Tag Archives: Kruger National Park

A Haven for Hippo

November 08, 2012 - Conservation,Kruger National Park,Safari,Wildlife

The place to be in winter when looking for game in the bush is along a watercourse, as these areas are always teeming with a variety of wildlife who visit from miles around. We set out on foot on a lovely, cool morning with the hope of finding a large pod of hippo and some great photographic opportunities. I very quickly found a well-used hippo path which we jumped onto, making our way towards the river.

Hippo at Singita Kruger National Park

I was really interested to see the size of the hippo populations in the larger pools that normally remain filled until the summer rains come. There were plenty of indicators that many of these animals had now returned to the river. Being nocturnal feeders, they head back to the safety of the water as soon as day breaks and the sun’s rays strike the now harsh savannah. Following their huge tracks, we drew closer to the river, always mindful of our position as the last place one wants to be is between this massive beast and its water. Hippo, like most wild animals, are unpredictable so we approached quietly and vigilantly, ears pricked and eyes strained for any potential danger.

Hippo spotting at Singita Kruger National Park

Another factor I was considering was the abundance of predators, as well as elephants, which all made full use of these pools. We had come across fresh lion, leopard and rhino tracks just minutes into our walk and all this was evidence of this area being well used by these dangerous species.

Determined to find the hippo that were clearly in no shortage of supply, we proceeded towards the lush banks of the drainage that supplies water to the grateful beasts that are so dependent on this precious resource. Suddenly we had our first visual of a large bull leaving the water, fortunately on the other side of the bank and walking directly away from us. He was apparently completely unaware of our presence, even after the noisy baboons gave away our position. I was however happy to have them around, as in this thick area they would provide us with warning should a predator be approaching. Although the hippo in this area were usually to be found in abundance, this male was alone. He had obviously been ousted from the rest of the pod, and would have to settle for a shallow, muddy pool, which he would have to make the most of until the next rains.

James Suter, field guide at Singita

This meant we would have to head downstream and it also meant we would have to walk through very dense bush between a ridge and the water, keeping our wits about us.  Leaving the male to his business, and feeling slightly sorry for this lone creature, we made our way down the narrow hippo path and headed cautiously along the eastern bank of the river. A swish of movement caught my eye as an animal sped up the ridge; I was sure it was a leopard. This was confirmed minutes later as we found the tracks of a young female.

Female leopard tracks at Singita Kruger National Park

While examining the tracks, we heard the faint sound of a hippo calling in the distance, confirming we were headed in the right direction. After some time, we rounded a large bend in the river and were rewarded with the sight of a large pool, a gem, absolutely full of hippo. We approached slowly as they vocalized – a sound only hippos can make! It was amazing to soak up the spectacle of this fifty-strong pod, which included the dominant male, females and some youngsters. In the morning light, it was a magnificent scene.

A pod of hippo basking in the morning sun

Hippo at Singita Kruger National Park

Keep following the James Suter blog series as James explores Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park, tracking wildlife through a daily expedition of adrenalin.

Read More


An Elephant’s Playground

November 01, 2012 - Conservation,Kruger National Park,Safari,Wildlife

Dumbana Pools is a well-known pool situated along the N’wanetsi River in Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park, and treasured by all the animals that inhabit the area. It’s a refuge for hippos throughout the year and a source of life for the animals during the dry and unforgiving winters.

While driving in the area along a track that runs parallel with the river, I noticed a great deal of elephant tracks heading down towards the pool. Turning the vehicle off, I heard a great deal of commotion ahead of us in the water. At this time of the year during the colder months, many of the elephants spend the majority of their time seeking refuge in the Lebombo Mountains feeding on many of the evergreen shrubs and trees. They do however make the daily journey towards the N’wanetsi River to fill up on water, which they are so dependent on. We were in the right place at the right time and the wind seemed to be in our favour. The decision was made to take a closer look on foot.

I knew this was going to be one of those incredible moments. With my heart beating at a slightly abnormal pace, I left the comfort of the vehicle and headed quietly to the bank of the river. I knew immediately that this was a massive herd of elephants, as the numbers of the tracks together with the noise coming from the usually tranquil pools were clear giveaways.

As we approached the river and got our first visual of the pools, I was astounded to see the sheer size of the herd. The hippos looked on in despair as these animals made sure that this was going to be a day-out to remember and had turned the body of water into a playground. We watched as the youngsters played, always under the careful watch of the females and they all quenched their thirst, consuming hundreds of liters of water and cooling themselves in the heat of the day.  We gained such pleasure watching the herd indulge in this precious resource and the excitement experienced by the youngsters, the trials and tribulations of living in the bush were all forgotten in this moment.

Finally the matriarch decided it was time to attend to more important matters as they were now hydrated and so it was time to head east towards the mountains. A quick decision was made, and we decided to hold our ground and stay put – as we were completely sheltered and still had the blessing of the wind in our favour; we were close but they would not detect us.

The sounds were tremendous as the herd of around fifty elephant crashed through the water towards the riverbank, leaving the hippos in peace and the pool with a little less water. Exiting the water, their next move was to make use of the abundance of red earth, with their trunks they tossed it over themselves, and soon they disappeared into the mountains in an almost mystical illusion.

Keep following the James Suter blog series as James explores Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park, tracking wildlife through a daily expedition of adrenalin.

Read More


The re-acquaintance of an old friend

October 16, 2012 - Conservation,Kruger National Park,Wildlife

During my time as a guide working at Singita Kruger National Park, I spent many long hours with the Xinkelegane female. She was one of the most relaxed and therefore commonly seen female leopards in the area. She was at ease with vehicles and this allowed us to closely observe her in her natural environment.  We became familiar with both her habits and movements.

One morning we managed to locate two tiny leopard cubs and immediately knew they belonged to her as she had been heavily pregnant.  She had hidden them in a rocky outcrop in the middle of her territory, taking every precaution to ensure their safety. In due course she slowly introduced them to us and it was wonderful following their progress, watching them develop their skills that would play such an important role later in life.

Now coming back to Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park, having not seen the cubs for over a year, I could hardly believe it when I heard one of the guides announce that he had located Xinkelegane’s young male offspring with an impala kill. Way to go!  He was now completely self-sufficient, a successful hunter, and he had brought down an impala ram. We headed to an open area which was dotted with large Acacias and a male impala kill lodged at the top of a tree was the giveaway – the male leopard was close by.

And then we spotted him, almost fully-grown.  We knew the father that sired him, and the resemblance between the two was remarkable.  He was strong and healthy and had finally grown into his oversized head, which made him appear slightly awkward in his earlier years.

Impala rams are extremely active at this time of year and dedicate a great deal of their time and energy rounding up females and fighting off other rival males. This, together with them being unusually vocal means they are targeted by most of the larger predators.

We decided to spend some time with the leopard, hoping to see him scale the tree and feed on the impala he had strategically wedged between branches.  Eventually without bother, he glanced at the impala and proceeded to climb the Acacia.

Watching him feed, I pondered on what a long way he had come and what a fantastic job his mother had done in raising him. There were plenty of close calls, but he had made it through his first year, the most challenging of all. Now I had witnessed him in all his glory, a survivor in this harsh environment.

James Suter, Field Guide, exploring Singita Kruger National Park.

Read More


The N’wanetsi

October 10, 2012 - Events,Kruger National Park,Wildlife

James Suter exploring Singita Kruger National Park.

I awoke early the first morning, packed the vehicle, gulped down some coffee and headed for the African bush. The flooding has been dramatic this year, and even though we were in the middle of winter there was enough surface water in the N’wanetsi River.

My first inclination as I headed out into the concession was to distance myself from the vehicle and walk along the N’wanetsi River. This is the source of all life here and at this time of the year it is a lifeline for many species that occur in the area. The winters are harsh and the precious water attracts a vast amount of game. At this time of the year the real spectacle is the abundance of birdlife found along the river. Many parts of the river have now dried up leaving small stagnant pools filled to the brim with helpless catfish and Tilapia; trapped as the sun rapidly dries up their only means of protection, they consequently fall victim to the many waiting bills.

In the distance I could see a number of Marabou storks sunning themselves in a large Leadwood. It was worth a closer look, as this perch was right on the riverbank. I began walking up the river and noticed a commotion in a small body of water ahead.   It was an Egyptian Goose, lying face down in the water. However it was moving, although on closer inspection I discovered this was due to terrapins scavenging on it.  An unusual but fascinating sight.

I continued onwards where I had seen the large congregation of storks. Sure enough as I approached the area, surprising a pair of honey badgers, I could see over thirteen different bird species surrounding a single pool of water.

These stagnant pools brought birds from far and wide including the heavyweights: the eagles, storks and herons all competing for the dwindling fish supplies. The catfish wriggled helplessly and were plucked out with ease. The Marabou storks caught my eye, most definitely not blessed with the best looks but a wonder to observe  – massive birds with thick carnivorous bills, weighing up to nine kilograms and standing over a meter tall.

What a treat to be able to escape to this paradise surrounded by all things natural and beautiful. I sat down on the bank of the river leaning against the base of a tree and spent the morning enjoying the spectacle of the river and all it had to offer.

Read More


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.)

Read More


The Last Day

July 04, 2012 - Community Development,Cuisine,Kruger National Park

Today was Lucien Green’s last day in the kitchen at the Singita School of Cooking.  He managed to squeeze in one more demo before he left:  confit duck gizzards, duck hearts, and orange segments all drizzled with a Dijon mustard dressing.  I was worried I might not sample the duck delicacy as there was a sea of students in front of me destroying the delicious salad by the fork-full.  As a thank-you to Lucien he was given a cooking school jacket with his name embroidered on it, a Singita book and an invitation for him and his wife to return to Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges.  His remark?  “I’ll certainly return but not in summer.  I hear there are a lot of snakes around at that time!”

This has been a remarkable week.  The students have gained mountains of knowledge and also a new friend.  Everyone is looking forward to the return of Lucien Green.

The End…for now.

Read More


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.

Read More


The Robb Report 100 Resorts

May 09, 2012 - Awards,Kruger National Park,Singita Grumeti

What we appreciate about the Robb Report 100 Resorts is that it is not a list of the most popular beach resorts and trendy retreats.  Actually popularity is not taken into consideration for the Robb Report 100.  Instead when the team at Robb Report is compiling their annual list they consult with trusted friends and associates in the luxury travel community and ask them to select their most favourite properties out of what they consider to be the most exceptional hotels and getaways in the world.  Unique villas in Italy and tucked away hideaways in the Maldives are a few of the gems that are included in this special portfolio.

This year we are honoured to be included in the Robb Report 100 Resorts – both of Singita’s properties in the Kruger National Park feature on the list and all of the lodges and camps at Singita Grumeti Reserves.  Scroll through the photos below and celebrate with us.

The Robb Report 100 Resorts: Africa & The Middle East

Singita Lebombo Lodge – Kruger National Park, South Africa

Singita Sweni Lodge – Kruger National Park, South Africa

Singita Sasakwa Lodge – Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania

Singita Sabora Tented Camp – Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania

Singita Faru Faru Lodge – Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania

Singita Explore Mobile Tented Camp – Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania

(This blog article features Singita’s new photography which we are launching this week – watch this space.)

Read More


Graduation Almost Here!

February 16, 2012 - Community Development,Cuisine,Events,Kruger National Park

The long-awaited graduation day at the Singita School of Cooking is now just around the corner.  After an arduous 18-month-long-programme, 6 students are currently completing assignments and going through the assessment process in order to qualify.  Excitement for graduation at the end of March, is mounting.

The team at Singita Kruger National Park is already starting to prepare for the next programme – in the next 2 weeks Oriel Mbowane (Singita Kruger National Park Chef Skills Developer) will be finalising details with the educational assessors.  April is the planned start date for the new intake and we are delighted that this will be the 5th intake of students at the cooking school since its inception in 2007.

Scroll through the photos and some of the memories from the year – well done to students, Oriel Mbowane, and visiting chefs.  It has been a great year.

For more information about the programme at the Singita School of Cooking, take a look at Singita’s website or feel free to contact us for a brochure or further details – SLReceptionmanager@singita.com (General Manager at Singita Kruger National Park).

Read More


Kicking off 2012

January 09, 2012 - Community Development

All the effort made by the team at Singita Kruger National Park on Mandela Day last year to raise funds to purchase soccer balls for schools in our local community, was made worthwhile at the end of 2011 when a group of 11 Singita staff went into Hluvukani, one of the local communities situated just outside the Kruger National Park’s Orpen Gate, to deliver the balls to the schools.

The soccer balls were handed out at 7 different schools.  At each school a soccer game took place between the staff and the school pupils.  The games and the new balls caused much excitement for both players and spectators.

A great day was had by all and the Singita Kruger National Park staff are looking forward to when we will be taking a similar trip to Welverdiend, another one of the local communities, to complete the delivery of the remainder of the balls.

Singita Kruger National Park would like to thank Adidas SA for assisting us in achieving this special relationship with the community schools, by providing the balls at a specially discounted rate.

(Article contribution by Christen Bennett – Singita Kruger National Park.)

If you missed the story last year about celebrating Mandela Day at Singita Kruger National Park, enjoy the blog post here.

Read More


Sign up to receive the Singita newsletter

×