As Tyler and I sat closely in our small 12 seater prop plane, we could hear the sounds of the rumbling engine beneath us as we descended to our landing. We touched down on the dirt Satara airstrip and were overwhelmed with excitement, knowing the moment we stepped off the plane, the adventure of a lifetime would begin.
From the moment we stepped off the plane, we were pampered with kindness, elegance, adventure, and the added African character that we instantly fell in love with. The native people exude happiness and a sense of contentment that we can’t describe, but we’re so attracted to. They’re so grateful for life and it’s contagious!
Along the drive to our Singita Sweni Lodge we spotted elephants, giraffes, zebras, water bucks and impalas (which Tyler and I still like to call dik dik’s).
Upon the arrival to our bungalow, we heard hippos grunting in the background, which we later pleasantly fell asleep to. Our room sat above the Sweni River, which we soon discovered was constantly active with hippos, crocs, and all sorts of other animals that come down to get water. The glass bungalow, which resembled a treehouse Tyler and I may want in the future, was decorated with rich African wood. There was a rustic but very modern feel that was warm and inviting. We were blown away with the 2 outdoor showers which were an experience in itself, as you’re surrounded by wildlife and the sounds of the beautiful creatures that surrounded us. Though optional, there was one inside shower for a little extra privacy from the animals who like to visit. We envision returning to this place yearly with our families and eventually with our children.
I may have overpacked a little, though I had no idea we would be provided with all the amenities we would need, (but really). Think of each personal suite as a gorgeous, translucent, glass tent that creates the ultimate “glamping” experience. If you have not heard of this phrase yet, it translates to “Glamorous Camping.”
Our first afternoon we went on a brief but beautiful 2 hour safari. Within five minutes, we saw baby elephants with their mother and were able to track down the Shish pride of lions – 12 of them. It was amazing! We were able to watch these magnificent creatures walk around and nap with their full bellies just on the other side of the door to our vehicle.
That following morning, we opened our eyes at 5am with excitement! We woke to the noises of the wildlife waking up with us, and sounds of the running river below us. We jumped out of bed ready to see and learn as much as possible. Each day would begin with a warm greeting from the most amazing staff, followed by an a light breakfast and coffee, just before heading out for our first safari of the day at 5:45am. Tyler and I felt like we were at the coolest adult summer camp ever!
In my ideal world, we wouldn’t have to leave this little slice of heaven.
Following our morning drive, we would return for a “proper” breakfast, also known as, a legit breakfast. They say proper quite often here and now we can’t stop saying it. Our day would include either a nap outside on our daybed listening to the wildlife, heading to the spa/gym, (we were frequent visitors to the spa as these were the best massages we have ever had), or just writing in our journals until it was time to go to “high tea” and our afternoon safari drive. Our meals were exceptional every day/night as we were surprised with a variety of menus and dining experiences. One evening we were treated to a private dining experience, located outside with our own personal “Tyler & Hayley’s Pool Deck Menu.” I can’t stress enough how amazing the staff is, and how they go over and beyond in every aspect of hospitality.
In addition to their private dining, they had what they called a “Boma,” which was a high end buffet style dinner, with traditional African cuisine that was situated intimately around the campfire. The atmosphere is beyond anything I could ever put into words. They had beautiful lanterns that hung from the tree branches, providing the light for a magical evening as the “Singita Choir” sang and performed their traditional dances. The “Singita Choir” consisted of the housekeeping and other staff members. This was so special and entertaining!
At night we were to be escorted back to the suite as to not be attacked by any roaming wildlife, as many animals are walking to and from the river for water. One evening on our way back from dinner, we heard rustling in the bushes that sounded like a squirrel, or some kind of small harmless animal. It wasn’t until our escort shined a flashlight to see that is was a hippo that was walking towards us. We froze, and I whispered, “What do we do now?” We were instructed to very slowly, calmly, and carefully walk to the safety of our bungalow. (Note: hippos can be a very aggressive and dangerous animal and weight up to 9,000 pounds…I still think they’re adorable!)
Our near death experience…
On our last night at Singita, we were caught between 3 lions and their hunt of 2 waterbuck. The waterbuck and 1 male lion were about 20 feet away from trampling us. When our escort Simon shined his flashlight on the commotion, it was clear that we were being stared down by a male lion, and was less than 10 feet away from where we were standing. Everything in my natural instinct wanted to run as fast as I could, but Simon kept telling us, “Do not run. Do not run. Do not run.” Simon walked backwards, as to not turn his back on the predator, while we guided the way to the lodge. When we finally arrived to the safety of the open air lobby, our guides fetched their rifles and everyone on site was quickly alerted to stay put. The following day, our (bada**) guide Jani, and tracker Solly, “tracked” the lion prints with us. They proceeded to tell us the whole story of where the lions came from, their behaviors, and the ages and sexes of the lions. It amazed us how well these two could identify any animal print and explain everything about what the animal was doing, even if we could barely even see the print in the dry dirt. That was by far the coolest, scariest moment of our lives, now that we can live to tell the story :).
On Sunday, and one of our final days at the lodge, we went on a 5:30am safari. Along the way, we stopped under a beautiful and miraculously large Sycamore Fig tree to have church via a podcast in the bush. As this would be our own personal service, our guide, Jani, told us this would be a first for her in the 7 years she’s been guiding. What an amazing experience this was, having church underneath the branches of a Sycamore Fig and amongst God’s creations and noises of nature.
The staff at Singita were the most amazing people we had the pleasure to meet and spend time with. They emanated warmth and happiness, and by the end our stay would become like family to us. Jani told us that each morning at 7am, before housekeeping begins their day, they sing in prayer that the day will be full of blessings and joy. What they may not have realized is that it was them, who brought so much joy and blessings just by being around us and making us smile. It was an absolute pleasure to get to know some of the staff and we look forward to continuing our friendships with them.
In addition to the wonderful staff, is the amazing environment that surrounded us. It’s typical to see animals such as: hippo, lion, leopard, elephant, impala, monkeys, or you name it, in and around the property, which is what makes this place so special. The Singita Sweni Lodge, and Singita Lebombo Lodge, are located on a private concession among the 5.3 million acre Kruger National Park.
Tyler and I could go on for days about the incredible animal sighting stories of watching leopards hunt, following a baby rhinoceros and its mother, sitting amongst 12 lion cubs and their mother as they slept after a large meal and watching baby elephants eat with their mother. It’s incredible what Jani and Solly taught us throughout our stay. We learned more about the animals and nature that surrounded us than we could have EVER imagined. Although we can only give you a glimpse as to what all we experienced, I highly recommend you go and take this indescribable journey and experience for yourself one day.
We’ve finally decided where our dream vacation is and will remain. A place where Tyler and I would like to return on a yearly basis if at all possible. It’s at Singita Sweni Lodge, where checking in is like meeting the warmest extended family you didn’t even you know you had, and can’t wait to come back and visit.
Something that Tyler and I find incredibly unique is how much Singita invests in their employees, community, and guests. From what we heard from the employees and from what we observed, they ensure the staff is happy so that in turn guests are happy, and so on and so forth. They created a Singita cooking school in the Staff village, which we visited one day upon request. We found this not only fascinating, but inspiring that they would invest in the lives of the locals, providing them an opportunity to better themselves and their quality of life. Equipping them with the proper culinary knowledge and skills allows them opportunities within the company, or gives them the tools to start something of their own. The students provide exceptional food for the 120 staff members on site at the 2 Singita properties, Sweni Lodge & Lebombo Lodge prior to graduating and having the option to work at the lodges to cook for guests.
Singita Sweni Lodge is a place where adventure meets tranquility, you can seek adventure, be inspired by everything and everyone and learn from the most amazing staff as they treat you like family and who will warm your heart. We were able to relax and recharge, enjoying the company of remarkably kind people and the most amazing wildlife. Tyler and I are beyond blessed by this amazing experience and the ability to spend quality time with each other in such an amazing place.
Before departing for the airstrip, Singita surprised us with a breakfast in the wild. Not only was there a beautiful spread of food, there were hippos in the river below, as well as some visiting elephants and their 3 babies. A crocodile started to go after the young baby elephant and this is what happened….