The ancient cultures knew the power of the wilderness for healing. They would look to mother nature as a guide, go out on vision quests and come back from their days in the wilderness with a fresh sense of purpose and peace. I believe that the African Self Transformation Adventure Retreats (STAR) have become a modern day vision quest. They are a time when a small group of people step out of their normal lives and away from the conventions of social niceties to do some deep inner work and reflection.

This June 2012 was no different as we hosted two African STARs at Londolozi. During one of the retreats we sat down to our first lunch and group discussion and began to talk about how in all ancient cultures it is the leopard that is the symbolic cat of the shaman or healer. As if on cue a big male leopard walks out onto the rocks in front of pioneer camp and for a few seconds I feel the whole world breath in and I know with intense clarity that nature is an active participant in the healing of the people who have come on the STAR.

I see it again later when we sit in complete silence among a herd of elephants and watch the youngsters throw sand over their heads with dyslexic trunks whilst tears stream down a participants face. They are, to me, the tears that come in bursts and floods when someone recovers a part of their lost innocence.

The African STAR

The African STAR Participants

The star is tremendously transformative, powerful and connected to nature. But it is by no means a tree hugging granola fest. Led by Dr Martha Beck the work that participants do is vigorous and designed to help people develop real practical applications in their own lives. Over the course of the retreat as we teach people to track animals, we also teach them to track their own sense of purpose and mission. Martha is exceptionally skilled at helping people heal old wounds and then begin to find the hottest track for a new vision for their life.

The Londolozi Choir

The Londolozi Choir

As the days go by I see peoples faces change, I see a light arrive in their eyes and when they leave there is a renewed sense of purpose.

Mandelas Way

Mandelas Way

Since I was a young boy I have know that nature could heal and transform people. I have known that in some ways Londolozi’s place on planet earth has been compliant with that mission of healing and restoration. During STARs I have come to see the perfect synthesis of how the outer world of nature can heal the inner world of people. Then those people who have come to peace go back to their lives and change the world around them from the inside out.

Mary Oliver Poem

Mary Oliver – “The Journey”

The STAR also serves as a fundraiser for the Good Work Foundation. This year we raised over R 500 000 ($60 000) which has been given to the Good Work Foundation to continue with its mission of empowering education and learning in the rural communities surrounding Londolozi. In particular, the Hazyview Digital Learning Centre which aims to provide ‘leapfrog’ digital education for both adults and children alike.  This is thanks to the team at Martha Beck Inc and each and everyone who took part in the African STAR.

Special thanks to Phyllis Lane for the images

About the Author

Boyd Varty


Boyd completed his basic schooling by studying the curriculum of a typical Western educational system while traveling the African bush to restore ecosystems, living in India and Europe to deepen his understanding of language and culture, and reading broadly to absorb a standard ...

View Boyd's profile


on The African STAR 2012

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It’s difficult to put into words the experience but your words and these photos do a good job. I am forever changed by this experience and I know I will return again and again to this amazing place. Thanks to all for putting this together.

Donna Kramer

So Beautiful! This reminds me of how much I miss Londolozi. I was so blessed to visit two years in a row and hope to go back yet again somehow, sometime. Much love to you all.
~donna kramer

Tracey Kotzen

I am reading about many of you and Londolozi in Martha`s latest book. I am a trauma counsellor in Johannesburg and by Martha`s definition a wayfinder. I understand that the STAR adventures support the impoverished community surrounding Londolozi. In the book, I have read how you have asked for help through Oneness. Please may I help. I have only my counselling skills to offer.


Beautifully written Boyd and so true – it was an honour to be on the “outskirts” serving food and listening to the very many wise words and thoughts shared. Thank you.

Laura Canale

Hi Boyd! What a beautiful synopsis of a life enhancing experience. You and your family are the perfect stewards for Londolozi. Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

Laura – STAR 2012

Paul Hardy

Wonderful, courageous, inspiring work, Boyd, Martha, and all who participated in these in these STAR’s. Your work, experiences, and love lift up all of life…including me. THANK YOU! Paul Hardy


Ahhhh … I know those tears. Never before have I felt such a connection with animals, nor experienced such soul stirring beauty. The heart of Londolozi is now carried in my own … and my life is forever changed. The messages you imparted as we tracked on foot now lead me on my journey in life. My intent is to share your vision of restoration with others and give back in some small way. Thank you Boyd and Bronwyn, Martha Beck, the beautiful Londolozi family, and most of all the animals. I am deeply grateful … and cannot wait to return!

Bruce Finocchio

Would like to know the song and singer in accompanying the video…. Love the words and the music, would like to purchase the song, so I could listen and have it touch my heart… Thank you!

Pia Ghezzi

Hi Bruce! I asked Phyllis that same question…Here is her response: The song is called Get Back to Serenity from a band called VARGO- the whole album is great!

I too would like to purchase it 🙂 Enjoy!

Bruce Finocchio

Thanks so much Pia for finding out and asking Phyllis for me… I was at Londolozi in Sept 2005, my favorite animal was Maxabene, and I have lots of beautiful images of her… I am going to show some on my photo blog soon, as I am going to write up a post. She was in her prime then, and such a beautiful leopard… I really thought that her spirit was powerful and serene at the same time. I felt a great connection with her; I am glad she is still going strong….


That looks like an amazing experience!

connie black

Hi Boyd!!
Thank you for this thoughtful explanation of our experience. I have had so many ask me about my trip and I have struggled to put it into words. I will just point them in the direction of this beautiful article, and let the rest speak for itself.
Still having Londo withdrawals…. what is the remedy?
Love and Admiration,

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