Singita Sweni, Kruger National Park
Room type: Pool Suite
Duration: 10th > 11th September, 2017
Booked with: Dorsia Travel
If you just happen to land here and didn’t bother reading my review Singita Lebombo, you may wonder several things: why is it so short; why did you decide to go to an African safari lodge for just one night; why did you not bother going on safari and are Jaffa Cakes really a cake or a biscuit? Fortunately you are now aware of this quirk in The Matrix, so I’ll wait for you to read it before coming back.
We used Sweni just as a day of doing nothing. It was never the plan when booking it, but no one ever planned for Brexit either, and look how well that has turned out. I was following in the footsteps of geniuses. We had experienced all the 5am wake-ups we had ever wanted at Lebombo. Even though swapping lodges keeps you with the same tour guide, our bromance had come to an end. Now was the time to just kick back and relax. But mostly kick – at all the monkeys hovering over my food.
Coming to Sweni after Lebombo felt more like moving room than resort. It is barely a 3 minute drive down from Lebombo; they even share custody over the GM, boutique and tour guides. Very recently renovated, but still clearly part of the same design ethic, Sweni sits just above the river, as opposed to Lebombo towering over it. Whether they at Lebombo are up there in their non-ivory (poaching is bad, children) towers looking down on you is not for me to say, but Sweni still offered something quite different, and I am not just referring to the monkeys that like your food more than you will.
Just like moving rooms, everything was setup exactly as the previous room. There really was a great attention-to-detail here, including the minibar setup that had actually changed during our stay. I was impressed. They just managed to overlook the blackouts on the bathrooms, thus failing a perfect score.
With just 7 rooms compared to Lebombo’s 13 + villa (so let’s call it 15), you’re in a far more intimate environment. I did not expect it to have such an impact on the feel of the place, but the fact that a group booked the entire property the day before and had left meant we were the only guests on the first day. When doing training for what it was like to live on Mars by yourself, you could do no better than staying here. Even when 2 other couples turned up the following day, it was still not going to compete with Ibiza for atmosphere; there were far less animals here. Yet I liked it.
Not only did I like the feeling of peace, but also the style of service from the staff. There were a lot less staff, an the average age likely being mid 30s vs Lebombo’s mid 20s, it resulted in a very different atmosphere. Clearly their extra years of experience had allowed them to learn the act of customer engagement and not intrude at every available opportunity to discuss nose picking.
It must be for the fact that I’ve not cleaned my own room since 2003, but I love coming back to my room on the day of checkout and finding it spotless, so I take my hat off to Sweni for making all my dreams come true.
- Dining areas, inside and outside
The main downside to being by the river are the views, especially from our room. There are also a higher chance of mosquitos and any other wildlife that just decides your face looks more appealing than its dinner. There was, however, far less distance to walk to the main lodge from our room, so eat away, oh disgusting creatures of the night. I have found my threshold for pain; the exact moment where mosquitos do not bother me as much as something else: walking for 3 minutes.
As we were only there for the day, we were upgraded to their one-and-only Pool Suite, a separate villa that has the option of extending to a two-bedroom. I am a complete sucker for pools, even if they are – almost – too cold for me ever to want to get in. Here was no exception. I was grateful for the ability to look at my private pool, but my total consumption time was measured by the speed which I could wave my hand through the freezing water and decide that was plenty for me, thank you very much. Outside there are sundeck chairs, a shower, separate toilet and minibar and sink.
The room layout and use of woods and glass are clearly similar to Lebombo, but the refurb has brought with it brighter colours, more light and a feeling of happiness. If only the view was better, I would easily prefer to be down here with my fellow Sweni proletarians. It still wins, but only just, as that view really did count for something. Getting old has made me all mushy and wanting rainbows and unicorns ahead of private pools and villas.
Sweni was the first property I’ve ever stayed in that printed my own menu, with my name on it, that avoided anything I was allergic to. I really think this is a sign of true hospitality. So it upsets me to tell you that the chef came to apologise about the food after the burger was sent back twice; the first for being overcooked, the second for not cooked as requested. When you have to send a burger back over such simple things, you begin to lose a bit of faith.
- Intimate surrounding, yet enough space for privacy
- Food. Hello darkness, my old friend.
- Very personalised service
Whilst a brief stay, due to not going out on safari I likely spent almost as much time actually in Sweni as I did in Lebombo. To find such a difference in service made Lebombo even more baffling. It would be like going to a game of cricket during a riot, then going the week after and watching its usual high-level of boredom drive you towards a painful death, aka a normal game.
Even though all my memories of safari are related to Lebombo, and therefore it keeps poking me to tell me how great it was, the reality is that even at Sweni we would have had the exact same experience and with the same driver. Were the service and food equal, I still feel the spaciousness of Lebombo would likely make it the winner. But it wasn’t, so Sweni it is.