The current generation of luxury holidaymakers, with their ever-connected, hyper-informed, global lifestyles, is ever more demanding of our industry. We live in the era of “intelligent luxury” driving an increasing need within the luxury travel industry to leave a positive mark on the environment as well as fulfilling customers’ wishes.
This month I was granted an Africa enthusiast’s dream, a ten-day Singita familiarisation trip staying at three of the pioneering luxury safari company’s tented camps and lodges in Grumeti, Singita’s private concession adjacent to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
I eased into my stay with a night at Sabora, a Colonial style 1920’s tented camp with its own clay tennis court and open views of roaming giraffe, before heading to Singita Explore for the ultimate fly-camping experience. Camp Explore is always hired exclusively by guests allowing for a completely private and incredibly special experience sleeping in the bush under the stars. Intrepid explorers eat your heart out!
After the most luxurious of breakfasts prepared by the charming trio of staff at Explore, I headed to the most contemporary of the Singita lodges, Faru Faru of which I had high expectations. Set on the banks of the Grumeti river, Faru Faru translates from Swahili as ‘Rhino Rhino’ on account of its proximity to one of the best spots for Rhino sightings in the concession and where Singita have recently introduced eleven rhinos in an ambitious effort to save the species from extinction. Before heading off on an early morning game drive I was amazed to see no less than forty elephants who wandered across to the lodge’s water hole and made the most spectacular sight.
I enjoyed the most exhilarating couple of days out in the jeep with our expert guide Kokan who never failed to impress in spotting an array of wildlife including endangered cheetahs, leopard cubs and numerous prides of lions. Due to Singita’s strict policy on limiting the numbers of game vehicles ( a maximum of three per sighting), heading off early in the morning for a virtually completely private experience of the wildlife was one of the highlights of my trip.
My time in Tanzania culminated with a stay at Mara river camp in the north of the Serengeti, where I received a warm welcome by the team who not only sang for us upon arrival but joined us for the most wonderful dinner in their open-air dining area on the banks of the river Mara. As I settled down for the night I was startled by the cries of the ‘fisi’ (hyena) and the pods of hippo who I was delighted to see on game drive the following morning along with a number of ferocious looking crocs.
My adventure didn’t end in the Serengeti however as on day 5 I took a domestic flight to Kigali, the capital of the tiny and astonishingly beautiful country of Rwanda, to experience the latest addition in the Singita portfolio.
High up in the high-altitude cloud forests of Volcanoes National Park reside more than one third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, a species that Singita is keen to protect thanks to the creation of Singita Kwitonda, the latest Singita lodge named after a silverback that courageously crossed over the border from Congo to Rwanda. Kwitonda was unveiled last year by President Kegame, following his partnership with Singita in an effort to help to improve the function of the buffer area between agricultural plots and the habitat of the estimated 320 mountain gorillas that find sanctuary there.
Nothing can beat the magical three hour drive up to the misty peaks of Virunga or the climb through the forest in search of these awesome apes who, thanks to Singita’s reforestation project, are finally now increasing in numbers.
After only an hour of trekking, our tracker announced that the gorilla family of Agasha would be gracing us with their presence. With bated breath I took in the awesome sight of no less than fourteen gorillas, the young play-fighting and attempting a tentative beat of their chests whilst the venerable silverback nicknamed ‘Mr Special’ on account of his nine wives, lazily peered at us with otherworldly, wise eyes. Of course it was all over too soon however as I was assisted back down the mountainside by my lovely porter Eduard, I couldn’t help but feel this was a once in a lifetime experience which brought out so many emotions and feelings of gratitude.
At 2,000 m high, Kwitonda lodge boasts an incredibly special location surrounded by lush vegetation and an awesome volcano backdrop. The lodge has eight private suites each with their own pool, outdoor fireplace with a view of the volcano and sumptuous bathroom complete with bathtub and massage table which I made good use of with a customized massage provided by the wonderful Kwitonda therapists. The restaurant places an emphasis on vegetarian cuisine, and there is an extensive wine list as well as an incredibly interesting conservation room dedicated to providing guests with information on the gorilla trekking and an insight into the accomplishments of Dian Fossey. ( I would highly recommend reading Gorillas in the Mist during or after your stay!) Guests are also fully kitted out with gorilla trekking gear provided by the lodge including gaiters, a waterproof backpack and jacket as well as a pack lunch for the day.
By partnering with non profit funds and trusts which implement strategic conservation projects, Singita has been preserving African wilderness for the past 26 years, offering guests an exceptional safari experience with 15 luxury, award-winning lodges and camps across South Africa, Zimbabwe as well as Tanzania and Rwanda.
They are also leading the way in conservation with the introduction of new innovative technologies to support already successful anti-poaching ground forces, which heralds a new era of strategies geared toward reducing wildlife poaching.
Singita guests choose to stay in their lodges because of the expansive space and beauty of the reserves, the limited guest and vehicle numbers, the extraordinarily consistent game viewing and the exceptional care that is taken of each guest during their stay. A big thank you to Singita for enabling me to experience all of this first hand and to their wonderful team who do so much to protect and nurture these astonishingly beautiful parts of the world.