Tag Archives: Private Game Reserve

On Foot with Big Cats

October 24, 2012 - Conservation,Kruger National Park,Wildlife

One’s first thought when thinking of the N’wanetsi concession in the Kruger National Park is the sheer size of the area; 33,00 acres to be precise. It’s a magical place and I made sure that a decent amount of our time spent there was on foot, exploring this unique area and all it had to offer.

One of the most exciting encounters was being on foot with eighteen lions and when there is nothing between you and a number of unpredictable cats, it is an intimidating but somewhat addictive sensation. Tracking them is a different story and can often be a frustrating experience, but can also be an incredibly rewarding exercise involving some skill and often a little bit of luck.

We hit the tracks early one morning with the assistance of one of the trackers, Daniel Sibuyi. We started following the tracks that were from the previous night and in a rather isolated area of the concession. Looking at the tracks, we knew that they belonged to the Mountain pride, due to the number of tracks that littered the area (this is an extremely large pride of lions). The tracks were relatively fresh and we knew we were hot on the trail of these animals.  The exercise had begun and we were determined to find them.  What an exhilarating feeling tracking a pride of lions through the heart of Kruger National Park, predicting the animals’ movements and trying to utilize and apply all the skills we had learned over the years.

In winter the bush turns an arid brown, with the grass at shoulder height making it very difficult to spot these animals as they seem to vanish into the colors of the environment. This makes tracking a little more interesting and enriches the already uneasy atmosphere.

After three hours we became slightly despondent as the tracks were all heading in different directions and it seemed that the pride had split up while hunting the night before. We were now walking through thick bush, the grass meeting us at eye level in certain areas, walking slowly with every step – careful not to miss any signs of these predators lurking nearby.

After totally losing their tracks, we needed another plan. We needed to start thinking like these lions, which may sound a little odd but none the less, an effective method. This area was desolate with very little surface water, so our best option was to head towards the area where water is found in the hope we might locate signs of the pride.

After investigating a warthog’s den, we crossed an open area when I noticed the flick of an ear. Picking up small movements like these becomes second nature when one has worked in the bush for some time and I was happy to know I still retained my “bush-sense.” We stopped immediately, raised the binoculars and there they were, the Mountain pride. They seemed reluctantly satisfied with our distance, so we kept it that way and made no attempt to approach any closer. All of them with heads up, staring at us in an unnerving fashion. I decided to not think about what the scenario could have been, if we had bumped into them in the thick grass, just meters behind us. It was our first encounter with these animals since we had arrived two days earlier and I was happy to see the pride again and even happier that it was due to some great teamwork and perseverance. With abundant excitement and a feeling of accomplishment we made the long walk back to the vehicle to call in the sighting.

James Suter, Field Guide, exploring Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.

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Shooting in Monochrome – Leopard Portrait

October 19, 2012 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

I absolutely love eyes. It’s said that eyes are the windows to the soul and I believe it also applies to animals. Wherever possible, always try and capture the eyes, the essence of that animal. It will immediately capture the viewer and engage them.  It also adds that human element or emotion and will make the world of difference. In Lightroom you can isolate the various colours from oranges to blues and brighten or darken them with striking results. Once again the clean background here is essential. I darkened the blue background to make this female leopard stand out more. Her whiskers are a key element and it shows her focus as they stand out against that clean background. I used a fill-brush to work on her exclusively and brought her out with highlights and clarity sliders. The eyes I worked on separately and tried as best to lighten them and to create that glassy feel.

This photograph was taken in the last light of the day with a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second, and at 1600ISO. It was shot hand held with a 400 2.8, at an aperture of f/2.8. This is often the time most people will pack their gear away but if you can manage to capture a few more images you will be pleased at the texture and detail in this kind of light. It is perfect for conversions to black and white. Once again I darkened the edges a little to emphasize this animal and her beautiful posture.

Marlon du Toit thrives on adventure and has a deep connection with Africa and its beauty. Growing up near the Kruger National Park he was immersed in nature from a young age and is now a professional field guide at Singita Sabi Sand.

His eye for capturing split-second moments on camera is astonishing, and after years behind the lens, we thought we would give our readers some of his ideas for taking the perfect wildlife photograph when out in the bush. Follow the Singita blog for more of Marlon’s tips for black and white photography in the wild.

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Shooting in Monochrome

October 02, 2012 - Experience,Kruger National Park,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

Marlon du Toit thrives on adventure and has a deep connection with Africa and its beauty. Growing up near the Kruger National Park he was immersed in nature from a young age and is now a professional field guide at Singita Sabi Sand.

His eye for capturing split-second moments on camera is astonishing, and after years behind the lens, we thought we would give our readers some of his ideas for taking the perfect wildlife photograph when out in the bush. Follow the Singita blog for Marlon’s upcoming articles.

Black and white photography has become a little “washed-out” as of late, excuse the pun. Great photographers such as Nick Brandt have created an epidemic by creating fine-art masterpieces in black and white, and it seems that many are now going down that same route and failing hopelessly. I don’t consider myself the best monochrome photographer out there by any stretch, but I do believe that I have an eye to know whether it will work or not. Simply put, there is more to a black and white image than the simple click of a button. By taking a little time to process your image you can create something breathtaking.

The kind of software you utilize makes a world of difference. The “black and white” button on iPhoto may be fine for your desktop background picture, but if you want something more impressive, perhaps an image for your wall, you need to go bigger. I make use of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. It is an amazing program and will help you immensely. It is easy to figure out and will allow for stunning monochrome images in a short amount of time.

In this upcoming blog article series I will go through 5 of my recent images and explain why I selected them specifically, and why I feel they work in monochrome. The larger of the two images is the final product and the smaller is the original RAW image imply converted to black and white.

A monochrome image often needs to be punchy. You can use your creative freedom to the maximum here as long as you stick to basic principles, such as still having exposure in check, and that your images are nice and sharp. In Lightroom I use a slider called “Clarity” a lot. It gives your image a beautiful look as it deepens the dark tones and highlights the lighter parts. The finish is amazing and you will love it. Contrast plays a huge role here and you need to really deepen the darker tones. It adds dynamic to your image and creates a three-dimensional feel. In Lightroom there’s also a fill-in brush. This allows you to edit specific areas in your image such as, only the face, or only the background. I make use of this tool often and it helps me create dynamic images in monochrome. There are many more techniques and hopefully my comments on the photographs in this series will explain a few more things for you. These are only merely pointers in the right direction and by no means the be-all and end-all of monochrome photography. I hope it helps…keep visiting this blog space – Marlon du Toit.

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Wonders of the Bush

September 11, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

One needs to be careful not to get too caught up in chasing down the big five; this can be both frustrating and very time consuming.  Take time, stop, and listen, or you could miss the sound of the honey guide’s call directing its hungry companion to a sticky feast, or forgo a sighting of nature’s waste army, the humble dung beetle with its polished armour.

Often, when you stop pursuing certain animals, they have the uncanny ability to somehow find you, usually at the most unexpected moments. This being said, tracking is one of the most exciting and crucial aspects about working in the bush. It plays a huge role in both the rangers’ and trackers’ daily routine. The tracker that I have most often worked with, Given Mhlongo, would get off the vehicle at every opportunity. I could see it in his eyes, the surge of adrenalin when we came across a fresh set of lion tracks.  There is always the exhilarating rush of tracking a potentially dangerous animal and the satisfaction of eventually locating it.

The African bush has plenty to offer, a spectacle through a magnified lens: from the herds of impala, the impatient baboons, the shy zebras, to the sun-worshiping reptiles and insects that parade the scorched earth. Even something as simple as watching the sunset set the sky ablaze accompanied by the soft, whistling bird song is a moment to be forever lodged in the memory bank.

Spending time in the bush is an unforgettable experience and it is interesting how Sinigta guests very quickly adapt and are able to spot things that would have been impossible to see on the first day of their safari.  I am often astounded how people from an urban environment are able to connect with the bush and improve their own knowledge. This is when things become interesting and one begins to understand the more discreet behaviour traits of certain species on closer inspection.

The Sabi Sand area is known for its big five sightings, but what really struck me on this last trip was the abundance and diversity of all species from the birds to the large herds of antelope and elusive reptiles. We as guides often joke that it is sometimes harder to find a common zebra then a shy leopard in the Sabi Sand region.   Here, not only were we able to locate and come face to face with the big five but were also able to experience Africa in its vast, untouched glory that really impacts you; to dine at the buffet of nature’s offerings

All images and commentary by James Suter – Field Guide who is trekking across Singita reserves this year to document wildlife and their activities.

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The Battle of Beasts

July 05, 2012 - Conservation,Kruger National Park,Wildlife

Even within the comfort of a vehicle, a lion is one intimidating animal.  At Singita we often have close encounters with these beasts as most individuals are fairly relaxed with the Land Rovers.  They are unusually lackadaisical animals spending most of the day resting and we often forget the power these massive cats possess.

On this particular occasion, while some of the Mountain pride females were coming into season, the scene was far from lethargic. The two brothers who generally are more than tolerant towards each other were out to prove a point and brotherly love was put aside for the time being. This was serious business. The possibility to mate is every male lion’s ambition.  Some are successful and some unfortunately don’t make the grade.

It was an exciting moment and tension was thick in the air as the two males sized one another up. It was inevitable what was going to follow and before we knew it the larger lion hurtled towards his brother.  The vehicle seemed to vibrate as the two collided, with snarls and more hostility and tenacity than any I’ve ever witnessed.

The battle had begun and the victor would reserve the right to claim his female.

(Blog series by James Suter.)

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Competition Day 2

July 03, 2012 - Community Development,Cuisine,Kruger National Park

Four points separated the teams in the end, but let’s start at the beginning. Lucien Green, Senior Training and Development Chef from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Apprentice Programme, started the day by presenting his demo for plating carpaccio.

Then the students split into their teams to begin their own creations and Amos started the clock-watch – a 25 minute challenge!  All teams finished in time so the first challenge was met.  Some great dishes were created by all and the sirloin was delectable and tender.

After the judging it was time to announce the winner. In 4th place with 39 points was team D.  In joint 2nd and 3rd place with 40.5 points were teams B and C and in first place with a whopping 43 points was team A. The grand prize?  Each member of the winning team proudly accepted a chef’s jacket from Fifteen, together with a Fifteen-branded apron.  The smiles couldn’t have been any bigger.

(Written by Archie Maclean, Head Chef at Singita Lebombo Lodge.)

Here’s the winning team A and their scrumptious creation.

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Turning up the Heat

July 02, 2012 - Community Development,Cuisine,Events,Kruger National Park

The excitement at Singita Kruger National Park has been contagious this week.  What’s been causing the stir?  Lucien Green.

Visiting from Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen” Apprentice Programme in London, Lucien Green (Senior Training and Development Chef)  has hailed an energy at the Singita School of Cooking like never before.  Each day has been jam-packed with activities, revving up from one day to the next.

Day One – the Singita team whisked Lucien out into the bush to look for lions.

Day Two – stepping into the kitchen at the Singita School of Cooking for the first time, Lucien observed students elbow-deep in dough and perfecting their focaccia-making skills.

Day Three – Lucien took some time out to review curriculum.  He gave the cooking school a thumbs-up!

Day Four – this was a special day – it was marked as the official opening of the Singita School of Cooking.  Mark Witney, Singita’s Chief Operating Officer was also present for the honours.

Day Five – then it was back to the kitchen.  Lucien conducted a day of teaching, introduced the students to carpaccio for the first time, and iniated a competition to see who could produce some winning results. For the competition the students were split into teams and over two days they’ll compete for the top prize.  It is going to be a gruelling, fast-paced stretch.  Stay tuned!

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Stuffing Focaccia

June 27, 2012 - Community Development,Cuisine,Kruger National Park

First day at Singita School of Cooking, Lucien Green, Senior Training and Development Chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Apprentice Programme in London arrived this morning to find the students all huddled around a bench paying attention to Amos, the chef in charge, giving instruction on stuffed focaccia.  Amos was enthusiastically demonstrating how to prepare the fillings, which looked world-class: tomato, caramelized onion, mushrooms, all roasted with rosemary and garlic.  He placed the filling in the middle of the bread then folded the bread around. Then the challenge was presented: Group A against Group B – whose baked delicacy will win?  While the bread baked it gave Chef Lucien time to talk to some of the students individually as they continued with their prep duties. Forty minutes later with the smell of freshly cooked bread, the focaccia was done.  In true chef style everyone approached, not giving time for the bread to cool and everyone waiting for a bite. Lucien was asked by Amos to do the honor of judging.  All of the breads were mouthwatering but there could only be one winner and group A took the prize. Group B was a close second and poor Amos came third. It takes a good teacher to lose to his students!

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Summertime in the Bushveld

January 06, 2012 - Cuisine,Sabi Sand

Warmer weather goes hand in hand with lighter styled food at Singita Boulders Lodge this season, such as salads and chilled soups.

Utilizing the wonderful fresh produce from our new herb garden, we have tossed some vegetables together to make a delightful creation:

Easy root vegetable recipe

1 bunch beetroot

1 bunch parsnip

1 punnet baby carrots

1 sweet potato sliced

Basil pesto for dressing

Goat’s cheese (optional)

Rocket leaves

Trim the roots and leaves off the vegetables, keeping the skin on for extra nutritional value.
Dress the vegetables with olive oil, pepper and salt.  Roast the vegetables for 8-10 minutes at 180°C
Deep fry the sweet potato chips until crispy while vegetables are roasting.
Arrange the vegetables on a plate, dress with basil pesto and garnish with sweet potato crisps, leaves and goat’s cheese

Chef’s tip – by Loraine Pienaar:  Roast the different kinds of vegetables separately because cooking times may vary and the beetroot will colour the rest of the vegetables.


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Stripes Galore

October 06, 2011 - Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

The dam on the plains in front of Singita Sasakwa Lodge was a hive of activity before the rains started in earnest.  Animals trek for miles to reach the waterhole, which is one of the few that offers a good field of view. In particular there have been huge herds of zebra coming in to drink, often wading deep into the water. From around 09h00 through to 17h00 it is always busy.  Sometimes there are smaller herds of impala joining the zebra and often the Butamtam lion pride is found positioned close to the waterhole in the hopes of making a kill.

This striking black and white photography was taken by Lee Bennett, Head Guide at Singita Grumeti Reserves.  To follow wildlife updates from Grumeti Reserves, refer to the monthly Guides’ Diaries posted on Singita’s website.

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