A return to londolozi mecca
Londolozi is somewhere that has a special place in my heart. Having spent countless hours on the land and with the animals there, it was wonderful to return to the newly-refurbished Relais & Chateaux Pioneer Camp for four nights of bliss.
I was traveling with two guests, Bob and Jen. This was Bob’s second trip to Londolozi and Jen’s very first trip to Africa. Londolozi proved to be the perfect introduction. And we couldn’t have asked for a better team than good friends James Tyrrell and Rich Mthibane.
Londolozi is situated at the heart of the Sabi Sands in South Africa, adjoining the world-famous Kruger National Park. It is renowned for having one of the first viewable populations of the shy and elusive leopard and is arguably one of the best places in the world to see these animals. But this mere fact alone doesn’t do justice to the enormity of the experience it offers.
As is so characteristic of Londolozi, we had a cracking start to our safari with a multitude of special sightings on the first evening game drive. We set out with the intention of tracking a pride of lions and whilst doing so came across some buffalo bulls and a herd of elephants feeding in the dry riverbed of the Manyeleti. They were feeding lazily amongst the llala palms, the sound of thick skin rubbing against tough vegetation. The sun was beginning to dip and so after some time we left them, returning to our search for the lions. One of the wonders of a safari is that plans are easily foiled and in our quest for the lions we stumbled across a leopard lying atop a termite mound catching the gorgeous, afternoon light. It was difficult to explain to Jen that it’s not necessarily always this easy.
Rich Mthibane, staying true to the tracker’s spirit, began to itch in the vehicle, knowing that his precious daylight was slipping by and so we dropped him off to continue looking for the lions and returned to photograph and observe the female leopard. Only ten minutes passed before he radio’d to say that he’d found the lions and that they were in the same vicinity as the buffalo we had only recently left. By this time the leopard we were with had moved into the thick riverine bush and so we headed towards Rich and the lions. From our vantage point we watched the pride creeping towards the unawares buffalo.
A very large rhino bull entered the fray and within the space of a few hundred meters we were surrounded by all the members of the Big 5. This is certainly not all we aspire to or revere on a safari, but for a first time game drive and for one of my guest’s very first drive’s ever, it was an incredible introduction to what Africa has to offer.
The wind was favouring the lions, they had found cover and the buffalo were feeding right towards them and positioned above them we had a clear view. The lion’s however showed a lack of patience or potentially an error in judgement and broke cover too soon. The buffalo took off and we watched as one lion leapt onto the back of a buffalo only to be shaken loose. The buffalo went thundering off, probably only to stop and catch their breath many kilometres away. We wondered off to a spot in a leadwood forest adjoining the river for some sunset drinks and to do the same.
Amongst many other sightings of big and small creatures, we watched two young cheetah hissing and snarling at an inquisitive hyena that was following them through the open grasslands, hoping they’d made or would make a kill. We watched a female leopard finishing off a duiker in an enormous Jackalberry tree as her six month old cub rested below. And witnessed an incredible moment as a juvenile Martial Eagle descended on a family of terrified banded mongooses, grabbing one and swooping across the road with it before landing nearby where it sat for some time, seemingly unsure what to do now that it had actually caught the small carnivore.
Londolozi describes the safari experience there as “a journey that immerses the senses and awakens the spirit. To have an encounter with wild animals in the African bush is to discover an essential truth about ourselves and our world”.
To this I can attest.
“One of the most endangered phenomenon of our times is the experience of wilderness.” - Ian McCallum
Gabon is a last chance to see how the entire coast of western tropical Africa once was. It’s a magical window into long-long ago, when elephant and buffalo wandered the beaches, gorillas and chimps cavorted through the rainforest and when giant fishes ruled the waves.
Founder, Private Guide and Safari Planner
Being born the daughter of David Attenborough (it’s true but he’s probably not the one you’re thinking of) I don’t believe I ever really had much choice about what direction my life would take. I grew up in the city of Durban, South Africa but for as long as I can remember nature has called to me. Whenever I could I would escape to the forests around my home barefoot and in search of chameleons and red duiker to befriend.
And so in 2010, after completing my Journalism and Media Studies degree, I followed that calling to the wilds of Southern Africa to become a game ranger. I planned to stay for a year but it turned into ten. During that time, I worked at Phinda Private Game Reserve, Ngala Private Game Reserve and Londolozi Game Reserve, some of South Africa’s most prestigious lodges and immersed myself in the natural world. I learnt to track animals with Zulu and Shangaan trackers and spent as much time as I could on foot approaching animals with my guests. I also put my photojournalism degree to use by becoming a specialist photographic guide. I travelled to Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, India and throughout South America in search of wildlife. My greatest adventure was living in Gabon training local guides for the WWF and Smithsonian Institute, where we spent weeks at a time living like early nomads in the dense and remote coastal forests, fulfilling a life-long dream of tracking and habituating wild gorillas. Seeing how embodied and present animals are inspired me to begin practicing yoga. I am a qualified vinyasa and yin teacher and spent six months training under a Hatha master in Boulder, Colorado. I am also a certified Martha Beck life coach. With this mixture of knowledge, interests and skills, I started Wild Again to help others really experience the wild places I know and love so much. Through my specialised Wellness Safaris that incorporate yoga, meditation, mindfulness and personalised life coaching I continue to grow more conscious safaris that return people to nature and to themselves. As we re-wild ourselves we hear the earth, our common mother, again. It is only then that we can co-create with her healing.