AFRICAN HORSE­BACK SARARI

The lav­ish Sin­gita brand adds a new level of re­fine­ment in Tan­za­nia.

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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”

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