AFRICAN HORSEBACK SARARI
The lavish Singita brand adds a new level of refinement in Tanzania.
The herd starts to move and we go with them. Slowly at first, then gaining speed, hooves hitting the ground like an African drumbeat. Splashes of black, white and brown flash past as hundreds of wildebeest and zebra canter alongside us. Known as the ‘greatest show on earth’ I’m not only seeing the Great Migration. I’m in it – on horseback.
With 18 magnificent horses living in world-class stables, riding is just one of the exclusive activities Singita offers guests at its Grumeti Reserves property on the edge of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Set on 141,600 hectares where an abudance of wildlife roams the pristine wilderness, with four sumptuous permanent lodges, this is an unparalleled personalised safari experience.
The Serengeti landscape is seductive: undulating plains dotted with acacia trees stretch to the horizon, vast skies are the work of an artist’s palette and migratory animals in the millions make their annual pilgrimage. Each lodge reflects a different ‘out of Africa’ style whilst maintaining the same impeccable service, fine cuisine, guided game drives and luxurious safari conveniences like pools, spas, gym, massage and Wi-Fi. Activities like hot air ballooning and guided hikes can be organised and the distance between lodges is an easy game drive away.
Pageant of the animals Sasakwa Lodge is the grand lady of the collection. Nine cottages ranging from one to three bedrooms plus a fourbedroom villa (all with individual infinity pools) surround an English manor house dripping with opulence. Inside it’s all about silk curtains, claw-footed baths, fireplaces, brass chandeliers, wood panelling, original paintings, antiques, silver and crystal. Perched on the top of an escarpment, the 180-degree view of the Serengeti is an absolute spinetingler. One day between game drives, our luncheon table is set up under a series of umbrellas complete with a couch, Persian carpets and cushions. We lazily while away the afternoon eating lobster and sipping fine wine to a soundtrack of trumpeting elephants.
Also on the hill with a similar view is Singita Grumeti’s latest innovation – Serengeti House. Designed for multi-generational families or couples travelling together this lavishly decorated contemporary four-bedroom private property comes with its own stunning infinity pool, tennis court, guide, dedicated staff, chef and all the trimmings for a completely private safari.
Calling Sabora a ‘tented camp’ conjures up the romance and occasional hardship of bygone days, but in reality this is total luxury with soft walls. Nowhere within the reserve is as close to living with the wildlife – anything from gazelle, buffalo, elephant and wildebeest literally wander between the tents. After falling asleep to the distinctive sound of lions roaring, I wake to see the sky turn from crimson to pale pink and a ball of fire emerge on the horizon and laugh as a herd of zebra roll around on the red tennis court that is actually made from termite mound clay.
Overlooking the Grumeti River, Faru Faru Lodge is both contemporary and rugged. Built from granite, stone and bamboo, each of the nine totally private villas boasts retractable picture windows framing the wildlife action. The golden sand around the pool is the perfect place for ‘sundowners’ as a pageant of animals drink from the waterhole below.
The Singita difference Although the magnificence of the lodges is unrivalled, the soul of Singita lies in the community and animal conservation. “I’d never tasted salad until I came here as a gardener,” says Michael Matera. Now not only is Michael the Head Chef of Sabora Lodge, in 2012 he won Tanzania’s Chef of the Year. “I was poaching up to 16 medium-sized animals every day,” says Peter Andrew who, with assistance, turned his life around and is now the much-loved pastry chef at Faru Faru Lodge.
Working hand in hand with the non-profit Grumeti Fund, around 75 per cent of the 800-strong staff at Singita originated from one of the 22 surrounding villages. With education programmes, scholarships, business start-up assistance, clean water initiatives and job opportunities, the Grumeti region is undergoing a cultural shift. And with it has come a dramatic increase in wildlife numbers resulting in the greatest concentration of game on the Serengeti.
In the words of Luke Bailes, Singita owner and CEO, “We need to protect nature and conserve large tracts of land for future generations.”
“I’M NOT ONLY SEEING THE GREAT MIGRATION. I’M IN IT –ON HORSEBACK”