Kimberly Rosbe interviews Micky Hoyle, the internationally acclaimed photographer charged with shooting the newly redesigned Singita Faru Faru Lodge in the Grumeti Game Reserve.
Cape Town-based Micky Hoyle is a seasoned Singita photographer and producer of the luxury safari company’s latest cookbook, Singita: Our Food Journey. He was also given the job of capturing Singita Faru Faru Lodge’s striking redesign, which is inspiring a new wave of safari lodges across Africa. Hoyle talks with Kimberly Rosbe about the Afro-futuristic lodge, Singita’s community projects and the newest lodge opening in Rwanda later this year.
Micky Hoyle’s first interview with a national publication
Kimberly Rosbe: Even after three decades as a renowned South African photographer in the luxury fashion and travel industries, I understand this is your first official interview that you’ve granted for a national publication. Thank you for making the exception for Signature Luxury Travel & Style! Singita Faru Faru Lodge must be special to you.
Micky Hoyle: I have always preferred to stay under the radar and strictly behind the camera. However, Singita has been a brand that has excelled in all the years I have photographed its properties. Everything from interiors to game drives to the food is curated and uncompromising. Fifteen years ago, during one of my first editorial projects for Singita at Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe, a magnificent coffee table book showcasing the entire Singita portfolio caught my attention. I’ve been fortunate to be involved with many Singita photo projects and two Singita books since.
The design at Singita Faru Faru Lodge
Kimberly: Singita Faru Faru Lodge’s redesign mixes touches of traditional African craft with contemporary simplicity by pairing pale, earthy tones with raw timber, stone and natural clay enhanced by bespoke fittings from local artisans. What elements instantly grabbed your photographer’s eye?
Micky: Singita is a benchmark for lodge design. Each camp creates unique interpretations of Africa. The renovated lodge features unlimited natural light and a pale palette, which allows the colours of the Serengeti landscape to envelop the living spaces. What also struck me were dramatic architectural design features such as the new timber A-frames.
Kimberly: The lodge’s updated nine canvas, stone and glass suites have massive panoramic sliding glass windows extending the entire length of the room and ensuite, opened at the push of a button, to bring the outdoors inside. After all, safari is the raison d’être here. I imagine you had to be visually mindful of blurring the line between the indoors and the environment for this shoot?
Micky: It is all very ‘James Bond’ waking up to the press of a button and your villa becomes instantly immersed in nature. The lodge is open, light and boasts a powerful indoor/outdoor aesthetic. Even cocooned in your luxurious sanctuary, there is a constant reminder that wildlife takes centre stage.
Kimberly: The general manager described the new decor to me as “Afro-futuristic” and “neo-geometric”. Singita has always been cutting-edge with its designs and this lodge will no doubt inspire a new wave of African safari lodges.
Micky: Yes, the Singita design team has bravely charted new ground with geometric shapes and bold interpretations of the ubiquitous African furniture. Singita Faru Faru Lodge is such a fresh direction for an African lodge. Still, I feel it’s not untouchable luxury.
Areas that encourage wildlife
Kimberly: The remodelled communal living and dining areas are vast and open with multiple airy enclaves capitalising on the lodge’s spectacular watering hole near the Grumeti River and its view beyond to the 140,000-hectare Singita Grumeti Reserve. In fact, thousands of wildebeest literally surround the lodge during the migration season. Do you have a favourite vantage point to observe the scene?
Micky: The elevated deck commands unprecedented views of the Grumeti wonderland. Breakfasting on that deck overlooking the watering hole as the animals’ day begins has to be the lodge’s best angle.
Kimberly: Photographers worship the morning light. Where is your choice place to watch the sunrise?
Micky: I always get up early. It’s the best part of the day for me, especially in Africa. I usually spend my mornings running around like a madman setting up for a shoot, but having my coffee around the fire pit watching the shadow grow stronger is, indeed, a highlight at Singita Faru Faru Lodge.
Kimberly: Singita Faru Faru Lodge’s culinary experience is a standout. The new expansive dining area includes an open kitchen which adds an interactive dynamic to every meal.
Micky: I’ve eaten nearly every dish in every Singita lodge over the years, so I feel well qualified (and five kilograms heavier) to talk about the food! Superstar Chef Liam Tomlin created a new culinary direction for Singita. I’d classify Singita Faru Faru Lodge’s cuisine as contemporary, light and healthy. I love the chic new interactive kitchen and the signature bar-deli fridge. After game drives, meals are a special part of the day when family and friends gather together telling wildlife tales and sharing whatever the chef whips up in plain view.
Kimberly: Singita is renowned for supporting sustainable practices by sourcing low-impact, locally grown seasonal organic produce. Released earlier this year, your publishing company produced Singita’s latest book, Singita: Our Food Journey. What was the impetus for the book? May you describe how it highlights Singita’s culinary values?
Micky: Singita: Our Food Journey was a labour of love for Frank, Donna and Georgina who conceptualised the book. My favourite image from the book is the farming ladies from the Grumeti Horticultural and Marketing Co-op Society (GHOMACOS). They arrived at the co-op in their brightly hued African patterned ‘work clothes’ and were absolutely perfectly styled for their portrait. GHOMACOS is made up of about 72 small sustainable agricultural farmers in eight villages. Singita’s kitchens source 80% of their fruit and vegetables from the co-op, ensuring the freshest ingredients for guests and contributing to low environmental impact and thriving local businesses.
It gives me great joy that Singita is giving all the proceeds from the book to another one of its community projects, the Singita Community Culinary School, which provides chef training and equal opportunities to girls and boys as aspiring ‘foodies’ from the surrounding communities.
Kimberly: In addition to tantalising Singita recipes and breathtaking wildlife images, Singita: Our Food Journey tells stories about its amazing staff. Which personal anecdote stands out to you?
Micky: Beyond the recipes, the book was really about stories born from Singita’s quest to give back to their lodges’ neighbouring communities. Peter Andrew’s story, in particular, I found quite humbling. When you chat to an ex-poacher who is now a pastry chef making macaroons and delicate tarts, it’s extraordinary to witness such a life turnaround.
Singita commitment to conservation and community
Kimberly: With lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and soon to be Rwanda, Singita is committed to saving Africa’s wilderness through partially funding the preservation of land and protecting the existing animal population, as well as creating economic independence for the local communities surrounding its reserves. It must be fulfilling for you to know that your photographic work over the last decade with Singita has contributed to these noble goals.
Micky: Absolutely. Singita’s most treasured asset is its ‘100-year purpose’, an unwavering commitment to wildlife protection, conservation and local community developments. There are so many Singita victories – wildlife reintroductions, canine anti-poaching units, elephant impact monitoring, black rhino guardianship, leopard research, local village English immersion camps, conservation education for local children, zero carbon footprint and sustainable water programs – the list is endless. For me, taking shots of school kids (in my biggest group portrait to date) and knowing they are fed every day because of Singita’s efforts is truly gratifying.
Rwanda: the future
Kimberly: In Rwanda in August, Singita is opening Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House, which has the industry aflutter. Besides sitting on 72 stunning hectares on the edge of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, where more than half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas live, what can you reveal about Singita’s newest project?
Micky: I can’t reveal any secrets, but I predict that property will probably be the jewel in Singita’s crown!
This article is a Signature Luxury Travel & Style digital exclusive. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the enewsletter here.