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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 Marlon’s upcoming articles.
Black and white photography has become a little “washed-out” as of late, excuse the pun. Great photographers such as Nick Brandt have created an epidemic by creating fine-art masterpieces in black and white, and it seems that many are now going down that same route and failing hopelessly. I don’t consider myself the best monochrome photographer out there by any stretch, but I do believe that I have an eye to know whether it will work or not. Simply put, there is more to a black and white image than the simple click of a button. By taking a little time to process your image you can create something breathtaking.
The kind of software you utilize makes a world of difference. The “black and white” button on iPhoto may be fine for your desktop background picture, but if you want something more impressive, perhaps an image for your wall, you need to go bigger. I make use of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. It is an amazing program and will help you immensely. It is easy to figure out and will allow for stunning monochrome images in a short amount of time.
In this upcoming blog article series I will go through 5 of my recent images and explain why I selected them specifically, and why I feel they work in monochrome. The larger of the two images is the final product and the smaller is the original RAW image imply converted to black and white.
A monochrome image often needs to be punchy. You can use your creative freedom to the maximum here as long as you stick to basic principles, such as still having exposure in check, and that your images are nice and sharp. In Lightroom I use a slider called “Clarity” a lot. It gives your image a beautiful look as it deepens the dark tones and highlights the lighter parts. The finish is amazing and you will love it. Contrast plays a huge role here and you need to really deepen the darker tones. It adds dynamic to your image and creates a three-dimensional feel. In Lightroom there’s also a fill-in brush. This allows you to edit specific areas in your image such as, only the face, or only the background. I make use of this tool often and it helps me create dynamic images in monochrome. There are many more techniques and hopefully my comments on the photographs in this series will explain a few more things for you. These are only merely pointers in the right direction and by no means the be-all and end-all of monochrome photography. I hope it helps…keep visiting this blog space – Marlon du Toit.
One needs to be careful not to get too caught up in chasing down the big five; this can be both frustrating and very time consuming. Take time, stop, and listen, or you could miss the sound of the honey guide’s call directing its hungry companion to a sticky feast, or forgo a sighting of nature’s waste army, the humble dung beetle with its polished armour.
Often, when you stop pursuing certain animals, they have the uncanny ability to somehow find you, usually at the most unexpected moments. This being said, tracking is one of the most exciting and crucial aspects about working in the bush. It plays a huge role in both the rangers’ and trackers’ daily routine. The tracker that I have most often worked with, Given Mhlongo, would get off the vehicle at every opportunity. I could see it in his eyes, the surge of adrenalin when we came across a fresh set of lion tracks. There is always the exhilarating rush of tracking a potentially dangerous animal and the satisfaction of eventually locating it.
The African bush has plenty to offer, a spectacle through a magnified lens: from the herds of impala, the impatient baboons, the shy zebras, to the sun-worshiping reptiles and insects that parade the scorched earth. Even something as simple as watching the sunset set the sky ablaze accompanied by the soft, whistling bird song is a moment to be forever lodged in the memory bank.
Spending time in the bush is an unforgettable experience and it is interesting how Sinigta guests very quickly adapt and are able to spot things that would have been impossible to see on the first day of their safari. I am often astounded how people from an urban environment are able to connect with the bush and improve their own knowledge. This is when things become interesting and one begins to understand the more discreet behaviour traits of certain species on closer inspection.
The Sabi Sand area is known for its big five sightings, but what really struck me on this last trip was the abundance and diversity of all species from the birds to the large herds of antelope and elusive reptiles. We as guides often joke that it is sometimes harder to find a common zebra then a shy leopard in the Sabi Sand region. Here, not only were we able to locate and come face to face with the big five but were also able to experience Africa in its vast, untouched glory that really impacts you; to dine at the buffet of nature’s offerings
All images and commentary by James Suter – Field Guide who is trekking across Singita reserves this year to document wildlife and their activities.
While driving along the Sand River, I overheard via my radio, a conversation between two guides. They were referring to a lioness that had put her life on the line by chasing off one of the large male lions from the coalition. She was protecting her cubs and this was her duty. Anyone who has ever been confronted by a lioness with cubs present will agree that they are a force to be reckoned with and require the upmost respect. I admired this lion for standing up to an animal twice her size and hoped I would have the opportunity to meet her.
I later found out she belonged to the Shumungu Pride, which spend a fair bit of time within the Singita Sabi Sand reserve. Not long after her interaction with the male lion, the pride had been reported heading east toward the southern boundary of the Singita property. This particular area is breathtaking, where the thick bush gives away to vast, undulating plains. This was an ideal place to spend some quality time with this pride, and due to the topography I felt we had a great chance of locating the animals.
We set out with high expectations, teaming up with two other guides who were also interested in finding the pride. Starting off from Singita Ebony Lodge we headed for the general direction where they had last been spotted. Teamwork is beneficial, often essential as both the guides and the trackers will work together with radio signaling to make the tracking exercise more efficient.
One of the trackers had located fresh tracks of the pride heading east and now into the heart of Singita’s concession. Now the pressure was on! The lioness needed to gain distance away from the male lion, to ensure the safety of her cubs. It was still a rather cool morning; this meant they could cover ground rapidly and we would need to work quickly.
After some time tracking the cats, the temperature started to rise and the tracks headed towards one of the few densely vegetated patches in the area.
We headed in the direction of the thick bush and to our delight saw a mother and cub. I knew instantly this was the brave lioness that had so courageously fended off the male lion. The two were still in the open but heading for the thicket a hundred feet ahead. The female was calling; she could only be calling the rest of the pride and we knew from all the tracks ahead they were not far ahead of her.
Suddenly the excited family greeted her low calls; all members greeting one another like they had been apart for a lifetime. It was a great moment and special to see the affection between pride members. They really are social cats, sharing incredible bonds. Family comes first as the brave lioness had demonstrated that very morning.
James Suter exploring Singita Sabi Sand this week.
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.
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.
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.
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.