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.
I’ve recently arrived back home from a remarkable trip exploring the unspoilt terrain of Singita Sabi Sand. Home to three Singita lodges in 18,000 hectares, the reserve’s stretches of grassland are punctuated by groves of Acacia and Marula trees. The trip was extremely successful as the concession was teeming with game and we witnessed some incredible sightings.
Each day I captured as much of what I was seeing from the lens of my camera so I could share it with all of you. Heading out early every morning offered prime time for wildlife viewing as it was still cool and the majority of animals were still active. This is always my recommendation as early mornings present the most beautiful sunrises and life begins to stir as another day starts in the African bush – the odd cry of a lone hyena and the cackle of francolins signaling that the dawn chorus has begun.
Once the heat of the middle day has started to lift and ebb away, late afternoons are also a perfect time for exploration. Between mornings and late afternoons, trekking on foot through the bush or ambling across the grasslands in a Land Rover, just with my camera and radio, I marveled at the memorable moments I experienced. I was able to tick off the Big Five with relative ease. The Singita Sabi Sand concession has plenty to offer and the sightings of high profile animals are unmatched. The majority of the game in this area is relatively habituated to the vehicles and this allows one to get up close and personal to a lot of these animals and have the opportunity to view them in their natural environment. If you are cautious, the game vehicles do not disturb them, and you are able to spend time with these animals without altering their behavior in any way.
I also spent a lot of time on foot as this activity really allows one to connect with the environment and appreciate the smaller unique treats the bush has to offer. Without the sound of the vehicle, you allow yourself to hear any noises that may give away the presence of an animal.
Being in the wild heightens the senses in a different way than is normally experienced back at home. It brings a sense of well-being. Stay connected with the photographic journals that will be posted over the next few weeks. I hope to share as much as possible with you – and hopefully inspire you to plan a bush experience soon.
James Suter – trekking across the Singita reserves in Africa.
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.
While driving north along the Mozambique border in the Singita Kruger concession, I suddenly slammed on the brakes as my tracker raised his hand and gestured to his ear. We switched off the vehicle and listened in anticipation.
We made our way towards the position of where the calls were coming from and brought the Land Rover to a standstill. I explained to the guests that we were going to leave the vehicle in order to locate whatever had disturbed the herd of impala, which we could now see from our location.
The alarming continued, but after scanning for tracks and checking the entire area we came up with absolutely nothing. We decided to continue with the detective work and eventually stumbled across an incredible sight. To my tracker’s horror it was something that he would rather not have seen. As fearless as he is he did not enjoy the sight of large snakes. A charging lion would be more acceptable. This particular time of year was lambing season and we could now understand why the impala were so distressed.
A Sothern African rock python had managed to get hold of a young impala and was in the process of asphyxiating it. It had a firm grip on the animal’s leg and the lamb stood no chance. It was difficult to digest such a tragic end to this impala, but for us it did not detract from what was an incredible sighting.
We were very careful not to disturb the snake as it had clearly fought so courageously for its food source that would sustain it through the summer.
Track wildlife with James Suter across over half a million acres of Singita reserves. Don’t miss incredible sightings captured on video.
Leopards’ private lives often remain a secret, however when you come to know some of the individuals and eventually gain their trust that secret may be shared. They are widespread and by no means endangered, however leopards are both shy and elusive and if a leopard does not want to be seen, the chances are you won’t find it. They are often active throughout the day; their nocturnal habits have developed in most areas and may be a response to both human activity and possibly better hunting conditions. It always brings me joy watching these animals in their natural environment and being active animals, they continuously present a marvelous sighting.
In the Singita concessions there are plenty of places to hide but with the assistance of our knowledgeable trackers we are able to locate leopards on a pretty regular basis. We mostly rely on the signs they leave behind and the art of trailing spoor, which is an essential skill, if these animals are to be consistently found. However, I would love to know how many times we have driven or walked straight past these cats with no idea of their whereabouts. Their mottled rosettes allow them to blend in, in almost any terrain.
There is always a great deal of excitement when one discovers a fresh track of a leopard, or the word “ingwe” (Shangaan for leopard), is uttered over the radio. It is an animal that people want to see and I completely understand why. There are ample leopards which are now habituated to our presence and our sightings at Singita Sabi Sand have increased dramatically over the years. One never knows when you may find one, but when you do it’s a experience you’ll remember for a very long time.
Follow James Suter this week as he heads over to Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park to trek through the reserve and bring the wild closer.
There are few battles more tremendous than elephant bulls in conflict. This image shows two such giants battling over the right to mate. With so many breeding herds in the area, females in estrous, and so many musth bulls in close proximity to one another, conflicts like these are inevitable. When their tusks first clashed together, at the initial impact, it sounded more like that of rifle fire than ivory connecting. The contest was short lived and the winner chased the defeated bull several hundred meters before returning to the nearby breeding herd.
What Singita Field Guides encounter every day. Account by Dylan Brandt at Singita Sabi Sand. For more exciting encounters follow our Guides’ Diaries posted on Singita’s website every month.
Another spectacular few days of wildlife sightings at Singita Ebony and Boulders Lodges. Follow the story in pictures provided by Field Guide, Dylan Brandt.
Mapogo male lions following the Ximungwe pride of 4 youngsters and 4 females.
The Marthly male leopard. A massive male leopard that controls a large portion, north of the Sand River. Lovely pose as he looks over the tall grass at impala in the distance.
Ravenscourt female after feeding from a young nyala kill.
This image is again of the Ravenscourt female, looking and sniffing curious smells under a large fallen Marula tree in a river bed.
The Ravenscourt female leopard – catching her in mid-yawn.
Wild dog pack running through the Sand River in a hurried attempt to cross, avoiding any crocodiles that might be close by.
Follow regional wildlife reports from our Field Guides, posted monthly on Singita’s website.
A magnificent week of wildlife sightings at Singita Sabi Sand. Dylan Brandt, Singita Field Guide, shares some of his close encounters from the past few days.
Ravenscourt female leopard.
Perfectly posed – the Ravenscourt female leopard.
Relaxed state of mind – Mapogo male.
Two of the Othawa pride females – in good company.
For regular wildlife updates, don’t forget to refer to our monthly Guides’ Diaries posted on Singita’s website. Also, if you would like to receive Singita’s blog posts in your email box, subscribe to our blog via email.
As an Anchor at Singita Boulders Lodge, Kobus De Kock knows the ins and outs of a typical day on safari – and he has interacted with myriads of travelers who have come from afar to live out their dreams in the African wild. With these valuable insights, Kobus shares some handy tips for preparing and packing for a summer safari in South Africa.
As summer and the rainy season arrive, it is sometimes difficult to know what to pack for safari. The most important rule regarding clothing is that it must be practical and comfortable. Temperatures can fluctuate from 50° F (10°C) to 100° F (38°C) +, in a few hours. Summer mornings are generally cooler and as the day progresses and the sun rises higher in the sky, the temperatures rise. The temperature will gradually diminish as the sun goes down again. Keep in mind that the rainy season is on its way and early morning and afternoon thunder showers can be expected.
Keeping that in mind, we have some suggestions as to what to wear and pack for your trip to Singita Sabi Sand. Packing light layers will help you adjust to any climatic conditions, as you simply remove layers as the temperature rises. All the rooms have fleece ponchos available which are warm and comfortable – just in case you want to cut that morning chill while on early game drives. Safari clothes should be light in colour- both to reflect the sun’s rays, and for blending in with the natural environment. Avoid dark colours such as brown, black and navy as they absorb the heat. Try stick to cotton as this fiber breathes, allowing for cooler air to circulate, thus keeping you cool and comfortable. It is often the case that safari clothing doubles up as dinner wear, so again a few layers and some neutral items that can be mixed and matched will serve you well. A good rain jacket is recommended. However, rain proof ponchos are also provided on the game drive vehicles.
An absolute essential item that you should have with you is a hat for shade from the African sun. Preferably something with a broad rim as to maximise the shade over your neck and face. Sun block is extremely important and should be applied before the morning and afternoon drives. Closed comfortable footwear is recommended for game drives as you might leave the vehicle for a break or go for a short walk away from the vehicle to view something. Closed shoes also protect your feet and ankles from pesky mosquito bites.
Five “must-bring” items that Johan recommends for your trip – an absolute must is sturdy luggage; also cargo pants with lots of pockets; you’ll want to swim so bring a bathing suit; sunglasses; and flip flops or sandals are perfect for lounging around the lodge.
We hope that some of these ideas can assist you with having a more comfortable safari experience. And if you forget something, not to worry, you’ll have lots of fun shopping at Singita’s boutiques. (For a comprehensive packing list, click here.)
From the desk of Luke Bailes, Singita’s Owner and Chief Executive Officer
The other day I was alerted to just how many awards Singita has won this year. Singita has never flaunted the awards it has received – in fact one of our guiding principles is humility. However it did occur to me that it is entirely due to our supporters and guests that we are being recognized for the incredible job our staff does, and for this reason I would like to thank everyone who has played a role in our success.
We have become globally recognized for the conservation work we are doing across the African continent. This has reached a point where, today, we are invited to participate in many conservation/tourism projects throughout the world.
Our warmest thanks for your support of and contribution to these prestigious accolades this year – some of them to note:
Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2011 – No. 1 in Conservation, Singita Pamushana
Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2011 – No. 1 World’s Best Hotel, Singita Grumeti Reserves and No. 2 World’s Best Hotel, Singita Ebony and Boulders Lodges
Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Travel Awards 2011 – No.3 Best Hotel in the Middle East, Africa and the Indian Ocean, Singita Grumeti Reserves
World Luxury Hotel Awards 2011 – Best Luxury Lodge, Singita Sasakwa Lodge
Andrew Harper – No.5 Top International Hideaways , Singita Boulders Lodge
Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2011 – Singita Ebony and Boulders Lodges
Singita’s primary objective is to secure and protect large and threatened tracts of wilderness thereby ensuring sustainability and long term survival.