Immersion is an important part of the wilderness experience; finding oneself in the African bush with all five senses heightened, one can’t help but be present in the moment. This feeling of being alive, of mindfulness, is one of the great gifts of being on safari. At Singita, it is a concept that extends beyond game drives and bush walks to every element of the guest experience, including the connection that is made with the teams at each lodge. At Singita Kruger National Park, guests have the opportunity to interact with the people of Singita in an even more unique way – by rolling up their sleeves and taking part in a lesson with the students at the Singita Community Culinary School.

This incredibly successful community partnership project first began in 2007 when a small teaching facility was established in the staff village at Singita Kruger National Park. It was created to fulfil a need in the local community for skills development and improved employment potential, as well as to benefit the wider hospitality industry by producing proficient chefs that are ready to tackle any role in a professional kitchen. As the programme grew, it became apparent that a larger facility was required and, after a decade in operation, the decision was taken to move the school to a new site at Singita Lebombo Lodge.

The state-of-the-art kitchen and demonstration studio opened last year and serves as a fully-functioning practical and theory classroom for the 10 students of the rigorous, Singita-crafted professional culinary course. Only 7% of applicants – all young people from the local community – can be accepted into this competitive programme and although the curriculum is challenging, it ensures that the course produces extremely hard working and highly trained commis chefs. Students also benefit from time spent working in the kitchens at each of Singita’s five South African lodges – all of which have their own signature style – giving them essential practical experience and a well-rounded skillset.

For guests at Singita Lebombo and neighbouring Singita Sweni Lodge, a morning spent in the classroom with the students not only helps to support the programme and give back to the local community but is also an enriching and highly enjoyable experience. In addition, it offers a tangible connection between the pillars of Singita’s conservation approach and the gourmet experience at the lodges – guests learn about the importance of sustainable practices in the kitchen and gain a deeper understanding of the culinary concept behind each mouthwatering dish. It is also a wonderful opportunity to take home a recipe that will always remind them of the Place of Miracles and the life-changing work that Singita and its conservation partners are doing.

Guests interested in supporting the Singita Community Culinary School are able to make a long-term contribution by sponsoring a student. R100,000 covers tuition, uniforms, equipment, ingredients, transport and a monthly stipend. There are also opportunities to contribute to the SCCS Expansion Fund which will enable Singita to offer this transformative experience to more inspiring young people from the local community. Please visit the Conservation section of our site to learn more or make a tax-deductible donation here.

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