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 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.
Yours truly sulkily drinking some coffee while chatting with Gerard.
After we put on our ponchos, we’d all be off. In the mornings I liked to sit up front, what a great view!
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.
Here’s Solly showing us a leopard’s track!
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.
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.
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!
Elephants. Gerard said that these two were likely friends that were meeting up to eat.
Some buffalo hanging out and ready to nap.
Two rhinos. We were told that this was a big sister and her little brother.
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!
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.
We followed closely behind them as they lead us closer to the hippos!
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.
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.
The hippos with their surroundings were a really beautiful sight. After some time here, we all headed back to the car.
One more sighting on our morning game drives – a sleeping lion. We only saw female adult lions while in Kruger.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
The awesome Lucky who exclaimed, “Happy Spring Day!”
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.
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.
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”.
As the afternoon came along and the sun started to set, some of the sleeping lions we saw started to perk up.
Two adult females grooming each other.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Next up, I will start my series on our next stop – the wonderful city of Cape Town!