Guest Guide: Sanath Jaishankar describes ‘A Place of Miracles in the Land of Magic’
Recent Singita guests, Sanath Jaishankar and his family have always had a love for the African bush, which has taken them on many safari holidays over the years. A recent trip brought them to Singita in South Africa for the second time.
We invited Sanath to share his latest Singita experience with us.
A Place of Miracles in the Land of Magic by Sanath Jai
There’s something distinctly unnatural about taking off from one of the longest runways in the world at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport in a comparatively miniscule, 8-seater Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. It’s the odd feeling one gets from seemingly being out of place. After more than a year of lockdown, the prospect of travel is acutely foreign, while equally inspiring.
As the turboprop ascends through the clouds, there’s also an immense sense of privilege for the chance to return to an extraordinary destination: Singita Lebombo Lodge in the Kruger National Park.
As we begin our descent towards the Satara Airstrip, conveniently located just outside of Singita’s concession, we’re given an aerial snapshot of the land below in all its legendary glory. Winter started to make its presence felt and the luscious greens from the plentiful rainy season slowly transformed into the golden hues of the iconic South African bushveld.
Every visit to the Kruger unlocks a new secret, hidden deep inside the plains and riverbeds that characterise this crown jewel of South Africa’s biodiversity. Singita Lebombo is a treasured experience in and of itself. The lodge’s careful blend of natural wooden elements with contemporary glass and steel enhances the vivid landscapes of the ridgeline in the distance. It’s very easy to forget that you’re in the middle of a national park right next to the rugged Mozambican border when you’re surrounded by astounding luxury.
From the opulence of your suite to Singita’s best-in-class dining experiences (the Crispy Kale toast from the tapas-style brunch is a personal favourite), there really is nothing to miss about city life. Perched impressively above the N’wanetsi River, the lodge also has a natural background score of flowing water mixed with the chorus of the diverse birdlife around. And crossing the river on a misty morning safari is definitely worth waking up early for!
There are 33,000 hectares of pristine wilderness and sensational wildlife to discover. On our first drive, we had the pleasure of spending the entire afternoon with a young male leopard. What started off as an ordinary sighting of the leopard just relaxing in the thick bush progressed into magic as he climbed up a nearby leadwood tree to feed on a young impala carcass. As the light faded, the leopard soon had company in the form of two hyenas who searched the area for any scraps he dropped below. After almost two hours, we were about to leave the scene when suddenly – out of the obscurity of the night – the Shishangaan Pride of lions came to investigate. Even as a qualified guide with considerable experience, I was captivated by the rare sighting of all three nocturnal predators interacting with each other.
In the days and nights that followed, we were treated to some unforgettable sightings: we spent an extensive amount of time getting to know the Shishangaan and Mountain Prides of lions, spotted a coalition of cheetah just off the Concession, encountered all the other species of the Big Five, enjoyed the start of the impala rutting season, and even spotted some of the relatively shy creatures such as a honey badger and an African rock python.
Perhaps the greatest pleasure, however, was feeling an unhindered connection with the untouched magnificence of the Kruger. The concession model – essentially a public–private partnership with South African National Parks (SANParks) to lease a designated area within the park for commercial operations – is one of the most sustainable forms of ecotourism. The basic principle of a concession is to enhance the value of a biodiverse area by empowering the local communities to build a landmark tourist destination that will, in turn, generate income for the communties, for commercial operators, and most importantly, for conservation.
Gratitude is often derived from a deep appreciation of, and connection with, a sense of place. Singita – through its sustainable practices and innovative measures in minimising its footprint, there’s a demonstrable respect for the natural surroundings in everything it does. You’re left with a powerful impression that its role is that of a custodian – beyond a commercial rationale and setting a standard of travel that’s hard to beat.
On the fifth and final morning, as we once again boarded the mighty Pilatus, I already couldn’t wait for the chance to return to this place of miracles in the land of magic…
Singita guests have private access to 33,000 acres of pristine wilderness in the world-renowned Kruger National Park, ensuring unforgettable game-viewing experiences. If you'd like to find out more about traveling to South Africa, our expert in-house travel team can assist. Enquire here >
About the author, Sanath Jaishankar:
After completing a BA at NYU and his LLB at the University of Edinburgh, Sanath returned home to Johannesburg for a year of lockdown, during which time he decided to fulfil his childhood dream of qualifying as a field guide and completing his NQF2 qualification. While he still plans to start his Masters in Law later this year, he has been getting to enjoy his passionate and deep connection to sustainable ecotourism in the interim.
Follow Sanath on Instagram here.