Singita Ebony Lodge is the well loved original lodge of Singita’s small and exclusive stable of safari lodges in South Africa, with other, more exclusive safari vacation properties acquired in Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Ebony Lodge retains the nostalgia of its beginnings by keeping the same look and feel that it always had. It’s had regular refurbishments but never a complete makeover. The décor is hard to describe and has strong colonial elements from well waxed dark furniture, heavily varnished woods, historic prints and leather-bound volumes in darkened corners, while never feeling stuffy.
There are also aspects of a Scottish castle, with a huge brick fireplace and bright tartan fabrics. Throw in some African artefacts and a myriad of red and yellow upholstery and cushions in plaids and stripes and you are probably wondering how this eclectic mix actually works together and who would have been bold enough to create this. I think it was an act of committed inspiration when it was first created more than ten years ago.
Personally, I prefer my decor a little calmer and no sooner had I thought this, than our butler, Robert, stated that he would be escorting us to Boulders Lodge for dinner.
Boulders is the younger sister lodge of Ebony, and scoops awards for Best Luxury Resort Hotel in Africa on a regular basis. Back in 2008 Singita was the only South African travel group among the winners. While awards sound grand you can’t beat an independent review to know what it is really like, so read on and also see my reviews of the calming contemporary Singita Boulders and the recipe they gave me and “I’ve died and gone to heaven” Singita Lebombo.
I need a Butler!
But back to Singita Ebony Lodge and my personal butler, Robert. I need a Robert in my life. I have a David, but I really need a Robert. Every guest is assigned a butler, who performs duties I never knew I needed. Robert was always there when I needed him, serving at table, advising on which wine to have and running behind me with forgotten items of clothing that I was discarding as the heat rose to a humid 35°C. When the afternoon thunderstorm cooled the air I looked to Robert to know where I had left my umbrella. Robert has the most beautiful wife working at Singita Ebony, and she is also a butler. In another demonstration of Singita’s ethos regarding personal service, your appointed ranger sits with you at dinner and act as your host and oracle of all knowledge. So now I need a Frank too. Frank was our ranger; tall, dark and handsome.
We gave our ranger Frank the night off from sitting at our table, because I have heard it all before and Frank has said it all before. However, I’m always curious to hear about other people’s lives (being nosy the prerogative of a journalist) and I had already gleaned that Frank was from a local village along the Sand River. Like many Shangaan people from this area, Frank has the surname of an animal, taken by the local people to honour the beasts most commonly found in their area, or possibly to denote the characteristics of that family. Frank’s surname Ndlovu meaning Elephant – big, strong and powerful with a clever mind and sense of humour – describing Frank perfectly.
When Frank was positioning the vehicle on the morning game drive to take full advantage of the 6 by 2 pride of lions (6 cubs and 2 lionesses, along with an attendant black-maned male), he positively chortled as the lazy beast sat and waited while the females went on the hunt. Impala dashed in every direction and the waiting cubs got so excited that they bumbled about trying to grab the baby impala, whose hearts must have been leaping out of their little bodies as they bounded in every direction. They easily put distance between them and the inexperienced young lions, who were left bedazzled at the rush of activity which produced no results.
Frank then reported that there’d been a sighting of an African Rock Python constricting a baby impala. Day-old impala make a soft, tasty meal for all the predators including eagles and in this case a snake. We arrived to find the dead baby impala but no snake. The attention from the safari vehicles was too much for this camera-shy creature.
On the topic of a good meal…strangely linked to the above, food has become a serious part of a South African safari. At Ebony and Boulder’s lodges it is taken to new heights. The starter of small hand-made lasagne squares, layered with pureed peas and crispy calamari, sitting on fennel foam was the most sublime thing I have ever tasted. OK, I do go on a bit about food sometimes, but it was exquisite in its simplicity with flavours that merged into a mouthful of heaven. I asked for the recipe but I suspect I can never recreate it as I haven’t ever made home-made pasta (oh, pleeeeze, I go down the deli and buy it,), and I don’t have gizmos for foaming or pureeing. I will just have to live off the memory, but I got the recipe!
Take your pick from Singita Ebony’s wine cellar which doesn’t have a dud bottle in it, or the Sommelier would be in for it. Ya, there’s a Sommelier who chooses the wine for each dish, which is then available by the glass and is included in the per person per night tariff, which is top of the range, as is every aspect of Singita.
So, now I need a Sommelier as well as a Robert and a Frank. I’m going to need a much larger house.
What Singita-style luxury would you like most in your own home?