Review: Singita Boulders Lodge Sabi Sands

Filed Under: Hotel Reviews, Trip Reports
Need help planning your Singita safari? Contact [email protected]

READ MORE FROM THIS TRIP

Introduction: The Surprise Trip Of A Lifetime (Hopefully?)
Review: American Airlines A319 First Class
Review: Delta Air Lines CRJ-900 First Class
Review: Air France La Premiere Lounge & Spa New York JFK
Review: Air France La Premiere 777-300ER
Review: Park Suite At Park Hyatt Paris Vendome
How My Dad Flew To South Africa Without Knowing It
Review: Air France La Premiere Lounge Paris
Review: Air France 777 First Class
Review: InterContinental Johannesburg Airport
Review: Federal Air Lounge Johannesburg Airport
Review: Federal Airlines Flights South Africa
Review: Singita Boulders Lodge Sabi Sands
Review: Singita Lebombo Lodge Kruger Park
First Singita Safari: My Thoughts
Review: British Airways Comair Business Class 737
Review: The Silo Hotel Cape Town
Review: Qatar Airways A350-900 Business Class
Review: Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha (Purchased Access)
Review: Qatar Airways Qsuites A350-1000


Spoiler alert: Singita Boulders is my favorite hotel experience ever, and I’m not sure how I’m ever expected to go back to Amans. 😉

None of us had ever been on safari before, so suffice to say that we were super excited. When we were trying to decide with what company/lodge to do our first safari with, Singita came by far the most highly recommended.

Singita is known as being the Aman of safaris (though that’s underselling it, in my opinion), and they have lodges in South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda. We wanted to keep things relatively simple since we were traveling with my dad, so we stayed at two their most popular lodges in South Africa — we spent three nights at Singita Boulders in the Sabi Sands Reserve, and three nights at Singita Lebombo in Kruger National Park.

We knew several people who had tried this combination of properties, and each person raved about the properties.

Booking Singita Boulders

Safaris in general are really expensive, given that they’re all inclusive, though Singita in particular is really expensive, given that they’re considered to be the best of the best. Like I said, this is the most I’ve ever paid for a trip.

You can find the rates for Singita Boulders Lodge here. As you can see, the rate is around 1,900USD per person per night. However, this is truly all inclusive (as I’ll talk more about below), and it even includes the VAT.

Singita does have some promotions, though. When you book six nights between their Sabi Sands and Kruger properties, you receive one complimentary night for each guest, and you also receive a complimentary flight for each guest between the two lodges. So that means you only have to pay for five nights, and the flight between properties is included.

Let me of course acknowledge that that’s a lot of money. A ton. It’s by far the most I’ve spent for a hotel, ever. But damnit, this was also by far the most incredible hotel I’ve stayed at, and I would do it again in a heartbeat for a special trip.

Before I talk more about what’s included, let me note that one of the cool things in our situation is that there’s no supplement for a single occupant in a room. So Ford and I shared a room, and my dad had his own room, and we paid the standard rate for three people. So that’s cool for those who are traveling in odd numbers.

What’s Included With All Singita Stays

As you can tell, the rates are expensive, but stays at Singita are all inclusive in a way I’ve never experienced at another hotel before. Singita rates include:

  • All meals and beverages, including premium wines, spirits, liqueurs, and more (the only thing excluded is French champagne)
  • Two daily safaris
  • Return road transfers between the airstrip and the lodges
  • Laundry service (yes, unlimited complimentary laundry, which is life-changing, given how much hotels usually charge for this)
  • They even have complimentary cigars and cigarettes (yes, unlimited free Cuban cigars)

The only other things not included are massages, any purchases you may make at their shop, and gratuities. So by the time we left, the only thing we paid for (in addition to the room rate) was gratuities and the cost of a couple of Singita hats and t-shirts.

Singita Boulders Lodge Sabi Sands Review

Let’s get into the actual review of the lodge now. We’ll start by talking about how to get to the property, then we’ll look at our incredible accommodation, then we’ll look at the public areas, then we’ll talk about the food and drinks, then we’ll talk about the safaris, and lastly we’ll talk about the service.

Getting To Singita Boulders Lodge Sabi Sands

As I covered in the last installment, we flew Federal Air from Johannesburg to the airport near Sabi Sands, which was a flight of under an hour. From there we were picked up in a Land Rover and driven to the hotel, which was just a 15 minute drive down a dirt road.

Plane that flew us to Sabi Sands Reserve

A special airport pick-up

As we arrived at the resort we were greeted by a seemingly endless number of lodge staff, who were all incredibly nice. The assistant manager, Hannah, went over all the details of our stay. We were also introduced to Gift, who would exclusively be looking after us.

At Singita each party has a personal contact point who essentially serves you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and who can help with any other needs you may have. Gift was an absolute delight, though I’ll talk more about her in a bit.

Shortly after arriving we were brought to our accommodation.

Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite

Singita Boulders has a total of 12 standalone villas, including:

  • 2 Bush Suites
  • 8 River Suites
  • 2 Family Suites

We had both of the Bush Suites, which were incredibly over the top. For some context, here’s a map of the resort:

Singita Boulders Lodge property map

All of the accommodations were located off walkways. As you can see, some of the trees looked pretty dead, though that’s a function of it being the end of winter (which also has some benefits in terms of the animals you see).

Singita Boulders Lodge walkway

During the day we could walk between the main lodge and our villa alone (though we were told to be careful), while in the dark you were always escorted by a lodge staff member with a flashlight, because obviously you’re in the middle of nature.


Singita Boulders Lodge walkway

Each room at Boulders Lodge is a private villa, and Ford and I stayed in #11.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite exterior

Wow this villa was beautiful. It was modern, spacious, and had all the comforts you’d hope for, all while feeling appropriate for the area. Inside the entryway there was a half bathroom to the left and the minibar to the right.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite entryway

The half bathroom was large, and also had hats, bags, and blankets you could take with you on safari.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite half bath


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite goodies

Across from that was a well stocked minibar with coffee, tea, soda, juice, liquor, wine, snacks, etc. Everything was complimentary.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite tea & coffee


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite complimentary minibar


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite complimentary wine


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite complimentary snacks

As a welcome gift there were two Singita hats waiting on the table for us, which we were free to take with us.


Singita Boulders hats

Inside the entrance and to the left was the large living room, which had a couch and a couple of chairs. WOW.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite living area

There was a fireplace in the center of the room that opened on two sides, so you could have a fire either in the bedroom or living room area.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite living area

There was an extremely comfortable bed with netting around it.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite bedroom


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite bedroom

Across from that was a desk area and a chair.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite desk

Then further into the room was the main bathroom, which had double sinks, a soaking tub, a separate room with a toilet and bidet, and a large walk-in shower.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite master bathroom


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite master bathroom


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite closet space


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite shower


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite toilet

The interior couldn’t have been lovelier. There was also a hamper with a laundry sheet. If you wanted laundry done you simply had to fill out the form with what you wanted, and they took care of it. I was amazed by the speed with which they did laundry, as both times we requested laundry it was brought back to us same day.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite complimentary laundry

Wifi in the room (and throughout the resort, for that matter) was free and surprisingly high speed, given that we were in the middle of nowhere.

The outdoor area of the villa was equally gorgeous. There were a couple of chairs, as well as an area for sunbathing, all around the pool.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite outdoor area


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite outdoor area


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite pool

There was also a huge outdoor shower.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite outdoor shower


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite outdoor shower

One of the unique things about the Bush Suites is that they overlook a man-made watering hole, so you tend to have a lot of animals near the room. That’s awesome, as we were basically on safari just sitting on our patio.


Singita Boulders Lodge Bush Suite view

What an incredible room.

Singita Boulders Main Lodge

The center of the hotel is the main lodge. The meals are served in this area, this is where the bar is, and it’s also where you meet your guides when you go on safari every morning and afternoon.

Boulders Lodge is no longer a “new” resort (it was opened in 1996, and is extremely well maintained), but I actually liked that — I felt it was authentic to the locale, which some more modern lodges may not necessarily be.


Singita Boulders main lodge

The main part of the lodge was open air, and a beautiful place to sit both during the day and at night.


Singita Boulders main lodge


Singita Boulders main lodge


Singita Boulders main lodge

The bar was located here, where you could have anything to drink 24/7, whether a cappuccino, a glass of wine, or a gin & tonic.


Singita Boulders main bar

This part of the resort also had an incredible views over the bush, and you could see everything from giraffes to rhinos from here.


Singita Boulders main lodge view

Just off the main lodge was another seating area, as well as one of the dining venues, which is where breakfast was served.


Singita Boulders Lodge seating


Singita Boulders Lodge dining area


Singita Boulders Lodge dining area

A short walk away was another covered dining area, which is where dinner was served one night. They changed dining venues for us all three nights, which I loved.


Singita Boulders Lodge dining area

There was also an inside dining area, but since we had perfect weather our entire stay, we never ended up dining here.


Singita Boulders Lodge indoor dining


Singita Boulders Lodge indoor dining

There was also a small indoor sitting area that acted as a business center or game room, though again, since the weather was so perfect, I never spent any time here.


Singita Boulders Lodge indoor lounge


Singita Boulders Lodge indoor lounge

Singita Boulders Pool, Gym, And Spa

Singita Boulders has a main pool, though in reality I never saw anyone use it, since everyone has their own private pool.

Singita Boulders main pool

There was a small gym not far from the main building. To be honest I was impressed by the quality of the gym, given how secluded this resort is.

Singita Boulders gym


Singita Boulders gym

Singita Boulders also has a spa, though I never had a chance to use it. My dad did have a spa treatment, which he said was exceptional. For what it’s worth, an hour massage cost 1,060ZAR, which is about 70USD. I thought that was reasonable.

Singita Boulders Wine Cellar & OMG Cigars

Singita Boulders has an incredible wine cellar with all kinds of South African wines. They automatically rotated these every day so that guests could try as many as they wanted, though in reality you can come down here and also pick out a bottle. South African has some phenomenal wines, and I’m happy to see they’re so focused on serving them.

Singita Boulders wine cellar


Singita Boulders wine cellar

Perhaps the highlight of this whole trip for my dad was that Singita Boulders also has complimentary cigars. The way we figured this out is funny.

Long story short, my dad has been stretching the truth (I’m being nice here!) to me for a while about how he quit smoking. He finally admitted he may not have been totally forthcoming, and during his birthday trip we even encouraged him to enjoy some cigars. Go figure he didn’t bring any cigars, because he wanted us to believe he had quit smoking.

At Johannesburg Airport they were selling Cuban cigars, though the cheapest were over 60USD each. So when we got to Singita Boulders he asked if they had any cigars (obviously he thought they’d have to be purchased). They brought him to the wine cellar and showed them their huge selection of Cuban cigars.

My dad figured these would be really expensive, so he asked if they had any others. Then he discovered that cigars were in fact complimentary (or I guess you could say included, given how much this place charges), and you should have seen his face…

To say he enjoyed their cigar selection would be the understatement of the year. If they don’t change their cigar policy after our stay, I’d be shocked. But the hotel staff couldn’t have been lovelier, and they kept pushing more cigars on my dad.

At every meal they even set up a special cigar station just for him. Seriously, what kind of service is that?!


Singita Boulders cigar station

A very, very, very, very, very happy dad

Dining At Singita Boulders Lodge

At Singita they feed you like 27 times per day. It’s actually kind of ridiculous how much food they try to serve you. The food quality was excellent across the board, there was just way too much of it. That’s especially true when you consider that you’re sitting in a car for seven hours per day on safari, so movement is limited.

In general, here’s how the food schedule at Singita Boulders works:

  • Safari started around 6AM every morning, so you arrive at the main lodge around that time, and they have a light breakfast available
  • You get back from your first game drive around 10AM, and then you can have breakfast
  • Then somehow between breakfast and the 3PM game drive they expect you to have a full lunch
  • And that’s not enough, because before you go on that 3PM game drive you have afternoon tea
  • Then when you get back from your afternoon game drive you have dinner whenever you want
  • On top of that, there were often snacks on the game drive as well

It. Is. Ridiculous. How. Much. Food. And. Alcohol. They. Try. To. Serve. You.

So let’s go through each of these meals.

Singita Boulders Pre-Breakfast

As mentioned above, the morning safari would start shortly after 6AM, so we’d show up about 15 minutes early and would have a cup of coffee. There was also the choice of some cereal, fresh fruit, freshly baked (warm) muffins and pastries, and more.

Singita Boulders pre-breakfast

Singita Boulders Post-Pre-Breakfast

Time permitting, during our game drive we’d stop somewhere for a bit, and our guide and tracker would provide us with freshly brewed coffee and tea, snacks, and even some liqueur if we wanted it.

Singita Boulders Breakfast

When we got back to the lodge after our game drive (usually around 10AM), there was a full a la carte breakfast. The menu read as follows:

Let me start by saying that we were served breakfast, lunch, and dinner by Gift. She was there solely to take care of us, and she couldn’t have been any lovelier. She was just such a kind and funny human, and seeing her for all three meals made our time here all the more special. As you’d expect, she also got to know all of our preferences.

Gift & Ford at Singita Boulders

Breakfast started with a few things being brought to our table, including freshly squeezed orange juice, granola, yogurt, fruit, and croissants.

Singita Boulders breakfast


Singita Boulders breakfast

To drink they had everything from delicious iced coffee, to smoothies, to cappuccinos. Mmm…


Singita Boulders breakfast drinks


Singita Boulders cappuccino

Then we could order whatever we wanted off the menu.

Singita Boulders breakfast — quinoa vegetable bowl


Singita Boulders breakfast — eggs benedict


Singita Boulders breakfast — quinoa oats porridge

We only had breakfast one day, because we quickly learned that having both breakfast and lunch was physically impossible with everything else they feed you.

Singita Boulders Lunch

For lunch there was a rotating selection of eight choices, and each was available as either an appetizer or main course. Here’s an example of the menu one day:

We were always offered some fresh bread to start.

Singita Boulders lunch — freshly baked bread

Below is just a small sampling of the lunch selection.

Singita Boulders lunch — scallops


Singita Boulders lunch — grilled pear and citrus salad


Singita Boulders lunch — seafood paella


Singita Boulders lunch — crispy chicken

Singita Boulders Afternoon Tea

The afternoon game drives started at 3:30PM, so around 3PM there was an afternoon tea setup in the main lodge with salad, sandwiches, sweets, and more.

Singita Boulders afternoon tea

Singita Boulders Post-Afternoon Tea Pre-Dinner

Time permitting we’d stop on our afternoon game drives for drinks and snacks. How awesome of a setup is this?!

Singita Boulders game drive drinks

Singita Boulders game drive drinks

Singita Boulders Happy Hour

Okay, to be honest, all day is happy hour at Singita. Not only do they try to force feed you, but they also try to serve you drinks all day. Liqueur with your coffee? Why not. Wine with lunch? Absolutely. A cocktail with afternoon tea? Yes please.

So not that we needed another happy hour, but before dinner we stopped every night for some drinks. Not only were their cocktails, but the hotel has a massive selection of South African wines, and they constantly rotate that selection.

The front of house staff here are incredibly passionate about alcohol (in a good way), and they must have made me gin & tonics about 37 different ways using their own recipes, along with lots of other cocktails.

Singita Boulders happy hour


Singita Boulders wine selection


Singita Boulders liquor selection

Singita Boulders Dinner

As I mentioned above, we had dinner all three nights in different places. The first night we had dinner in the primary outdoor dinner restaurant. The hotel customizes the dinner menus for each guest (as you can see based on it having my name) based on their dietary preferences. For example, I don’t eat pork, so my menu didn’t have any pork on it.

Here’s the menu for night one:

And here’s an example of the wine list for one night (though truly you could pick anything you wanted out of their cellar to drink):

The food presentation and quality was excellent, in my opinion.

Singita Boulders dinner — beef carpaccio


Singita Boulders dinner — shrimp


Singita Boulders dinner — roast poussin


Singita Boulders dinner — sides


Singita Boulders dinner — hazelnut and chocolate terrine

The second night they set up an incredible dinner for everyone where our guide could join us. This was in a beautiful outdoor area that I didn’t realize existed until we had dinner there.

Singita Boulders dinner


Singita Boulders dinner

There was even some awesome live entertainment from the hotel staff.


Singita Boulders entertainment

Appetizers were initially brought out, then they had a buffet with a grill area where you could pick out whatever meat or fish you wanted, and they’d prepare it however you wanted.

Singita Boulders dinner

We were stuffed at this point, but they still brought out some dessert to share.


Singita Boulders dinner — dessert

On night three they planned something special for us (as they try to do for all guests, it seems, space permitting). They set up a lovely private dinner for us just off the main lodge.

Singita Boulders private dinner


Singita Boulders private dinner

I think they even made my dad’s whole trip with the below display…


Singita Boulders private dinner

Once again the food was excellent.

Singita Boulders Game Drives

For your entire stay you’re assigned one guide and one tracker — our guide was Coleman, and our tracker was Themba.

On a game drive in Sabi Sands Reserve

While the Land Rover had 10 seats, we always had a private safari, so it was just us and the guides. These aren’t always private, though the hotel had unusually low occupancy when we were there, so it seemed like just about everyone had private game drives.

Ford with the Singita Land Rover

I’m going to write a separate installment after the two hotel reviews with my overall thoughts on safari, but I was amazed by how quickly we saw things. Within 24 hours we saw all of the “big five.”


Leopard in Sabi Sands Reserve

Cheetah in Sabi Sands Reserve

We saw lions feasting on a zebra…

Lions feasting on a zebra

Daddy lion makes an appearance

We saw wild dogs eating an impala, all while chasing off hyenas (one of which was hiding under our car).

Again, I’ll have more details soon, but safari was awesome.

Singita Boulders Service

I’ve been fortunate to stay at a lot of amazing hotels in my life, including some with exceptional service. Singita Boulders had the best service of any hotel I’ve been to, bar none, by a mile.

This was partly due to the overall company’s philosophy to service, but in particular due to the amazing individuals they have working here. The staff at this hotel simply have the X-factor. Let me say that service at our next Singita was excellent as well, but not quite as spectacular as here.

Singita Boulders made Amans look like 3,000 room Las Vegas hotels by comparison (I’m exaggerating a bit, but not completely).

Where do we even begin?

  • The level of customization is spectacular, from the customized menus to the attention to detail with everything
  • Gift was our private server at breakfast, lunch, and dinner; she was just such a fabulously kind and positive person, and getting to know her throughout our stay was one of the highlights
  • The front of house staff working in the bar and main lodge area (in particular Ben) were just so friendly and genuine
  • We loved our guide and tracker, Coleman and Themba, who were passionate about what they did, and that made our seven hours of daily game drives all the more fun

Look, you just can’t put into words how excellent service was. Every single person working at Singita Boulders genuinely seemed like they loved their job, and they also all seemed like they worked really well together.

There are some hotels where individually everyone seems friendly, but Singita Boulders has an incredible team, and when you combine those things, it’s magic.

Other Random Singita Musings

Since I’m already 4,000 words into this review, I might as well make it a bit longer and answer some of the questions that I assume some people will have (or at least that I had going into our stay).

Where Were Most Singita Guests From?

I asked the hotel staff about this, and they said that over 50% of their guests are American, then about 20% are German, and then the rest are from all over, with South America being a market where they’ve seen more visitors from lately.

When we were there the guests were almost entirely American. Given that we were there in early September after most people went back to school, it was almost exclusively older American couples, which isn’t that surprising.

How Full Was The Singita Lodge?

When we arrived I’d say the lodge was about two thirds full. At the end of the stay only three other rooms were taken, so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. Throughout the entire stay it really felt like we had the place to ourselves, given how they spread everyone out, and how everyone is on a different schedule.

The only time you really see other people is before you start your game drives, since everyone meets around the same time.

Should You Tip At Singita Lodges?

When I arrived at the resort I started Googling, since this was my first safari, and I wasn’t sure what the correct policy was. Yes, apparently you’re generally supposed to tip on safari, and I have in good authority that a vast majority of Singita guests do tip.

If you’re going to tip, the three essential people to tip are your guide, your tracker, and the person looking after you. Then you can also tip anyone else who took especially good care of you (which is tricky here, because everyone took such good care of us).

What’s The Difference Between Singita Sabi Sands Lodges?

Singita has three properties in the Sabi Sands Reserve, and they’re all more or less in the same area. So how should you decide which to stay at?

  • We stayed at Singita Boulders, the 12 unit property that’s probably the most well known
  • The other major option is Singita Ebony Lodge, which has 13 units; the major difference here is the decor style, as the colors here aren’t as muted, and you perhaps don’t feel quite as much like you’re on safari
  • Lastly, there’s Castleton Lodge, which is a private lodge that just has one unit that can sleep up to 12 people; so this is only ideal if you’re traveling with a big group

Personally I’d return to Boulders Lodge in a heartbeat, but I’d be curious to hear from anyone who has stayed at Ebony Lodge as well.

Singita Boulders Bottom Line

I’ve never spent as much on a hotel stay as I spent at Singita Boulders. I know I’m incredibly fortunate that I could spend this on a surprise trip for my dad. And I’m especially happy that I 100% have zero regrets, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

I have really high expectations of service (I wish I didn’t, but I’m jaded thanks to how many amazing places I’ve stayed at), and for me Singita Boulders set a new standard for service. In real life I know multiple people who have honeymooned here, and they mentioned how good the service was. I figured they just weren’t as critical as I am. Nope, this place is just out-of-this-world.

Singita spares no expenses with the experience. The food quality, drinks, laundry, game drives, and the staff’s desire to make your experience special every second really sets this place apart.

Admittedly I’m no expert on safaris, because this was my first experience. Despite that, I feel comfortable wholeheartedly recommending this place. And if you think I’m raving about this place, you should hear what my dad had to say (and you’ll hear it, because he will also share his thoughts).

If you’ve stayed at a Singita property, what was your experience like?

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments
  1. I’m glad you had such a great time. My wife and I just returned from a Southern Africa safari. We were in Sabi Sands to start, but we also went to Zambia and stayed at Victoria Falls and Botswana where we stayed near Chobe.

    We stayed at a lodge that was laid out similarly, Chitwa Chitwa, and would also describe it as the most expensive but most “worth it” stay we’ve ever had anywhere. I really think if you can swing it, you’d be hard pressed to have a better vacation than one of these upscale properties.

    You’re right about the food, though. Amazing and delicious throughout, but there is just so much of it all the time!

    The highlight is, of course, the game viewing. What an incredible experience in Sabi Sands as we saw every member of the big five repeatedly throughout our stay, getting extremely close to some white rhinoceros that were a true treat to behold. Wild dogs are fairly rare as far as sightings go, we were told, and we were lucky to see a pack from the distance. You were exceptionally lucky to be so close to them!

    We’re already planning our next safari trip, next time with friends to East Africa (either Kenya or Tanzania). If you really enjoyed your experience, you owe it to yourself to go to Chobe where you can go game “driving” on the river and see elephants and hippos crossing the Chobe river and be two feet away from the biggest crocodile you’ll ever see in your life.

  2. I stayed at Ulusaba nearby last year, which is similar though perhaps not quite as high-end, and interesting to see the contrast. A lot of the experience was pretty much identical, including the daily schedule and all of the food and drink services, though menus perhaps weren’t quite as customized. Service was also excellent and highly personalized, but without the element of having the same person serve all of your meals.

    And I believe the free laundry is pretty much standard at all of these places; I’m surprised you didn’t mention in more detail but my understanding was that you can’t bring much more than a duffel bag on Federal Air since some of their smaller planes don’t have big enough baggage compartments to fit even a standard rollaboard bag. So the idea is that you can’t bring all that much clothing with you, so instead the hotel launders it for you so you can still potentially have a longer stay even with only a small bag.

  3. So glad it was an amazing experience. I just got back from a week in Tanzania, and I too, think that luxury safari lodges and camps are as good as it gets when done right. You can’t really compare them against other hotels anywhere as they are unique and in a league of their own. No matter how much money I may pay for a “normal” hotel, they cannot provide an elephant snacking on grass 2 feet in front of me outside the tent in the middle of the night.

  4. Did Ford get any pushback on the camo? In Tanzania that was a big no-no, the military connotation apparently has a rough legacy for a lot of people in some safari regions.

  5. Like Nicholas above, we stayed earlier this year at Chitwa Chitwa. I was really curious to read your reviews of Singita to see how it compares, since Chitwa is a bit cheaper but still felt totally incredible to me. Overall a lot of it looks really similar: the rooms are nearly identical based on your pictures, we were also looking over a water hole, same game drive structure, snacks, etc. The difference seems to be in the level of personalization for the service, and also the alcohol choice. But most of the rest looks absolutely the same.
    I think the one cool thing we did at Chitwa (especially for an avgeek!) is that one of the dinners was set on the air strip by the lodge so that was really really freaking cool.
    Hopefully one day we can do Singita, even if it’s not within our reach budget wise at the moment. Glad you guys had such a great time!

    One question though: didn’t you guys get “bored” after all these drives? We were on a safari 4 nights and frankly we thought it was more than enough, as much as we loved it. If we had stayed longer we would have probably skipped some of the drives.

  6. We stayed at Boulders during our honeymoon in Fall / Winter 2017 and had a similarly amazing experience. Certainly it is expensive, but it is the only place I have ever stayed that I thought was also potentially under priced for the level of service and for what is included. Our guide was also a photographer named Ross Cooper and some of his photo’s now hang in our home. A great reminder of the trip!!!

  7. I did 4 nights with my dad in 2011 at Kapama Karula in Kruger and it was incredible. In my view, 3 nights is the sweet spot, as we were beat by the fourth day. But i would also add we enjoyed having the other guests on our safaris and did not enjoy our private treks our last day nearly as much. On safari, the rooms are basically for sleeping, we spent very little time there. The food was phenomenal. Glad you had a good time with your dad Ben.

  8. Ben, what a wonderful thing you did for your dad. You’re extremely fortunate to have the resources available to do this and there is no doubt in my mind he enjoyed the experience, and the time with you and Ford, immensely.

    This review changed my mind on going on safari. There is no way anyone can consider this trip “roughing it!” Now I just need to scrounge up the money…

  9. I finally beat you to a property – well…my husband and I honeymooned at Sengita Lebomobo where you stayed next. I’ll never forget the views from our room with a giraffe coming up to the bathroom while we showered outside or the hippos in the river while we ate room service from our deck. Glad the property has kept up the service standards. Incredible property and totally worth it!

  10. Looks great. I feel like we had a comparable experience at the &Beyond safari lodges (Phinda) in kwaZulu Natal a few years back.

  11. @ M — Nope, we didn’t get any vaccinations for the trip (as they’re not required for South Africa, but they are for some other countries).

  12. Does anyone have a rule of thumb about how much you should be tipping the 3 people? Going on a safari and don’t know how much cash to bring.

  13. @Patrick did you book through a travel planner? We did and they provided specific tipping guidelines when we asked. We were told there’s a balance to be had between being generous and destroying the local economy by providing incentives out of line with local pay scales.

    Guidelines were $25 / day for guide. $12 / day for tracker. $20 / day for all general staff. We tipped in excess of that, but not wildly. We tipped in local currency where possible and then exhausted our USD that we brought with. Importantly, you tip at the end of your stay at any lodge. There will be gratuity envelopes provided.

  14. Loved all the photos. Stayed there several years ago and my experience was as grand as yours. Agree with everything you wrote.

    Going to Singita Kwitonda in Rwanda next year – it opened last month and looks to be fabulous. Thanks much for your article.

  15. @ Patrick — Similar to Nicholas, I’ve heard $25 per day per couple for the guide, and about half that per day for the tracker, the person serving you all day, and anyone else who took good care of you. We ended up tipping a bit more than that, but that seems to be what’s reasonable/mostly expected.

  16. @ Gregg — Thanks for the kind words. If you have the chance, definitely do it! I’m already planning my next one (though a bit different than this one).

  17. @ Clem — Funny enough, my sister-in-law went to Singita for her honeymoon, and she mentioned they got to eat on the air strip, though that’s not something we got. Hah.

    As far as getting bored goes, there was definitely a diminishing marginal return with each game drive. I’ll cover that in more detail in two installments, when I talk about my overall impressions of being on safari for six days. But totally agree in general — absolutely loved it, but with each day it gets less exciting.

  18. @ Evan — Interesting, not something we had thought about, and even saw several other people wearing camo. But no, no pushback, or not even any weird looks, but perhaps something to keep in mind in the future.

  19. I stayed at Marataba in Marakele National Park a couple years ago with my wife. While the lodge was in a different part of South Africa (close to the border with Botswana, we were able to charter a car to drive us there and back instead of flying), barring a few minor differences this review was remarkably similar to our own experience. The service and quality were stunning, and like you Ben, I found that the people working at the lodge genuinely loved what they were doing. It was hands down the best trip we’ve ever taken, and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

  20. @ Nithan — I believe not, since they don’t cover “all inclusive” experiences like this anymore. At least that’s my experience, and that program has only gotten worse as of this month.

  21. @ Mark — Hope you have an amazing time. Rwanda is at the top of my list, though the price of those gorilla trekking permits (in addition to the rates for the hotel) sure adds up.

  22. Ben,
    I always look forward to your reviews after your legendary trips as they really inspire me and give me ideas about where to take my family in the future, but this particular review has set my sights and the bar very high. What a wonderful trip and I can’t wait to read the next instalment. Keep the magic coming and help us all push our horizons to grander vistas and distant lands.
    Best regards and safe travels,

    Justin

  23. Great review! We have done 2 Singita trips – ebony (pre-Reno) and sweni, then later Sasakwa and sabora tented camp in Tanzania. The TZ lodges are phenomenal. A tip on how to manage the breakfast/lunch conondrum: have breakfast after game drive. Pre-order lunch for 45 minutes before tea/meeting time for afternoon game drive. Best of both worlds!

    @Nitan – used to get a free night through Amex FHR. Included amenity was massages. But Singita often has better promotions for free nights including transfers so for our second trip we just booked directly.

  24. This sounds like a $30,000 plus trip for 6 nights — including your “free” night — that’s an amazing spend for six nights on ground (with airfare an additional purchase)

  25. @Lucky – I actually stopped in Uganda in August on my way to a week-long safari in Tanzania. Same gorillas at $900 less per person for the permits. And I stayed in the Silverback Lodge there for an extremely reasonable rate (a little over $300 per night all-inclusive and it was lovely). Yes Rwanda has more luxury lodges that cost a fortune but that did not seem that important for me when gorilla tracking was by far the main event (it matters much more on safari). I got my gorilla tracking add-on trip down to about $3,000, including flying in and out of Bwindi which saves a lot of time. Visiting the village was lovely as well. I highly recommend Uganda.

  26. Nicely done,
    I will not add much except to say that we went on two safaris the last four years, in the first one, in South Africa, we stayed at:
    Jock in Krueger
    N’Gala Tented Camp in the Timbavati Reserve
    The second time in Botswana, we stayed at:
    Leroo La Tau
    Chobe Game Lodge
    In all these lodges we found the food fantastic, the amenities incredible, the people amazingly nice and friendly as well as efficient and remarkably service oriented. Finally the experience of seeing so many animals in their natural habitats was absolutely exhilarating.
    I’m not trying to compare, every experience is unique and while the all-inclusive prices go from $400-$1,000 a night per couple I highly recommend a luxury safari at even the low costs as the whole affair is just one huge wow!

  27. “I’m already planning my next one (though a bit different than this one).”

    Very much curious where do you plan for your next safari? As nice as Singita Boulders is – as far as safari goes, Sabi Sands (and pretty much everywhere in South Africa) is pretty tame, and definitely not “in the middle of nowhere”. I wonder if Botswana or Zambia is on your ‘safari radar’ for the future? Do share, please 🙂

  28. Those lions later posted on their blog talking about the preparation and presentation of the zebra, the time it took to catch it, wine pairings (red goes great with black and white, apparently), and how much sleep they got afterwards – they seemed really impressed.

  29. Ben, I’m glad you loved the safari experience. All of the reviews from this trip are a real pleasure to read – please keep them coming!

    For anyone thinking about going on a safari – it’s definitely worth it! Start with the price point of what you currently consider to be a really nice hotel, multiply it by two, then find a lodge at that price. I did that a couple of years ago, also split the trip between two locations (Sabi Sands and Timbavati, two nights each). My price point ended up being quite a bit lower than Ben’s 🙂 but the impression from the safari was just as amazing.

  30. @ T. — That’s a great question, and something I was going to ask readers for advice on in a separate post. We LOVED our experience (obviously), but we want our next safari to be a different kind of safari in terms of the landscape and wildlife. With that in mind, there are a few things we are considering:
    — andBeyond has a lodge reopening in Namibia, so given our desire for different landscape and the fact that it’s reasonably priced (by comparison), this is the front runner
    — If cost weren’t an issue then gorilla trekking would be my number one choice, but the permits alone cost $1,500 per person per day, if I’m understanding things correctly
    — Initially I was really intrigued by Singita’s Zimbabwe property, but when I talked to people about it a lot of people mentioned that fishing was a highlight, and that’s not really my thing
    — In general Tanzania really interests me, but I took big issue with their anti-gay “crackdown” late last year, so I’ve been trying to avoid it on principle

    So I’d love to get some advice from more seasoned safari-goers than me. We’re leaning towards Namibia given the more reasonable price point and different landscape, while my absolute top pick would be Rwanda, though it costs an arm and a leg.

  31. We had a similar experience at Dulani River Lodge. Even our concrete floor was heated. We didn’t get to use our outdoor shower and sitting area the first two days as a leopard had decided he liked our deck while keeping an eye on a bush back he had killed and was storing in the tree behind our lodge! The all inclusive nature at Dulani was similar to your experience. Anything from the bar moved to our room, anything on the Jeep morning and afternoon. But no cigars. And about half the price which is still a big ticket item. But we all saw Sabi Sands.

  32. @ Michael — Correct. Like I said, the most expensive trip I’ve ever taken, but I also have zero regrets and would do it again in a heartbeat for an occasion this special.

  33. @Lucky – See my post above re: gorilla tracking in Uganda vs Rwanda. $600 per person instead of $1,500 and you really can have a once-in-a-lifetime experience (DEFINITELY worth it) where the entire trip without really skimping is less than one night at Singita Boulders. But it is not really a safari as most people do not do an extended trip in Uganda. Visiting the gorillas and then leaving is the norm. Uganda has other lovely areas and safaris, but the gorillas is a relatively quick but amazing visit. I really wanted to see the chimpanzees as well, but that area was not that close and I did not have the time.

  34. Unfortunally, it is well knowh fact, that the animals are drugged and then placed into position about 1 hour before you arrive, in the afternoon, they are picked up and put back in their cages, wild dogs are the exception, the tours are canned.

  35. @ Paolo — My point was that most hotels charge an outrageous amount for laundry to the point that I won’t do it on principle, so having a hotel that offers free laundry (at any price point) is a novelty. I don’t remember the last time I stayed at a hotel that didn’t charge for laundry.

  36. My wife and I stayed at Singita Boulders in 1998 and like you were blown away…and I added lots of weight. We rate it as highly as you do, and in fact are looking at going back. We have done numerous safaris in fabulous lodges in S. Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and others, but Singita stands head and shoulders above them all. I do want to make a comment on your reference to Aman – we will never stay in one of their properties again and think they are the most over-rated resorts ever. I got food poisoning in their place in Bhutan and they could not have cared less and did nothing. Earlier this year we were talked into staying in their property in Sri Lanka and it was very poor.

  37. Thank you for the very interesting and thorough review. Yes I’ve heard wonderful things about Singita lodges. But I do have a couple of comments. First I’ve safaried twice in South Africa, both at an &Beyond lodge, Kirkman’s Kamp, also in the Sabi Sand reserve. Yes, the game is fabulous. But it all is highly managed. So you will see all of the Big Five and yes, you probably will see leopards and Black rhinos. But that’s because the reserves are set up this way. You probably saw large herds of impala…. absolutely. The lions and leopards love impala. It was exactly the same at Kirkman’s. But is this real Africa. Nope… to experience what an African safari really is, you have to travel to more unmanaged, wild reserves; South Luangwa in Zambia, the Delta and Chobe in Botswana, Tarangire, Ruaha, and the Serengeti in Tanzania, and Samburu, the Maasai Mara, the Amboseli, and Tsavo East in Kenya.

    Second, I have two Prime Directives when on safari. 1) Never ever pass on a game drive. If you do, something exciting will happen. 2) Never stay at a camp so luxurious that you’d be tempted to violate Prime Directive 1 to hang out at the pool, the bar, the gym, or in a hammock somewhere.

    Prime Directive No. 2, coupled with the game management issue means that as lovely as it is, I’d never go to a lodge like Singita Boulders. Because I don’t want to spend that kind of money? Not really; next April, as an add-on to a safari to the lesser-known reserves in Tanzania, I’m spending 3 days at Motse Lodge at Tswalu Kalahari located on the border between South Africa and Botswana. Prices here are twice that of Singita. So why am I going there? Because they have game that I’ve not seen anywhere else; Roan and Sable antelope, pangolins, ardvarks and ardwolves, Caracal and Serval cats, and, (I can’t wait!), meerkats. And it may take us all day to find one of these.

    So my advice to you is: Now that you’ve seen the Big Five, go on safari to East Africa. Stay in a less opulent lodge or camp. I love the great tented camps like Sanctuary Ngorongoro Crater, Larsens in Samburu, Governor’s Private Camp in the Maasai Mara, and Oliver’s in Tarangire. Not so opulent, but very comfortable and when you go out on a game drive, you have no idea what you might come across….if anything. And at reserves like the Amboseli and Tarangire, there is nothing in the world like seeing groups of 50-200 elephants.

    Oh, and I’d be hard pressed to find a place to stay as insanely wonderful as Amangiri in southern Utah.

  38. @Stephen K. Farrand – I’m currently debating between two of the lodges that you mentioned, Sanctuary Ngorongo Crater and Governor’s Camp. Which did you enjoy more? We really enjoyed our time at Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero and am leaning towards the Sanctuary places in Tanzania but there’s so many options.

    FWIW, we had an amazing time on the Chobe in Botswana. So different from Sabi Sands in terms of the experience.

  39. It’s not Africa, and it’s not exactly a Safari, but we ventured into the cloud forest and the Amazon in Ecuador earlier this year, and had amazing natural experiences, seeing literally hundreds of species including 6 types of monkeys, numerous types of birds including honeyeaters, macaws, toucans etc.

    We stayed at the amazing Mashpi Lodge – which had similar service levels to the ones you describe at Singita. They personalised our stay by upgrading us (we were honeymooners) and even persuading the chef to give his first cooking demonstration (he is a natural – expect a TV show soon!). The trecking was amazing and responsive to our needs. I injured my knee at one point, and the lengths they went to, making sure that I was safe and medically attended to was extraordinary. They even then designed experiences for us that would cater to my limited capacity. It is one of the best hotel experiences I have ever had – well worth the flight and three hours in a vehicle to get there.

    However, the big surprise was La Selva. Nowhere near as luxurious as Mashpi – in fact, uncomfortable in comparison, but the nature experiences were even more extraordinary. You should put both on your list of potential nature/hotel experiences.

    Thanks for the Singita review. My partner spent a few years of his childhood in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and we have been thinking of a trip to Africa in 2021 to celebrate a significant birthday of his. I think your review has sealed the deal!

  40. @Lucky – I’m curious about if and how you monetize your blog / trip reports in a way that allows you to in some ways justify paying for experiences like this. I’m sure you can afford it based solely on your success with this blog and your company (and huge kudos to you on that), but when you shell out a lot of money for hotels and experiences like this, do you “expense” at least a part of it to revenue from page hits for this review? Thanks!

  41. Excellent review, seems amazing.
    Looking forward to the future articles. So we all know animals eat other animals, but did you find it disturbing to witness? I’ve never been on a safari and am considering it, but I’m not sure how I’d do with that aspect. I’m glad you included that feature.

  42. Ben, you said you will ask advice about your future Africa travel in a separate post, but I have to “spill over” my suggestions now if I may…Africa is my great passion (this passion is pretty expensive as you now know, but that’s where points and miles come – to minimize the overall costs), and I am currently planning my trip # (lost count)…

    Namibia – amazing landscapes, but don’t expect the density of wildlife like what you found in Sabi Sands…camp-wise – Hoanib is a must (but – like Giraffe Manor in Kenya – you need to book pretty much a year ahead)…perhaps, also Serra Kafema…perhaps, Little Kulala…

    Botswana – my personal favorite…might be a problem for you since many of the camps do not have wi-fi…but the scenery (talking about Okavango Delta here) is amazing, very low tourist density in private concessions and very high animal density, and tru sense of wilderness…Zarafa, Mombo, Duba Plains are close to what you found Singita to be…Zarafa (and I believe Duba Plains) have wi-fi, so might work for you…Botswana is expensive, but a secret to make it cheaper is to book for early November – lodges drop their prices by about 30% once the high season ends (end of October)…but the truth is – there is little difference between October and November yet the prices are lower beginning November…
    And if you decide to return to Singita Boulders – it’s easy to combine with Tuli Block in Botswana (Mashatu – not as fancy as Singita, but amazing game viewing)

    Zambia – another favorite…South Luangwa National park and Lower Zambezi…amazing game density, but might not work for you since majority of the camps (if not all) do not have wi-fi and majority of the camps (even the most expensive ones) are pretty rustic…but in that lies their charm…many camps have hides to watch wildlife pretty close…many offer walking safari – it’s a thrill when you approach lions on foot…Zambia is highly seasonal – pretty much July to October…but Zambia perhaps is not for someone on their first or second safari…it’s more for safari purists and safari connoisseurs…

    Rwanda – gorilla trekking is easier there than in Uganda (but more expensive)…just a few years ago permits went for $750 per person, now they are $1500 per person; rumor is the price will go up in 2021…Bisate lodge or the newly opened Singita (haven’t stayed at Singita there yet) is the way to go there…but Rwanda is best combined with either Kenya or Tanzania (Rwanda for gorillas and then safari in Masai Mara or Serengeti)…

    Kenya – easy to get to, lots of great areas to see…obviously Masai Mara (Mara Plains is my personal favorite there)…seasonal if you want to see the river crossing, but there is plenty of game in Masai Mara to see outside the high season…also – Giraffe Manor in Nairobi is a fun way to recover after your long flights before the beginning of safari…

    Tanzania – the thing to be aware is that Tanzania has only a few private concessions, most of it is national parks where off roading is not allowed…it seems like not a big deal unless you, let’s say, are following a lioness on a hunt…if the lioness gets off the road – you cannot follow (unlike in a private concession), and that is disappointing…
    Most people go to Tanzania for Serengeti, but don’t discount Ruaha and Selous…great parks (and easy to get to Zanzibar from there – for a few days of beach vacation…AndBeyond’s Mnemba is a great place there for a few days on the beach)…

    Zimbabwe – I have not been on safari in Zimbabwe (only to Victoria Falls), but if you choose the areas well, it’s far from just “amazing fishing”…if you decide to consider Zimbabwe – look at Hwange and Mana Pools areas…

    Good luck in your planning…once the safari bug bites you – you start planning your next trip even before your current trip is over…I know it all too well 🙂

  43. Glad you got to enjoy Singita Boulders!

    We’ve been twice to Boulders and once (our first) to Ebony. For our honeymoon we had 5 nights at Boulders in 2010. We’ve also been to Rwanda at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge a few years ago (just before the permits doubled in cost per day to $1500). We’ve also been on safari to Chobe Chilwero in Botswana.

    Singita Boulders and Ebony are 5 minutes apart and offer pretty much the same experience but different decor—I’d say Boulders is a bit more contemporary in the main lodge and especially the guest lodges and Ebony a bit more traditional. Singita is incredible but I’d put them close to Aman if the Adrian Zecha day’s than you might.

    Safari is the best and most incredible thing we’ve ever done—except for seeing the gorillas in Rwanda. But safari is a lot easier and take much less effort! Both are very pricey, but safari can be much cheaper than Singita if you stay at a camp or lodge on a public park vs a private concession like this. You pay big time for the private concession that is much less crowded and allows off road pursuits. Chobe Chilwero was much cheaper than Singita but offered just as amazing but distinct wildlife viewing (and way more elephants!) in a public park.

    We highly recommend safari for whatever your budget. Just spend as much as you can afford to stay wherever you stays so you have more game drives and concomitantly more chances to see the wildlife!

  44. Dear Ben,
    I’m so glad you had a great time in South Africa. This is my home country (although I’m currently living in Singapore) and normally we only hear about the bad experiences people have when travelling to South (crime etc.). Your review exactly supports why South Africa is a great place to visit: We have warm, welcoming people. We are proud of our country and it’s many natural treasures. We wish more people would be so possitive about us. When I saw the photo of Ford and Gift it actually made me home sick. I really miss that true South African hospitality here in Asia and it reminded me that home will always be home. Thanks again for choosing South Africa for your dad’s special trip and hope you can experience more of our country in the years to come.

  45. Lucky – Angama Mara, man, Angama Mara. Lots of incredible “on the ground” safari spots, and lots that make you feel deep in the wilderness, and lots with variety (the “water” safaris of Botswana and Zim, the arid Namibia and Kgalagadi). But Angama Mara has the unique, most incredible location of any camp: on the clifftop of the Masai Mara, with views dozens of miles in the distance, literally on the spot where they filmed the date scene in Out of Africa. And its the final camp from the folks who used to run andBeyond before they came of retirement to do one more. Service is fantastic, food is fantastic, the game is the Masai….

    The only downside is 1) public park so no night drives, and 2) you are on the clifftop not down with the animals. So it’s better for a 2nd or 3rd safari, not a first. But definitely check it out. And btw, they have shoulder season packages which are half the rate of Singita….

  46. @Ben
    My fiancée and I went to Namibia last year and stayed at the &Beyond lodge as well as some other great properties. I’d be happy to share our itinerary and any tips from our trip.

  47. If you are thinking about taking your mom to safari, then Angama Mara it is because part of the Out of Africa scene with young Robert Redford was shot there and what women doesn’t swoon over a young Robert Redford? Lol. With that said, the Masai Mara park is a public park so you can’t go off road like what you did at Singita in South Africa. You will find there is a lot more Jeeps around compare to private reserve properties. But the upside is you get to see wildebeests crossing river usually around July/ August as seen on National Geography. Yes, crocodiles will come out to try to nip them while they cross river. It’s high drama at its best. There is also a lot more game to see in Masai Mara. Unlike around Kruger where you may have to drive half hour to see something, at Masai Mara plain, it’s over run by tons of animals especially during migration season. We are talking about 50 zebras and hundreds of wildebeests if you look to the right, and then another 100 deers and a family of mongoose if you look to the left. You get the point. There just a lot more animals in Masai Mara when compare to camps in South Africa.

    When you cross the border to Tanzania, Masai Mara becomes Serengeti. It’s the same park but just different name. The best private reserve is…. you guessed it… Singita… specifically sasakwa. You basically get a single family home that comes with front and backyard with a pool. Service is incredible as can be expected. Great Cheetah sightings if you didn’t see one at Singita in S Africa. Singita Sasakwa is also high up on the plain but Angama Mara’s view is better hands down.

    If you ever decide to go back to Kruger Park area, check out Kubili House. It’s much more private than both Singita you stayed and the facility blows Singita out of the water. Yeah, it’s that good. Better food too if you can imagine.

    Will be going to Singita Kwitonda in few months at Rwanda. So excited!

    Btw, I don’t think it’s fair to compare Amans to Singita as an Aman has usually 30-35 rooms per property and typical Singita is 11-13. On top of that, Singita rate is usually around 4K per room. Amans is usually around 1k or less depending on the season and property as some can be as low as $600ish. Yes, Aman is not all inclusive. But as you can see, there is still a big price difference not to mention number of rooms.

    If the best service is what you are looking for, look no further than North Island which IMO tops Singita… but so does the price.

  48. We are headed to Botswana next year so particularly enjoying this trip review to whet my appetite more for Africa.
    One of the main things listed is….no Camo….apparently it is illegal there

  49. I commented on your initial post and I’ll comment again. Tanzania without question should be your next safari destination. It’s more of a road trip through the Serengeti than a luxury destination. Our whole family loved it.

    The people are amazing and friendly. Your concern about trying to avoid Tanzania because of their ‘anti-gay’ crackdown perplexes me…..

    LGBT Criminalization: Oman (which you have expressed interest in visiting) – 3 years imprisonment, Qatar (airline which you love) – death by stoning, Saudi Arabia – death (again), Maldives (you have visited multiple times) – 8 years and 100 lashes

    Tanzania has been East Africa’s longest surviving democracy. I’d think you would want to support that country instead of the middle eastern countries which will never be democratic and never support LBGT rights (even if they have great airlines). 😉

  50. @2PAXfly — Ben did a great review of Mashpi Lodge last year. Also, the link in your name at the top of your post doesn’t work.

  51. Hello Ben! Have been a silent reader from Singapore but this reviews blows me away! The amount of food and alcohol offered – I’m surprised you guys stayed sober enough to review all these details. I would probably knock out on Day 1 or something. An eye watering amount to pay for sure but I have no doubt it was a really special treat. Great review as always and looking forward to the remaining installments!

  52. Thank you for finally reviewing this property! I have one other “bucket list” property that I would love for you to review- Nimmo Bay. Get on it! 🙂 These are my two dream hotels that I want to experience at some point

  53. So glad to hear your thoughts about Singita. It is truly an amazing company. We’ve been lucky enough to stay in every Singita property bar Castleton, Explore in Tanzania and Kwitonda Rwanda. I think you would be blown away by Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The level of service, food etc is the same high standard in all their properties. The staff are all fantastic and such good fun.
    Keep up the reviews and photos. Great reading.

  54. @Stephen K. Farrand is right. The game in these reserves are highly managed. The guides know exactly where the ‘big five’ hang out. At an uber-expensive place like a Singita, they had better because you cannot please a $2000/night customer by leaving the ‘safari experience’ to chance! To me these operations are like massive zoos, especially if they are fenced — as most of them are. For the first timer, sure, this is a fantastic experience especially if the draw is for luxury as opposed to roughing it a bit in the bush.

    I recall decades back at Lion Camp in Luangwa NP in Zambia, then a pretty basic government lodge, being inside the boma at night while a massive elephant supped on our thatched roof with its massive legs feet from my window. Spotted Hyenas traipsed up and down the corridor (open to the outside) just feet from my bed (but, thank heavens, outside an open but barred window). At about 3 a.m. an almighty racket emanated from the main lodge; the hyenas had got into a cupboard and out fell the saucepans. Later, a leopard sawed, a myriad hippos splashed and bellowed as they exited and entered the Luangwa River to feed, to court, to fight, to mate.

    These memories cost my family very little but they are precious. So you don’t have to be an American (or Chinese or German) plutocrat to have a fabulous safari experience. I am glad that Lucky, his dad, and Ford had a fabulous time but, in my view, you could easily spend a week in a place for a little more than half of what Singita costs per day for a memorable experience. And it is the excitement of the animals that you meet that stay with you (and, yes, the staff you encounter), not how beautiful your room was or the decor of the dining room. I could not afford Singita in a million years (I find the price grotesque and wonder how much of this goes to pillars of the experience such as Gift) and would not go to a managed game reserve like that even if I could. After all, what you do not see is just as interesting as what you do! If I am desperate to see the big five I will go to my local zoo.

    As for suggestions on where to get a different experience I’d suggest Chobe and Kalahari in Botswana, Etosha in Namibia, Luangwa in Zambia, Kgalagadi in South Africa/Botswana, and parks in Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. Avoid ‘fenced’ operations! But do not forget places like India for its birds, leopards, and tigers and Sri Lanka for its fabulous leopards, elephants, and whales galore. Someone suggested parks in South America — and why not Antarctica (but there will be no Singita there nor even an Aman!).

  55. You should totally check out Bukela Game Lodge near Port Elizabeth in South Africa.
    Just as luxurious and all inclusive, but only USD150 per head per night all inclusive during July.

  56. I have read with detail the full review, and the laundry, bar or cigars whatsoever don’t provide me value in that stay. I travelled on my own on “Wild Wing Safaris” to Molahbetsy lodge, I paid 1/5 or 1/6 that amount and it was a really amazing option that seems to be shared by all the ex guests and visitors, with either excellent food and games…

  57. As for the game being highly managed: the Sabi Sands are part of the Kruger NP ecosystem, which is as natural as you get in South Africa.
    I would not recommend small reserves (e.g. as suggested above, in the Eastern Cape) exactly for that reason: those are just better zoos.
    I hope you realized that getting to see African Wild Dogs is incredibly rare and that you are very lucky to have had that experience!

  58. I just don’t understand why you tipped and you should have not been expected to, like I get your an American and you tip everywhere but when I’m spending $2000+ per night at a hotel no matter where in the world it is you can be mean sure that I am not tipping even is the service is so good they sacrifice themselves for me, it already should be that good at that price point. I understand Uber rich Americans stay here hence the tipping culture but as an Australian I just don’t understand why you tip in this situation. That’s something I love about places like Japan and other countries in Asia I am never solicited for a tip and tipping is considered rude which makes sense to me. I tip when I am provided with good service at restaurants even in Australia on rare occasion, but for $2000 at night per person surely they didn’t pressure you into tipping, interested to hear your take.

  59. @Moragn — The tipping jumped out for me too. I get that people on a minimum wage in the US need to be tipped, but Americans seem to be trying to infect the rest of the world with that approach. I tip when the service is exceptional, but I can’t get my head round tipping being necessary regardless.

  60. @Lucky considering how active you like to be, when you go back on safari try a walking focused one. There’s nothing like approaching these animals on foot and really getting up and close with the landscape. My personal favorite is Kichacka in Ruaha NP, you feel like David Attenborough is narrating your own episode of Planet Earth.

  61. Sorry to say but you can’t justify Singita’s exorbitant prices. There are many other just as luxurious lodges in Sabi Sands for far cheaper prices.

  62. Really good review and certainly a location I will consider.

    However one thing I would take issue with is your statement :-
    “@ M — Nope, we didn’t get any vaccinations for the trip (as they’re not required for South Africa, but they are for some other countries).”

    Firstly M – travel blogs , no matter how well written, are not the place to get medical advice – get it from a reliable source – i.e. the CDC or the NHS, and if you have any non standard requirements then your own doctor.

    Whether a vaccination is required is not the relevant factor – it is whether it is needed or advised that is important – and for S. Africa (for most travellers) Hep A, Typhoid and Tetanus are generally recommended (assuming you have the standard ones already). Being at luxury resort may reduce your chances of infection – they do not remove it.

    The other big nasty is Malaria – both the lodges mentioned are in the malaria risk zone, and the transmission season is generally Sept-May. Yes anti-malarials don’t agree with some people, and taking them before and after can be a nuisance – but Malaria is scarily easy to catch, and even with the best medical care is still a horrible disease. Travel companies often downplay the risk because they don’t want people thinking too much about it.

  63. @Lucky – My family was in Boulders just a few weeks before you, and my wife and I also stayed in one of the Bush Suites (#12). I prefer them because of the water hole just the other side of the pool, and was rewarded for that choice with one of the most magical experiences of my life.

    One morning, I decided to not go on the game drive with my family. As lead organizer/caretaker of our trip, I needed a break, a few hours with no responsibility. I was laying out by the pool, and began to feel more than hear, that something was happening. I looked up from my book, and in the far distance saw one, then two, then four, then 19 elephants — a matriarch-led family of mamas and grandmas and aunties and children, many still nursing — appearing over the rise, and sauntering toward me and our villa. Over the next 45 minutes, they gave me the gift of their presence…and my own private safari. They drank from the water hole, ripped up grass to eat, nuzzled trees, suckled their young, ran and played, and came ever & ever closer. Eventually, some of them were rubbing against my deck and drinking from my pool! I kept as silent and still and grateful as possible, thanking them in my heart for the privilege of the moment. I had my camera with me, and have lots of photos and video, and whenever I feel down, even for a moment, I open my computer to relive the present I was given.

    However, as extraordinary as that was, I have to tell you that the most profound experiences I have had in all of my travels were the two gorilla treks I took in Rwanda. Yes, it’s crazy expensive, but being with those giant, gentle beings changed me forever. In their eyes, I saw the beautiful truth of humanity, without all of the stuff that we layer on top to hide our essence from the world. That moment made its way into my soul seven years ago, and its been there, fresh and new, ever since. If you’re looking for something different to do in Africa, that is the experience most worth all of the effort (get in shape for the treks!) and money.

    I’ve never been to Uganda, but my understanding from experts I know, is that Uganda’s topography makes it harder to see the gorillas, that the spaces where they hang out is more congested with trees…as opposed to the meadows where they sleep, eat, and play in Rwanda. I’ve also been told that because of that thick bush in Uganda, sometimes you come upon gorillas suddenly, which can be disconcerting. That said, if I were given a chance to go to Uganda to see gorillas, I’d do it in a nanobeat.

    Also, having also been to Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, I can tell you that as wonderful as it was, South Africa was my least favorite safari.

    For me, Botswana’s concessions have the most extraordinary mix of high animal concentration, intimate connection with nature, and best control of tourist numbers. And the accommodations — usually tented camps instead of lodges — food, and service are often the equal of what you find at Boulders. Tented camps — as luxurious as they often are — immerse you in the bush energy far more than a lodge ever can. In those environs, it’s a lot harder to get bored, than in the more controlled (even if you don’t know it) concessions in S.A. And if you do go to Botswana, a two-hour excursion on the Chobe river will give you an elephant experience like none other. We saw a river crossing of 85 pachyderms there, one day!

    I also can’t recommend Tanzania’s/Kenya’s Great Migration highly enough. The sheer number of animals will leave you in awe…and you’ll love floating above it all in a hot-air balloon. The problem there is that there are often so many safari vehicles, that the human presence can feel oppressive…but it’s worth it to see a mass river crossing of zebra and wildebeest.

    Finally, though I haven’t been too far beyond the Zambezi river, I’ve heard that the less explored areas in Zambia and Zimbabwe are also heart-stopping. In a good way 😉

    I hope you go back to Africa, over and over again, to get the breadth of experiences that the continent offers.

    @2PAXfly – I agree with you about Ecuador! The immersion in nature there is probably the most complete I have ever had, anywhere.

  64. @Nicholas. If I were making this decision I’d first start with where I want to go, the Crater, or the Mara. Once that’s done, I’d pick my lodgings. Both have lots of choices. As to picking where to go, the Crater is a veritable Eden. Animal density is very high, and you have the opportunity to see just about everything except giraffes. But it has its problems. First, there are no lodgings on the crater floor; they’re all on the rim, or further out. This means its a bit of a chore to get down into the park. Second, and compounding this issue, the reserve is open only from early morning after sunrise to late afternoon just before sunset. And there is heavy traffic. What this means is your vehicle wants to be at the gate very early to have first access to the reserve. This also means you’ll have to be out of the crater before closing. Now, the reserve is not all that big… a bit more than 100 square miles. What this means is that you can experience the crater in one long game drive, sunrise to sunset with breakfast and lunch at one of the picnic sites…… you do not want come back out for lunch and go back down for the rest of the day. If you like it a lot, like I do, you might do a full day, spend the night at an appropriate camp or lodge, and then do a morning visit the next day before departing for other reserves. So two nights max is all you need on the crater rim.

    The Mara is different; the reserve is considerably larger and more varied in its ecology zones. Even staying just within the Mara triangle you can spend three full days of game drives, 6 total with morning and late afternoon excursions. That’s 4 to 5 nights. And the good camps and lodges are right in the middle of the action. Are there any drawbacks to the Mara. Certainly. First its very popular and hence, it can be very crowded. But less so than the Crater. Second, also like the Crater, off-road drives are not allowed. So if the very rare Black rhino is just a spec on the veld, you’d best have a long reach zoom lens. But the animal density is very high, and the diversity is superb. Great lion prides, good eli, lots of gazelles and antelope, wonderful giraffes and zebra. Some very nice meadows with mixed game and the possibility of Cheetahs. And great birds!

    Now as to camps. If I chose the Crater, Sanctuary would be tops on my list. It’s small, simple, well-run, great staff, and very comfortable but not luxurious (flush toilets and bucket showers). Hemingway would love it; just my kind of place. If you want true luxury, go for Crater Lodge, otherwise known as the Maasai Versailles. An &Beyond property. We’ve stayed there twice although its a bit over the top for my taste.

    For the Mara you have a huge choice of accommodations. But look for a camp or lodge within the Mara triangle. Governors’ has four camps; Governors’, Governors’ Private, Governors’ IL Moran, and Little Governors’. We’ve stayed at the main camp, and Governors’ Private. I’d recommend the latter. Smaller in size with only 8 very good tents and open common areas. Lovely grounds right on the banks of the Mara River. Excellent staff. Nowhere near the luxury of Singita. If its not available, go for Little Governors’. You might also look at Governors’ IL Moran.

    So, the bottom line to your question. If you want to go to the Crater, book Sanctuary. If you want to go to the Mara, book one of the smaller Governors’ offerings. If it were me, and I’d not been to either….. I’d first go to the Mara. Good luck

  65. @Schar, Royal Malawane is in a private reserve called Thorny Bush. It’s a very nice luxury safari on par with the Singitas. I believe past guests includes Elton John, Bono, etc. There is a watering hole right at the lobby area of the camp. If you stay there, you will see many many elephants come and go to the waterhole. I even saw a hippo that was chased off by elephants when I was there. The room I stayed had a view to the water hole which was fantastic. They have a gorgeous spa and a beautiful pool if you are in need of those kind of stuff. I would say the best looking one I’ve seen among all the safari places I’ve stayed at. My massage treatment was great. I saw the big five pretty much the first day or day and a half when I was there. My guide was knowledgeable and good at managing people. I would recommend it.

  66. @Stephen – thanks a bunch! I’m pretty set on Mara at this point, so I’ll give Governor’s Camp a closer look. I really appreciate you taking the time to make such a great reply.

  67. Excellent review!

    This reminds me on the US counterpart at a smaller level – Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, MT.
    TCR is all inclusive including most activities (horse riding, biking, yoga etc.). The food is fantastic, and you can order as all items from the menu for yourself! Drinks are amazing.

    It does lack the safari flair and the “free” laundry, but the TCR property with its wildlife, free golf carts to go around the ranch, eclectic and uber-comfy furniture and bedding, plus exceptional amenities put it to top 100 hotels in the world. Just thought I’d put it out there. Though it can’t be compared with Singita and the African safari in all fairness.

  68. @malc – thanks for pointing that out. I can’t believe that I missed Ben’s review of Mashpi. On the link – should be correct in this response.

  69. Darn. After reading this my expectations of our trip next month with the same Singita combo elevated to a level most likely unreachable. Hopefully they’ll prove me wrong.

  70. @Tom — Wonderful description of your experience(s) in Rwanda. Not sure I’ll get the opportunity to get there, but I hope Ben goes so I can read more about it.

  71. @Kevin thank you so much Kevin! Throughout all my research, Singita Boulders and Royal Malewane are always fighting for the #1 spot of best safari in S.A. I’m definitely looking into going to RM and staying in one of their sister properties in Cape Town.

  72. @Morgan I agree 10000%. It’s an American thing, and unfortunately they infect the world with their tipping madness and now so many people around the world expect foreigners, whether american or not, to tip. Whether I’m paying $300 or $3000 a night, I’m NOT gonna go around tipping everyone for everything they do, otherwise why the hell am I paying so much??? It’s ridiculous.

  73. @ Stephen K. Farrand…My wife and I are very much interested in going on a Safari with our child. We have never been on one so the thought of S.A. to get our feet wet with our first Safari makes sense. Our child is 7 yrs old. We are shooting to go when she turns 8 or 9 which gives us a couple years to plan. Singita properties in S.A. are out of our price range. We are looking at all inclusive package similar to Singita (room, food, drinks, game drives) that are in the $10k-$15 range for 3 of us (in one room) for a 4 night~ stay. Any recommendations for us as 1st timers? Any feedbacks or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  74. @Tigris23……would you mind getting out of the One Mile at a Time format and communicating directly by e-mail. I think I can provide you with better advice. If so, you can e-mail me at [email protected]. If not, let me know, and I’ll do my best with the OMT format.

  75. @Stephen K Farrand, thanks so much for offering to help! I’ve just emailed you with the email subject, “South Africa Safari Advice (from OMAAT)”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *