Singita Lebombo came highly recommended by a dear friend. His words ring through my head as I transit in JoBurg, not sure what to expect. All would come clear though, the start of my adventure is Singita’s private airport terminal.
We boarded a private jet that took us over the vast African bush, it was like going into no-man’s land. On landing on a lonely airstrip we were informed that we had to board yet another plane to get us to our destination. On our final approach, I got flashbacks of “Out Of Africa” – the book turned movie with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford that my mother dragged me to as a child. It was already unbelievable, romantic and exciting, and this was just the start. Waiting for us at the other end were two lovely gentlemen. My New York sensibility started to kick-in as Dannie, our guide told us we still had a 2 hour drive ahead of us. Plane, plane and automobile – keep calm and carry on. Going deep into the bush has a whole new meaning! But it did indeed, as the long stretch of road revealed zebras and antelope, a stunning visual introduction to what lay ahead.Like an oasis, Singita Lebombo appeared. But waiting for us there was yet another vehicle, and I gave my partner Chris a sideways glance. This time, it was a customized triple-decker Range Rover, waiting for our arrival in case we wanted to take an evening safari. It was the equivalent of a safari limo – with the comforts of blankets, drinks and snacks to make sure the mammals inside the truck were happy. Of course we had to oblige. Our two assigned personal guides, Dannie and Exxon (who is, incidentally one of the top ten bush trackers in the world) told us that they would be looking after us throughout our stay. Little did we know then, that they were going to be a highlight of the trip. To become a ranger at Singita, you’ve got to really know your stuff and be attuned to the bush. The training is rigorous and few make the cut. We were in good hands. Within the first 30 minutes of trailblazing, we came across sleeping zebras, grazing giraffes and majestic water buffalo – my brain on visual overload.
Singita Lebombo is something truly remarkable, managing to strike the perfect balance between contemporary and rustic. Every detail is stunning, from the beautiful great room for weary adventurers to rest; to the comfy poolside beds perfect for sun-worshiping; and the dining pavilion with five-star chef on-hand.We were led to our loft-like apartment, built into the mountain, overlooking the river. I gasped audibly when I saw the view, looking out from our perch to view all of Mother Nature’s creations. We had the option to sleep indoors or out, as both sets of beds shield you from ‘little critters’. Also, a tub built for 2 so you can take luxurious, romantic bath and of course plenty of delicious South African wine from the first bottomless mini-bar I have ever experienced.
Wine was the order of the night, we were ready to indulge in some local delights. We embarked on a South African wine tour, guided by the lodge’s sommelier. My personal favorites were delicate whites from from the infamous Stellenbosch and Franschhoek vineyards, although my partner seemed to have a hankering for a more ‘meaty’ red, a South African Pinotage customarily served with ‘big meats’. Oh la la!
Already slightly tipsy, we stumbled out of the cellar and were guided to the table where gourmet fine dining was complemented with pairings of yet more superb wines from Singita’s extensive wine cellar. The 7 course tasting menu was perfect for my palette. We tasted a rich combination of delicacies from native Africa infused with ingredients from around the globe. The perfectly flavored Kudu, lean and similar to venison was to die for, as well as succulent fresh fish, yummy chutneys, and the perfect desserts of chocolate and fresh fruit to finish.
Day-break. A double espresso and fresh fruit were waiting for me, they clearly knew what I needed after all that wine the night before. Off we went on the morning safari – this time we discovered a pack of elegant lions laying majestically in the grass, we got up real close, you could reach out and touch them. As the morning sun greeted us, we discovered majestic elephants waking up by the river, drinking and bathing as a family, giraffes scratching their underbellies by passing over small trees and hippos hiding in the water, bobbing up and down for air. Kudu jumped along side the truck as we whisked through the trees and bushes, like children excited to see us.
As mid-morning approached, Dannie and Exxon found a shaded spot and pulled out a crisp tablecloth for breakfast on the hood of our vehicle. It was simply magical, I felt just like Meryl Streep. The guys were happy to answer my millions of questions; the most luxurious educational experience I have ever had.
All talked out, we head back to the lodge for a little bit of pampering. Being a workout fanatic, we were delighted to find a facility in the middle of the bush that rivaled our NYC gym. To rejuvenate, I opted for an incredible massage and facial in the spa, ready for an evening of stargazing!
The stargazing safari went far beyond my wildest expectations. We drove for miles; our trusted guides took us from the van where we marched single file in a marsh full of alligators and giant hippopotami. We watched each other in silence and the staring contest ended when Exxon beckoned us for the evening’s activity, champagne and stargazing. A telescope the size of a ‘mini-Hubble’ mysteriously appeared and we toasted the day, blessed to be in such wonderful surroundings. Exxon imparted more knowledge, the man is like an encyclopedia, pointing up to the glittering night sky. I felt so at peace, it made me realize how small we really are in this world, yet it left me so inspired. This was the beginning of what was to be a night of partying, the staff threw a farewell party for the entire lodge. And by everyone, we mean the twenty other people that shared this experience with us. Everlasting friendships were forged as we each complimented our individual guides, each it seems, as skilled as the other. And of course, more food and wine.
Morning came too quickly, everyone was up early to say goodbye. As we departed on the long dirt road, I came over a little emotional looking back over the last three days. It was the experience of Africa I had longed for since I was a child; mission accomplished – my eyes welled up at the sheer beauty and the new appreciation I hold for this magical bush kingdom.
Patrick was the guest of the magnificent Singita Lebombo. Find out more about the property by clicking on the link