Tag Archives: Sabi Sand

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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On Arrival

August 08, 2012 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife


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.

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Singita Sabi Sand

August 07, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

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.

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Exploring the Den

July 29, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

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.

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An Unexpected Find

July 23, 2012 - Conservation,Wildlife

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.

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A Private Life

June 19, 2012 - Safari,Wildlife

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.

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Tremendous Battles

February 06, 2012 - Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

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.

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