You won’t find many good waves to surf at Londolozi. The closest we’ve seen to anything rideable was during the 2012 floods, when a standing wave formed in the Sand River where it flowed over some massive granite boulders. The lurking presence of an enormous crocodile and the massive debris piles that were continually floating past made us slightly hesitant to jump in the water and try to surf it, and as we’re still here to talk about it, it was probably a wise decision.
Despite the lack of surfing options on the reserve, two of the best surfers in the world – Mick Fanning and Tyler Wright – recently visited us. Mick is a three time men’s world champion, and Tyler is the defending world champion on the women’s tour, but they weren’t here looking for waves. The two Australians were visiting – together with ex-Australian rugby player David Pocock and his wife Emma – as part of an ambassador program for Wild Ark.
WildArk is a conservation organisation with a mission to protect as much of the world’s biodiversity as possible and to inspire people to reconnect with nature.
Founded by Australian entrepreneur Mark Hutchinson and his wife Sophie, WildArk continues to – in their own words – “secure parts of identified green belts around the world to protect the rich biodiversity of these areas as a way of conserving wildlife while creating research and experience opportunities for people to reconnect with nature and then become inspired to protect it.”
By partnering with influential figures (acclaimed international photographer David Yarrow recently came on board as a WildArk Ambassador), the company is able to reach far more people with their conservation message.
Mick and Tyler’s recent visit was facilitated by Tracker Academy co-founders Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo, as well as legendary Londolozi alumni Ian Thomas. After an evening game drive to see a few of Londolozi’s more well-known faces (the Tsalala Breakaway pride and the Flat Rock male leopard were very close to each other), the evening was spent listening to Ian Thomas recount riveting stories from his time as one of Londolozi’s first rangers. Terrifying yet highly amusing tales about his encounters with the infamous Big Black, a fiercely aggressive male lion from that area, had everyone in stitches.
The next morning saw the group heading out on a tracking immersion in the chill of dawn with Alex, Renias and Ian, during which a territorial white rhino bull was trailed for over two hours. The ancient art of tracking is an integral part of the bush experience at Londolozi, and it was an art which these three men were keen to share with the WildArk team. As the sun slowly rose and warmed the Lowveld, it was incredible to see the speed at which Renias, one of Africa’s greatest trackers, was able to follow even the faintest of scuff marks that indicated where the rhino had walked.
Despite it being only a brief visit, the WildArk team, and Mick and Tyler in particular, had an incredibly enriching experience, learning about the ancient art of tracking in particular and what an integral part it can play in conservation.
Mick is currently sitting in 12th position on the Men’s World Tour, and Tyler in 2nd on the Women’s Tour, and Londolozi wishes them every bit of success as they head into the final events of the year.