At the end of last year, I was the lucky recipient of the Thompsons Africa Values Star Award and a 2 night prize for 2 people at Singita Lebombo Lodge including Federal Airline return flights ex Johannesburg.
On Monday the 28th August, we set off from Durban to Johannesburg where we were warmly welcomed by our Federal Airlines meet and greet. The Federal Airlines departure lounge is a short drive from the main OR Tambo International Airport and once there, we were able to relax and enjoy light snacks and beverages while waiting for our charter flight to depart.
We were lucky enough to fly in a Pilatus PC12 and so the flight was just over an hour in duration. Big compliments to Federal Airlines on the professional manner in which they run their operation!
And then we arrived……From the moment you arrive at the Singita Lebombo Lodge airstrip, you will be blown away by the warmth and care extended to guests! It was a particularly hot day and we were welcomed with an ice cold towel to freshen up and offered snacks and cold beverages. Shortly thereafter we left and enjoyed a 40 minute air-conditioned drive to the lodge. In cooler seasons, the drive will be done in an open safari vehicle.
Once at the lodge, we were welcomed by a host of fabulous people and after a brief overview of the lodge and the day to day routines, we were taken to our suite. WOW.
The Suites are open plan and simply stunning. Every conceivable detail has been thought of – guests are assured of every creature comfort!
The suites are built into the cliff face of the river bank and with glass walls, offer gorgeous light filled spaces with elevated wooden viewing decks. The wildlife is literally on your door step! Very contemporary, the suites are a combination of glass, wood, steel, and layered fabrics.
After settling into our suite we made our way back to the main communal area of the lodge where we were introduced to our Guide Barry and Tracker Rogers and set off on our first game drive. The landscape is hauntingly beautiful at the moment. The drought which has taken its toll in the Kruger has impacted heavily on the wildlife and vegetation in this region. Everyone is praying for the rains to arrive soon and you can see from the dry, open landscapes, that they truly are in desperate need of it! Its difficult to explain the experience but it was truly touching listening to Barry talk about how the wildlife has been affected by the drought.
The summer impala lily is a plant species that has adapted to live in areas of low rainfall by having a large underground tuber. The tuber acts as a storage device enabling the plant to survive in times of drought. This endangered plant provided a burst of welcome colour in an otherwise very dry landscape.
The drought has also made game viewing somewhat easier than during times of thick bush and we were able to enjoy a spectacular array of sightings….including the Shish pride of lion which is home to a naturally occurring adolescent male White Lion.
Aside from the Shish pride of lion, we also spotted a number of other wildlife on our first game drive on the concession.
The Guides and Trackers at Singita Lebombo Lodge are phenomenal. Their knowledge is incredible and their passion for what they do is infectious! Our fellow guests from the USA were a lovely addition to an already fabulous experience.
Dinners at Singita Lebombo Lodge are literally out of this world! Together with an extensive cellar showcasing a premium selection of wines, dining is certainly a unique and key Singita experience with a menu that changes daily and a beautiful, romantic setting alongside the main lodge pool in which to enjoy it.
On our second day of game drives at Singita Lebombo, we were really blessed to enjoy two special game viewing moments. The first was a clan of hyenas. What an inquisitive and fascinating animal to view! This particular clan was made up of two litters of cubs. The centre of activity for a clan of hyenas is their den and this is where we found these incredibly curious creatures! Most people believe hyenas to be related to the dog however they actually belong to their own classification/family called Hyaenidae and are actually more closely related to the cat than the dog.
Our second AMAZING experience was a lion kill. The Mountain Pride as they’re known, is a small pride who have sadly been quite unsuccessful in raising their cubs….until now (there are presently 7 cubs in the pride). We came across their kill (which must have happened in the early hours of that morning) and from the look of the cubs, it was clear to see that they had enjoyed a magnificent feast. We watched with amusement at how they were almost unable to lie in any position other than on their backs – their tummies were HUGE! The females were still on the kill and there was still quite a bit of growling and tension in the air. Our Guide explained to us that another female from the Shish Pride had somehow accidentally stumbled on the kill and for reasons unknown, the Mountain Pride had allowed her to feed (she would normally have been killed). This particular female was in bad shape and perhaps had been so desperate for food that she’d decided to take her chances.
We saw the pride again later in the afternoon and the Shish female was no longer with the Mountain Pride. We were amused to see that both the adult females and cubs were so stuffed that they didn’t even react to a herd of impala who checked them out from a distance. It presented for quite an interesting photograph (not very clear unfortunately) with impala standing dead still as the pride of lion made their way VERY slowly past them.
In our remaining time, we were lucky to spot a herd of elephant with a TINY baby (and boy did we battle to get any decent pics!). They were determined for us not to see the little one.
On our final drive before leaving Singita Lebombo, we witnessed a group of vultures feeding on a hippo who had sadly succumbed to the terrible drought conditions. It was quite an incredible thing to witness the vultures as they come flying in from all directions and as far as you can see, there is just vulture upon vulture upon vulture.
If you’re at Singita Lebombo, make some time to visit their gallery and spa area. Absolutely gorgeous. The gym is available to guests on a complimentary basis and the spa facilities available for bookings. The gallery is fascinating with an array of gorgeous artworks and memorabilia.
And so our time was up. Two nights certainly went incredibly quickly and if I were to make a recommendation, I would suggest combining with an additional 2 nights at either Singita Ebony or Boulders Lodge. A 4 night stay is a definite must and combining with another of the lodges in the Sabi Sand area would combine to create two unique experiences (more traditional lodge versus modern contemporary lodge).
Overall, I would have to say that what truly stood out for us in terms of this incredible experience was the people. At every turn, they far exceeded our expectations and were absolutely WONDERFUL! Singita is very blessed to have such a high caliber of employees and we were totally blown away by the whole experience….. . Thank you to Singita for this incredible experience and opportunity and thank you to my colleagues and Thompsons Africa for this amazing once in a lifetime experience – Viki Haasbroek