Tag Archives: Singita Field Guide

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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Field Guide Favourites: Rays of Light

August 29, 2013 - Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge,Singita Ebony Lodge,Wildlife

Singita’s field guides are required to have a number of skills; the powers of observation, knowledge of various bird calls and animal spoor, good awareness of their surroundings and a passion for the African bush among them. Some of them also happen to be talented photographers and are responsible for many of the wildlife shots you see on this blog.

We will be showcasing some of their favourite photos over the next few weeks, with some words from the field guides themselves about the moment they captured through the lens. First we have Dylan Brandt from Singita Sabi Sand, a regular contributor to our blog and Facebook page:

Rays of Light copyright Dylan Brandt

Light has a wonderful way of creating mood. All it takes is a keen eye and a little patience and the rest will unfold in front of you. We had been following the roars of lion for an hour before we found two lionesses lying on the edge of a barely driven, two-track dirt road. The lionesses started moving and roaring only to attract a coalition of males nearby. It was a misty overcast morning, cool and damp with the sun nowhere to be seen. We spent an hour enjoying the pride hoping for a break in the clouds to cast a bit of sunlight for a quick image or two.

Male lions have a habit of snoozing the day away and opportunities for unusual photographs are few and far between. We were fortunate however to have a wonderful ray of sunlight beam through a thick canopy to light up the head of one of the adults. The rest of the image contrasted in shade made for a great chance to capitalise on light.

A keen eye, a little patience and the rest will unfold in front of you.

Keep an eye on the blog for more special photographs from our field guides and catch up on our monthly Wildlife Reports for more.

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Highlights from our Wildlife Reports

August 20, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Kruger National Park,Lamai,Sabi Sand,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

Every month, field guides from the five regions in which Singita has lodges and camps, send us first-hand reports from the bushveld. These delightful wildlife journals describe the recent animal activities, unusual game-spotting, local birdlife  and seasonal shifts in the landscape, accompanied by spectacular photographs. Here is a selection of snaps from some recent diaries for you to enjoy:

Singita Kruger National Park

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Over the last month we had a total of 29 leopard sightings, but what was impressive was not the number of sightings, but rather the quality of sightings that we experienced. One sighting that stands out in particular of the Sticky Thorn female and her two cubs was when they were feeding off an African rock python that she had caught and hoisted into a large leadwood tree. It made for outstanding viewing!

Report by Nick du Plessis. Photos by Nick du Plessis and Ross Couper.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Kruger National Park Wildlife Report July 2013

Singita Sabi Sand

sss

After months of huge anticipation and many attempts at getting a glimpse at these young cubs, the day finally arrived, and boy did I soak in all the goodness! To see eight little bundles of lion fluff bounding towards your vehicle across the white beach-like sand of the aptly named Sand River is an absolute dream come true. These lion cubs remained well hidden within the thickets along the banks of the river for many weeks, a useful method of protecting them, especially in the absence of their mothers. We would get a glimpse of a cub every now and then, but to see all of them right there in the open was incredible.

Report and photos by Marlon du Toit.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report July 2013

Singita Pamushana

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We were watching a small bachelor group of elephants when we noticed one of the bulls had a most impressive set of tusks. He was not a big elephant but his ivory was magnificent. He seemed to know that he needed to be cautious and made a hopeless and very funny attempt to hide behind a bush. As we were watching him a large shadow loomed to our right. A much larger bull with small tusks came to act as a buffer and make sure we meant no harm to him or his ‘brother’.

Report and photos by Jenny Hishin.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report July 2013

Singita Grumeti

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The arrival of The Great Migration on the 1st of June kicked off what would prove to be a very exciting month for viewing wildlife at Singita Grumeti. On the first day, thousands of wildebeest began arriving from the southeast, making their way north and west. They surrounded Faru Faru Lodge and the Nyati plains, and after about ten days were spread across nearly all of Singita Grumeti, from Faru Faru Lodge in the east, to the central Sasakwa plains below Sasakwa Lodge, and all the way west past Sabora Tented Camp. They milled about grazing for about four or five days and then they began to move, forming never ending lines heading back east again and then north through Ikorongo.

Report and photos by Ryan Schmitt and Lizzie Hamrick. This photo by Saitoti Ole Kuwai.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Grumeti Wildlife Report June 2013

Singita Lamai

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The rains have held off this month, giving the area a chance to dry up a bit and colours to change. This, combined with a hot easterly wind, has turned the palette from all shades of green to burnt amber, ochre and dark browns with just a pale under-shading of green to remind us of what was, and what is, to come. The plains east of us have been exceptionally productive over the month, with regular sightings of elephants, buffalos, rhinos, lions and plains game. Hyenas pass the heat of the day lying in the little pools of water in the now almost dry drainage lines, and cheetahs stalk the plains on their long legs, cubs in tow, as they search for something to chase down and eat.

Report and photos by Lee Bennett.
See more wildlife reports from Singita Lamai.

Visit the Wildlife Reports section on our website to catch up on more recent reports, and keep in touch with us by subscribing to our newsletter using the box on the right.

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Special Species at Singita

July 09, 2013 - Africa,Conservation,Experience,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

Field guide James Suter has spent a year travelling between Singita’s lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania and reporting on the wildlife population of each reserve. He recently visited Singita Pamushana Lodge and discovered some unusual local inhabitants.

James Suter at Singita Pamushana Lodge
The diversity of wildlife to be found at Singita Pamushana Lodge is unmatched in Southern Africa. It is home not only to the well-known “Big Five” but also  the “Little Six,” a group of small antelope which includes klipspringer, suni, grey duiker, steenbokgrysbok and oribi. The Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve also provides a sanctuary for three very uncommon antelope: the sable, roan and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. These shy animals are rarely seen and this area provides a fantastic opportunity to spot them.

Little Six at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Sable antelope live in savanna woodlands and inhabit grassland areas during the dry season. Their remarkable, scimitar-shaped horns, while beautiful, have unfortunately led to a sharp decline in the species as they are hunted for this highly prized trophy. They are unmistakable and luckily for us, sightings are relatively common in the concession. We were even lucky enough to see a large breeding herd of fifteen recently, as they made their way through the Mopane forests.

Little Six at Singita Pamushana Lodge

The roan antelope, named for their reddish-brown colouring, are similar in appearance to the sable and are one of the largest species of antelope found in Africa, exceeded in size only by the African buffalo and eland. There has also been a substantial reduction in both numbers and range of these animals, largely as a result of illegal poaching and the destruction of their natural habitat. Roan antelope are also heavily reliant on tall grasses and are vulnerable to lack of rainfall, making extended dry seasons and drought a serious threat to their survival.

Little Six at Singita Pamushana Lodge

The Lichtenstein’s hartebeest is the rarest mammal in Zimbabwe. They can run up to 60 km per hour and the males are highly territorial. The herd is generally led by an adult male, who often takes up watch on a patch of elevated ground, usually in the form of a termite mound. This male defends a territory of about 2.5 square kilometers year-round and during the rut, a male with a territory will try to round up as many females as possible. At this time, fights between rival males are common, and can last for extended periods of time.

Little Six at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Little Six at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Visit our website to find out more about the conservation programmes at Singita Pamushana Lodge and don’t forget to read our monthly Wildlife Reports from the region. 

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A Lone Leopard at Singita Grumeti

April 15, 2013 - Africa,Environment,Experience,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

I was fortunate enough to have a number of different leopard sightings during my stay at Singita Grumeti. Most of these encounters were brief and had taken place in the lush vegetation along the Grumeti River, where the shy cats are easily able to camouflage themselves.

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

One morning during our visit, I was delighted to hear that a large male leopard had been located in the south western parts of the concession; just a stone’s throw from Singita Sabora Tented Camp. This region is known for its vast, open plains and I hoped to have a sighting of the handsome cat within such a unique habitat.

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

As we approached the area where the leopard had last been seen, we were quickly able to identify the characteristic figure of the large cat while he lay resting in an isolated acacia tree. We approached slowly, making sure not to scare the animal away but he seemed more comfortable than most of the leopards in the reserve who offered us just fleeting glimpses of their spotted hide. This healthy male appeared completely relaxed as he sat guarding a warthog that he had killed and dragged up into the tree, away from other opportunistic predators.

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

Leopard sighting at Singita Grumeti

I was amazed at the scene of this massive cat perched in a rather small tree in the middle of the Serengeti. After observing him for some time, we noticed a large burrow directly beneath the acacia, which appeared to be active, as indicated by the presence of flies around the entrance. It became clear that this burrow belonged to the unfortunate warthog that was now neatly placed in the upper branches of the tree, a victim of the leopard’s hunting skill and experience.

Singita Sabora Tented Camp - Tanzania

James Suter is an expert Field Guide and talented photographer who is exploring Singita Grumeti in Tanzania and reporting on the wildlife he finds there. You can read more of James’ journey with Singita through Southern Africa on the blog.

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Maternal Instinct

February 26, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

Leopard at Singita Sabi Sand

Francois Fourie, Field Guide at Singita Sabi Sand, had the great fortune of spotting the female Ravenscourt leopard last week, while in action defending her young. The Sabi Sand Reserve is well known for frequent leopard sightings (as well as a general diversity of game), since the big cats are attracted to the camouflage afforded them by the lush riverine flora. You can read regular updates on wildlife sightings in the area by following our fascinating monthly Guides’ Diaries.

It was once again one of those mornings that will stick with me forever. We are so privileged to wake up in this amazing place every day and get to see such incredible things; this morning just proved that we really have the best job in world.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

We headed out from the lodge with our main aim being to spot a leopard. We headed south and not even ten minutes into the excursion, our tracker Sandile saw the spoor of a female leopard and her cub. We knew she must be in the area because there had been a report that she had killed a young impala lamb the day before. She wasn’t on the site of the kill, instead there were plenty of hyena tracks and a drag mark suggesting that she lost her lamb to a hungry pack.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

We followed the fresh tracks and about 15 minutes later we found her and the cub with another impala lamb hoisted in a marula tree. Lurking hopefully at the base of the tree was an opportunistic hyena, while the Ravenscourt female lay not too far from the tree keeping a wary eye on the predator. Suddenly the cub decided to come down from his perch and with that motion the hyena promptly got to his feet, most likely assuming that the leopard had dropped the kill.  In the blink of an eye, the protective female was up and flying to attack the hyena that was threatening her cub, successfully warding him off. It was amazing to see how quickly and naturally her mothering instinct kicked in within a matter of seconds and I will remember it along with some of the greatest moments experienced in the bush.

The female Ravenscourt leopard defends her cub from a hyena

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The Mating Game

June 12, 2012 - Conservation,Kruger National Park,Wildlife

It’s peculiar, for the amount of times that lions mate, it is quite a rare sight to actually catch them in the act. However lions do not mate at any specific time of the year and are not always that easy to find.  Singita Kruger National Park is lion country and during my guiding career I have been fortunate to have some fantastic opportunities to see these guys in action. A pair of mating lions is an interesting affair, which involves a fair deal of aggression, acrobatics, persistence and astonishing vocals all thrown into one performance.

On this particular day we found one of the young males from the Southern pride showing keen interest in a young female. It’s often quite easy to observe sexual behavior in lions and if one is patient, the reward is well worth the wait. Mating is initiated by both male and female, but seemingly more often by the female who is full of energy during her oestrus.  We sat with the animals for some time before the female gestured to the male and presented herself to him.

Most lionesses will have reproduced by the time they are four years of age.  This was still a young female and possibly her first intermit experience with the opposite sex. As with other cats, the male lion’s penis has fine barbs, which point backwards. Upon withdrawal, the barbs rake the walls of the female’s vagina, which may cause ovulation but obvious pain. After he mounted her we watched in awe as she clearly voiced her discomfort, lashing out at the male with snarls of displeasure.

This aggressive response from the female is all part of the act and a mating bout, which could last several days. They will copulate twenty to forty times a day each lasting about 20 seconds at a time. They may even go without eating during their time together.

We located the couple over the next few days, with the male keeping a close eye on his four brothers, making sure they knew this young female belonged to him and that it was going to be his genes that were passed on successfully. If mating failed, the lioness will come into oestrus again in 16 days and possibly another lion will be successful, however I feel in this case this male managed to seal the deal as he gave quite a performance.

We hope you’ll follow James Suter as he blogs from Singita’s private game reserves across Africa – tracking the natural rhythms of the wild.

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Introducing James Suter

May 16, 2012 - Safari,Wildlife

From a young age I had always dreamed of working in the bush. I visited the Lowveld a couple of times with my family growing up and had always longed to work in this beautiful area that was filled with all sorts of natural wonders. In 2008 I was selected to partake in the Singita Guide training course. This entailed an intensive six months of training under the head trainer Alan Yeowart, based at Singita Sabi Sand.

This is where my career as a guide began and where my passion for photography grew. We spent most of the six months out in the bush – learning to track game, and animal behaviour, how to shoot a rifle and identify the vast amount of organisms found in the area. We were also able to visit the Malilangwe Reserve in Zimbabwe (Singita Pamushana Lodge) and trail the elusive black rhino as well as visiting the N’wanetsi concession in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. These three concessions were all so different and so we became familiar with  many different types of vegetation, birdlife, and wildlife that occur in Southern Africa.

Once I was equipped with the skills that were instilled in me during my training, I was placed up at Singita Kruger National Park working as a Field Guide in the N’wanetsi concession.  This would be my home for the next three years. It was an incredible place with high concentrations of lion, breathtaking scenery and a wealth of diversity, all within fifteen thousand hectares of wilderness.

With four years of guiding under my belt, this year I have the opportunity to revisit my old stomping ground at Singita Kruger National Park, as well as all of the other Singita properties situated in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. I hope to continue learning throughout the year, and share the newfound knowledge gained. I also hope to document my time spent in these incredible locations and all the beautiful and amazing sightings I am exposed to. Follow me as I share with you the unique character, amazing wildlife and incredible people that make Singita the place it is.

(Singita Kruger National Park – photograph by James Suter)

(Singita Sabi Sand – photograph by James Suter)

(Singita Grumeti Reserves – photograph by James Suter)

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