The wheels of the tiny plane touched down on the narrow Singita runway situated in the Sabi Sand game reserve. My heart skipped a beat and my excitement levels were in overdrive. I was back in the bush. Stepping off the plane, I felt the familiar humid air mixed with all the organic smells of the African wild. I couldn’t wait to jump into the Land Rover and start exploring.
Installed in one of the spacious suites at Singita Ebony Lodge, I set up my equipment and spread out onto the deck which overlooks the Sand River. There were massive floods a month before my arrival and so the river looked amazing, meandering through the lush vegetation as it flowed gently to the east. An elephant bull that had braved the heat of the day to quench his thirst at the water’s edge, greeted me. Leaving him to his business I made my way up to the top garage and the adventure began.
Before I knew it I was in my vehicle heading toward the western section, an almost mystical part of the concession, densely vegetated with large trees and winding tracks. This was the area where a large male leopard had been recently seen with its kill concealed in a suitable tree. I located the remains of the carcass, which was a young male kudu, and investigated the area. There were scratch marks left by the leopard while ascending the tree and the leftovers of the kudu were on the floor below; but no sign of the animal. It was hot and he had possibly moved closer to the water and found an appropriate place to retreat for the day.
When it was cooler I headed back, armed with my camera, hoping to get a shot of this elusive animal. Darkness was approaching and I was worried about the fading light.
Suddenly a familiar voice crackled on the radio. Another guide had located the animal and I made my way to his position. Pulling off the track I switched off the vehicle. All of a sudden there he was – an attractive large male leopard that is regularly seen in the area. Holding my breath I positioned myself as he walked straight toward the vehicle, walking a meter from my lens showing no sign of fear. I had been at Singita for no more than a couple of hours and already spotted my first leopard. What a fantastic launch of my adventure.
James Suter, this week, trekking across the rugged terrain of Singita Sabi Sand.
One of the guides informed me that there was an active hyena den site close to one of the major pans in the more central parts of the Singita Sabi Sand reserve. I decided, as it was a rather cool afternoon, to make my way toward the area and see if I would have the opportunity to spend some time with these interesting characters.
I found the small track that cut straight into the thick bush west of the pan, and headed to where I was told the den was situated. After driving for some time, to my amazement when I rounded the bend there they were, the entire clan, all lying around a large termite mound, which they used as a den site.
The female was suckling her two younger cubs, whilst the third slightly elder cub came forward, inquisitive about my presence. He approached the vehicle, not knowing what to make of this large solid object. I sat there for over an hour, savoring the moment, observing from behind tinted lenses, hyenas in their natural environment. I find people often get the wrong idea about these unusual creatures, often confusing their ungainly appearance with an animal that does nothing but scavenge. My experience with them however is very different and I have witnessed them hunting with incredible efficiency and a galloping grace.
Stay tuned for more of James Suter as he treks through the wilderness of Singita Sabi Sand this week.
The Xirombe lion pride – Singita Kruger National Park
Xinkelengane female leopard
A remarkable week of game viewing at Singita Kruger this week. Behind the lens is Singita Guide, Marlon du Toit, who loves every minute of his day introducing the wilderness to guests at Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges.
One of the benefits of working in remote areas like Singita Sabi Sand is the abundance of local farming communities around the reserve. I was fortunate enough to have found one, Saringwa farm that is only a few kilometers down the road in the town of Belfast.
They have a wide variety of freshly picked vegetables on offer, and with such fresh produce available it’s a sin not to utilize them when they are at nature’s best.
I could not wait to get hold of the sun- ripened tomatoes that were on offer and make one of my all time favorites: tomato and chili jam with local tomatoes and chilis out of the herb garden that we started behind the Boulders’ kitchen. You’ll want to store this recipe deep in your recipe chest because it is an absolute winner – and something to pass down the generations.
Peter Liese – Sous Chef, Singita Boulders Lodge
Tomato and Chili Jam
500g plum tomatoes
100g golden sugar
100 ml white wine vinegar
2 red chilis
4 cloves garlic
1 red onion
Making the Jam
Wash the tomatoes, chili and peel the garlic and red onion. Place in a food processor and puree until liquid. Pour into a heavy bottomed pot and add the vinegar and golden sugar. Bring to a simmer on a gentle heat and cook for about 40 to 80 minutes. Occasionally stir the pot to ensure the mixture will not burn. Place two suitably sized jars into rapidly boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes to sterilize. Fill the jars with the hot jam and seal immediately.
Pair the jam with crispy tempura vegetables, calamari or cheese for some delectable flavors.
Tips: If you would like less bite to the jam feel free to take the seeds out of the chilis first.
For more texture to the jam you may also chop a third of the tomatoes roughly and add them to the liquid when you begin to cook it.
We asked Andrew Temblett – Assistant Lodge Manager at Singita Boulders Lodge – to provide some helpful tips and guidance for reaching the lodges at Singita Sabi Sand – Ebony Lodge, Boulders Lodge and Castleton Camp.
(Singita Boulders Lodge – Singita Sabi Sand)
There are a few ways to arrive at Singita Sabi Sand but certainly the easiest and most efficient way is by air; and depending on your particular requirements you may fly from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Nelspruit or a neighboring lodge on either a scheduled charter, private charter or even a chartered jet. Singita Sabi Sand has its own airstrip and the most common flights are taken from Johannesburg or Nelspruit. Johannesburg is roughly a 50 minute, relaxed flight to Singita Sabi Sand, and from Nelspruit the flight is approximately 20 minutes. Depending on where you will be flying from should determine the flight path that allows for greatest ease and efficiency.
One of the best parts of flying to Singita Sabi Sand is the arrival “lounge” on the airstrip where you are welcomed by your Guide and Tracker, a delectable snack and refreshing drink – a mere 5 minute drive from the lodges, it couldn’t be more efficient.
There are also self-drive options and transfer company options allowing you to drive yourself or be transferred by chauffeur, bearing in mind the drive from Johannesburg is 5 hours and the drive from Nelspruit is 2 hours.
The drives have their benefits though as they are scenic especially as you approach the White River Hazyview area. Driving also builds the excitement of beginning your safari in the bush and understanding more about where you are travelling to. Passing through the local communities on the way provides a glimpse into the world where most of our staff come from. Also as you drive to Singita, with each passing mile you will be in awe of the remoteness of our “miracle”.
(The view of the Sand River from Singita Ebony Lodge deck)
Whichever way you chose, you will arrive and be greeted by our fabulous staff, who will endeavor to have you settled into your new “home” and have you pampered from morning to night.
Again it has been an action-packed month of great game sightings at Singita Sabi Sand.
“To share these wonderful moments with people who have a similar interest in and love of nature is for me the most rewarding aspect of my job. To immerse oneself into a world that holds such majesty and evokes such wonder in an unscripted and unexpected manner is what safari is all about.” Dylan Brandt – Field Guide, Singita Sabi Sand.
The Singita Sabi Sand Guides’ Diary is compiled by James Crookes, Guide, Singita Sabi Sand. For more astounding photography and wildlife updates read the full Guides’ Diary on Singita’s website.
Singita Explore (mobile tented camp set up on the plains of the Singita Grumeti Reserves), through the eyes of James Suter and Marlon du Toit (Safari Brothers), professional guides at Singita Kruger National Park. A life-changing adventure!
(Photography by James and Marlon)
Game drives in the Grumeti concession differ from those in South Africa, and Marlon and I took some time before we realised this. Every time we head out onto the plains and our guide stops, we immediately grab our binoculars and start scanning the landscape. As we start spotting animals, which one always does every time one looks around, we start calling out the names of the different species.
This is really exciting as not only are a lot of these species new to us but the abundance of life is astounding. We managed to tick off many new species of birds, Aardwolf, and saw lions climbing trees, which we are told is a very common habit of the Butamtam pride.
Once again the wealth of game including massive herds of eland, topi, zebra, giraffe and elephants blew us away. One of the most enjoyable moments for me was getting out of the vehicle and watching the sun set over the Serengeti amongst hundreds of animals.
Keep up with stunning photography on the Singita Facebook page…more to come.
To book Singita Explore, please take a look at our introductory offer available through 15 December 2011.
Safari Brothers experiencing the adventure of Singita Explore….James Suter shares his morning moments, waking up to the smell of fireside-brewed coffee and glorious sunrises…
We awake in the morning at our Singita Explore tented camp filled with excitement, listening to both sounds of the Serengeti plains as well as the early morning sounds of the Swahili staff preparing coffee on the fire. Typical mornings include a 06h00 wake up call, hot shower and then as we step outside the tent we are greeted by the most magnificent Tanzanian sunrises.
Quite remarkable and eco-friendly, each sleeper tent is equipped with a 20 litre bucket that is used for the shower, and this provides 10 luxurious minutes of shower time – or more if needed. Hot water is made via a volcano pressure boiler, and is fuelled by recycled “green” energy.
After thrilling morning game drives, heading back to camp to enjoy a sumptuous cooked breakfast is all that is on our minds. A table is set up for us out in the open in front of the camp, with shade provided by a large acacia. Right by our table, staff prepare generous portions of eggs and meats to satisfy our ravenous appetites. We could stay here forever!
Nothing like the smell of filtered coffee brewed over the coals and a crisp morning chill in the air – James Suter.
Take a look at more amazing sights that we are capturing on camera….follow the account on Singita’s Facebook page all week.
Tanzania is one incredible place! The vast spaces and dramatic settings absolutely blew our minds. The excitement levels grew as we flew over the Serengeti; we looked out of the small aeroplane and we could see the herds starting to make their way slowly NW towards the Singita Grumeti concession.
Our Singita Explore tented camp was set up in one of the more remote parts of the concession, giving one a feeling of freedom and genesis. On our arrival we were greeted by the notoriously friendly Swahili staff and greeting “Jambo!”. We tried to get our heads around the fact that we were in the middle of the Serengeti, with endless grasslands dotted with the familiar acacia species. Not only were we in this surreal place but also our accommodation was a tent fit for a king.
Although back-to-basics and in true camping-style, the tents are equipped with anything and everything one’s heart could desire; luxurious camp cots, hot showers and comfortable lounging wear and furniture. All is prepared within seconds upon request. The experience is hard to put into words; embraced by absolute luxury, yet at the same time feeling what it might have felt like to be the first people to set foot in Africa – exploring the unexplored.
I will never forget this experience – to feel so close to nature amongst herds of zebra, impala and giraffe; going to sleep with them and waking up with them. This is an experience that is truly life-changing – not just an opportunity to explore this amazing part of Africa but an opportunity to explore one’s self.
Written by James Suter, Guide from Singita Kruger National Park
James Suter and Marlon du Toit (AKA the Safari Brothers) are both professional guides and work in the heart of the Kruger National Park at Singita’s Lebombo and Sweni Lodges. This week they went up to experience Singita Explore in Tanzania and are now documenting the adventure through their eyes; the eyes of the Safari Brothers. Follow the entire adventure on Singita’s Facebook page.
You’ll be in awe of their astounding photography.
From the plains of the Serengeti to the rocky outcrops at Singita Pamushana, to the unique wildnerness settings of Singita Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand, Easter festivities were celebrated with a special touch of safari style. New life abounds with the Ravenscourt female’s cubs at Singita Sabi Sand; the breathtaking new cheetah cubs and the growing and magnificent Mountain Pride at Singita Kruger; and the Butamtam lion cubs at Singita Grumeti Reserves. But also age-old holiday traditions were tucked into the Easter weekend including Easter egg hunts for the little ones at Pamushana Lodge and the most delectable hot cross buns served on the grand verandas of Sasakwa Lodge. As usual, we love to create memories of a lifetime at Singita!