A trip to South Africa has been on my bucket list for a while. In fact, it was meant to be my honeymoon, as I’ve always thought that a luxury safari would make a magical honeymoon experience.
However, I made this plan before knowing my husband, and before the reality of being engaged only a few months and deciding on a destination wedding in an entirely different country became our wedding plan.
The South African vacation topped off by a luxury safari therefore got moved to our one year anniversary trip. Needless to say, it’s a vacation I’ve been dreaming about for quite some time, and no portion of it has been more important than the safari.
In my mind, this could be the only time I ever go on a luxury safari and so I was determined to choose the best possible experience for us that I could. I researched lodges to death and talked to many of my knowledgeable peers about their personal opinions of my short list.
In the end, I chose Singita Lebombo. The Singita brand is known for their exceptional safari experiences across five regions in Africa, and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the brand was one to be trusted from a service standpoint as well as for delivering a once in a lifetime safari experience.
We stayed here for 3 nights, which allowed for a total of 8 game drives. While I was in no hurry to leave and would have loved additional time here, I think that 3 nights -- especially if you arrive earlier in the afternoon on your arrival day, and have a later departure, is enough time to feel like we didn’t miss out on anything. I wouldn’t recommend much shorter though.
My Experience At Singita Lebombo
The lodge: Aesthetic is hugely important to me, and the decor and setup of Lebombo had me drooling from the moment I saw the photos online. In person only solidified that I had made the perfect choice to fit my style. The vibe here is bold and contemporary with a neutral color palette.
Arriving here, you see just how well the lodge blends seamlessly into the surroundings. The 13 identical suites are suspended above the river, and the open plan invites Africa in. Your room has every possible amenity, and there is also the option to make use of the outdoor bed for a night of sleeping under the stars and be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the jungle.
The food: All food and wine is included with your stay at Singita Lebombo, The food is phenomenal and can be expertly paired with a lovely South African wine by the sommelier (Hi, James!). There is a different menu each day, customized for you based on your specific dietary restrictions. I don’t think I’ve ever ate so well -- or so much -- in a 4 day span. From the freshly baked muffins to see you off before your first game drive, to the multi-course dinner you happily scarf down at the end of the day, and everything in between.
The game drives: If you ever have the opportunity to stay at Singita Lebombo you can request a specific guide and tracker and so I’m going to do you a favor and let you know the absolute best combo: Walter and Howard. You’re welcome. (And please tell them I say hello.)
There are a lot of different factors that play into successful game drives, a few which may be out of your control since nature hasn’t asked you specifically what you’d like to see unfold during the 4 hours you’re out on your drive. But what does make a difference is a few things…
First, being on a private concession, as Singita Lodges are, makes a world of difference. You can rent a car and drive yourself through Kruger National Park, or you can stay at a lodge that is not on a private concession and uses the public roads as well. But on a private concession you have the opportunity to go into the bush and this is huge. Singita lodges have limited guests and vehicles, but also the guides in these vehicles work with each other so that you are able to take advantage of the expertise and placement of all the other vehicles from Singita out on game drives. All vehicles share their game viewing with each other -- and only 3 vehicles at a time are able to view something, keeping it intimate and special.
Second, having the very best guides and trackers is a crucial component. I was blown away at the skill and expertise of our all-star team time and time again. I just can’t imagine seeing half of what we did without them.
The staff: There are a lot of amazing luxury safari lodges within South Africa, and there are incredible game drives to experience throughout Kruger National Park and beyond. However, what sets Singita Lebombo apart and makes me jump at the opportunity to share what made my experience so special here is the staff. It is beyond good hospitality, and it’s far more than just great service. It is a level of attentiveness and a genuine connection that is so effortlessly orchestrated by the staff at Lebombo that creates and atmosphere like nothing I have ever experienced.
They take an excellent experience and make it an exceptional one. I hugged each person I was fortunate enough to meet on the day we left and it felt like I was hugging friends. Grant, Kiran, Daniel, James, Damon, Khensani, Britt, Neil, and each smiling face we encountered during our stay there were nothing short of phenomenal and they made our stay what it was.
I mentioned that this could possibly be my one and only chance to experience a luxury safari and after returning from Singita Lebombo I know two things:
I made the absolute best choice in choosing this lodge. There is not one thing about my experience here that wasn’t absolute perfection, and it blew my mind in the very best way. I have been blessed to stay at some incredible places throughout my time as a world-traveler, and nothing has compared to what I experienced here.
There is no way that this is my only luxury safari experience. I have been impacted in the very best way by my time in Africa and I can’t imagine a future where I don’t make it a priority to experience more of this.
A typical day on safari at Singita Lebombo
5:00AM: Wakeup call. Listen, I’m no morning person and if you told me I could see and experience the same thing 3 hours later, I would gladly choose that. But you can’t. So get to bed early and sleep when you’re home.
5:30AM: Meet at the espresso bar, down a quick coffee and a muffin, and depart on first game drive. This is prime viewing time and also gets you out before the worst heat of the day. You’ll usually be gone 3 ½ - 4 hours with a coffee break thrown in.
9:00AM: Return from game drive and eat breakfast. Also, important to understand that the freshly baked pastries, fruit, and yogurt is only the pre-breakfast and the omelette you order is the size of your entire face.
10:30-12PM: Nap time. I don’t know who wouldn’t take a nap, so I’m not suggesting you do anything else.
12:pm-2PM: Head to the pool, get a massage, check out the cooking school (you can set up a cooking lesson if you’re interested!), and relax the afternoon away at the gorgeous lodge.
2:00PM: Eat lunch. Lunch is served tapas style, which basically just gives you the opportunity to try many different things that sound delicious and not feel bad about it.
3:30PM: Gather for afternoon tea before your second game drive. Chat with other travelers about what they saw this morning and grab some more snacks they’ve laid out -- not because you’re actually hungry, but just because they’re available and they look tasty.
4:00PM: Depart for your second game drive. See some more amazing things you’ve only ever seen on National Geographic, and stop for a sundowner in the bush as the sun sets. #IsThisRealLife
7:30PM: Return from game drive and freshen up for dinner. Or, if you’re like me head straight to dinner because nobody really cares if you shower first, and you’d rather just get to it.
9:00PM: If you’re Bri: Head to room to take a glorious bath and get ready for bed. If you’re Joey: Head to bar and find some friends to drink whiskey and share a cigar with. You choose.
Wake up and repeat. Life is good.
If you would like to connect about planning your own perfect luxury safari experience, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to send me a note HERE.