One on One with Dr Andrea Ferry from Singita

Singita’s 100-year purpose is to protect and preserve large areas of African wilderness for future generations. They aim to attract like-minded high-profile guests from all over the world, leaders and influencers who believe in their causes and directly donate to support the ongoing management and safeguarding of these areas, and the work of Singita’s partner funds and trusts.

Working at the forefront of this is Dr Andrea Ferry, Sustainability Coordinator for the Singita Group based in Cape Town, South Africa. Where Wild Things Roam caught up with Dr Ferry to discuss her role and what Singita is doing in the conservation space.

What does a typical day in your role look like?

My days are so varied. I might work on regular ‘housekeeping’ processes like managing sustainability data and reporting. I might be engaging with the One Planet Living champions at various Singita lodges. I spend time researching, developing and rolling out special projects, like our new Carbon Offsetting programme. I might be involved in creating sustainability-related marketing content or staff engagement and training. Every day is exciting and there is so much to keep evolving and improving in this space.

What role does conservation play with tourism at Singita?

Our hospitality product would not exist without Conservation. It is the very reason for Singita’s existence. At Singita, conservation encapsulates an interdependent relationship between three critical components: Biodiversity, Community and Sustainability. They are all integral to our model, as we believe Africa needs large and meaningful projects to move the needle.

Conservation and tourism at Singita are deeply integrated – from our wilderness contexts, to how we build our lodges, (focussing on site rehabilitation, energy management and local materials), to how we operate our lodges in line with our sustainability framework of the ten ‘One Planet Living’ principles. Our purpose is to provide guests a life-changing experience by allowing them to immerse in nature – wild and unspoilt.

Post Covid-19 we are working on ways to bring our guests even closer to the healing power of nature, with plans for ‘conservation rooms’ at all properties, more interactive safari experiences that make a difference (e.g., elephant collaring), more sustainable lodge environments, and many other aspects that enhance the conservation-related guest experience.

As the world enters a defining time to reverse some damage to the environment, our efforts are fully aligned with global conservation goals. Responsible tourism can help save unspoilt areas and critically endangered species for the future, and our guests can travel meaningfully, knowing they have contributed to something greater.

Singita Sweni Lodge takes guests on a game drive. Photo: Singita

Why do you think it is important to balance conservation and tourism?

Rampant biodiversity loss driven by mankind’s unsustainable consumption patterns has led to the planet losing nature faster than it can be restored. It is now urgent. This decade is set to be defined by restoration and regeneration and our efforts are fully aligned with global conservation goals.

The latest findings report that we have lost 70% of biodiversity – habitats and species in the last 50 years. Human activity is driving unsustainable levels of land degradation (through deforestation, city growth and farming), and resource use for our food, water and energy. This is driving accelerated global warming and increasing climate instability. This combined rate and scale of biodiversity loss and climate change has placed us on the precipice of the 6th Mass Extinction, with 1 million species now at risk.

Singita’s commitment to conservation is woven into the fabric of its brand: a 100-year purpose to protect and preserve large areas of wilderness for future generations.

Africa’s population is also rapidly growing – from 1.3 billion to 4.4 billion by the end of the century – which puts untold pressure on pristine wild areas. Wilderness areas are disappearing rapidly. Our efforts try to preserve the ecosystems and reserves we operate in, to ensure wildlife can thrive naturally. Responsible ecotourism is the best model to protect these areas/species for the future.

‘This decade will be the most defining decade of our lifetime, a time when we need urgent, collective action at an enormous global scale to buy ourselves and our ecosystems the time and space to develop coping strategies and resilience to adapt in order to avoid worse effects of a rapidly changing climate. Maintaining healthy, intact ecosystems and restoring and re-connecting natural systems can play a key role in buffering us from the most extreme effects of a rapidly changing climate.”

Inge Kotze, GM of Conservation at Singita
Singita Volcanoes National Park takes guests out into the field to show them conservation work. Photo: Singita (Sheillah Munsabe)

How do guests staying with Singita contribute to conservation?

Our high-value, low-volume ecotourism model is an interdependent relationship between biodiversity, community and sustainability. It is a complicated and multi-faceted model pioneered 28 years ago, with the first lodge (Singita Ebony) in the Sabi Sand, South Africa. Singita’s 100-year purpose is to protect and preserve large areas of African wilderness for future generations. Every decision is governed by our purpose, and this has been in place since the very beginning. In fact, we feel it’s more urgent now than ever.

“Singita guests have a far-reaching impact, as they contribute to numerous conservation initiatives and community empowerment programmes. Modern conservation requires a keen focus on keeping tourism, communities and wildlife in a constructive balance – and the survival of each is crucial to the survival of the whole.”

Luke Bailes, Founder & Executive Chairman.

At Singita, conservation is our passion and purpose. Over the past 28 years, our commitment to safeguarding the continent’s wildlife populations and wilderness areas – as well as creating economic independence within communities living alongside them – has seen us implement strategic partnerships with non-profit Funds & Trusts in each of the regions in which we operate.

Alongside our partner Funds & Trusts, we are the guardians of large areas of pristine wilderness and responsible for thriving community partnership projects that make a tangible difference in the lives of people living and working in and around our lodges.

Guests should choose a responsible ecotourism operator to travel with. Select a reputable, proven conservation brand with a stellar track record, where they can see incredible projects and positive results. 

Become responsible travellers – support community or conservation projects that resonate with them. For example, at Singita Kruger National Park, you could visit the Singita Community Culinary School and take a cooking lesson and buy our cookbook – funds from both support the students.

Alternatively, guests can support and donate to any of Singita’s conservation or community projects via our partner funds and trusts. Guests can leave a safari knowing they have contributed to early childhood development, anti-poaching canine units, community projects, leopard research, lion recovery or many other life-changing projects.

On 1 August 2021, Singita introduced a carbon-offsetting levy for all bed nights booked. The funds generated being used to purchase verified carbon credits from accredited service providers in South Africa and Tanzania. Carbon offset projects not only mitigate carbon, but also provide various other benefits for local communities. Travel can really be used as a force for good.

The Akarabo Nursery at Singita Volcanoes National Park. Photo: Singita

What are some achievements Singita has made in conservation?

Singita’s 100-year purpose is to protect and preserve large areas of African wilderness for future generations. Singita’s role is to attract like-minded high-profile guests all over the world, leaders and influencers who believe in our causes and directly donate to support the ongoing management and safeguarding of these areas, and the work of our partner funds and trusts.

As joint custodians of almost 1 million acres, our conservation partners are critical land stewards in halting and reversing biodiversity loss in key areas, with invasive alien plant control, fire management and erosion control, and freshwater resource management forming the basis of wide-scale restoration and recovery of habitats, as well as reforestation efforts in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

Singita’s conservation partners include:

  • SA – Singita Lowveld Trust
  • Tanzania – The Grumeti Fund
  • Zimbabwe – The Malilangwe Trust

Projects stabilizing endangered species and recovery are widespread across our regions, From the successful reintroduction of the Eastern Black rhino by the Grumeti Fund into the Western Serengeti, and the anti-poaching initiatives in Singita Sabi Sand by the Singita Lowveld Trust; to rare antelope breeding and black rhino relocations by The Malilangwe Trust in Zimbabwe; the safeguarding of the endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda (whose population recovery is testament to successful conservation and ecotourism partnerships in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda), and various critical bird monitoring programmes, such as the Vulture Safe Zone alliance supporting the safeguarding of the species across the Greater Kruger region.

In Zimbabwe, The Malilangwe Trust has been instrumental in moving critically endangered black rhino back into Gonarezhou NP after 27 years – where they have become extinct twice.

In 2019 in Tanzania, The Grumeti Fund relocated nine black rhino into Singita Serengeti with great success. This increased the national breeding population by 10%. A calf has already been born here.

Black rhino relocation in Zimbabwe with Singita NGO partner, The Malilangwe Trust. Photo: Singita

What goals do Singita have for future sustainability and conservation?

2020 was an Environmental Super Year, a key moment in our history that would set new ambitious global commitments to stop deforestation in key biodiversity areas, drive widespread reforestation and land restoration; recovery of habitats and wildlife populations, protection of our oceans and commitment to reverse our climate impacts.

We are losing nature faster than it can restore itself. Singita’s model offers an inspiring and hopeful story of reforestation, habitat restoration, wildlife recovery and safeguarding, as well as critical local partnerships with surrounding communities to ensure the people benefit directly from these efforts and see their future in safeguarding these wilderness areas.

Our priority, working with our local conservation partners (such as the Grumeti Fund, and The Malilangwe Trust), donors and guests is to grow and scale these conservation and community partnerships across the regions.

Longer-term goals

Singita will continue to pursue an ambitious expansion strategy that will see Singita broaden its impact and reach to support the safeguarding of other biodiverse habitats and vulnerable species in Africa in the years to come. This is made possible by growing the self-sustaining financial model underpinned by a low-volume, high-value hospitality business to generate revenue to further our 100-year purpose, whilst offering an exceptional safari experience.

Alignment with global sustainability goals:

Four ambitious global commitments have been set by the United Nations. These are:

  1. halt and reverse biodiversity loss;
  2. prevent further extinction of species;
  3. halve our ecological footprint; and
  4. achieve carbon neutrality.

An ambitious goal to be Nature Positive, Carbon Neutral by 2030, one that will require immediate and widespread action, and collaboration between governments, the private sector and civil society.

Singita has also made bold commitments to ensure we tread lightly on our earth, with minimal environmental impact.  By 2025 we aim to meet the following targets:

  • Energy: Our off-grid lodges to be 80% powered by on-site renewable energy and on-grid lodges 30% powered by renewable energy.
  • Water: Reduced water used per bed night by 30% from our baseline year
  • Transport: 100% electric game viewers within three years of commercial availability, and 80% of balance of fleet within four years of commercial availability.
  • Food: 50% of fresh produce procured within a 100km radius.
  • Materials: elimination of single-use plastics in 2020.
  • Waste: send only 10% waste to landfill by 2023.
Working with the Grumeti Fund. Photo: Singita

Do you have a favourite Singita property and why?

That is an almost impossible question to answer. Each Singita lodge has its own character, feeling and spirit with a unique geographical context. I love visiting each of them for different reasons. However, I worked many hours on and am very proud of our solar PV plant at Singita Kruger National Park, so this lodge is special to me from a pure work point of view. I also spent 4 months at Singita Grumeti in Tanzania when I first joined Singita and this is where I had my epiphany to shift my career to sustainability, so this property is also very special to me personally! 

Why should guests choose a stay at Singita over any other lodge?

Since 1993, Singita has been dedicated to environmentally conscious hospitality, sustainable conservation and the empowerment of local communities. Singita provides restorative sanctuaries,  encounters in the bush and award-winning hospitality that guests won’t easily find elsewhere. Sought-after locations, intuitive attention to detail, sustainability and the utmost privacy underpin every stay at any of the lodges or camps.

As an ecotourism and conservation brand, Singita is unwavering in its commitment to preserve and protect Africa’s wilderness for future generations and since opening its first property – Singita Ebony Lodge in 1993 –  sustainability, environmentally conscious hospitality and the empowerment of local communities.

Singita’s unique philosophy lives on in each of our award-winning lodges and camps today. Set in four different countries, these sanctuaries offer travellers seeking extraordinary experiences in nature the opportunity to truly slow down and reconnect with the wilderness, almost exclusive use. For example, Singita Grumeti is a 350,000-acre concession in the western Serengeti, with only five lodges.

“There’s an authenticity of place at each of our lodges and camps that’s not only a rarity, but touches guests on every level – spiritual, emotional and physical.”

Luke Bailes, Founder & Executive Chairman of Singita

It is our life’s work to share these awe-inspiring parts of the continent with guests who appreciate and yearn for pristine wide-open spaces, while preserving the natural environment and challenging accepted norms in luxury travel to raise the bar on sustainability. Singita’s concessions, reserves, lodges are located in some of Africa’s most pristine and iconic wilderness areas, and our commitment to safeguard the precious wildlife and communities of these areas is entrenched in three core pillars: Biodiversity, Sustainability and Community.

Differentiating our business in a philosophical way, Singita’s decisions take 50- and 100-year horizons into account.

It’s the story of a sustainable farm-to-table food journey that celebrates fresh, seasonal produce and traditional regional highlights; the story of wellness that extends beyond conventional treatments, emphasising true wellbeing & balancing body and soul; and the story of reconnecting with nature in meaningful ways. We hope our guests learn discovery, shifting their perspective and learn about touching the Earth lightly – and step into a more sustainable future.

Singita Kwitonda Lodge in Rwanda. Photo: Singita

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Kate Webster is a world traveller, ocean lover and conservation warrior who is determined to make every moment count for not only herself but the world around her. This has inspired Kate to translate those moments and share them through her storytelling. A dedicated David Attenborough and Jane Goodall fan, Kate has delved into the world of wildlife and conservation travel to bring awareness.