Updated: Aug 22, 2019
Singita – “Kris, we would like you to come visit our recently renovated lodges”
Kris – “Sure! When?”
Singita – “How about next month?”
…and that was the extent of planning for my recent trip to South Africa. In May, I had the pleasure of being invited by Singita to visit a handful of their recently renovated and upgraded South African properties. And what a whirlwind it was!
With five properties (Ebony, Boulders, Lebombo, Sweni and Castleton) within the Greater Kruger National Park, Singita is home to some of the most unique and luxurious accommodations in Africa. Each property has its own unique and individual feel – transporting to another world as soon as you make your way through the entrance gate.
Ebony is the original Singita lodge and is a place to visit if you are looking for that perfect traditional safari feel, peace and solitude. Overlooking Kruger National Park’s Sand River, each room is decorated in what I would describe as soft luxury – lots of natural elements: timber, stone, earth. There is nothing better than viewing the wildlife from your own private balcony and plunge pool, or enjoying a cocktail by your room’s own double-sided open fireplace.
Many believe that the lodge was named after the rocky river that runs directly in front of the lodges’ main lounge area – however, the named ‘Boulders’ refers to the two-giant stone beasts that the lodges’ heart and soul was built around – the wine cellar. With over 180 different bottles to choose from, guests are able to taste and experience a variety of flavors from all over Southern Africa (and the world), complimentary.
Easily my favorite lodge, Lebombo blends the traditional safari wilderness feel with modern luxury. Each room clings to the cliff face with a unique balance of bright colors, steel, natural timber and floor to ceiling glass. Offering some of the most impressive views over the N’wanetsi River and the Mozambique border, you will not find clearer skies for star-gazing and romantic fireplace dinners.
Sweni holds all the same impressive touches of modern luxury and unique wildlife experiences as its sister-property Lebombo, but with a much more intimate and private feel. With only 6 rooms, Sweni is great for groups, inter-generational families, and those who want a little more privacy. Each room hugs the free-flowing river where wildlife sightings are a common staple, and you will not find a better library-lounge to curl up, relax by the fireplace and spend an afternoon.
You can never fully prepare for what experiences you will have on while on safari, and everyday is unique in its own way. On this particular trip, I was able to participate in some firsts and they will forever be some of my favorite safari experiences:
Singita Community Culinary School
In 2007, Singita constructed a community development program whereby it would choose 10 students from the local villages, train them for a full year and graduate them as internationally qualified commis chefs. This program is so competitive that only 7% of applicants were accepted in 2019. The reason why this experience is special to me, is because of the clear need that this program is fulfilling in the local community. Graduates emerge with highly sought-after skills and a greater chance for a brighter future. Since its inception, over 95% of the graduates are currently employed and have found lifelong careers.
The Community Culinary School is located on property at Lebombo and is open for guests to learn about the curriculum, and participate in a demo-cooking classes. Whether you master a particular plate from the daily menu, learn a traditional cultural recipe to bring home to your family and friends, or help prepare one of the signature curriculum-based dishes; a few hours in the community kitchen will enrich your safari even more than you could have ever hoped.
Singita Wildlife Conservation
Singita has the privilege of owning some of the most sought-after Private Concession Areas in all of Africa. Along the banks of the Sabi and Sand Rivers, the wildlife is plentiful. From multi-generational herds of elephant bathing and dusting themselves to close-knit prides of lion stalking through the wooded brush; from the submerged honking of Africa’s river horse, the hippopotamus, to the abundance of zebras dazzling across the open plains – you will rarely have a dull moment within the concession.
One of my favorite animals, mainly due to its stealth, elegance and strength, is the Leopard. The Sabi Sands region is home to one of the greatest densities of Leopard in the world, but over the last 30 years, Leopard numbers have declined at an average rate of 8% per year. There are likely fewer than 5,000 Leopards remaining in South Africa, pushing them closer to the threat of extinction. Based on those numbers, Singita recently partnered with Panthera, an organization devoted to ensuring the future of over 40 wild cat species around the world. Not only was I able to witness more Leopard sightings within a 3-day stretch than all of my other safari experiences combined, I was lucky enough to witness first-hand the work the guides and specialists undertake each day in order to help create such a remarkable safe haven. From checking camera traps to logging sightings and conveying data – it is obvious that these Singita properties are focused on much more than being an accommodation destination.
As I previously mentioned, no two days in Africa or on safari are ever the same, and that is why I am so in love with the continent, the people, and the wildlife. There is no way to fully prepare for what you will experience, but maybe that is why I, and each of my clients, are constantly blown away by what Africa has to offer.
Interested in travel to Africa? Reach out to Kris at KrisN@piquetravel.com.