Africa Food Hotels Travel

Singita Sweni – Day to Night

This is part five of my travel series to South Africa. For the complete series, please see below:

Traveling to South Africa – South African Airways and Federal Air
Singita Ebony – The Lodge
Singita Ebony – Day to Night
Singita Sweni – The Lodge
Singita Sweni – Day to Night
Cape Grace
Cape Town – The Peninsula Tour and The Boat House
Cape Town – City and Winelands Tour
Cape Town – V&A Waterfront, Test Kitchen, Fork and Table Mountain
24 Hours in Istanbul

In my last South Africa post, I covered the wonderful accomodations at Singita Sweni and the beauty of its lodges. In today’s post, I’m going to take you through a quick summary of some of our favorite activities and aspects of our stay, in the format of a single day to evening. I hope you enjoy!

After our 5:30 AM wake up call, my husband and I would trudge our way over to the main Sweni lodge to eat some breakfast snacks and meet up with our ranger Gerard, and tracker Solly. There was always a lovely spread in the morning at Sweni though I usually would just go for the dried fruit and some coconut milk.

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Yours truly sulkily drinking some coffee while chatting with Gerard.

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After we put on our ponchos, we’d all be off. In the mornings I liked to sit up front, what a great view!

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One theme that we noticed at Sweni versus Ebony was that our tracker seemed much more “active”. Singita’s private concession in Kruger versus its concession in Sabi Sands is many times larger – and thus there are less vehicles driving around, spotting animals and sharing information with other cars. In Kruger, it was much more of a “find the animal yourself” theme. This had its disadvantages (mainly that you might see less of the “Big 5” animals) depending on luck. However, it also had its advantages in that we felt much more involved with the tracking process. Our tracker, Solly, was very active and fascinating to learn from.

Once in a while Solly would actually disembark and either examine some animal tracks more closely, or go off on his own for a bit while we drove on.

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Here’s Solly showing us a leopard’s track!

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Here are some of the animals we saw on our morning drives.

Guinea fowl – I know that these are “common” but I loved finding them on our drives. Their heads are such a brilliant blue and they have such a distinctive shape.

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Beautiful waterbuck.

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This little warthog….I thought the warthogs were adorable! I know that they can actually be quite vicious but when they are trotting back and forth it just makes me happy.

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This very cool bird. I know my bird descriptions are probably rage inducing for anyone out there who actually knows something about birds out there – please feel free to provide guidance in the comments!

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Elephants. Gerard said that these two were likely friends that were meeting up to eat.

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Some buffalo hanging out and ready to nap.

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Two rhinos. We were told that this was a big sister and her little brother.

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Some zebras, and their butts. You see a lot of animal butts on safari, especially since as you approach closer, many animals will begin to turn away from you.  One of the couples we met on safari stated that when they returned home they were going to put together a “bum book” – a book comprised entirely of animal bums. I thought it was a great idea and we have plenty of material!

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On one of the mornings, Gerard and Solly pulled up next to a watering area and told us that we were going to go on a walking safari, and get to see some hippos up close. Whenever we got out of the vehicle while on a drive, one of them had a rifle ready at all times.

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We followed closely behind them as they lead us closer to the hippos!

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And then we came across a large group of them. Even though they seem very large and nonchalant, hippos we learned are very aware – after a few minutes had elapsed we noticed that they had actually all turned towards us.

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After about ten minutes, there seemed to be an altercation between a few hippos and Solly/Gerard advised that we move further towards some rocks.

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The hippos with their surroundings were a really beautiful sight. After some time here, we all headed back to the car.

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One more sighting on our morning game drives – a sleeping lion. We only saw female adult lions while in Kruger.

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After we returned from our morning drive, we would have breakfast in the main Sweni Lodge. Mr. Feather is a major eggs benedict fan so he continued to order it here.

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Meanwhile I was craving something different that wasn’t on the menu. A guilty pleasure that I occasionally (well more than occasionally) reward myself with…yes, the Egg McMuffin! I love my Egg McMuffins. The chef had never tried an Egg McMuffin but did a great job based on my description….I dare say it was even better than the original inspiration.

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Delicious! Usually breakfast was enough to fill me up, but one of the days I was feeling especially piggish and wanted a very simple lunch. In my fat induced state I couldn’t even muster the strength to roll myself over to the main lodge, so Beauty brought over some selections – a simple pasta and some cut fruit. So nice to eat this on our balcony!

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After breakfast/lunch, we would relax in our room or go shopping at the gift shop/spa. Then around 3:30 PM, we’d amble back to the lodge for  afternoon tea. After one of our morning game drives, we noticed that this flower had appeared in our room.

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A few hours later, when we made our way over to afternoon tea, we saw the same “Happy Spring Day” message! Spring Day we learned is a holiday celebrated in various countries around the world, marking the coming of spring, of course!

By afternoon tea time I was stuffed but still managed to gobble a few macarons.

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Then, we headed back to the car for our afternoon game drive. After a few minutes of driving however, we noticed that there were people on the sides of the road. They were a few members of the Sweni staff, with another Spring Day treat!

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The awesome Lucky who exclaimed, “Happy Spring Day!”

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There were small bags of “Spring Day” candy along with an alcoholic shot of some kind of chocolate/mint liqueur mix. Never did I imagine I’d be taking shots in the afternoon in Africa on a safari drive..much less multiple shots. Yes I’ll say it now, these shots were delicious and I had another. No regrets!

On one of these drives, we saw a crocodile resting in the water.

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On another drive, Gerard suddenly braked quite hard and Solly scrambled from his seat up front back into the vehicle. We were all wondering what was going on…they had spotted a Black mamba snake! This one was young, and was sunning itself in the road.

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A few trees. I thought we passed by so many beautiful trees…I wanted to take photos and ask questions about them all. The third light green tree was called a “fever tree”.

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As the afternoon came along and the sun started to set, some of the sleeping lions we saw started to perk up.

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Two adult females grooming each other.

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I loved these cubs! They were very curious and would frequently walk around and stare at the vehicle. The adults on the other hand were clearly quite jaded already by safari vehicles, and responded to us gawking humans in the car like they would to a large tree or oversized dirt mount.

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On another evening, we saw a dead impala which had been recently killed, that had been dragged into a hiding place. Our car sat and waited around and sure enough, a young leopard came ambling along for it. It turned out that his mother had made the kill, and gone to get him so that they both could eat.

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As the night grew darker we got to view a few noctournal creatures. As we were driving back to the lodge one evening, Solly spied a few porcupines moving through the bush. So impressive that he was able to see these guys in the pitch black dark!

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Singita’s concession in Kruger is right next to Mozambique, and we would sometimes drive by the fence. On one evening there was an solitary owl sitting watch looking into Mozambique.

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After our evening game drives, we would return to the lodge for dinner. You may notice that I’ve had very few dinner photos from both Ebony and Sweni, and that’s because it generally was too dark for photos by then (and I may have forgotten to bring the camera a few times as well).

However, I wanted to share a photo of a very special dish we had at Sweni. Earlier in the day I had been chatting with Lucky, who was giving me some of her recommendations for Cape Town. She mentioned that whenever she had a holiday from Singita and went to Cape Town, she went straight for her favorite sushi restaurants. “Sushi! Yes, I miss sushi!” I said.

I promptly forgot about my statement but apparently Lucky did not. Our last night at Sweni, as we sat down to eat dinner with Solly and Gerard, Angelique the manager came out bearing a large wooden board, filled with amazing and fresh sushi. She said they had heard I had a craving, and wanted to do something special.

It was such a great surprise and also incredibly impressive, that a safari lodge deep into the wilderness with only six rooms would be able to whip out fresh sushi with sushi rice, soy sauce, fresh wasabi and more.

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And of course it was delicious! Such a “wow” moment.

The next morning, we went on a final game drive and then hustled a bit to get everything packed up so we could make our plane to Cape Town. As we were leaving, the chef handed us a large bag filled with boxes of fruit and pastries to eat on the plane. There were a few additional boxes, so we opened them and found…Egg McMuffins of course! I was so happy to get another go at these.

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On the plane, we took our last looks at Kruger and said bye bye. I am not ashamed to say that I cried as we were leaving. I knew that I would miss it very much!

And with that…concludes my review of Singita Sweni and the last lodge we stayed in while on safari in South Africa. I am having difficulty expressing how fortunate we felt to have been able to spend the better part of a week in this extraordinary place. We will always remember the days and evenings that we spent at Ebony and Sweni. While this felt like a “once in a lifetime” experience, to us it really wasn’t, because we want to and will return again and again in our lives.

Here is a final quote from Nelson Mandela that we found in our room that we kept. Thank you for the extraordinary experience Singita, and we will return!

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Next up, I will start my series on our next stop – the wonderful city of Cape Town!

 

 

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  • Amber
    October 7, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Wow it’s so cool that you can get so close to the animals! I love those little lion cubs! Now I really really want to go on safari – better start nagging my husband haha

  • Irina
    October 7, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Good morning – what a great posting, thank you! I would probably be scared out of my socks to be so close to rhinos with just 1 riffle:) It seems like such wonderful place, you are a very lucky gal!

    • Katherine
      October 7, 2013 at 10:22 am

      You feel super safe in the car- promise! I hope you go for your honeymoon!

      • Irina
        October 8, 2013 at 7:43 am

        But you were not in a car! you were walking by the hippos!!

        • Katherine
          October 8, 2013 at 9:16 am

          LOL 🙂 I think for this one we were in a car!

  • amy b.s.
    October 7, 2013 at 9:21 am

    this looks like such an amazing trip! wow!

  • Adele
    October 7, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Beautiful photos! I also cried when we left our safari. I think they’re such magical holidays that are really like no other. Your photos really bought back happy memories of my two trips to Kenya. Thankfully that was before all the troubles began.
    Happy Monday Katherine xoxo
    http://www.intotheblonde.com/

    • Katherine
      October 7, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Oh how lucky that you got to go to Kenya. Comforting to hear I’m not the only cry baby! 🙂

  • Sonya
    October 7, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Small comment from me today. DH and I love reading this series, it gets us excited for Botswana. We will try South Africa nxt.

  • Modestine
    October 7, 2013 at 10:52 am

    What an amazing post and I’m sure, even a more amazing holiday! I’m going to start saving up right now and being the crier that I am, I have no doubt that I would’ve done the exact same thing.

    • Katherine
      October 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      Another crier! The cost is completely worth it, you’ll be happy that you saved 🙂

  • Jennipher
    October 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you so much for these incredible posts! I love the detail you provide and the photos are incredible. I’ve always been interested in going on safari, but felt there were lots of other things I wanted to do first. Now after reading this series, Africa is at the very tip-top of my travel wish list. I can’t wait to go!

  • Trang
    October 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Love your review! It makes me almost yearn for my single days when I could travel to any African lodge on a moment’s notice. I say almost because that would mean no baby girl (whom I hope to someday take on safari). Love your high end egg mcmuffin!

    • Katherine
      October 7, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      Thank you Trang! I think a baby girl will have a safari beat out, no matter what 🙂 I hope the whole family can make it back to an African lodge when baby girl is a little older!

  • susan
    October 7, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    What beautiful memories and photographs. You are beyond lucky to have seen so many wonderful animals, especially that beautiful leopard so close – they are camera shy creatures in the daylight. What a coat!

    • Katherine
      October 7, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      Leopards are incredibly beautiful! So wonderful to see them in person.

  • Katherine
    October 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Wow your photos are amazing!!

  • jamie-lee
    October 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    When I think of Africa, I think of safaris, and yours looks like it was the most incredible time. how wonderful your trip must have been! x

  • Anna
    October 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I loved reading your series from the start, and I’m coming out of lurkerhood to say that you’ve inspired me to plan my next trip tothe safari. I’m headed to Iceland in 3 weeks but I’m always looking forward to my next adventure.

  • Ella Pretty Blog
    October 7, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    The people at the lodge seem so thoughtful and caring – can’t believe the sushi they came up with..looks SOOO good! And the little egg mcmuffin to-go for the plane was also so kind!

  • justine
    October 8, 2013 at 12:27 am

    wow! your trip looks amazing and the staff was so attentive– they really went out of their way to personalize your trip w/little details and make it more memorable! definitely will need to look into a future trip to South Africa & safari trip w/Singita 🙂
    thanks for this travel series, i look forward to future posts!

  • Ammu
    October 8, 2013 at 1:38 am

    Such a wonderful post – my favourite of your Africa posts so far. Love your sense of wonder. I am feeling rather wide-eyed myself these days, ten days into my Nepal sojourn.

  • Kam
    October 8, 2013 at 5:08 am

    I’ve really enjoyed your series on your African adventures. It looks you had an incredible time so thank you for sharing it with us and letting us live vicariously through your experience!

    Kam | A Married Couple & Their Travels

  • jessie
    October 8, 2013 at 6:45 am

    that bird, it looks like a hornbill 🙂

    • Katherine
      October 8, 2013 at 9:18 am

      That sounds about right! Thank you!

  • Marlene @ chocolatecookiesandcandies
    October 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    I’m gobsmacked just reading how Lucky went and had the sushi specially made for you as a surprise just because you casually mentioned that you missed it. That level of service is nearly unheard of these days.

  • Claudia
    October 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    You have a great blog. South Africa/Cape Town/Joburg is my home town where I was born and raised for 20 years,and is still my favourite place in the entire world, even though I don’t live abroad now for a few years. Glad you enjoyed your trip and cant wait on your thoughts on Cape Town – it is truly a gem!

    http://www.coccosstylefile.blogspot.ca

    • Katherine
      October 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      I LOVED Cape Town, would really love to go back and re-visit Kruger, CT, and get to see Joburg as well!

  • Claudia
    October 10, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Love your blog! South Africa being the place where I was born and grew up, I can say that is is one of the most unique and beautiful places and very dear to my heart, Cant wait for your review on Cape Town, the place where I spent the last 10 years before moving abroad.

    http://www.coccosstylefile.blogspot.ca

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  • Diva In Me
    October 22, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Thank you for showing us your safari pictures. It’s definitely an interesting tour. Africa and safari is definitely my bf and my bucket list =)

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  • Fiona
    October 30, 2013 at 5:17 am

    hi! we just spent part of our honeymoon at the singita lebombo lodge and had gerard & solly aswell so i really enjoyed reading your review and seeing your pictures that reminded me so much of the most special days we ever had on a holiday! and by the way, my husband and i BOTH cried when we left!! 😉 we so much hope to go back soon.. what an experience!! thanx for sharing!

    • Katherine
      October 30, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Gerard and Solly are awesome! So glad to hear that you had a nice time, we want to go back ASAP as well. Singita + Cape Town are both very high on our list of all time favorite vacations.

      • Fiona
        October 31, 2013 at 2:20 am

        Same here 🙂 though next time we definatly want to squeeze in either Mozambique or Zanzibar after the Safari aswell since we missed that this time!

        • Katherine
          October 31, 2013 at 8:09 am

          What a great idea! Hopefully Singita’s new lodge in Mozambique will be open by then!

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  • Annie
    May 18, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I was fortunate enough this past April to have gone to Kruger National Park. I must say the safari experience feels like it is once in a lifetime, but once you experience it, you know you will come back for more. To see all the animals in their own natural inhabitant is nothing short of amazing. It is one of my favorite trips I have taken thus far and I am an advit traveler. Thanks for sharing your photos.

  • Anonymous
    August 8, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Hi katherine! I’m reading your Safari blog only now as I googled up Singita. I am planning a family first time safari trip next year and wanted to ask, would 3 nights in sweni followed by 3 nuts in Ebony be enough, or too much for a first time trip? In your own personal opinion which lodge would you actually spend the 3 night option in? Appreciate your thoughts!