Tag Archives: Zimbabwe

Ancient Art: Malilangwe’s primitive paintings

November 14, 2012 - Conservation,Did You Know?,History,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Safari,Singita Pamushana Lodge

Singita Pamushana Lodge is located in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve; 130 000 acres of wilderness in the southern corner of Zimbabwe. It is a spectacularly diverse and beautiful piece of Africa, and is also home to nearly 100 rock art sites that date back more than 2 000 years. The careful protection of these sites is a key part of Singita’s conservation philosophy, and allows this ancient artwork to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. Head Guide at Singita Pamushana, Brad Fouché, shares his knowledge on the subject.

The area around the lodge is known for its lush mopane forests and majestic baobab trees, as well as a range of magical sandstone outcrops where most of the San paintings are located.

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve Rock Art 1

In Zimbabwe there are 15 000 known rock art and engraving sites, of which many are unique to the country, with little or no other examples found in the rest of Southern Africa. The three different groups of paintings found at the reserve are from San or Bushman hunter-gatherers, Iron Age farmers and Koi Koi/Khoekhoen people.

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve Rock Art 2

In addition to professional research undertaken to locate Stone and Iron Age rock painting sites in the area, field staff and guides at Singita Pamushana have recorded a great many other examples. No less than five recording projects have been conducted on the reserve in the last decade, and a total of 87 sites being recorded, with surely many more as yet undiscovered.

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve Rock Art 3

Some of the unique rock art that can be found here includes:

* Five extremely rare bi-cephalic (double-headed) animals, of which only two other examples have been discovered in Southern Africa.
* Fly whisks, which are relatively common in San rock art and were used only during the “curing” or “trance dance”.
* Two examples of formlings, a term coined by ethnologist and archaeologist Leo Frobenius to describe “large forms, shaped like galls or livers, into which human figures are painted”, and unique to the whole of Zimbabwe. Their meaning however remains poorly understood.
* Various animals, including elephant, rhino, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra, roan antelope, sable, kudu, impala, wild dog, baboon, aardvark, ostrich and unidentified birds of prey.

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve Rock Art 4

Find out more about the inspiration behind Singita Pamushana Lodge, one of Africa’s best-kept secrets, and read our latest Guides’ Diary from the area, written by field guide Jenny Hishin.

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Wonderful and Rare Sighting

October 10, 2011 - Safari,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

A wonderful sighting this morning (Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe) of a relaxed mother leopard and her two tiny cubs.  Hours were spent watching their intimate rituals of nursing, bathing and playing – Jenny Hishin.

For more photographs of this remarkable sighting, take a look at Singita’s Facebook page.

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Rhino Rules

October 05, 2011 - Events,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

Jenny Hishin – Singita Guide – shares some of her experiences from Singita Pamushana Lodge.


I’ve mentioned that we’ve been having some hair-raisingly close encounters with a black rhino (Diceros bicornis) around the area of the Malilangwe Dam, at the foot of the lodge. The story began in June when staff members awoke to the colossal sounds of huffing, puffing, bashing and crashing.

Two male black rhinos were engaged in a mighty battle over what seemed to be a territorial dispute. One of the bulls was injured but our scouts managed to keep track of him and determine the extent of his injuries – thankfully he recovered well.

The battle aside, this aggression over territory is an encouraging sign for us because it has been observed that rhinos in low density populations become more territorial and less tolerant of intruders as their population density increases.

Rhinos use dung and urine to stake out the areas of their rule, and their middens act as important communication posts to other rhinos wanting to pass through the area peacefully or challenge the ruler for it.

Black rhinos are not as social as white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) and solitary individuals of both sexes are likely to be encountered. They have earned the reputation from humans as irascible, temperamental animals that prefer to investigate and possibly chase off a potential threat, rather than wait to be attacked or hope that the intruder will go away.

Three months after the initial battle it now seems certain that the victor enjoys the banks of the vast dam as his exclusive real estate.  A highlight of a peaceful boat cruise on the luxury Suncatcher is to spot him on the dam’s green fringe – and a highlight of a far less peaceful excursion is to find him in the harbour area where we moor the boats!

For more of Jenny Hishin’s wildlife updates, follow the monthly Singita Pamushana Guides’ Diary – posted on Singita’s website.

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Getting to know Malilangwe

March 28, 2011 - Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Sustainable Conservation,Wildlife

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, home to Singita Pamushana Lodge, presents a unique sanctuary for wildlife conservation in Africa.  The reserve’s core objective is to provide a naturally functioning ecosystem, where the full spectrum of wild species native to the area are protected, and where these species can live as they have for thousands of years.

Located adjacent to the Gonarezhou National Park in the south-eastern corner of Zimbabwe, Malilangwe occupies an area of 400 km2 of geologically and floristically diverse habitats. In all, 38 distinct plant communities are identified and early government prospectors described the area as ‘very wild broken country.

The rugged but breathtakingly beautiful sandstone hills, with their deep secret ravines and plateaus, likely earned the area this reputation. Weathered grey, sometimes cracked and sometimes smooth, they are adorned with lime, grey and orange lichen. White fig tree roots strangle then split the rock to reveal a myriad of sunset colours. These bewitching hills straddle the property and provide a refuge for mountain acacia and iron wood trees. Under their shade klipspringer and hyraxes hide themselves; wild dogs den and Black Eagles soar.  The hills are studded with fairytale springs and seeps which are favoured watering holes for black rhino, swimming pools for elephants and mud wallows for ‘dagga boys’ – the ill-tempered old buffalo bulls who have left the herd.  Numerous San rock art paintings, dating back to the Late Stone Age (more than 2000 years ago), bear witness to the historic diversity of animals that occupied this area, and whose descendents still roam free.

In the heart of the hills lies the Malilangwe lake, reputed in Zimbabwe for the excellent fishing opportunities it affords. The lake is also home to hippos and crocodiles, and an array of water birds. Few sites could offer a more spectacular fishing spot or sun-downer cruise.

To the south of the hills the soils are dark and rich – derived from basalt rock of the Jurassic period. In this semi-arid savanna, herds of plains species such as impala, zebra and wildebeest graze, and giraffe can be seen browsing Acacia trees. Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and sable also favour this area, but are more elusive. Woven through the mopane and Acacia trees are stream-like depressions that function as ‘vleis’ (open moist grasslands). These provide food for bulk grazers like white rhino and the herds of more than 500 buffalo.

North of the hills is black rhino and wild dog country. This densely wooded area makes game viewing difficult but extremely rewarding. Amongst the Grewia scrub grow giant baobab trees. Hollows in their gnarled branches trap water and their silvery limbs are home to Buffalo Weavers and honey bees. By-gone hunters used climbing pegs to scale the massive stems in search of honey and water. In some trees these climbing pegs are still evident while in others only swirling scars remain.

The Chiredzi River, a perennial source of water, forms the western boundary of Malilangwe. On it’s sandy banks grow tall ebony and sausage trees. They camouflage the rare and mysterious Pel’s Fishing Owl, and in the tangled ‘wait-a-bit’ undergrowth shy nyala feed, bushbuck bark and francolin call. Lions, leopards and hyenas traverse the entire property, and are often heard calling at night.

As a result of a healthy, functioning ecosystem, game has thrived at Malilangwe.  Population growth has soared to such an extent that Malilangwe has been able to restock other wildlife areas in Zimbabwe. Of particular pride are the black and white rhino populations which have grown so well over the past 10 years that Malilangwe is now able to restock other parts of Africa with these remarkable, endangered species.

Article contribution by Sarah Clegg, BSc, MSc – Consulting Ecologist at Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve for the past 15 years.

To view the Malilangwe wildlife in their natural habitat, follow Kim Wolhuter’s extraordinary video footage published regularly on Singita’s Facebook page.  Kim is an internationally acclaimed, documentary film-maker residing on the Malilangwe Reserve recording footage for upcoming documentary projects.

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Funding a life source

January 28, 2011 - Community Development,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge

Did you know that when guests stay at Singita Pamushana all proceeds are used to fund various projects managed by the reserve’s Malilangwe Trust? A key, joint project that the Malilangwe Trust has embarked upon is to establish irrigation schemes so that nearby villagers and their livestock have a clean supply of water and are able grow their own vegetables. Women and children tend the crops – channeling water into the fields (thanks to a borehole that has been sunk), and keep up with weeding and removing pests.  When you are next at Singita Pamushana, pay them a visit and they’ll proudly show you the crops – onions, cabbage and other leafy greens are in season right now, and you’re bound to be treated to an emotive impromptu choir performance!

Approximately 10,000 people located around the Malilangwe Reserve are now assisted daily through the provision of drinkable, clean borehole water.

For further information on this project please liaise with our Singita Pamushana Lodge Manager or with Singita HR & Community Development Manager, Pam Richardson – please contact us.

By Jenny Hishin

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Scouting for Art

October 18, 2010 - Environment,Events

Recently on a scouting trip around Nduna searching for lions for our guest, as we headed off road something caught my eye on one of the rock faces.  I decided to go and investigate and found a small rock painting. Due to time restraints I was not able to scout the area for more paintings, nevertheless, I had a quick look around and found a second site about 300 metres from the initial site.  In order to ascertain if these were unique sites I made certain to GPS both of them, made a recording and checked the data.  They were not recorded in our data so I contacted Ben Smith at University of Witwatersrand and they did not have them recorded either.

This was amazing news meaning that we have increased the database of rock paintings now to 80 sites.   These figures refer to painting sites only.  So from the beginning of last year we had a record 56 rock painting sites; the guiding department has increased this record to date to 78 and now these 2 new ones total the sites to 80.  There is no doubt that we will keep adding to this number – we’ll keep you updated.

Singita Guide – Brad Fouche, Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe

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Have you lost your heart to a baobab lately?

June 30, 2010 - Environment,Singita Pamushana Lodge

The Shangaan believe that the baobab holds immense power. In fact it is a widely held Shangaan belief that when a person sits beneath a baobab tree it steals a piece of that person’s heart. This piece is only returned when they once again sit beneath that same baobab tree.

The baobab is the quintessential African tree and the Malilangwe Reserve is full of these beautiful giants.

Singita Pamushana Lodge and the Baobab.

The direct translation of the word baobab is tree of life, which is apt considering that every part of it can be used.

1. The white pulp, from the fruit of the baobab, is mixed with water and used as a treatment for fever, colds and flu.
2. The seeds, from the baobab fruit, are refreshing to suck on and – when roasted – they make an excellent coffee style        hot beverage.
3. Over the years hollow baobab trunks have served as houses, prisons, storage barns and places of refuge from                    animals.
4. The leaves can be boiled and eaten just like spinach.
5. The bark makes excellent ropes and floor mats. It is also believed to have the power to help an individual secure               respect, prestige and security in their job.

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    The Mopani – a butterfly by any other name is still just as beautiful …

    June 28, 2010 - Environment,Singita Pamushana Lodge

    The Mopani tree bears this beautiful name thanks to its butterfly shaped leaves. Mopani means butterfly.

    The amazing Mopani tree has more to it than just butterfly shaped leaves … it is also highly intelligent in design. It stores tannins, which lie dormant in its root and bark until an animal tries to eat the leaves.  When an animal takes a nibble it releases the tannin making the leaves inedible to most creatures.

    The Mopani Tree.

    photo CC attribution: artbandito on Flickr

    The Mopani tree may be intelligent in design but it is also an elephant’s favourite snack. To get past the tannin issue the elephant doesn’t bother with nibbling off the tree instead it tears a whole Mopani branch from the tree. So, while the rest of the Mopani is rendered inedible thanks to the tannin, the elephant’s branch tastes delicious!

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    When Patterned took on Plain and won! – the décor of Singita Pamushana

    June 23, 2010 - Singita Pamushana Lodge

    The décor at Singita’s Pamushana Lodge draws its inspiration from the local Shangaan culture creating an authentic and luxurious Zimbabwe safari experience for guests. Here there are no muted-khaki or beige tones in sight. Instead rich patterned fabrics, decadent and heavy wood furniture, beading, African frescos and other artwork are used to create a sumptuous and captivating lodge setting.

    Nothing has been ignored or overlooked in both the suites and the public lodge areas. The suites, central bar, swimming pools, indoor and outdoor sitting rooms and dining areas are all wonderfully comfortable and inviting with superb attention to detail.

    Singita Pamushana Lodge.

    The hand-painted and distinctly patterned walls throughout Singita Pamushana Lodge call out, they want to be touched. The carved wood of the bar needs to be stroked. The deck, overlooking the dam, has to be lounged on at least once a day and the suites’ private outdoor showers beckon morning, noon and night.

    Singita Pamushana Lodge - The Extensive Deck.

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    Getting to know the locals – the Shangaan People in Zimbabwe

    June 18, 2010 - Africa,Singita Pamushana Lodge

    The original Shangaan took their name from their king, Soshangane. The Shangaan weren’t traditionally warriors instead they were agriculturalists and pastoralists.

    At the height of his power the King Soshangane ruled the impressive Gaza Empire. This empire consisted of what is now south-eastern Zimbabwe – which is where the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve and Singita Pamushana Lodge are situated – as well as the area from the Save River to the southern part of Mozambique.

    In traditional Shangaan culture the sangoma, a healer and spiritual guide, is seen to be one of the most important members of the Shangaan tribe. Over the years the sangoma’s medicine gourd, a nhunguvani, has become an accepted symbol of the traditional cultural heritage of the Shangaan.

    The Shangaan are now mainly found in southern Mozambique and in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

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