Singita Kruger National Park – Lebombo Lodge, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Where is it?
On a 33,000-acre private concession within Kruger National Park in South Africa.
What’s the starting price per night, per person?At today’s exchange rate, about US$1,955 per person per night. Included: all food and beverage (including premium wines and spirits, but excluding French Champagne); twice daily open Land Rover safaris, guide-led walking safaris; road transfers between Satara airstrip and the lodge; and laundry service. No minimum stay.
What’s the best season to visit?
April to October is peak season, but the lodge is a year-round destination. During these dry winter months, game viewing peaks. December to March is technically rainy season but storms typically happen once per day. The silver lining: This is also birthing season, meaning lots of baby animals!
What was the transfer experience to get there?
We had a 90-minute flight from Johannesburg to Satara airstrip within Kruger National Park, on light aircraft with Federal Airlines. We landed at Satara airstrip and were greeted with a spread of dried fruits, nuts, and cold beverages. The transfer from the airstrip to the lodge by was by van and took 45 minutes. We were able to bring 20 kg (44 lb) in checked (soft-sided) baggage and 5 kg (11 lb) in hand luggage.
What’s the vibe?
The design astounds. It’s incredibly modern. The common spaces are visible first. In a single panorama, there’s a sleek, lounger-lined infinity pool, a massive open kitchen that would make Thomas Keller jealous, and a double-story wine studio—all seamlessly woven into the dramatic, craggy African landscape.
Now tell me about the rooms.
There are a total of 13 open-plan suites and one private-use villa. Built into high-rising rocky outcrops, facing outward, the suites appear suspended over the terrain and the N’wanetsi River below. There’s a lot of glass for the indoor-outdoor feel; a comfy king-sized bed, the living area (with L-shaped couch and work desk), and the bathroom (with a huge soaking tub, of course) are in muted colors to finalize this transition. Beyond the glass wall is a long wooden deck with a small dining table and a full-sized day bed (which can also be used for sleeping at night).
The landscape views are breathtaking since the terrain is so hilly and rocky (as opposed to the flat terrain of the savannah) and covered in Lebombo euphorbia, a cactus-like tree with a single trunk and an entire canopy of prickly, upright branches. On several occasions, we saw giraffes and elephants crossing down toward the river.
There was Wi-Fi on property, and it worked well for emails, less so for uploading high-res photos to social media (but still definitely got the job done). The lodge often warns of the possibility of slow and intermittent Internet.
How’s the food?
Superb and incredibly fresh, with menus directed by award-winning, Cape Town-based chef Liam Tomlin. Through the glass windows of the colossal open kitchen, guests can watch Singita’s sous chefs in action—they’re also welcome to barge right in and watch (and help in) the preparation.
Expect plenty of carb-loading: There’s an temperature-controlled pastry bakery within the kitchen, preparing different baked goods and breads with every meal (fresh onion focaccia served with fresh feta, olive oil, and salted butter). Lunch is served tapas-style so guests can try small bites of several different international dishes. Dinners are typically served as three courses.
Meals are served around the pool or at small tables in the open-air dining room (no need to share tables with fellow safari-goers). Private dining in the wine cellar can be arranged for an extra charge. The classic and forward-thinking cocktails served at the main bar (and in the dining areas) are as good as you’d find in a cosmopolitan cocktail bar.
Now, about that safari. What did you see? How were the game drives? How was the guiding?
Kruger National Park is the crown jewel of South Africa’s parklands and game reserve, and the 33,000-acre private concession belonging to Singita is the crown jewel of Kruger. This area is the best of the best—in part because of the wildlife sightings but also because of the lack of vehicles (the land is exclusively crossed by guests of Singita Lebombo and Singita Sweni). The concession extends through four different eco-zones and happens to be prime rhino and big cat real estate. It’s home to two of the world’s 13 wild white lions (which I was lucky enough to see). The guiding was excellent.
Were there any other cultural or outdoor experiences that were really interesting? Were they well done?
This part of Kruger is very remote (and the eastern side of the park borders Mozambique), so you won’t find the school and village visits of other lodges. In between game drives, expect to find all the excess of a top-tier resort: a fabulous swimming pool where you can order cocktails, a state-of-the-art fitness center and spa close to the lodge. For an extra charge, you can also participate in cooking classes and activities such as archery.
If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would it be and what did they do to earn it?Our guide, Walter, and our wildlife spotter, Howard, both deserve trophies. Howard’s eagle eyes spotted so many animals hiding in the bush and from great distances. Both were able to spot tracks, on dusty roads, and follow the tracks to successfully find wildlife.
Bottom line: Was this property worth the money, time, and effort to get here?
I’ve been on 20 safaris in as many years, and I’ll gladly go on record to say this is the superlative safari experience in all South Africa. In a national park where vehicles often outnumber impalas, you’ll get to have your own private swath of Kruger and one-on-one face time with all the wildlife personalities.