Tag Archives: Sabi Sand

Victor’s Vegetable Garden

March 05, 2013 - Africa,Community Development,Sabi Sand

kruger-school-of-cooking-classportrait

One of the most heart-warming ways that Singita contributes to the upliftment of our local communities is by improving the lives of the children who live in them. One such example is the story of Victor Ubisi who, in his own time and with the tremendous generosity of Singita guests, has created a communal vegetable garden that helps to feed the little learners and benefits the families living in Justicia village neighbouring Singita Sabi Sand. He is an inspiration to Singita’s team at Ebony and Boulders Lodges and a symbol of the value of hard work to the smiling faces at the school.

Happy Homes Pre-School at Singita Sabi Sand

The Happy Homes Pre-School in the village community of Justicia on the outskirts of the Singita Sabi Sand is now even more of a happy home for the children who visit it every day. And it is all thanks to the generous and selfless act of a wonderful man.

The school fills a desperate need to provide essential early childhood education to many of the village’s youngsters. While filling young minds with information was a challenge readily met, ensuring that the children received a decent meal every day was another challenge all together. Despite the best efforts of the teaching staff, the children were often hungry and easily distracted, which made learning very difficult and it was clear that something had to be done.

Victor's Vegetable Garden at Singita Sabi Sand

The decision was made to start a feeding programme and was generously supported by Deborah Terhune, a former guest and foundation director for Growing Up Africa, which is a charitable organisation that focuses on enriching the early education of children across the continent. Mr Victor Ubisi, a night porter at Singita Sabi Sand, was tasked with the job and worked tirelessly in his own time to create an edible garden that provides food for the school. In addition, any surplus crops are sold to the village community or to the Singita lodges for use in the kitchen. This revenue is further used to fund various school projects and has also allowed Victor to establish a small business of his own. He passes on his skills as a gardener to the children who are now actively involved in the planting, maintenance and harvesting of the vegetables.

Victor showing the latest produce to one of our chefs

Harvesting spring onions

Victor is so passionate about being a positive and constructive influence in his community that he recently joined forces with Deborah’s team and a group of Cornell University graduates to assist in the building of a school in Johannesburg. He took three weeks unpaid leave to achieve this goal and has brought many a learning back to his village of Justicia.

The smiling faces at Happy Homes Pre-School

The challenges faced by the Happy Homes Pre-School are representative of those in rural communities throughout Africa, as is the success of implementing such a simple yet practical solution. What began as a heart-breaking problem has become a shining example of what hard work and compassion can achieve, while enriching Victor’s life and those of the children that he helps to feed.

Find out more about Singita’s community projects here or learn about Joyful Nghala, a young woman who is building the foundation of her own bright future as one of the star pupils at the Singita School of Cooking.

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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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Sweet Tooth: Giraffe Cinnamon Doughnuts

February 08, 2013 - Cuisine,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Ebony Lodge

Giraffe cinnamon doughnuts

Late afternoon at Singita Ebony Lodge

There is something magical about the experience of taking what would otherwise be a formal event, such as afternoon tea, and giving it a fresh twist with an African-inspired menu and a unique setting. Tea at Singita Ebony Lodge is a very special occasion, not least of all because it is often served on the vast wooden deck overlooking the Sand River, where it’s not uncommon to see elephant, buffalo and antelope grazing only metres away. The lodge itself has the feeling of a congenial family home, filled with sumptuous coziness that tempts you into relaxation and reflection.

Every day our unique team of pastry chefs lay on a delectable spread of the finest hand-crafted cakes, sandwiches, tarts and scones, along with homemade lemonade and iced coffee. These sweet and savoury snacks are also served with a selection of exotic teas from all over the world, including Japanese TWG Emperor Sencha, Moroccan mint leaf, Bourbon vanilla black and French Earl Grey. One of Singita Ebony Lodge’s signature teatime treats is “giraffe” cinnamon doughnuts, the recipe for which chef Christien has kindly shared below.

Ingredients – what you’ll need:
2 cups cake flour
1 packet dried yeast
1/8 cup sugar
1 egg
70g butter
pinch of salt
¾ cup warm milk
cinnamon sugar, for dusting

Method – what to do:
Place all of the ingredients (except the cinnamon sugar) in a freestanding mixer with a paddle attachment. On a medium speed, allow the machine to work the mixture until the dough forms a ball around the paddle and starts to slap the sides of the bowl.
Wrap the bowl and leave to rise until double in size.
Sprinkle your work surface with some flour and scrape the dough out. Fold the dough in half and press down lightly, then fold again.
Roll the dough out to a thickness of 0.8cm and cut into desired shapes.
Fry them in small batches in hot oil (170°C) until golden brown on both sides.
Place on paper towel to cool down.
Once cool to touch, roll the doughnuts in cinnamon sugar and serve.

Have you tried any of Christien’s other recipes? Please let us know if you have and send us your photos – we would love to see! Here’s a handy online volume converter if you need to adjust the metric measurements.

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Sweet Tooth: Rooibos Shortbread

January 25, 2013 - Cuisine,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge

A morning bush stop at Singita Sabi Sand

The morning bush stop during the course of an early game drive is often the highlight of the day, and not just because of the game viewing! Our guests are treated to a feast crafted by Singita’s hard-working pastry chefs; white chocolate granola bars, caramel apple brownies, fresh fruit skewers and rooibos shortbread. The sight of a spectacular African sunrise, the smell of freshly-brewed coffee, the sound of the bush coming to life and the crisp morning breeze combine to form an enduring memory for those lucky enough to experience it.

A morning bush stop at Singita Sabi Sand

Recreating such a moment in the rush and bustle of daily life can be truly soul-soothing so why not try your hand at making Singita Sabi Sand‘s signature rooibos shortbread at home? Rooibos (or “red bush”) is a herbal tea indigenous to South Africa and is extremely high in antioxidants and contains no caffeine. Chef Christien van der Westhuizen shares a simple recipe for making this African twist on a tea-time classic (makes approximately 60 portions):

Ingredients – what you need:

600g butter
400g castor sugar
800g cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 bag rooibos tea

Method – what to do:

Preheat the oven to 160ºC and line a 30x20cm baking tray with greaseproof paper
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until white and fluffy
Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix to combine.
Flatten the dough lightly into tray and bake for 25 – 30 minutes
Remove from oven and sprinkle with ¼ cup castor sugar
Cut into squares or circles when cool

Enjoy!

The bush stop snack table

The bush stop snack table

Did you see Christien’s recipe for buttermilk scones? Here’s a handy online volume converter if you need to adjust the metric measurements. Don’t forget to check back soon for more from the kitchen team at Singita Boulders Lodge.

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Sweet Tooth: Buttermilk Scones

January 11, 2013 - Cuisine,Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge

Breakfast at Singita Boulders Lodge

The talented team of pastry chefs at Singita Boulders Lodge in the Sabi Sand private reserve have quite a job producing a banquet of tasty treats for our guests in the relative isolation of the African bush. Visitors to the lodge are spoiled for choice throughout the day including morning game drive bush stops, breakfast-time pastries, a sumptuous spread for afternoon tea and delectable after-dinner desserts. Using local ingredients and inspired by the regional cuisine, the uniqueness of these kitchen creations is matched only by the spectacular setting with sweeping views of the Sand River.

Pastry chef at Singita Boulders Lodge

Breakfast in the bush is a particular highlight, and features an array of home bakes; wholewheat cranberry and pumpkin seed muffins, peach and almond Danish pastries, crispy croissants, hand-made granola and fresh-out-of-the-oven breads. Served with freshly-squeezed juices and steaming hot coffee, these early-morning feasts are always a big hit. Chef Christien van der Westhuizen has kindly shared her recipe for the best buttermilk scones which are a highlight of the menu:

Ingredients – what you need:

500g sifted flour
125g cold butter
25g baking powder
125g sugar
280ml buttermilk
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Method – what to do:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
Rub together all the dry ingredients (incl. the butter) with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
Add the milk and lightly mix together (we suggest using a fork), being careful not to over mix as the dough will get tough
Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3cm and cut into your desired shape
Brush the top of each scone lightly with egg wash
Bake for approx. 10-15min until golden brown

Christien will be sharing more recipes and photos with us over the next few weeks so be sure to check back soon. If you need to adjust the metric measurements, here’s a handy online volume converter.

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Shooting in Monochrome – Leopard Portrait

October 19, 2012 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

I absolutely love eyes. It’s said that eyes are the windows to the soul and I believe it also applies to animals. Wherever possible, always try and capture the eyes, the essence of that animal. It will immediately capture the viewer and engage them.  It also adds that human element or emotion and will make the world of difference. In Lightroom you can isolate the various colours from oranges to blues and brighten or darken them with striking results. Once again the clean background here is essential. I darkened the blue background to make this female leopard stand out more. Her whiskers are a key element and it shows her focus as they stand out against that clean background. I used a fill-brush to work on her exclusively and brought her out with highlights and clarity sliders. The eyes I worked on separately and tried as best to lighten them and to create that glassy feel.

This photograph was taken in the last light of the day with a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second, and at 1600ISO. It was shot hand held with a 400 2.8, at an aperture of f/2.8. This is often the time most people will pack their gear away but if you can manage to capture a few more images you will be pleased at the texture and detail in this kind of light. It is perfect for conversions to black and white. Once again I darkened the edges a little to emphasize this animal and her beautiful posture.

Marlon du Toit thrives on adventure and has a deep connection with Africa and its beauty. Growing up near the Kruger National Park he was immersed in nature from a young age and is now a professional field guide at Singita Sabi Sand.

His eye for capturing split-second moments on camera is astonishing, and after years behind the lens, we thought we would give our readers some of his ideas for taking the perfect wildlife photograph when out in the bush. Follow the Singita blog for more of Marlon’s tips for black and white photography in the wild.

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Shooting in Monochrome – Lion Grimace

October 11, 2012 - Events,Wildlife

The first thing that stood out for me was the clean background and the fact that this image was out of focus delivering more impact on the subject in focus. The posture of the lion is striking and immediately draws the viewer in, a very important factor. I cropped a little from left to right, to exclude the thicker branches in the bottom left corner. The remaining grasses are soft in texture and contrasts with the flashing teeth. The texture in the mane of the lion as well as his barred teeth makes it all work and come together. I have also darkened the edges of the image to draw attention to my subject.

Marlon du Toit thrives on adventure and has a deep connection with Africa and its beauty. Growing up near the Kruger National Park he was immersed in nature from a young age and is now a professional field guide at Singita Sabi Sand.

His eye for capturing split-second moments on camera is astonishing, and after years behind the lens, we thought we would give our readers some of his ideas for taking the perfect wildlife photograph when out in the bush. Follow the Singita blog for more of Marlon’s tips for black and white photography in the wild.

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The votes are in!

September 09, 2012 - Awards

The results have been announced!

After hundreds of trips and memorable experiences this year, Condé Nast travellers have entered their votes and the verdict is in:  Singita Grumeti ranks #1 and Singita Sabi Sand #9 in the Middle East, Africa and India Ocean.

Not only that, but we are thrilled to announce that Condé Nast Traveller (UK) readers are convinced that Singita Grumeti is worthy of the #2 spot overall in the world in all categories, second only to the country of Italy.  So effectively the #1 hotel in the world.

What a year and a great follow-on to the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards in July when Singita Grumeti was voted #1 in the world overall by T+L readers.

(Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania)

Condé Nast Traveller UK asks their readers to vote for their favourite travel experiences – from hotels to tour operators, islands to spas. From their readers’ answers this year the magazine produced the 15th annual Readers’ Travel Awards, featuring their very own readers’ choice of the best the travel world has to offer.

The top 25 pays tribute to the highest scorers, irrespective of category.

(Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania)

(Singita Boulders Lodge, Sabi Sand, South Africa)

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Seeing Spots

August 21, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

There is nothing so remarkable as arriving at the Singita Sabi Sand and encountering a leopard on the first night.  This was the case during my recent visit.  It had been a brief but rewarding sighting as a male leopard walked within a couple of feet of the Land Rover. They are such marvelous animals to watch in their natural environment. Even after spending years observing them, I still have to pinch myself, as it’s barely possible to believe that you can be in such close proximity to them in the wild.

Leopards are not only renowned for their beauty but their incredible strength combined with stealth, making them the ultimate killing machines.  Power to weight they are the strongest cat found in the world.  The male leopard we located was large. There are records of leopards this size hoisting antelope even young giraffes into large trees.  I was anticipating the opportunity of witnessing this in action, as it had been a while since I last saw this raw strength in motion.

Leopards will often hoist their kill, regardless of the size of the prey. This is mainly to protect it from scavenging predators, which are in no short supply in this area!  A short distance from a sizeable drainage line, a small duiker dangled awkwardly in a large tree.  It was rather a macabre sight to see this dead animal wedged between branches, ten feet in the air but not an uncommon visual in the Sabi Sand vicinity and this could only be the work of a leopard.

He had to be close by, the kill was fresh, blood was still trickling from the antelope’s nostrils; my heart started to pound. We scanned the area with painstaking precision, knowing how difficult it is to spot this master of disguise. Patience paid off and eventually I found the leopard seeking shelter from the blistering heat.  It was lying in long grass and with its unique rosettes it was almost impossible to see.

Now the waiting game started. I had seen the leopard and this was good enough by anyone’s standards, but to see it scramble up the tree and claim its prize was what I was after.  I made myself comfortable and positioned the vehicle close to the Apple Leaf trunk where the duiker had been stashed.  It was going to be a good while before the temperature dropped, and I could see the leopard was in no rush to expend any unnecessary energy.

After a good two hours, I heard the leopard coming up behind the vehicle; grabbing my camera I braced myself for what was going to be an incredible show. The animal gracefully leapt into the tree and claimed its trophy.  Almost immediately and on cue, three hyenas, ever the opportunists, scavenged morsels that fell from the tree while the complacent leopard fed.

It was a special moment: one hour of pure bliss where nothing else mattered but the shared company of a wild animal, watching this leopard feed while being surrounded by hyenas in the middle of the African bush. It’s moments like these that you hold on to for the rest of you life.

James Suter, Field Guide, exploring the terrain of Singita Sabi Sand.

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The Coalition

August 14, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

I had heard many stories about a new coalition of male lions that had now made their presence felt on the Singita Sabi Sand property. They had already killed one of the Mapogo, a famous coalition of brothers that had established themselves well before my time at Singita.

I was really eager to see these males in action and had been enquiring where would be the best place to start to try and locate them. Unfortunately they had spent the last couple of days outside the Singita property and I thought I would not have a chance to be introduced to this now infamous coalition. On one particular morning we were contacted by a guide in the west who informed us that the males were heading in our direction.  The lions had been following a large herd of buffalo in the hope that they may pick out a straggler.  The excitement started to build.

I first got a glimpse of these animals near a small pan where they had settled as the temperature had started to rise. Unfortunately they had given up on the buffalo they had been trailing, as it was now far too hot for them to maintain pursuit. I was amazed how beautiful these particular lions were, with very few battle scars and long handsome manes. Deciding that they were not going to move for some time, I left them and determined I would return at a later stage when the temperature had dropped.

Later on in the afternoon they were located north of their previous position, very close to the Sand River. I was excited as they had steadily been moving in this direction and I knew there was a possibility that they may cross the river and what a fantastic sight that would be. It dawned on me that I had never experienced a lion crossing the Sand River and what a spectacle it was as they made the first tentative steps to cross. The brothers disappeared and continued to head north once on the other side of the river.  I watched their distinguishable silhouette fade into the distance, elated that I had gained the opportunity to cross paths with the Kings of Sabi Sand.

James Suter exploring Singita Sabi Sand.

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