Tag Archives: Safari

March Madness

April 14, 2011 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

The game viewing at Singita Sabi Sand in March has been nothing short of spectacular.

The excitement started when we were privileged enough to have our first glimpse of the new leopard cubs in the first week of the month. Even though it was only a long distance visual of the cubs together with their mother on a rocky ledge, everyone realised just how rare and special it is to view leopard cubs, especially at only 5 weeks old.

In general, however, the first few days of the month were fairly quiet until one afternoon there seemed to be more than we could take in. Suddenly, we found the 3 members of the Mapogo coalition of male lions, the Othawa Pride of 8 as well as 6 members of the Southern Pride. The large herd of buffalo were also grazing in the southern sections of the property together with various crashes of white rhino and breeding herds of elephant making the most of the last scatterings of ripe marula fruit. If that wasn’t enough, the pack of 7 wild dogs were also discovered and some guests were lucky enough to witness them make two impala kills in a matter of minutes. Since then, this seems to have been the theme of the month, with a male cheetah also making a couple of appearances in the more open southern reaches of the property. The Southern Pride have been sharpening their buffalo hunting skills and have managed to kill a couple of these animals during the month. Nicky was lucky enough to witness one of these events which she describes further in this month’s Guides’ Diary.

Article contribution by James Crookes – excerpt from March Guides’ Diary, Singita Sabi Sand

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One hundred unique moments

March 07, 2011 - Experience,Lodges and Camps,Singita

A Singita stay is naturally wrapped up in hundreds of unique moments of thrill and awe.  Romance overflows from Africa’s most iconic locations outdone only, perhaps, by the sheer beauty of our exquisite properties and wildlife.

The sun dips slowly behind the distant hills as the Chiredzi River flows gently by….the perfect setting for an intimate evening, deep amongst the mopanes, illuminated only by the soft golden glow of lanterns set amongst the trees.

The local people will tell you fables about the stone walls found in the area around Singita Faru Faru; and they will also share with you the myths and legends of the bush, tales of great warriors and fearless wild animals.

Sabora Tented Camp is renowned for thrilling its guests with surprise venues – and menus – for dinner.  Imagine dining beneath the boughs of a large ‘Sausage’ tree (Kigelia africana) or under a lamp-lit acacia, or around the campfire with star-lit skies.

Venetian mirrors, chandeliers, crackling fires, fresh flowers, beautiful book collections, leather armchairs, collectors’ pieces and candelabra add to the elegance and grandness of Singita Sasakwa Lodge.

Creativity of special moments extends to dinner bomas at Singita Sweni and Lebombo, with the stars as your ceiling and the sounds of the bushveld as the background music.  Scores of lamps and the campfires illuminate the enclosure, setting a warm and unhurried tone bidding you to unwind and dream.

Singita Ebony is a place with time-worn attitudes, welcoming embraces and an indefinable aura of majesty, where serendipitous events unfold before your very eyes.  So much of the magic at Boulders is created by the sincerity of its people, who do their utmost to paint a vivid chapter in your life that you are certain to remember forever.

A solitary lion…a group of elephant…a lone rhinoceros…the menacing laughter from a skulking hyena…or the formidable glance from a stalking lion…there are countless moments that make you realise what drew you to the wilderness – moments that will stay with you forever, no matter how many times you share your stories with others.

For more information about the romantic experiences at Singita’s 9 lodges in 4 iconic destinations and in 3 countries in Africa, read more on our website.

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New Arrivals!

February 28, 2011 - Kruger National Park,Wildlife

Written by Singita Guide, Marlon du Toit – Singita Kruger National Park/ Lebombo and Sweni Lodges

So, as you have all heard, there are some new additions to the Mountain Pride.  A few months ago Glass (Singita Tracker) and I saw a lioness carrying a tiny, week old cub. Ever since then we have been waiting in anticipation for her to introduce the little cubs to the rest of the pride.  The day finally came three days ago when to our surprise we were introduced to, not only two little ones, but to another three cubs!  This now brings the number of the Mountain Pride up to twenty-three lions – incredible!

I spent the evening with the pride last night, and what an amazing experience. The cubs quickly got used to the presence of my vehicle, and I managed to capture some beautiful moments. The night ended on a high when the lionesses managed to kill two zebras.  It happened too quickly to capture on camera, but the experience was unforgettable.

For more photos of these special small additions to the Mountain Pride, take a look at our Facebook page.

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Ravenscourt Young Male Goes Solo

February 21, 2011 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

Written by Singita Guide, James Crookes, Singita Sabi Sand

As the Ravenscourt female leopard seems about to give birth to her 5th litter, it seems fitting to discuss the fate of her previous litter.

Soon after giving birth to two cubs in April 2009, she was rejoined by the surviving male from her previous litter, the Xindzele male. This behaviour was unusual as normally a female will chase off any intruders, regardless of whether or not they are her progeny, in an effort to protect her new cubs. During this period, it was not uncommon to see 4 leopards together at a kill or in a tree. Only in the Sabi Sand!

Unfortunately, one of the cubs, also a male, was killed during July 2010 by an adult male leopard (see July 2010 guides’ diary for details).

After this incident, there were intermittent sightings of the remaining 3 leopards, but from September 2010, the Xindzele male seemed to become completely independent and he hasn’t been seen with the other two since. He was born in November 2007, so by September 2010 he was approaching 3 years of age, by which time he is definitely expected to have become independent. This male would often be seen calling and urine spraying, both signs of territoriality indicating that he is staking claim to a certain area. His territory seems to now be centred around an area to the west of the Singita property, where he is said to be the dominant male in the area and has asserted this fact through a couple of disputes. Unfortunately, this means that we haven’t been seeing him as much as we used to, although we are still occasionally afforded this privilege.

The Ravenscourt female and young male were still seen together on a regular basis up until her mating with the Khashane male in mid October 2010. After this separation they never seemed to rejoin and it was from around this time that there were intermittent sightings of the Ravenscourt young male attempting to hunt, a sure sign that he was fending for himself and no longer relying on his mother to provide him with kills.

Leopards are the only large cats that don’t have any form of hunting training and so, when they become independent, they rely purely on instinct to learn to hunt. Lions will take their cubs to watch a hunt and cheetah will stun prey items and allow the cubs to practice their skills on these animals. A mother leopard, however, will leave her cubs at a place of safety, make a kill, and then return to collect the cubs and take them to feed allowing them no exposure to the hunt itself. This is therefore often a trying time for leopards and they often struggle to take down larger prey items. Being the resourceful animals they are, leopards will usually resort to smaller prey items while they sharpen their skills. The Ravenscourt young male was seen on more than one occasion hunting water monitor lizards in the Sand River.

To read the full tale of the young Ravenscourt male leopard, refer to James’ article in the January Singita Sabi Sand Guides’ Diary

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Battle of the Beasts

January 26, 2011 - Wildlife

(Photography by James Suter)

Singita Guide, James Suter, knows the terrain of Singita’s 15 000 hectare, private concession in the Kruger National Park, like the back of his hand.  Not only does James specialise in uncovering the world of the African wild for our Singita guests but he regularly contributes to monthly issues of our Guides’ Diary.

Below is an excerpt from the upcoming December Diary from Singita Kruger National Park – the entire journal is co-written by Marlon du Toit and James Suter.

Battle of the Beasts (by James Suter)

The competition among different species is huge; in this case a lioness with a zebra kill attracted the ever-opportunistic hyena as well as scavengers from above, all three species competing for the same food source. The lioness was accompanied by three young cubs and defended her kill with valour.

I always enjoy the interaction between different species, especially predators. It is a humbling sight watching these beasts fight for survival on a daily basis.

To follow our Guides’ Diaries, they are published monthly on our website – read more.


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Viewing Nature Without Seeing It

January 17, 2011 - Experience,Safari,Wildlife

Written by Alan Yeowart, Singita Guide, Singita Sabi Sand

I think that any reasonable guide understands the value of, and is able to express the emphatic power of utilizing a full spectrum of sensory props to enhance a guest’s safari experience.

Up until yesterday I was of the opinion that, although backed up solidly by the other senses, a wildlife experience was primarily a visual one.

Throughout my career as a field guide I have looked after people with many physical disabilities that have challenged what the “normal” exposure may be, and have had enormous admiration for the individuals and how they overcome these challenges. I have recently been afforded the great pleasure of looking after a blind man on Safari over the period of two days.

Blindness, in my opinion, must be one of the most devastating and debilitating of disabilities, but I learnt that Nature is powerful enough to overcome even this in Her ability to deeply touch individuals. It was a hugely humbling experience indeed!!

I was really quite unsure how I was going to manage the safari experience with a blind person on my vehicle, and how to try and portray wildlife with the same degree of enormity that is so simple visually. But as it transpired, I needn’t have been even remotely concerned, as Nature would divulge Herself in a cacophony of sounds and non-visual prompts that left me bewildered.

We began by crossing the Sand River, an aural experience in itself, as the land rover waded through the crossing and the water cascaded around us and the tyres crunched over the rocky bed. Switching off the vehicle to listen to the soothing current – suddenly a large Nile Monitor Lizard scrambled from a rock where it had been sunning itself, its long, sharp claws grinding against the rock as they sought purchase; its gravelly belly and tail scales rasped across the surface portraying its size and serpentine swiftness. Had I heard this before?

Next we encountered a lone buffalo bull in the reed beds on the opposite side of the river – this I was certain was to be a “sighting” that would be only for the benefit of the sighted as there was little I could do to try and improve it for my blind guest. Just as I was about to start the vehicle (and get the diesel engine running, that was to become such an intrusive noise throughout the experience!!) this great General steered towards the water’s edge and proceeded to wade out into the river and across to the northern bank! Quite audibly depicting his huge bulk as he laboriously heaved himself, splashing and sloshing, across the River.

It was then the turn of the most silent and elusive of all, the leopard. Having undertaken some rather hairy off-road maneuvering, and navigating angles that gave the feeling that the vehicle may roll over at any moment! (Although this was far from the critical levels that can be safely negotiated, it was an experience in itself.) We came upon a sighting of a female leopard with a young impala kill deep within the sprawling branches of a river bushwillow. The visibility for the rest of us was fairly average, but she was feeding on the carcass as we located her. The ripping of flesh and skin and the cracking of bones, coupled with the olfactory element that accompanies sightings such as these, gave more than enough stimuli for the mind to paint a picture.

I was really starting to enjoy this. Already there was a relaxed and absorptive atmosphere amongst all on the vehicle and on we went.

The cards continued to fall perfectly as we came across a young male cheetah lying in fairly long grass. Again it began as a mediocre scene with little potential of improving for any of us, being especially enigmatic and challenging to try and describe this lithe feline who is significantly more famous for its high-speed chases than its vocal repertoire or raucousness. Just then the cheetah stood up and walked straight to a tree a few metres from us and proceeded to reach up the trunk and claw the bark audibly (with the very same partially-sheathed claws that I had described only seconds prior).  This was followed by a flurry of circular sprints in the fallen leaf-litter of the deciduous woodland that it had been lying in, which appeared to be completely for show, and provided another amazing display of aural tangibility.

It was then the turn of my favorites, the elephants; I would surely get some audio from these giants and felt quietly confident as I approached a herd that was just finishing a drink at a large waterpoint. “Elephants!” I announced somewhat unnecessarily as two fabulous bulls jousted one another mere metres away; clattering ivory, slapping trunks and ears, growling and bellowing, pushing and shoving through bushes which tore at their tough hide. Calves squealed in the background, others slurped audibly at the cool water and sprayed trunk-fulls over their bodies in a noisy, drenching shower. Then sand was kicked loose and hovered up with the trunk and blown with great exhalations across their sides.

Trunks wound around thorny acacia branches and slowly and purposefully stripped along the length of the branch to de-nature the lignified thorns, creating an almost “hissing” sound. Clatter again as ivory collided and deep, guttural rumblings that reverberated around us…..

Elephants, they certainly know how to come to the party!!

I disembarked the vehicle with my blind guest so that he could get a better cognizance of this experience away from the relative sanctuary of the land rover.  I too, closed my eyes to try and share in his perception, albeit from a different level. His grip was firm on my arm but not with fear, it was rigid with the power of the experience, formulating images and harnessing the sounds and smells.

Aromatic herbs released their scents as they were trampled beneath the great padded feet, and the dull thuds of dung bolus as they hit the ground emanating rich animal scents, not unpleasant.

We could have stayed all day with this group, sight or no sight it was a very special scene, but the pressures of a short safari determined that we continue to explore further.

A pride of 11 lions had dispossessed a leopard of its kill and now lay lazily at the base of a large Marula Tree whilst the disgruntled leopard wiled away the time high up in the branches above them, offering disapproving looks down to his fat relatives below. Visually this was an extraordinary scene. All the other creatures had performed so well to announce themselves to my blind guest. Rather dreamily I wished that one of the lions would stand up and unleash a mighty roar – the sound so encapsulating and powerful.  But deep down I really expected the lions to fail me, and I was spot on!! There were one or two grunts and a belch as they lazily flopped from one side of a fully-loaded belly to the other. The busy and excited narrative on the vehicle would have to suffice in this instance.

Hippos wheeze-honking; impala snorting in alarm and uttering their nasal bellowing in remembrance of the rut, rhino and herds of buffalo tore at tussocks of grass within touching distance, their heavy scents permeating the air around us. We kicked elephant dung balls and felt the giant circumference of the footprint of a great bull. We felt the length and rigidity of the scented-pod acacia thorns.

Once all was done out in the field it was time to tie up all the loose ends – décor around the lodge! Delicate and informative fingers roamed over the huge ostrich eggs and spiraled kudu horns.  The skulls of giraffe, rhino and hippo; the pitted bone, occluded canines and over-sized incisors. His face was a picture of amazement as he pieced together the final elements of his minds’ image.

Nature had been on show, but as I recollect the many hundreds of game drives I have taken, I cannot recall any being so loaded with non-visual stimuli, or maybe my vision had simply deafened me to it.

Do not underestimate the sounds,  the smells and the textures.


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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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Wildlife – the News in Pictures

November 08, 2010 - Wildlife

From Singita Guide, Marlon du Toit – Singita Kruger National Park

Featured in this article are a variety of photographs from elephants to lions and leopards.  In general the Singita Kruger concession is still blowing everyone away, including guides that have been here for a long time.  Viewings of wildlife have been spectacular over the past weeks.

As far as lions go, the Mountain Pride has been staying within the Kori Clearing vicinity for the last two weeks now.  That is good news for us as we don’t have to drive too the far north in order to find them.

Xinkelengene Cub

Young elephants having fun.


Another highlight from the last few days were two slender mongooses battling it out for territory.  They went about it as if their lives depended on it, and it was the first time I witnessed something like that.  Also, we have been seeing black rhino at least twice a week; amazing considering there are fewer that 500 in the whole entire park.

To keep up with monthly wildlife happenings at all of our Singita reserves, follow our Guide’s Diaries for updates.

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Scouting for Art

October 18, 2010 - Environment,Events

Recently on a scouting trip around Nduna searching for lions for our guest, as we headed off road something caught my eye on one of the rock faces.  I decided to go and investigate and found a small rock painting. Due to time restraints I was not able to scout the area for more paintings, nevertheless, I had a quick look around and found a second site about 300 metres from the initial site.  In order to ascertain if these were unique sites I made certain to GPS both of them, made a recording and checked the data.  They were not recorded in our data so I contacted Ben Smith at University of Witwatersrand and they did not have them recorded either.

This was amazing news meaning that we have increased the database of rock paintings now to 80 sites.   These figures refer to painting sites only.  So from the beginning of last year we had a record 56 rock painting sites; the guiding department has increased this record to date to 78 and now these 2 new ones total the sites to 80.  There is no doubt that we will keep adding to this number – we’ll keep you updated.

Singita Guide – Brad Fouche, Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe

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Perfectly piquant

October 11, 2010 - Events

One of the most delectable recipes we will ever post – this one is a winner from our Singita Lebombo kitchen.  There’s no question you will fall in love with it.

Chilli and Pepper Jam

Ingredients

5 red peppers

3 yellow peppers

1 clove of garlic

1 shallot

1 tablespoon grated ginger (or less according to your own preference)

1 vanilla pod

85 ml white wine

35 ml while balsamico vinegar

2 fresh chillis

Instructions

Deseed the red peppers and cut them into small cubes.  Do the same with the yellow peppers.  Finely dice the garlic, shallot and ginger.  Place all of the ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil.  Season if necessary and simmer for 10 minutes – then remove the vanilla pod.  Continue to simmer until the jam forms a jelly if placed on a cold plate.  Fill clean jars with the chilli jam and store in the fridge.

Serve with charcuterie, cheese, bread sticks and olives.

Bon Appetit from Singita Lebombo Kitchen!


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