“Singita Grumeti Reserves forms part of the world-famous migratory route, although year-round guests will find the greatest diversity of large mammals in the world,” explained Jason Trollip, Tourism Executive at Singita Grumeti Reserves, a position that sees him coordinating and overseeing the hospitality offering for its various lodges and camps. In an interview, we discussed the founding of Singita and the Sasakwa Lodge in Tanzania—the history, location, accommodations, dining and much more.
Tell me a little bit about the origins of the Singita brand and company. How did it come about, and what was the original vision?
Singita’s story began in 1925 when Luke Bailes’ grandfather purchased a piece of land in what would later become the Sabi Sand Reserve in South Africa. Situated in a remote corner of the Lowveld, the reserve has evolved from its early days as a hunting concession to become an exclusive conservation reserve where all species are protected. Singita’s first lodge, Singita Ebony Lodge, opened its doors in 1993 in this magnificent piece of family land and the brand has been growing ever since. Today, Singita’s unique philosophy lives on in each of the twelve lodges and camps across five diverse ecosystems. Singita Sabi Sand and Singita Kruger National Park in South Africa are home to the magnificent lodges, Ebony, Boulders, Sweni and Lebombo, while a pristine patch of Zimbabwe, Singita Paumushana, houses a lodge by the same name. At Singita Grumeti in Tanzania, guests are spoiled for choice with Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Singita Sasakwa Lodge, Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Singita Explore and Singita Serengeti House, all located in the reserve, while the remote Lamai triangle offers Singita Mara River Tented Camp.
Honing in on Singita Sasakwa Lodge in Tanzania, how would you describe the setting and scenery of the location, and what makes this particular location so special?
Singita Sasakwa Lodge is located in the Grumeti Reserves in northern Tanzania, and forms part of the Serengeti Mara ecosystem. Singita Sasakwa Lodge is the flagship lodge and its hilltop location affords breathtaking views over the wide-open plains. The Lodge is built in the style of an Edwardian manor house and is composed of several secluded cottages and one private retreat, all designed with the discerning traveler in mind.
Singita Grumeti Reserves forms part of the world-famous migratory route, although year-round guests will find the greatest diversity of large mammals in the world. There’s an abundance of game including 25 species of large carnivores, 40 species of herbivores and over 600 species of birds (including five endemic species with a high concentration of raptors) that comprise the highest concentration of birds in Africa.
What kinds of lodges are available, and how are they both furnished and designed?
When Singita Grumeti Reserves’ interior designers took on the mammoth task of creating a décor ‘language’ for Sasakwa Lodge they had many inspiring influences to work with. The first key design element to be considered was the lodge’s place in the world. As a result, wide glass windows and floor-to-ceiling glass doors were utilized to allow the Serengeti to be the major ‘living’ backdrop of the interiors.
Interior spaces were then ‘colored-in’ – using nature’s palette to add light and shade. Here, the colors of the bushveld, the grass, the trees and the sky blend in with the exquisite man-made influences inside such as an elegant candelabra, polished silver and the finest antiques.
The colonial gentleman’s club theme was reinvented by the subtle placement of key African artworks to create a space that is both unique and yet vaguely familiar. Those extra special touches – a crackling fireplace, comfortable leather armchairs and an abundance of crystal – add to the homey feel of Sasakwa.
The Manor House is indeed, a work of art. The exquisite lounge area consists of homegrown influences such as hand-woven local mats, cool linens and raffia chairs that add an African touch in this place where two worlds meet. Guests drink in the first-edition wildlife books and find out a little more about the history of East Africa. The Manor House is a place of exploration that will enlighten and delight at the same time.
In an isolated section of the manor house, guests can find The Garden Room – a perfect sanctuary to break away and spend a few quiet hours. This room, like so much at Sasakwa, takes its cues from nature. Here guests are surrounded by indigenous flowers and plants including ferns and succulents which are typical to the Serengeti. There is also a fascinating collection of butterflies located in this part of East Africa – so part of enjoying this quiet space is learning about the natural surroundings.
There are ten cottages at Sasakwa. Bedrooms are vast and include very definite African influences with touches of wood, leather and grass mixed in with crisp linen, imported chandeliers and exotic furniture. Like everything else at Sasakwa, the bathroom is designed to make the best of the views of the outdoor garden. The dining area opens up onto the vast lounge area, again giving a sense of expanded space. A four-poster bed with a soft, flowing mosquito net and finest linen is the perfect place to end the day.
Sasakwa Lodge also features a private retreat which features three bedrooms and two bedroom cottages, ideal for groups traveling together.
What is the philosophy underpinning the dining and cuisine, and what are some of your signature dishes at the property?
As at all Singita lodges, the leisurely breakfasts, lunches and dinners are to be savored and cherished. Freshly picked produce grown by the local community, imaginatively delicious combinations and healthy, wholesome ingredients (with the essential decadent desserts on offer) complemented by the finest wines always make for hearty occasions.
Overlooking the beautiful Serengeti escarpment, Sasakwa embodies a rich and opulent atmosphere. The food incorporates all of the finer details of the lodge whilst embracing an elegant French style, which is infused with fresh homegrown produce and local touches prepared by a team of excellent chefs.
At Singita Grumeti not only do they provide classic cuisine with a twist, but the skilled chefs also use local ingredients to create dishes inspired by regional dishes such as Mtori. Mtori is a thick, traditional soup from the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania.
During lunch guests can enjoy dishes like Dar es Salaam fish curry with traditional chapatti bread, while having a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc. At high tea guests can indulge in miniature carrot cakes and small lemon meringue pies before heading out on game drive. Or while on a game drive guests might be treated to dinner at a surprise venue where they might dine on grilled lobster from Dar es Salaam paired with chilled champagne beneath a lamp lit acacia tree or around a campfire under starry skies.
The menus at all of Singita’s lodges change on a daily basis. At Singita Grumeti they have an inclusive wine list, which makes up the majority of the wine that they source and serve in Tanzania. In this list there are a number of special wines that are unique and very Singita specific. Guests staying at Singita Grumeti can speak to a professionally trained Sommelier who is more than happy to provide suggestions on wine and meal pairings as well as conducting a wine tasting.
Because it is so difficult to source fresh and interesting greens and specialty vegetables in the far-reaches of the Serengeti, the team of chefs established a kitchen greenhouse that would produce some delicate garden products not normally sourced in the surrounding wilderness areas.
Singita vision is to balance large-scale conservation, community upliftment and sophisticated hospitality. One of the many ways they do is by sourcing produce from trusted local suppliers. Typical Swahili spices and local honey are used extensively in the cuisine at all of Singita’s four lodges and mobile-tented camp in Singita Grumeti. Many dishes use organic home grown vegetables sourced from local villages that are part of various community support projects run by the Grumeti Fund. Major efforts have been made by the community development team to encourage small-scale local farmers to professionalize their operations and to form an official co-operative that would ensure reliable supplies to the lodges and regular income for the farmers.