Baby sister to Boulders and Ebony, the Singita Castleton Camp is the most rustic not only of the three but probably of any in the Sabi Sands. Resembling an old house in the country, this incredibly tranquil and homely property welcomes couples and families with kids of any age into its beautiful setting which although relatively small, is in some ways better equipped than some much larger, more chic establishments. It boasts simple but quaint rooms, cosy common areas and even a tennis court! The staff, especially the managing couple, is delightful and the atmosphere that reigns over the lodge is very special. Highly recommended for those looking to come together to share a special safari moment.
The lodge is situated in the southwestern corner of the Sabi Sands Private game reserve which shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. Together with Singita Boulders and Ebony Lodges, Castleton has a traversing area of 45,000 acres, a relatively large piece of land, meaning excellent game viewing possibilities. There is a daily direct flight from Johannesburg's O. R. Tambo International Airport to the Singita airstrip as well as direct flights from Jo'burg, Cape Town and Durban to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport from where you can either take a charter plane or finish the journey by road. The drive from Jo'burg is around five and a half hours while you should leave an hour if you are coming from Hazyview and just under two hours if your starting point is Nelspruit. You should enter the reserve via Shaw's Gate where you will need to pay a modest entrance fee per ca rand per person.
Castleton occupies what used to be the owner's camp, where he used to live and invite friends over. Unfortunately, in 1996, it was burnt to the ground. What we have today is the result of a partial rebuild.
The Singita group has several game reserves throughout South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. It has two others in the Sabi Sands as well as two in the Kruger National Park. Singita takes its responsibilities to the local communities very seriously and has projects up and running in each area in which it operates. Castleton, along with its sister properties Boulders and Ebony not only employ and train up local people with potential, but they also financially support several schools and the Tshemba Hosi Care Centre for physically and/or mentally challenged children through their own funds, guest donations and the proceeds from community tours. These latter were started up by a one time employee of the group and who now operates his own tour company with support from Singita. Guests are encouraged to participate in these tours as without these services the whole concept of nature paying for development would fall down.
The Castleton Camp is one of the smallest in the Sabi Sands, yet one of the most perfectly formed. It is made of up several small-scale buildings and has a particular calm air about it. The main lodge is divided into two distinct, impeccably kept parts: one for relaxation and another for dining. The seating area, which is arranged around a fabric covered ottoman in front of the fireplace, features wicker armchairs and a wonderfully worn leather sofa full of plump cushions. In one corner sits a television, in the other a PC for guests' use (both quite rightly taking a back seat) while a couple of book cases either side of the chimney contain both reading material and various decorative pieces. Over in the dining area is a simple long wooden table for up to 12 diners as well as a sidetable with crockery and a beautiful grandfather clock in the corner. On the walls are both watercolours and drawings and hunting trophies. Just outside is the very colonial veranda which is a mirror of the interior in that it has both a seating and dining area, only with the added advantage of the great views across the bushveld where animal activity is fairly high.
The communal swimming pool, edged by a metre thick stone perimeter, sits in the middle of the vast lawn and from here you can look out into the wilderness and spot any number of beasts roaming around in the distance (or closer!). Close to the pool is a sort of open gazebo made entirely from wood (aside from the concrete floor) where one can sit and sip on a drink and even, from time to time, try your hand at archery. There are some picnic benches too by the pool as well as a trampoline and a tennis court (the lodge can supply the gear).
The camp is kept in an enviable condition by its staff which is a delight. We have no doubt whatsoever that couples and families will feel right at home at Castleton just as we did.
The camp has a total of just six rooms meaning that, even when full, it remains intimate and quiet. The accommodations are housed in six separate units guaranteeing discretion. Although in size they are not as impressive as elsewhere they have unquestionable charm and character, with something of a Fifties feel about them. The queen beds are dressed in fine white linens and have both a plaid and floral cushions resting against a light wood headboard. At the foot of the bed is an ottoman for storage whose upholstery matches the bed skirt while a desk in the corner has just a simple lamp and mirror. A few of the rooms have a couple of wicker armchairs by the picture windows with a little table in addition to large pieces of pottery around the room. The bathrooms, also quite small, have claw foot bathtubs with 'rain' toiletries and candles and a monsoon shower unit. The room's amenities include safe, anti-mosquito products, bath robes, umbrellas and hairdryer. The rooms do not have terraces or decks.
Being a rather small camp and one which welcomes families, many meals are taken communally at the lodge hence the long dining tables both in the main lodge and just outside on the terrace. There is of course the possibility of private dinners in the bush or on the lawn, but due to the size of the lodge the latter option won't really be as private as you might like. As well as these dining locations, the camp also has a traditional boma where dinner is sometimes served, fire ablaze and lanterns lit. The morning brings a continental breakfast with a hot option offered afterwards while a laid back lunch is usually taken on the deck although this is not of course compulsory given the hearty morning meal. At lunchtime and in the evenings the executive chef is always on hand to present the menu and will be delighted to alter it if there are any dietary requirements (to be mentioned beforehand). The kitchen if often open to the kids at the camp where they can have a go and baking with trained members of staff. Needless to say as with the camps sister properties, the quality, variety and inventiveness of the food are all admirable.
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