Singita Lebombo (Part 1)
Returning to a Singita reserve feels like coming home. At first, the property takes your breath away, but once that breath has returned to you, you find it’s easier to settle in and relax alongside the surrounding nature.
Lebombo has now topped my list of favorite properties – I love a sleek, modern look that doesn’t detract from the setting, which this hotel achieves effortlessly. With floor to ceiling windows overlooking a river on the reserve (complete with hippos that call out to one another at all hours of the night), the standalone treehouse-esque rooms, accented with natural wood touches, are simply perfect:
We took the first morning to rest and skipped the 5 AM game drive wakeup call (this has become a bit of a habit). Instead, I woke up to three baboons climbing on my roof and balcony. One peered in my window and yelled frantically to the others anytime I made a sudden movement. The other two bounced around so charismatically that they broke two of the boards above my balcony.
My parents watched the animals on my roof from their room and recorded the whole thing. It’s not every day you have to phone the front desk and say, “Hi. There are baboons on my balcony, is it safe for me to walk to breakfast?” Africa might just be the coolest place on earth.
In my opinion, the true test of a five star hotel is it’s ability to stay at least one step ahead of the guests. Anticipating needs before travelers even realize what they need is the key to a successful luxury hotel. Those in the hospitality don’t have to read minds, but the ones that stand out somehow manage to find a way.
My best examples of this are the small things – every night, once I had finished working after an afternoon game drive, I would return to my room and draw a nice, hot bubble bath. This is characteristically my way of unwinding from a long day – to me, a good bath tub is more important than a good mattress in a property. I know, I’m weird. Either way, I knew that the housekeeping staff noticed my habits when the bedroom shoes had been moved from behind the shower to in front of the bath tub – a little touch, but I picked up on it. The very last night on property, I returned to my room after an exceptionally long work night, only to find a piping hot bubble bath already drawn for me. And that is not only noteworthy service, but incredibly customized to the individual guest. That’s what it takes.
On our last day, the Singita staff told us they had a surprise for our lunch. Before we even knew what was happening, we were whisked away in a vehicle to a private picnic, where our incredible waiter, Jeffrey, was waiting with our usual drinks of preference and a spread of sandwiches, cheeses, and desserts, all situated on the banks of a picturesque river.
Speaking of Jeffrey, that’s the other element that sets this property apart – every single staff member bent over backwards to not only make us feel comfortable, but to make us feel like family. We called our waiter “Smiling Jeffrey” because he had the biggest grin on his face every time we saw him – he and the rest of the staff made us feel so at ease and so at home, I can’t say enough great things about the Singita team. From the front desk staff to the night porters to everyone in between, you could not hand-select a more hospitable group of individuals.
On our final night, we enjoyed a dinner in the bush with the group from our game drives (including another Virtuoso travel agent from Australia – small world!) and watched as the staff performed around a campfire. It was so genuine and everyone was enjoying themselves so much, it was the perfect farewell dinner for such a memorable stay.
The most important part of our experience at Singita will be described in a separate blog post – this is dedicated to the hotel experience, but I want you to stay tuned for the next one. It is, in my opinion, what makes Singita properties so special.