Here goes my personal guide to the spectacular Singita properties in South Africa. This is just a little taster of each one, so please give me a call to talk through the details and find the right experience for your next South African safari. Singita properties in Zimbabwe and Tanzania are equally as impressive – and Rwanda is next to open. Contact me to find out more...
Conservation is at the heart of the Singita brand started by Luke Bailes, a South African whose parents owned an estate called Castleton, in the Kruger which is where it all started. Luke’s grandfather owned land and built a house in what would later become the Sabi Sand Reserve in South Africa. Castleton is in a remote corner of the Lowveld, the 30,000-acre traversing land is now an exclusive conservation reserve where all species are protected.
With each luxury Singita property supporting regional conservation efforts through sustainable tourism, their aim is to positively impact the surrounding land, wildlife and local communities. Restrictions on numbers of visitors in the reserves and national parks ensures that all guests’ experiences feel exclusive and the land is not overused. Expect generous and authentic hospitality, breath-taking wilderness locations and stunning eco-lodges, enhanced by exceptional adventure and wildlife experiences.
In South Africa, the Singita properties are spread across the Sabi Sand privately owned game reserve and neighbouring Kruger National Park. Sabi Sand is home to Singita Ebony, Boulders and Castleton lodges. The reserve is beautifully untouched and known for its high population of game, particularly leopard, as well as the diversity of its flora and fauna. Here you can spot rhino and spend time with the anti-poaching unit dedicated to protecting endangered species. Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges are located within the Kruger National Park on an isolated piece of land spanning 33,000 acres of pristine wilderness. The park boasts all of the Big 5 and a number of large prides of lion. Safaris, whether by vehicle or foot, are taken by expert field guides and wildlife trackers.
Boulders Lodge, Sabi Sand – Set on the banks of the Sand River, Boulders is a string of raised private suites, using glass walls to expand views across the surrounding landscapes, with more chance of enjoying wildlife sightings straight from the privacy of the lodge. Open-air dining and living areas connect you to the extraordinary sights and sounds of the African bush. Each room has an en-suite bathroom and private viewing deck with plunge pool. Local materials such as hand-carved wood, sheep-skin rugs, leather and wrought-iron are used to give each room an earthy, rustic feel, in keeping with the natural setting of the lodge. Along with luxury hospitality, exciting experiences at Boulders include stargazing, wildlife photography excursions, game drives, night-drives, bush-walks with expert trackers and mini rangers’ courses if you’re travelling with young explorers in tow (the spacious family suite is a wonderful option!).
Castleton Lodge, Sabi Sand – This traditional farmhouse, set within lush lawns that sweep out to meet thick bush, is a beautiful private home from which guests can explore the wilds of Sabi Sand reserve. Up to 12 guests are hosted in this historic house, sleeping in spacious individual cottages scattered within the grounds. The main lodge is everything you imagine an African lodge to be, rustic with beautiful furniture and décor and relaxed, with a private pool, tennis court, wine cellar and amazing views to a waterhole frequented by a variety of thirsty animals. Guests enjoy the use of a private chef, guide and tracker, with a myriad of excursions and activities to choose from. This property can only be taken exclusively whether you take one cottage or all six. For those looking for a private safari, this is a great option, particularly for a large family (two of the cottages have connecting doors for little ones). You have your own vehicles, trackers and guides. Well worth it.
Ebony Lodge, Sabi Sand – The first Singita Lodge in the (now) Sabi Sands Reserve, Ebony has recently been reimagined, now offering a family friendly lodge, beautifully located on the Sand River. Contemporary interiors are inspired by tribal culture, the animal kingdom and traditional explorer travel, adding colour and style to spacious open-plan living areas. Each of the 12 suites enjoys a private plunge pool and viewing deck. External walls are constructed with canvas and glass to combine the comforts of a luxury lodge with the style of a traditional tented-camp, opening out to amazing vistas of nature and abundant wildlife. Families with small children will be well looked after in the family suites or Ebony Villa, which includes a private chef service, guide and vehicle. We were in safari heaven at Ebony. On a very hot day, 36C, a herd of about 40 elephants tramped past the lodge in the river bed to drink, the next day all the impala were snorting vehemently as a big leopard cruised in, a hyena was sitting in the river trying to cool off and as I turned to go into our room, a large male inala was drinking from our plunge pool. If it sounds like a movie, it certainly felt like one!
Just to give you the heads up - Castelton, Ebony and Boulders all share access to the most beautifully curated shopping experience, with wonderful artefacts, gifts, clothing, home furnishings and jewellery and they ship worldwide.
Lebombo Lodge, Kruger National Park – A spectacular example of cutting-edge design, Lebombo Lodge is miraculously harmonious with its surrounding natural wilderness. Comprised of 13 open-plan suites and a private luxury villa overlook the N’Wanetsi River, the design is bold and spectacular, with a roof terrace providing an amazing vantage point for watching wildlife passing by. Take a morning dip in the 25-metre lap pool immersed in nature and enjoy an extensive list of outdoor activities, as well as relaxing spa treatments from the comfort of your private deck. The stars are amazing and I woke listening to the peaceful birdsong of the African bush and then the early morning squabbles of the baboons, zebra calls and hippo grunts, roars and wheezes from the river below. Nothing like being in the bush!
Sweni Lodge, Kruger National Park – On the banks of the Sweni River, Sweni Lodge is small with just 7 suites, each decorated with warm colours and soft textiles to give a particularly homely and cosy feel. A safari at Sweni is intimate and personalised, with a high staff-to-guest ratio. Experience nature at your fingertips; shower al fresco, spend a night under the stars on an outdoor day bed and swim in the beautiful pool surrounded by native trees. My particular favourite suite has a private swimming pool and deck overlooking the river and all the wildlife that comes to wallow and drink there. Along with amazing safari experiences in the Kruger National Park, enjoy Sweni’s (and Lebombo’s) amazing boutique and gallery, home to a collection of incredible African artefacts from across the continent, including carvings, crafts, sculptures and jewellery. Again they ship worldwide.
If you can afford it, and are a couple or even just four, why not ask for your own safari vehicle with tracker and guide. It is a luxury but it gives you the freedom to stop and walk as well if appropriate. When we stopped to walk one morning, we turned around as the vehicle left, and 30 metres away, there was the most enormous, beautiful white rhino who just sauntered passed us into the bush.
What we really loved about these lodges were the staff. They really made our holiday. All were extremely professional, sweet and welcoming but never over familiar or intrusive. From the moment we arrived they knew our names and remembered any preferences we had. All other guests also seemed so happy during their stay. We loved our trackers and drivers, and at Ebony they gave my boyfriend his own name badge and made him an honourary tracker, I have never seen anyone so pleased…!
Every time I explore a new destination, whether it’s on an adventure holiday in Peru or a luxury beach escape in the Indian Ocean, I return home full of excitement to share the amazing sights I have seen. Through my own experiences I have developed a love of helping others experience the great wonders of the world; truly getting under the skin of the extraordinary destinations that are at your fingertips. Getting the details right, from which hotel is perfectly located for exploring away from the crowds, to which local guide is most knowledgeable on history or culture or art, is of paramount importance to me. I am constantly seeking out new and exciting experiences and exploring off the beaten track to ensure my clients are receiving the best and most honest first-hand advice.
Take a look at my travel diaries for food for thought on your next trip...