We recently received this wonderful piece of writing from a guest at Singita Lebombo Lodge who wanted to share her special experience with us. It describes her arrival at the air strip, her first game drive, the details of her suite and the most treasured memories of her trip. We thought you might like to read it too:
My bush experience begins as I wait for my transfer from the air strip to the lodge. Where else in the world do you get greeted under an open-sided thatched airport “arrivals lounge” by someone with the charming name of Evidence presenting you with a warm, scented cloth with which to clean your hands? The build-up continues on the ride to the lodge in the open-topped land rover as I hear the field guide talking on his radio to a colleague about a lion kill he has just witnessed and I notice that the guide’s eyes are never still, constantly scanning his surroundings as he drives.
A further warm welcome awaits me at the lodge when I meet my personal “banakeli” (hostess) who will take care of me during my stay. It feels surreal eating lunch on the deck overlooking the river whilst watching a baby elephant mischievously cavorting in the water below.
Heading to my room, I am thrilled to see nyala antelope grazing alongside the wooden walkways that lead to the private suites that are scattered above the river that runs below the Lodge. My suite is stunning; beautifully appointed and tastefully furnished, and it is only upon closer inspection that I fully appreciate that every element is not only aesthetically pleasing but is also designed to be fully functional, exceptionally comfortable and totally luxurious.
I notice many unique and brilliant touches: the internal tree trunk in the hallway that looks like it is holding up the ceiling but whose boughs serve as a key holder; a handwoven basket into which I can place all my paraphernalia when going for a game drive; a string of tiny red beads placed around the hot water tap; a cabinet filled with delicious snacks, drinks, a coffee machine, fresh milk, and every other conceivable luxury that one could imagine. I wish that I could spend a week in this haven of hedonism but a late afternoon game drive beckons and so I hurry to the main reception area where a sumptuous tea awaits me before setting off.
As with the various staff who attend to my comforts and needs, the field guide assigned to me will be responsible for my game viewing and any extra activities that I may wish to experience; be it a game walk or a bush bike ride, star gazing or archery. He will tailor-make any activity to suit me and I am struck that the key element that drives Singita and contributes to the unique experience that it offers, is all about the relationships that one forms; with the wonderful staff, with the environment and the elements, and with the wildlife that forms the integral core of one’s stay.
I see four of the Big 5 on that first, magical drive, the most poignant of which was the sighting of a two-year-old leopard, the only one of three cubs to survive under the protection of his watchful mother, who herself was subsequently attacked and killed by lions. Stopping for drinks at sunset, crystal glasses and bowls of snacks were laid out on the hood of the vehicle, and we listened to our guide and tracker telling bush tales with the sounds of the wild in the background.
If my senses weren’t sufficiently awakened by a few hours in the bush, then they certainly were by the food which was to follow! To say I was wined and dined like a queen is an understatement. From my own personal menu designed to include all of my favourite foods, to a selection of wines from one of the finest cellars in the world, I was amazed that the quality, quantity and selection of ingredients is possible, given the remote location and difficulty of accessibility.
After one of the best night’s sleep for years and a delightful personal wake up call, I make the decision to forego the early morning game drive. Instead I watch from the deck of my suite as a huge herd of elephants slowly make their way along the banks of the river, eating and drinking with all the grace and majesty that befits these magnificent beasts. On my walk up to the main lodge for breakfast, I am accompanied by an amusing troop of vervet monkeys and even see a brazen youngster grabbing a selection of dried fruit from the breakfast table before being chased away by an incensed member of staff. This does nothing to shatter my peace and the opportunity to enjoy some alone time in camp without other guests around.
Later, sipping a coffee made by the lodge’s barista, I reflect upon a day where I felt that every part of me had been touched and was connected to both myself and my surroundings. I ponder the welcome card I found on my pillow that simply states: Singita. Pause/Experience/Remember. I did, I have done and I always shall.
Belinda Lemkus grew up in South Africa and is now based in the UK, where she lives in London with her husband and two daughters. This was her second visit to Singita.