Singita Lebombo brings remarkable design and architecture to its fantastic location, deep in the bush. Designed to "touch the earth lightly" and preserve the game-rich surroundings, the Lodge is light, airy and gives you a sense of floating over the surrounding wilderness.
Accommodation is fifteen simple boxes perched on stilts and nestled into the side of the cliff. These rooms are constructed of local timbers and expanses of glass, and are filigreed with polished metal, sophisticated fabrics and trompe-l'œil decorations. Hi-tech and cleverly sculpted, they exude serenity, inviting the great outdoors inside with uninterrupted views over the N'wanetsi river.
Lebombo's exclusive 15,000 hectare (33,000 acre) concession is due east of Satara in the Kruger, and both are justifiably reputed for their high density of big cats. Singita's land surpasses the public Park by having its own major seasonal river - the N'wanetsi - rising to its greatest extent in the area.
The diversity and concentration of game is amongst the best in the Kruger, and extremely good all year round. So much so that National Geographic chose this location to film their "Caught on Safari: Live!" series. The infamous Mountain Pride of lions, numbering up to thirty in number make this place their home; they are frequently sighted.
The Big Five are here in strength, with both white and black rhino roaming the plains to the north of the Lodge. Elephants abound. Large buffalo herds come to drink. There are believed to be about thirty adult leopard within the concession, and these are a treat to see.
Singita Kruger is large and would take months to fully explore. It is used exclusively by Singita and its guests, and as the concession also includes responsibility for roads and maintenance, there are plenty of experienced eyes keeping an eye on game movements. The lodge's traversing range is unusually rich in variety: open savannah plains, riverine systems, dense bush forests, mountain foothills at the start of the Lebombo range. Walks, stops and sundowners offer a pause in the rhythm of the game drives, and can all be taken at different, spectacular spots including a gorge looking back into South Africa from its border with Mozambique. More unusual activities on offer include mountain biking (escorted by an armed Guide), and archery.
With your senses heightened by the bush, activity and excitement, the creature comforts at the lodge are exceptional and most welcome. The cuisine and wine cellar are both exquisite at Lebombo, and rank amongst the best on the continent. This is a remarkable achievement given its remote location. Everything at the lodge is relaxed, unrushed, yet perfect in the attention to detail. It is perhaps not surprising how large a part the lodge itself plays in guests' recollections of the place.
Lebombo's facilities excel, with all of the amenities of a world-class hotel (Singita has been showered with awards). The centre of the Lodge opens into a huge deck overlooking the river with a long, narrow swimming pool running its length. There is a variety of dining locations here, indoors and out; the wine cellar; the bar; a lounge where the delicious patisserie high teas are served; and plenty of space to relax and take in the vista with a good book from the library. A spa and gym are housed separately, along with a shop selling local artists' handiwork.
Top image: Marlon du Toit. Singita Kruger
GALLERY (CLICK IMAGES)
We are unashamed fans of Singita Lebombo, and make no bones about it. So much so that we recorded two Kruger2Canyons podcasts about it. It's a good idea to listen to them to understand why.
The lodge is fabulous, with huge raised open plan rooms resembling luxurious birds nests arrayed around the central facilities. First impressions are breathtaking. This is just the start. No expense is spared; the focus on detail shines through. Nothing seems too much for the obliging, friendly staff.
The animals oblige too, provided that the weather does. The infamous mountain 'superpride' of lions (peaking at 30+ in number with the natural rhythms of the group) is regularly encountered. Leopard are beginning to become accustomed to people in land rovers like their brethren at the (older) Singita Sabi Sand properties.
The game drives are extremely accomplished and there are whole teams of trackers out scouring the bush to locate the best sightings for you to enjoy. Singita has its own Guide Training school. It shows.
It also shows that Singita has its own Chef Training school. The cuisine is cutting-edge and majors on South African sourced ingredients. Dinner is either a la carte or from one of three multiple course set menus (including Vegetarian and African). There is a sommelier on hand to ensure that you enjoy the contents of the on-site cave of local wines, and to match them to your choice of food. Make sure to ask for a cellar tour and a tasting during the day, or enjoy an atmospheric post-prandial malt whisky there.
Fortunately, the concession is a good place to get out and walk all this excess off mid-drive, if you can persuade the whole vehicle to join you (there are no more than six people on board each, which means that everyone has an outside seat). With no other Lodges on the whole concession, you get a real wilderness experience. You can also organise your own walk after morning drive.
Singita Kruger (containing this and neighbouring Sweni Lodge) is an badly-kept secret. In fact it is such a Hollywood-style production from top to bottom that you leave with the sense of wondering just quite what has hit you (and later, a sense of what was going on behind the scenes to bring you all of this). There are more than 160 staff looking after fewer than 40 guests and the concession around them. They do it very well.
So this experience does not come cheap. But, as the lodge manager comments in our podcast, its a place that people save up for years to come to, come, and then go home to save up to come again.
If you can afford it, you can't beat it.
Recommendation - in a Singita-grade all of its own
Don't miss: any of it
David Manttan is a founder of Kruger2Canyons.com