.

Singita Sweni Lodge

What do you love about Singita?
Singita is a great company to work for and what I love the most is how the staff are constantly given the opportunity to improve and learn the business. I also love how Singita supports the local community with projects like the Singita School of Cooking which provides training and job opportunities for young people from the neighbouring villages.

What is a memorable guest experience?
One of my favourite experiences occurred while one particular family was staying at the lodge for a few nights. We got on extremely well and on the second night of their stay, they invited me for dinner. They insisted on serving me drinks, fetching food from the kitchen and clearing the plates. They were so kind and made me feel like a special guest at Singita.

Singita Sweni Lodge

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
One evening while our guests were in the middle of dinner, a transformer blew, leaving us with no electricity. I had to quickly assess the situation, explain the problem to the guests and tell them how it would be resolved. It was the middle of summer and guests had to go to sleep without any fans or air conditioning so it was quite a challenge but I managed to keep them happy and comfortable despite this setback.

Who is your favourite person and inspiration in the world?
Nelson Mandela. He is truly a great man, filled with grace and humility.

Singita Sweni Lodge

You can read the previous articles in this series; an interview with chef Michael Matera from Singita Grumeti and the story of tracker at Singita Sabi Sand, George Nkuna. Visit the website to learn more about working at Singita.

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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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