I’ve been blessed by having had the opportunity to visit many top luxury hotels and resorts in my line of work, but I have to say that a recent visit to the top ranked Singita Lebombo and adjacent Singita Sweni Safari camp impressed even me.
Much has been written about the design and concept of the Singita lodges, so my purpose here is just to tell you my experience and what I loved about the design, service and game viewing of this interesting location.
First off, the game viewing – because, if you are going to fly that far, you need more than a luxury hotel and a middling interesting cultural experience – and like in other regions of South Africa, the game viewing experience is top notch. What makes this region so interesting compared to others, is how remote it is. On the Eastern side of Kruger Park, next to the Mozambique border, Singita Lebombo sits on a very large game preserve, with no other lodges any where near it.
This area has a number of resident lion prides…. one numbers 28 members. This is huge, and is a good indication of how much game there is in the area, as it requires a lot of game to support a Pride this large! On my visit here we also enjoyed large family groups of elephants, and the largest herds of zebra, wildebeest and other grazers that I’ve seen outside of East Africa.
But of special personal delight to me were the accommodations. Think of square cubes of glass and chrome scattered throughout the jungle, attached by wooden raised walkways, sporting all the high tech comforts you can imagine, but where you can really hear and feel the natural world in great comfort.
I’ve always enjoyed the Italian design habit of mixing contemporary or modern pieces with a few good antiques … this makes modern so much more comfortable, and warms up the entire look. Singita Lebombo does this so well as it uses rustic woods, beautiful woolens and fabrics, amusing sticks, dangling shells, and more to give great tactile texture and warmth to these glass and chrome cubes.
These units are not the biggest suites I’ve stayed in when on safari, but they were very comfortable and offered delightful treats at every corner, in addition to all that glass for amazing views! Nespresso espresso machines, a comfortable Scandinavian designer reading chair with excellent lamp for evening reading, fridge full of drinks and snack, Dermalogica cosmetics including lip balm to sooth skin after windy days in an open Land Rover, a ‘smart panel’ so all the lights and air conditioning and ceiling fans could be controlled from one spot, as well as a charging station for all our devices!
The front door is 2 flat panels of glass with chrome hinges and pulls. No room for a lock or handle to mar the view, so instead you get an electronic ‘key’ which magnetizes two steel touch plates set in the door. No bolt, only technology.
The bed had amazing linens and the mosquito ‘netting’ was very different– instead of draping elegantly in voluminous bundles, this netting had panels and squared to fit the bed area perfectly, with zippers to close you in at night, and Velcro to hold up the panels when raised. Like the best of mosquito nets, this one enclosed a generous area around the actual mattress, so you could stand up and still be within the netting.
When I checked in and was shown to my chrome castle to settle in, they offered to make up the outdoor bed on the balcony in case I wanted to sleep outdoors. Since this isn’t a fenced camp, and you are not allowed to walk without an escort between dusk and dawn, I am not sure if some poor night watch man would have had to stand sentry under my balcony all night had I chosen to use the outdoor bed, but I did enjoy lounging on it one evening with my iPad, trying to record the night sounds which included hippos calling to each other in river below, lions roaring in the distance, crickets, frogs and unknown rustlings, all under an amazingly bright canopy of stars.
I enjoyed every minute of my stay here, I took every game drive, but stayed only long enough to be polite at meals and during briefing sessions with my fellow travelers in the lounge – I enjoyed the public areas, but longed for the privileged solitude of my glass cube, anxious to see if there were new animals to see in the river below, or aching to settle into that comfortable chair to review my photos of the days excellent game drives, and enjoy the fast secure wifi, which make skyping home easy as I tried to share pictures of the Southern Cross.
To be fair, this type of design would not appeal to everyone. The low benches and very stylish ‘poofs’ in the lounge were hard to get out of with knees aching from climbing in and out of Land Rovers… the local brush grows thick and even in the early winter time with reduced foliage, the vistas are not long,– but the Lebombo mountains are red rocked and interesting, and the rivers below offer scenic cliffs and shapes even when not full of wildlife. However, the open design, tall roofs and again, warm use of woods and natural textures keep the public areas of both Singita Lebombo and Sweni a comfortable and beautiful experience. Large glass walls can be brought out if the weather is bad, but when not needed, the areas remain open and keep you in touch with the natural world. The long infinity pool, with comfortable lounge chair, tapers off into the brush and mirrors the wooden pathways you use to walk around this property.
Tiny Sweni has just 6 rooms, so is an even more intimate experience, and guests there can use the dining room, lounge and other facilities at Lebombo, or enjoy their own little pool, lounge and intimate dining room in Sweni.
So, there were many things here I personally enjoyed, but you want to hear my favorite experience? About 2 in the morning, I heard the front door jiggle, and a few seconds later, in order, each of the other doors in my chrome and glass cube were tested – the one between the indoor and outdoor shower, and finally, the sliding glass door to the balcony.
I lay in the dark and grinned, knowing a troop of baboons were moving thru the camp, looking for any mischief they could do, courtesy of an unlocked door or a day pack left carelessly on the balcony…
Yes, maybe I should have been freaked out to be alone in the jungle, felt exposed in my glass and chrome cube – but instead I felt alive, cosseted by luxury, taken care of by a company committed to the environment and to sharing it with people with like interests and tastes… and I was jazzed to think baboons were just outside!
This was my first visit to a Singita, and I can only pray that the travel gods are kind and that I’ll have the opportunity in the future to visit more of their amazing bush lodges and reserves, but from the pictures I’ve seen and the reports I’ve read, these glass and chrome cubes which so delighted me are unique to Lebombo, and while I am prepared to enjoy my other stays, I think I’ll always treasure the memory of my high tech, high style, introduction to Singita, and the Eastern Kruger.