Tag Archives: South African Safari

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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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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Striking Gold

May 18, 2012 - Africa,Conservation,Safari

While driving through the Northern parts of the Lebombo concession, a guide calls in over the radio that he has just located two lionesses.  Both the animals were lactating as their mamary glands were enlarged.  This got me really excited and I knew if we was patient and spent some time with these animals we stood a good chance of being introduced to her cubs.

As we gained visual of the two cats, they separated and I decided to stick with the one that was heading staight toward a large drainage line, a perfect area for her to hide her youngsters.  She was walking with purpose and the excitement levels started to build amongst us in the vehicle. We followed her for about thirty minutes keeping our distance, being careful not to disturb her.  She eventually lead us through a drainage line toward a dense thicket protected by large amoured thorns.  Switching off the vehicle, all in silence, heads cocked in anticipation, we listened. Time passed as we sat under the cover of a large sigamore fig waiting, and eager to find out if this was the very place this lioness had chosen to hide her cubs.  To our amazement we heard a faint cry coming from deep withing the inaccessible brush, a sound that could only be produced by a lion cub.

We approached cautiously towards the thicket and finally gained visual of two tiny cubs, no more than three weeks old. It was such a build up to such an incredible reward.  What was so astonishing to me was how relaxed the mother was with the presence of the vehicle, showing no sign of aggression.  The cubs grew inquisitive  and eventually approached within a meter of the vehicle constantly calling, seeking their mother’s approval.  These cubs were very young and had not yet been introduced to the rest of the pride.  What an incredible moment it was.

We discussed how vital it was for the cubs to have a safe haven and that during the hiding period they were at great risk.  But these cubs were very well hidden and stood a good chance of survival.  I felt privilaged to have been aquainted with these tiny creatures and grateful to their mother for tolorating our presence.

Keep up with our weekly blog series as James Suter takes us on a journey through the African bushveld, bringing the wild closer.

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The Essential Packing List

May 08, 2012 - Accommodation,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Safari

We asked Marianda Venter, Lodge Manager at Singita Boulders, to take a few minutes to compile some handy tips for packing for an African safari.  Hope you find these tips helpful.


Packing for any trip, whether it’s a weekend getaway or a week-long trip, isn’t the most relaxing way to spend your afternoons and evenings prior to your departure. The stress of forgetting something important or packing too much is always in the back of your mind.

But packing for your Singita Boulders’ safari should be an exciting experience and remember, don’t get carried away; stick to the essentials.  We offer laundry service daily so keep that in mind when packing.

If you want to free up a little space in your luggage, it may be helpful to know that we supply the following:

Mosquito repellent and mosquito wipes
International adaptors
Torches/flash lights
We have 5 pairs of binoculars for our guests to use

So what are the essentials?

A camera

Whether  you are an amateur or a professional, make sure you bring a camera to capture the magical moments on safari.  Along with your camera, also include your charger and/or batteries.  We have international adaptors in the rooms and 220 volt plugs to charge in the game drive vehicles. We can also assist with burning photos on to disks but an extra memory card is always handy.  If you have additional tri-pods and lenses, bring those along too as there is often an opportunity to capture an unusual moment in the bush.

What to wear

It’s advisable to pack closed-toe shoes and neutral clothing.  During your morning and afternoon game drives, you’ll stop for a break or your guide might show you something on foot and so it’s often practical to be wearing comfortable, closed footwear.  Definitely pack cool and light sandals and flip flops for wearing around the lodge.  Out on a game drive or bush walk, wearing neutral clothing is essential for blending into the natural environment.   Oh and don’t forget your hat – or make sure to purchase one from the Singita Boutique.

Weather is often unpredictable and it is always good to be prepared for either extreme – hot or cold.  So pack a few layers in lightweight but also warmer fabrics.

Again, back at the lodge some guests prefer freshening up before meals and others come through directly from the drive.  What ever you feel comfortable wearing for meals and lounging around the lodge and pool areas, make sure it’s packed;  we have no specifications.

Sunscreen and sunglasses

These are an absolute must.  We have sunscreen stock available but if you prefer a specific brand we recommend you pop a smaller version in your bag. The African sun can be harsh and daily protection is essential.  You’ll be grateful to have your sunglasses with you throughout the day.

Stay connected

If you need to stay connected, you are more than welcome to bring your mobile and hand-held devices.  We have wireless in all the rooms and public areas and these devices can often be used to download pictures and videos too.  We also have two computers in our library if you need to stay in touch with family or friends.

And don’t forget to contact us if you have any questions about your stay or wonder about any other details at our Singita lodges – enquiries@singita.com

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Wildlife – the News in Pictures

January 10, 2012 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

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.

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Summertime in the Bushveld

January 06, 2012 - Cuisine,Sabi Sand

Warmer weather goes hand in hand with lighter styled food at Singita Boulders Lodge this season, such as salads and chilled soups.

Utilizing the wonderful fresh produce from our new herb garden, we have tossed some vegetables together to make a delightful creation:

Easy root vegetable recipe

1 bunch beetroot

1 bunch parsnip

1 punnet baby carrots

1 sweet potato sliced

Basil pesto for dressing

Goat’s cheese (optional)

Rocket leaves

Trim the roots and leaves off the vegetables, keeping the skin on for extra nutritional value.
Dress the vegetables with olive oil, pepper and salt.  Roast the vegetables for 8-10 minutes at 180°C
Deep fry the sweet potato chips until crispy while vegetables are roasting.
Arrange the vegetables on a plate, dress with basil pesto and garnish with sweet potato crisps, leaves and goat’s cheese

Chef’s tip – by Loraine Pienaar:  Roast the different kinds of vegetables separately because cooking times may vary and the beetroot will colour the rest of the vegetables.


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Wildlife – The News in Pictures

October 26, 2011 - Kruger National Park,Wildlife

The Xirombe lion pride – Singita Kruger National Park

Wild dog

Buffalo bull

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.

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Working with Local Farms

October 20, 2011 - Cuisine,Sabi Sand

One of the benefits of working in remote areas like Singita Sabi Sand is the abundance of local farming communities around the reserve.  I was fortunate enough to have found one, Saringwa farm that is only a few kilometers down the road in the town of Belfast.

They have a wide variety of freshly picked vegetables on offer, and with such fresh produce available it’s a sin not to utilize them when they are at nature’s best.

I could not wait to get hold of the sun- ripened tomatoes that were on offer and make one of my all time favorites:  tomato and chili jam with local tomatoes and chilis out of the herb garden that we started behind the Boulders’ kitchen.  You’ll want to store this recipe deep in your recipe chest because it is an absolute winner – and something to pass down the generations.

Enjoy!

Peter Liese – Sous Chef, Singita Boulders Lodge

Tomato and Chili Jam

Ingredients

500g plum tomatoes

100g golden sugar

100 ml white wine vinegar

2 red chilis

4 cloves garlic

1 red onion

Making the Jam

Wash the tomatoes, chili and peel the garlic and red onion.  Place in a food processor and puree until liquid.  Pour into a heavy bottomed pot and add the vinegar and golden sugar.  Bring to a simmer on a gentle heat and cook for about 40 to 80 minutes.  Occasionally stir the pot to ensure the mixture will not burn.  Place two suitably sized jars into rapidly boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes to sterilize.  Fill the jars with the hot jam and seal immediately.

Pair the jam with crispy tempura vegetables, calamari or cheese for some delectable flavors.

Tips:  If you would like less bite to the jam feel free to take the seeds out of the chilis first.

For more texture to the jam you may also chop a third of the tomatoes roughly and add them to the liquid when you begin to cook it.

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Family Reunion

October 18, 2011 - Kruger National Park,Wildlife

If you’ve been following news from Singita Field Guides, then you’ll remember the Xinkelengane female leopard at Singita Kruger National Park.  She has provided a multitude of gorgeous photo opportunities in the past.  But now it seems her maturing offspring are taking over the reins in the territory.

This beautiful young leopard (above) has taken over the reins from her mother it seems. Sadly, her mother, the much loved and well known Xinkelengane female has been missing for almost three months now. We are not sure where she is and we continue looking for any signs of her. In the meantime the leopard pictured, has been leaving her scent along all of the prominent landmarks within her mother’s old territory. This is vital for establishing a territory. She is still a young cat, barely 18 months of age and her territorial behavior is very early. It is perhaps brought on by the absence of a dominant female (her missing mother) and as leopards are very opportunistic she may be using the chance to make her presence known before another female claims this abundant piece of real estate.

The two cubs are still seen together from time to time. Independently they are doing very well. Both are hunting successfully and kill prey up to the size of adult male impala and young waterbuck. A recent get-together resulted in them spending the night together feeding on a carcass, and they separated again by mid-morning. The young male, pictured below to the right feels more pressure in terms of territory. His father, the Shingwenyana male, is still very active in this region. Fortunately for the young male his father has not reacted aggressively towards him allowing him to stay in this space. We even witnessed recently as this young boy watched his father mate with another female. There was no aggressive behavior from his father suggesting a strong bond between the two.

Only time will tell where these young leopards will finally set up their own territories. We hope we don’t lose track of them into the massive Kruger National Park as they have become much loved by the guides.

Singita Kruger leopard update provided by Marlon du Toit, Guide, Singita Kruger National Park.  To follow what happens to these young leopards, stay in touch with our monthly Guides’ Diaries on Singita’s website.

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Wildlife – the News in Pictures

November 08, 2010 - Wildlife

From Singita Guide, Marlon du Toit – Singita Kruger National Park

Featured in this article are a variety of photographs from elephants to lions and leopards.  In general the Singita Kruger concession is still blowing everyone away, including guides that have been here for a long time.  Viewings of wildlife have been spectacular over the past weeks.

As far as lions go, the Mountain Pride has been staying within the Kori Clearing vicinity for the last two weeks now.  That is good news for us as we don’t have to drive too the far north in order to find them.

Xinkelengene Cub

Young elephants having fun.


Another highlight from the last few days were two slender mongooses battling it out for territory.  They went about it as if their lives depended on it, and it was the first time I witnessed something like that.  Also, we have been seeing black rhino at least twice a week; amazing considering there are fewer that 500 in the whole entire park.

To keep up with monthly wildlife happenings at all of our Singita reserves, follow our Guide’s Diaries for updates.

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