News & Reviews Africa Tanzania Review: Singita Sasakwa

Singita Sasakwa has as much in common with a traditional African safari camp as Donald Trump and a feminist.  I cannot comprehend who they thought they were competing with when they built it, but must assume the owner was planning a few years down the line.  Most likely a hundred of them.  Either that or the voices in his head told him to do it, which would actually make sense.  For you see, Singita Sasakwa is absolutely mental.  But in all the ways I approve of.

Like its discreet service

On paper, it all starts off perfectly rational.  The lodge is in a wildlife park, so that passes the first sanity test.  Food and water is available – check and check.  It only has a small number – 11 – lodges, which follows the pattern of other safari camps.  All very logical.  Yet when you see all the facilities, you may ponder how much cocaine was involved in the decision making process of this property.  

This is how I imagine the conversation went between the owner and their accountant.  

Owner:  I want to create a new hotel.  Like Jurassic Park, but better.  

Accountant:  I’m not sure that’s entirely possible.  For one, dinosaurs don’t exist.  

O:  Ok, scrap that.  An English countryside resort, but with lions.  

A:  Right…..

O:  They’ll be no other properties within hundreds of miles.  

A:  Good.  So no competition.  We can start small and expand.

O:  We’ll have everything immediately.  We’ll spare no expense.  11 cottages, all singing, all dancing.

A:  Everything?  What about the logistics?  The infrastructure?  The marketing required to make people want to travel to somewhere that remote?

O:  Details, details.  You can worry about that later.  The bigger focus is on designing the pools.  Heated pooIs for every single room.  Is anyone else hungry?

A:  There’s no one else here, just you and me.  Pools?  I think the shareholders will be upset with these plans.

O:  You know what would be deeply upsetting?  If someone came to play tennis and couldn’t, as someone else was already using the court.  Let’s build 2 tennis courts.

A:  There’s only 11 rooms.  Why would you need to worry about that?

O:  I’m not worried – we’ll have 2 courts.  Let’s just agree to disagree.  Boutiques!  I see boutiques are all the rage in Europe now.

A:  Yes, but those are in city hote-

O:  I agree.  We should have 3 shops.

A:  That’s not what I said.  I was not agreeing.

O:  What if it rains?  Guests need something to do.  Build a cinema room.  And a library.  And a snooker room.  And install super-fast Internet throughout the lodge.  However fast it is, I want it double.

A:  This is completely unaffordable.  I’m getting stressed just hearing you talking about it.

O:  Stress!  You’re right.  We need a fully equipped gym and spa with steam room.

A:   ……

O:  Oh yeah, and we’ll build it in Tanzania.  

A:  Oh, fuck it, I quit.

Fortunately, this maverick didn’t bother listening to sound financial advice.  Interest rates, overdrafts and deposits are things he shits for breakfast, all so a lucky few get to call this home for a couple of nights a year.

Singita Sasakwa really needs to be seen to understand what they have accomplished.  Just a short plane ride away, at their Mara River Tented Camp property, they must have decided not to cause another economic collapse and reigned in the purse strings.  This was Singita, but not as I knew.  I thought I’d accidentally went to a stag do gone wrong.  So when arriving into Grumeti, it was with much satisfaction that I saw everything missing at Mara: drinks, lounges and clean toilets.  Possibly the finest welcome facilities I’ve ever seen.  

They even had time for a fancy dress party

An hours drive later and Sasakwa greeted us.  With breathtaking views across the plains, views don’t come much better than this.  Unless you like seeing animals close-up, of course.  At such a height, I was hoping the mosquitos had not figured out how to get here yet, but they’ve a few million years of evolution on us, so of course they had.  The monkeys were also very keen on the luxury lifestyle, so keep your doors locked.

I was evidently on the menu of the nearby insects, but what did the Singita menu offer to me?  Whilst I actually preferred the food at other lodges on our trip, it was still to a good standard.  My classic and oft-repeated line: good, not great, will save you reading 3 paragraphs of tosh.  They change the menu every day, which has pros and cons – the biggest of which was not being able to find anything I liked on the final day.  More impressive are the settings for dinner every night: each as beautiful as the other.  First on the law, then looking out into the abyss below, and finally in their library.

There was none of that cult atmosphere, just slick service and immediate recognition of preferences.  They are Singita though, so needed to have at least one character on the payroll; this time an incredibly eager housekeeper that kept emphasising how much of a pleasure it was to clean our room. Either she loves cleaning as much as I love sardonic reviews, or she wanted a tip. I assumed the former, so gave her nothing.  I kid.  I was guilted into tipping a housekeeper for the first time in my life.  They frequently say us Brits are 10-15 years behind our American cousins, and gosh darnit, they are right again.

If your idea of fun is driving around and hoping to spot some paw prints, then tracking something for hours with little chance of seeing it, Singita Sasakwa is not for you.  Instead you’ll have no tracker at all.  You’ll simply drive up to a hill and have uninterrupted views in every direction for miles.  The animals have nowhere to hide, so simply pick what’s of interest and go.  It’s basically the cheats version of safari.  And I bloody loved it.  

It was like the African version of Carrie. Every trip just resulted in more bloodshed.  Having been on so many safaris but having never seen a hunt, there was only one thing left to do: sit by a pride of hungry lions for as long as it would take.  Our guide, the wonderful Edward, obliged. He and I spent 4 hours watching lions do what they do best: sleep.  Yet as they started to wake up, we looked behind us and saw a herd of wildebeest picking up the whiff of their feline adversary, begin to panic and flee….right into the lions. Darwinism in full force.  I loved Edward before this experience – his knowledge, cyborg-like eyesight, respect for nature and kindness – but now he’s family.  Hopefully, he doesn’t mind paying for the wedding.  

Once back at the camp, the cottages await.  Sure, now and again the electricity went out, but that’s because it likely requires a nuclear power station to keep this so-called lodge going; and yes, the shower has those annoying temperature handles, so the first 2 minutes is an endless dance to avoid being burnt or freeze.  But every room has an outdoor heated plunge pool.  I mean really heated.  I mean you could throw some lobsters in there and hear the screams.  

Every room has two bathrooms, and not those protected by a flimsy curtain that’s waiting for any reason to fly off at the most opportune moment.  An actual bathroom, with a real, life-sized door.  Whilst too dark for my liking, a separated living room with desk can keep you inside should you wish to avoid the private garden, plunge pool and loungers awaiting you outside.  

The real beauty is the bathroom, that looks like it was intended for some romantic moments not suitable for Instagram – if there is such a thing anymore.  With a large wardrobe area behind the bed, you really have everything you need.  I didn’t even spot the Smart TV with Netflix pre-installed in the wardrobes until the final day.  What a shame, as watching David Attenborough whilst in Africa makes it infinitely better.

Best of all?  Air Conditioning; 50 down, 10 down Internet and absolutely no animals sounds.  No hippos slushing around in their own (or anyone else’s) faeces at 3am, nor some rapey zebras wildly consummating at 5am.  To some this may put you off, but even after just 2 nights of waking up to hear some predator walking past my tent, this is going firmly into the positive camp.  

Overall, one of the best safari lodges I’ve ever been in.  Just avoid wearing socks, as those wooden floors were designed by the British, back when men were real men – the type that wore their 3 piece suit to bed, whilst cradling their gunpowder.   

The Good

  • Great service
  • Great rooms
  • Great activities

The Bad

  • I really don’t know.  Maybe the lobster could have been flown in on a private jet, so it was fresher?  
  • Spectacular views – best we’ve ever had in a safari camp, although I’d caveat that I’d rather views of animals than the surroundings

The Luxurious

  • The best facilities imaginable in a safari camp
  • Blood.  Guts.

Much scarier whilst taken at night

Conclusion

Singita Sasakwa is a bully.  It beats the shit out of the competition at every opportunity, offering not a single iota of mercy as it ploughs through the luxury checklist and humiliates its opponents.  Fortunately, the animals follow a similar tactic, so if murder is your thing, there is nowhere more luxurious to witness it.  

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 1st Feb '19

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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