Tag Archives: private reserve

Singita Kruger National Park

September 21, 2012 - Conservation,Kruger National Park,Safari,Wildlife

It was an extraordinary feeling walking along the wooden boardwalk as I arrived at Singita Lebombo Lodge, set against the majestic Lebombo Mountains in the heart of Kruger National Park. This had been my home for so long and I had not returned in over a year.  Singita Kruger National Park is made up of fifteen thousand hectares of pristine wilderness, with a diversity of fauna and flora not matched anywhere.  The rolling Lebombo Mountains hug the eastern boundary of the park, giving way to the vast basalt plains and supported by the N’wanetsi River that cuts through the mountains and makes its way to the east into Mozambique. It’s an isolated place, where the animals seem just a little more wild.  This is because vehicles and people have only operated in the area for a couple of years as the lodge was only completed in 2003. It is a truly unique landscape bustling with life, renowned for the large concentrations of lion and general game and seldom-seen animals such as the sable antelope – and if you’re really lucky, the elusive and shy black rhino.

After our recent, mind-blowing experience in the Sabi Sand area I was eager to see the contrast that this environment has to offer. We would be spending much more time out of the Land Rover, and exploring vast tracts of land with nothing more than a backpack, rifle, and of course a camera. My aim was to rediscover all the secret gems the concession has to offer, such as walking the N’wanetsi River, traversing the mountain ranges and possibly tracking the Mountain Pride of lion, which was an exercise I had come to miss over the last year.

I was happy to see many familiar faces; the tracking team remained unchanged and Given, the tracker who I worked with, greeted me with a hug and a familiar smile. I listened enthusiastically as they told me all that had changed in the bush since my departure. I discovered the Mountain Pride was still eighteen strong, the resident female leopard’s cubs were healthy and were now fending for themselves, the Shish pride had grown to twenty six members, and one of the males from the Xirombe pride had been killed by a rival and so it went on. I lapped it all up.

So with all the thoughts of what I may encounter over the next couple of days I switched off the light on my first night. I could hardly wait for the next day’s exhilaration to begin.

James Suter, a Field Guide with Singita for several years, is now trekking across Singita’s private reserves in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, documenting his time spent in these incredible locations, and the amazing sightings.

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Pangolin – the Holy Grail

November 16, 2010 - Safari,Wildlife

Last night’s rare pangolin sighting at Singita Sabi Sand – the encounter described by James Crookes, Singita Guide

If you ask any guide what sighting would signify the pinnacle of their career, I have a strong suspicion that the response would be almost unanimous. One would probably expect an array of answers including mating leopards, lions taking down a buffalo, discovering leopard cubs at a den site and the list goes on. Whilst all these provide amazing experiences and would definitely be highly sought after by any guide, I know that perched safely at the top of my list was always a quest to find a pangolin (Manis temmincki).  To most people who have any affiliation with the African bush, the elusive pangolin, or scaly ant eater, has become the holy grail of the savannah.

A testament to the secretive lifestyle that this animal leads is the fact that even the most comprehensive of mammal behaviour literature provides very little insight into the daily life of the pangolin. Ecologist Jonathan Swart studied pangolins for both a masters degree and a doctorate. His field work was carried out in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin and in the course of a year, he located and studied 18 of these animals in the 65,000 hectare reserve. It took him no less than four and a half months to locate his first research subject.

On this particular afternoon, hampered by drizzle and generally overcast conditions, I took a few of the staff out on a game drive, to enable them to experience and appreciate the environment in which they work.  As we rounded a bend, I noticed a creature crossing the road. It seemed to take a while for me to process the scene before me, but after a brief pause, there was almost a uniform announcement of “PANGOLIN!”  The vehicle came to an abrupt halt and was evacuated in seconds, everyone clambering to have a closer look and dispel the sense of disbelief that gripped us all.

Once I had digested the scene, gathered my thoughts and allowed my heart rate time to slow down, I embarked on what many guides can only dream of.  I picked up the radio, keyed the microphone and, in the calmest voice I could muster, announced: “located a single pangolin, stationary on Kiaat road, west of north south firebreak”, as if this was an everyday occurrence.  I could just picture the reactions on the other vehicles as the message was transmitted!  I waited to be asked to confirm the species, but unfortunately I didn’t get another opportunity to gloat.  With the animal appearing to be relaxed and no immediate danger of it disappearing into the night, others slowly made their way to the position.

It was a privilege to be able to spend almost two hours with this rare and special creature.  It was a completely surreal and moving experience, something I had always hoped for, but never really thought of as a realistic opportunity.  To be able to touch the scales and feel how surprisingly soft they actually are, being of a similar texture and slightly softer than one’s finger nails.  Watching how sensitive the pangolin is to touch and how it retracts slightly each time you stroke one of its scales. Intermittently, it would expose its head as it investigated the scene before it.  Once, it even rolled into a partial ball, possibly feeling slightly threatened by the unusual amount of attention it was receiving.  All of this provided a recipe for an amazing experience, one that I’ll treasure forever.

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