An important part of the magic of going on safari is the experience of intimacy with nature. Nothing can prepare you for the innate sense of peace that arises after only a few hours spent in the wild, in the company of some of the most beautiful and exotic creatures on earth, and in a spectacular, untamed landscape. This feeling of closeness with the natural world is never more apparent than during an evening spent under the stars, listening to the wind rustling in the trees and the distant call of a cackling hyena.
Each one of Singita Sweni Lodge‘s six private suites features a large wooden deck suspended over the river below, and surrounded by knobthorn and marula woodland. Nestled in the corner of each deck is a luxurious outdoor bed, draped in a delicate layer of mosquito netting and a cosy goose-down duvet. At this time of year, which is cooler in South Africa, soft blankets and hot water bottles are slipped between the sheets for extra comfort. It is a wonderful spot to spend a quiet afternoon with a good book, and also provides an opportunity for guests to enjoy an entire night outside. The beds receive a special turndown after dark and are equipped with a handy kit of overnight essentials, including a flashlight and insect repellant.
Sleeping on the deck in the cool night air is an almost indescribable sensation; there is an element of vulnerability certainly, but more than that, it brings a humbling awareness of one’s place in the world and harmony with the Earth. The smells and sounds of the bush soon become a rhythmic lullaby that sends guests into a long and restful slumber.
The twittering of birds is usually the first thing one hears upon waking – rollers, drongos, kingfishers and even the haunting cry of the fish eagle echoing across the stillness. Come morning, it’s easy to catch a flash of feathers as they dart along the river bank looking for breakfast. The chill of dawn is thawed by a steaming cup of freshly-brewed coffee, best enjoyed from the comfort and warmth of the bed. A grunting hippo in the rockpool nearby is the only other sound one is likely to hear as the sun rises on another glorious winter’s day in the African bush.
Read part one of this blog mini-series from Singita Sweni Lodge which is a real hit with the foodies – a recipe for homemade pasta puttanesca, the perfect winter lunch! You can also find out more about the lodge in this short film on our Vimeo channel.
There is one word that appears over and over again in the guest book at Singita Sweni Lodge, and it is “family”. It’s not only the visitors to this tranquil, intimate hideaway who feel like part of our family, but also our staff; the men and women who make up the Super Sweni Team! This group of experienced professionals care for our guests with humility and good humour, while sharing the bond of enduring friendship with one another.
Angelique Helmchen, Lodge Manager
Lucky Legong, Amukeri
It is a close-knit group whose passion and positivity manifests in every aspect of their work, making a trip to Singita Sweni Lodge a truly magical experience. Lucky Legong is the lodge amukeri, someone who welcomes and looks after the guests, which she does with her warm smile and trademark enthusiasm. “Behind the scenes there is a lot of singing, a lot of laughter. It’s a very nice, loving, supportive environment.”
Thabela Mashile, Banakeli
Oriel Mbowane, Sous Chef
Each team member, while responsible for a key part of the operation of the lodge, also complements the others by stepping in to help whenever necessary. As sous chef Oriel Mbowane says, “Sweni angels are always smiling, hard working, always going that extra mile”. Together, this dedicated and spirited group ensure that every visit to Singita Sweni Lodge feels like coming home.
Beauty Mashego, Banakeli
This year we are telling the extraordinary stories of our staff members, the people of Singita who make a visit to our lodges and camps completely unforgettable. Please share these stories via our social media channels and follow the hashtag #singitastories for more.
The lodges at Singita Kruger National Park recently received a visit from Ross Borden and Scott Sporleder of Matador Network, an independent online travel community. They documented their stay in this article on the site, accompanied by some gorgeous photographs we wanted to share with you:
The rooms at the Lebombo lodge are spread across a ridge that runs right down to a major river in the park. We stayed at one of the suites pictured here, which looks out directly over the river. Although it’s a longer walk to and from reception, the sights and sounds of wildlife at the river made it feel like we were out on a game drive even during downtime at the room.
One of the many dozens of elephants we saw in our four days at Singita Kruger National Park.
Although every guide at Singita carries a rifle in each Land Rover and wears a belt full of bullets, they’re never used. Each guide brings a wealth of knowledge to the table regarding animal behaviour and how to stay safe in the bush.
A roof of one of the suites at Singita Lebombo Lodge looking out on the river below.
Like the common spaces at every Singita property, the suites are all super stylish, but the real genius of these rooms is their isolation from each other and the privacy guests enjoy.
Somehow they’ve spaced each room out from the next so that each guest room has complete privacy from other guests and staff, as well as an individual and intimate connection to the surrounding nature.
Singita guests wait for a female cheetah to show them the speed and grace of an evening hunt.
Between each game drive you’ll be treated to an amazing lunch, and if you get too hot by the pool you can read a book in the shade or take a dip.
And just when you thought the luxury service couldn’t get any better, your guide and tracker will stop the vehicle during each evening game drive and set up a cocktail bar right there in the middle of the bush. Snacks and cocktails surrounded by wildlife… magic.
Did you know a large group of zebras is called a “dazzle”?
Making eye contact with one of the young, hungry-looking male lions only a few feet away from your open-top vehicle can be quite a moment.
Scott and Ross with Field Guide, Enos, and tracker, Sunday
Matador is an independent media company that launched in 2006 with the vision for a travel site and community based on the the real cultures, people, and places they encounter. You can see their photos from Singita Sabi Sand on the site and watch a beautiful video of their experience on their YouTube channel.
The people who work at Singita have always been a point of pride for us; we are extremely blessed to have a dedicated and hard-working team that works together to create unforgettable experiences for our guests. Singita is the trusted guardian of over half a million acres of pristine land in Africa and employs a large number of people from nearby communities, helping to support the local economy. One such person is Irene Makhabane, the Lodge Manager at Singita Sweni Lodge in the Kruger National Park:
How did you get started at Singita and what inspired you to become a lodge manager?
I was appointed through a recruitment agency and chose hospitality because I love meeting people from all over the world. As a woman who grew up in Africa, it is interesting for me to run the lodge while learning about other people’s homes and cultures.
What would be the highlight of your career so far?
My appointment as lodge manager has definitely been a highlight, as well as the support of my colleagues at Singita who give me so many opportunities to grow.
What do you love about Singita?
Singita is a great company to work for and what I love the most is how the staff are constantly given the opportunity to improve and learn the business. I also love how Singita supports the local community with projects like the Singita School of Cooking which provides training and job opportunities for young people from the neighbouring villages.
What is a memorable guest experience?
One of my favourite experiences occurred while one particular family was staying at the lodge for a few nights. We got on extremely well and on the second night of their stay, they invited me for dinner. They insisted on serving me drinks, fetching food from the kitchen and clearing the plates. They were so kind and made me feel like a special guest at Singita.
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
One evening while our guests were in the middle of dinner, a transformer blew, leaving us with no electricity. I had to quickly assess the situation, explain the problem to the guests and tell them how it would be resolved. It was the middle of summer and guests had to go to sleep without any fans or air conditioning so it was quite a challenge but I managed to keep them happy and comfortable despite this setback.
Who is your favourite person and inspiration in the world?
Nelson Mandela. He is truly a great man, filled with grace and humility.
You can read the previous articles in this series; an interview with chef Michael Matera from Singita Grumeti and the story of tracker at Singita Sabi Sand, George Nkuna. Visit the website to learn more about working at Singita.
Singita has a proud history with the annual Travel + Leisure Magazine World’s Best Hotels Awards, consistently placing multiple lodges in the top ten, thanks to the votes from their discerning readers. We are thrilled to announce that this year is no different! For T+L’s 18th poll, Singita Kruger National Park was awarded third place, with its sister property, Singita Sabi Sand coming in at number ten.
Singita’s concession in the Kruger National Park features two beautiful lodges with treetop suites and riverside rooms. Our mission in this area is to create and maintain a balance between conservation, community development, and ecotourism. Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge have been built with this ideal in mind and both integrate the ‘touch the earth lightly’ philosophy into every aspect of their daily operations.
Glass-walled Lebombo overlooks the plains and the Lebombo Mountain Range, while Sweni is nestled among trees along the Sweni River. Join the twice-daily game drives and request a guided walk for a good chance of sighting lions, zebras, giraffes and impalas.
Spanning more than 45 000 acres, Singita Sabi Sand is renowned for high concentrations of big game and frequent leopard sightings. As the first jewel in Singita’s crown, Singita Ebony Lodge stands steadfast amongst enormous trees on the banks of the Sand River. A blend of European heritage and African boldness welcomes visitors with the down-to-earth warmth of a much-loved family home. Spacious interiors are styled with a varied mix of rich colours, and inviting textures and layers, making Singita Ebony Lodge an idyllic retreat.
Nearby Singita Boulders Lodge is a celebration of the tranquility, space, and light which flows throughout this incredibly vast area. Inspired by the geometry of the boulders on which it rests, the lodge is an inviting oasis where organic interiors integrate seamlessly with the raw African beauty outside. Singita Boulders Lodge is perfectly at home in its pristine setting and whether through walls of glass or open-air areas, the surrounding landscape and animals can be seen and enjoyed from every angle, making for a truly immersive safari experience.
Please visit the Press section of our website for more detail on recent awards.
Increasingly, families are seeking meaningful travel excursions that incorporate the whole family. People want to interact with local cultures and celebrate the distinctiveness of a destination. No longer is the travel experience just about seeing a new place. What is important, is to learn a new skill or gain a new understanding about how the world works or how people live in their regions.
Singita Sweni Lodge lends itself perfectly to a family safari. One of Singita’s ten unique experiences in Africa, Singita Sweni is located in the largest private concession in the Kruger National Park and poised in an ideal position overlooking the Sweni River – where often up to 80 hippos settle themselves in the water right in front of the lodge. The game-rich concession is situated in the far eastern part of the Kruger National Park, which is arguably “the world’s most famous wildlife destination”.
At Singita Sweni Lodge families can enjoy the run of the lodge on an exclusive-use basis to accommodate up to 12 guests in six sumptuous suites. There are no set schedules or restrictions, so families can slow down in nature together – swop safari stories under the stars, join the lodge staff choir in a traditional dance around the camp fire, or revel in the thrill of a guided bush walk with a Field Guide and Tracker.
The chance to interact with the local community can provide the opportunity to embrace a new perspective – and even transform lives in more ways than one. One of Singita’s many conservation and community projects is the nearby Singita School of Cooking and a visit to meet these young student cooks takes guests and their children on a wondrous voyage of cultural discovery – where guests can taste local dishes and gain a glimpse into everyday life in the bush.
For more information about a family stay at Singita Sweni Lodge visit, Singita’s website.
The Xirombe lion pride – Singita Kruger National Park
Xinkelengane female leopard
A remarkable week of game viewing at Singita Kruger this week. Behind the lens is Singita Guide, Marlon du Toit, who loves every minute of his day introducing the wilderness to guests at Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges.
The Singita School of Cooking is located on site at the Staff Village that serves Singita Kruger National Park (Lebombo and Sweni Lodges). It was established with the aim of encouraging the development of culinary skills amongst local youth from our neighbouring communities. Each year, 8 to10 students are selected – based upon clear criteria including showing a real interest in cooking – to participate in an 18 month long training programme.
It was an incredible undertaking initiated by Kurt Abrahams a Senior Sous Chef at Singita Sweni and Jason Trollip the former General Manager of Singita Kruger National Park. Jason and Kurt took up the challenge of taking on young members of the local community who had little or no understanding of what being a chef is all about and training them to the level where they could find employment as skilled trainee chefs at the end of the year long course. Kurt embraced the project wholeheartedly and became the Head of the school sharing his knowledge, exceptional culinary skills and passion for training people. The programme was practical, with the perfect facilities already in existence at the staff village. The first group of students graduated successfully from The Singita School of Cooking (SSC) at the end of 2007.
Year to date the graduating students have all been employed either at a Singita property or by other organisations.
Since opening the SSC has continued to produce well educated, employable trainee chefs and with its reputation now well established we took a decision in 2010 to extend the course to 18 months. The objective now being to take the students to the next level and equip them with Comis Chef level skills, thereby giving them greater earning capability post graduation.
Oriel Mbowane was promoted from Sous Chef Sweni in September to Skills Chef Trainer for the school of cooking. The new course started on 15th September 2010
If you would like more information about sponsoring a Singita School of Cooking student please refer to our Giving Back section on our website.
As you know we love everything décor and design related, so you can imagine how delighted we were to hear that Singita Sweni Lodge had been nominated for a House and Leisure Best of SA – in association with Visa – award.
There are only 5 nominees in each category and we feel incredibly privileged just to have been included.