For the past 25 years, Singita has had the privilege of welcoming guests to Africa and creating meaningful experiences that have the power to profoundly shift the traveller’s perspective.
Singita’s evolution from a single lodge in the Sabi Sand to 12 award-winning properties dotted across three African countries has been driven by a far-reaching conservation vision that has been in place since Singita Ebony Lodge first opened its doors in 1993. Our legacy as an African company and our deep love for the continent fuels a heartfelt desire to protect its most vulnerable landscapes for generations to come.
When observing the scale of Singita’s hospitality and conservation operations today, it’s hard to imagine that it all began with the construction of a small, five-bedroom safari lodge in a largely undeveloped corner of the South African bush. It was the first chapter in a uniquely African story that has unfolded over the past 25 years, connecting people from all over the world with the wonders of the pristine landscapes under our care. The transformation of Luke Bailes’ family getaway into a luxurious retreat that could support the conservation of the land was driven by the growing need for the preservation of Africa’s remaining wilderness areas. Singita Ebony Lodge was the cornerstone of a far-reaching vision to safeguard a continent whose natural heritage is under threat.
Singita Ebony Lodge in 1998
Singita Ebony Lodge (present day), Sabi Sand, South Africa
Singita Ebony Lodge (present day), Sabi Sand, South Africa
Then and now, the company and the lodge flew in the face of convention and created waves in the industry from opening day. Mark Witney, who is now Singita’s CEO for Conservation, is a school friend of Luke’s and came on board as the general factotum of a modest staff complement, helping to manage the lodge, host guests and guide the game drives. He describes how groundbreaking Singita Ebony Lodge was at the time, prioritising a guest-focused culture with spacious suites, high-thread-count linen, five-star service and exceptional food and wine when “roughing it” was the accepted experience in all other lodges. Singita introduced the concept of a luxury safari and received widespread scepticism for it, when everyone else was selling lumpy beds, rudimentary facilities and rustic home cooking. Guests and proprietors quickly caught on however, and a boom in similar offerings soon followed.
Singita Boulders Lodge, Sabi Sand, South Africa
Mark freely admits that they didn’t know how to run a lodge in the commercial sense; that their only perspective of hospitality was that of a guest, and how to create a comfortable, enjoyable environment for them. Little mention was made of the conservation work taking place behind the scenes and instead Singita’s marketing focused around the quality of the accommodation and service. The lodge enjoyed high occupancies from the beginning and its popularity soon encouraged Luke to consider a second property, leading to the construction of Singita Boulders Lodge in 1996. While Ebony was more traditional in style, Boulders set an exciting new benchmark for modern safari lodge architecture and interior design, as well as expanding on the theme of luxury in the bush.
It was understood from day one that the high-end hospitality offering and amazing wilderness experience at Singita was the key to preserving the land and all its inhabitants. This approach, along with an understanding that carefully considered partnerships were essential to growth, would inform every strategic decision during Singita’s evolution. As conservation became more and more urgent on a global scale, interactions with guests revealed a burgeoning interest in this fundamental but undersold part of the business. Visitors to our lodges and camps began to ask questions about the projects underway and, as time went on, expressed a desire to see these projects in action. Singita’s driving force, which for many years had formed the background of the guest experience, began getting more and more attention. 25 years after the establishment of our first lodge, sustainability, biodiversity and the prosperity of local communities is now front of mind for many travellers, and that we get to proudly share our conservation work with guests wanting an opportunity to contribute to the preservation of Africa’s legacy.
It has been a fascinating and, at times, challenging journey, with more to come as we stand at the brink of an exciting new chapter. Singita’s next project, the opening of Kwitonda Lodge in Rwanda in August 2019, is inspired by the precarious position of one of Africa’s most iconic species. A third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, comprising just 320 individuals, make their home in the Volcanoes National Park. Years of civil war, poaching, habitat destruction and disease have placed these animals firmly onto the list of critical endangered species, making their protection absolutely essential. The presence of Singita Kwitonda Lodge on the border of the protected area will help to improve the function of the buffer area between agricultural plots and the habitat of the gorillas that find sanctuary here, as well as support the critical conservation work undertaken by the Rwandan Development Board on behalf of these gentle giants.
As Singita celebrates a quarter of a century of passionate commitment to conservation, carefully considered partnerships become ever more critical in growing our influence and impact on the ecosystems we are dedicated to protecting. Singita Kwitonda Lodge represents the importance of collaborating with government and private stakeholders to preserve the continent’s most vulnerable landscapes. As we continue to strive towards the protection of large areas of African wilderness for future generations, these relationships will be crucial to achieving this goal and positioning conservation as the categorical imperative for the survival of our species, and all of those with which we share this planet.
Singita Kwitonda Lodge was planned in partnership with the Rwandan government which is actively seeking to increase the natural habitat of the endangered mountain gorillas that live in the Volcanoes National Park. Singita’s involvement in Rwanda will help to support the aligned conservation objectives of both parties, as well as provide employment and development opportunities for local communities. Learn more about Singita Kwitonda Lodge »