| Everyday Luxury Travel Africa South Africa

A Luxury Safari at Singita Lebombo

Is there anything that you dream of doing? An experience that tops your travel bucket list? For me that dream goal was to go on safari in South Africa.

And if I was going to achieve that ambition, I was going to do it in style and stay at the best safari lodge there was: Singita. Starting with one lodge in 1993, there are now 12 Singita lodges across South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe and all are consistently ranked as best hotels in the world by Conde Nast Traveller and Travel and Leisure magazine.

There are five Singita properties in South Africa; two in the Kruger Park and three in Sabi Sands, one of which is an exclusive use lodge. Much to Mr S’s chagrin, my huge FOMO meant I wanted to visit both Kruger and Sabi Sands, with two nights in each…

After returning to Johannesburg, the next step was to take a federal airplane to Kruger Park. Obviously I hadn’t packed light enough meaning we’d had to leave some of our stuff behind at the federal air office. After an hour and half’s bumpy ride we landed on a simple airstrip and we were greeted by some of the lovely staff of Singita Lebombo, the first safari lodge where we would be staying. An array of fruit and nuts, cool towels, soft drinks and beers greeted us and we had time to refresh before the drive to the lodge.

Lebombo, and the neighbouring lodge Sweni, make up Singita’s concession in Kruger National Park. These are the only two lodges within this concession and the exclusive use means the experience is much more authentic. You won’t see loads of other game vehicles driving around, it’s really just you in the middle of the wilderness.

Part of Singita’s philosophy is a huge commitment to conservation and a minimum impact on the environment. The lodges were built with a promise to ‘touch the earth lightly’ and this attitude is evident in both the construction of the lodge and the day to day running. The are three core ideas that lie at the heart of Singita’s ideal that is wildlife conservation, eco-tourism and community support.

I can’t even begin to describe how stunning the lodge itself is. It’s perched high on the hilltop over looking the N’wanetsi River, right in the middle of the wilderness. The main lounge and bar area are very open with beautiful wooden decks, plenty of comfortable seating and African artwork.

 

 

The lounge leads out to an absolutely stunning pool area with a sweeping view of the Kruger Park.

Adjacent to the pool area is the rather glamorous dining area. One of the things I loved about Lebombo was it was very glam and modern whilst retaining a natural safari feel.

Check in is very speedy and we were led along the wooden walk way and up a flight of stairs to our room.

There are fifteen suites at Lebombo which cling to to the cliff tops as if they are floating on air. Each is constructed completely of glass and timber and give the feeling of indoor / outdoor living.

The room was totally beautiful! The large bed had a mosquito net suspended above it which was unravelled during turndown to prevent any pesky mozzies getting in. The Kruger is in a malaria-zone so precautions are taken to protect the guests.

A gorgeous hanging glass light made a stunning centre piece in the lounge and study area.

 

There are coffee and tea making facilities and a fridge full of drinks and a drawer bursting with snacks.

 

Best of all, you could take whatever you wanted because all the Singita Lodges are completely all-inclusive. They had literally thought of everything; there were sun hats, shawls and a safari bag to borrow – plus sun cream and mosquito repellant.

There was a large bathroom with an indoor / outdoor shower….

 

And beautiful wooden top bath; everything about this room is intended to make you feel at one with nature but without the risk of being bitten by mosquitos or trampled by a buffalo!

 

 

I particularly liked the way a heap of bath salts is left out ready for whenever you want to use the gorgeous bath.

Outside there is a private balcony with a view of the river.

 

Which you can gaze on from this beautiful day bed.

 

Even more amazingly, the staff of Singita will set up the bed so that you can sleep under the stars!

Included in the cost of the stay are two game drives per day, but I’ll go back to these in my next post. There are other activities available such as mountain biking, guided walks, archery and the spa but we didn’t have time to do any of those unfortunately…not that I’d actually want to go mountain biking…

But we did get a chance to check out the lodge’s extensive boutique which sold beautiful home wares, artwork, clothing and jewellery all chosen and especially selected from areas throughout Africa.

I also had a nose around Singita Sweni, Lebombo’s sister property which was about a minute’s drive away.

The two properties are very similar, though Sweni only has six rooms so it’s sometimes hired out exclusively. The main difference between the two is the use of colour; while Lebombo is light and represents the air and the river, Sweni has a richer, more earthy palette.

 

It’s really a matter of taste as to which appeals to you more, both have same very high standards of service and all the same inclusions. In my opinion, Sweni had a better view and it had very slightly bigger rooms, though the layout was basically the same.

 

But I preferred the pool area and the modern feel at Lebombo and I think we chose the right one for us.

Food is taken very seriously at Lebombo, and you most definitely won’t go hungry here! Let me talk you through an average day…With a wake up call at 5am and the instruction to meet at 5.30, you’re unlikely to be too hungry first thing in the morning but the lovely staff at Singita provide some simple yogurt, cereal and fruit to get you going plus coffee to wake you up. If there’s time your driver will stop while on the game drive and make more coffee and provide snacks.

After a morning out, you return to the lodge at around 10.30 at which time you are provided with a proper breakfast.

 

Not only is every table set with an individual continental breakfast, but you can also order a cooked breakfast…

Just watch out for these little guys as one morning one of the stole a pastry right off our table. After our second / third breakfast we had a bit of time to chill out, Mr S sat by the pool…I blogged. And at around 2pm it was time for lunch.

All the menus at Singita are just a suggestion and you can basically order whatever you want. In these situations it’s rather tempting to go mad and order creme brulee, salmon en croute or lobster themidor as totally random lunch options, but we remained sensible.

Mr S had pork, and I was still full from my three breakfasts so I went off the menu and asked for a salmon salad.

The guests are each provided with a butler who will look after them and serve food throughout the duration of our stay. Ours was totally wonderful, as soon as she saw us arrive she grabbed cushions for our chairs and remembered all our dietary requirements and likes and dislikes. As Singita is all-inclusive house wines are basically on tap and our butler was particularly good at replenishing our glasses. In fact, she was so diligent at providing alcohol I nicknamed her ‘our enabler’!
After lunch we went back to our room to change for our next game drive and assembled in the bar at 4pm, when they serve high tea… no really, I’m not joking…there’s more food!

 

As tasty as it all looked, I was just way too full to fit anything in so we headed off on our drive at 4.30.
When we arrived back at the lodge, a glass of sparkling wine was pressed into my hand and it was time for dinner.
There is the option of going back to your room to freshen up before dinner, but no one dresses up and we planned to be in bed by 9pm to wake up early for our drive the next day. So for once hair and make up were forgotten and we went straight in for dinner. Food at Singita Lebombo was just totally exquisite and we had the choice of a la carte or a tasting menu, I just couldn’t eat that much more food so we went a al carte.
Enjoying the delights of soft shell crab…

 

Beef for Mr S…

 

Seafood pasta for me…

 

And a gorgeous chocolate dessert. There is one big rule at Singita, and that is never walk alone in the dark, as the lodge is completely open you’re vulnerable to dangerous predators. After dinner we were guided back to our room by a staff member with a torch so we didn’t have anything to worry about.
On our second night Mr S was in for an absolute treat as a barbecue had been arranged for the guests of Lebombo and Sweni.
A beautiful outdoor area or boma had been set up with twinkling lights and table and chairs so that we could eat under the stars.
A buffet of freshly prepared salads was our starter followed by a large selection of game meat from the barbecue. Our safari guide joined us for dinner and regaled us with interesting stories of his life and tales from the wilderness.
After dinner the staff at Singita entertained us with singing and dancing, many of the guests jumping up to join in.
Between the games drives, the fantastic food, incredible hotel and party atmosphere in the evening, I thought to myself this was the best day of the holiday, perhaps the best day of any holiday. But there was so much more still to see at Singita Sabi Sands…
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