It was late afternoon, about 5 o’clock . The heat of the day was gradually lifting. Walking up to the village to buy some cold water from the Spaza shop, I passed Deborah Marimane. Deborah is a lady who works at Londolozi taking care of a little girl who is nearly two years old. Deborah has a radiant smile and kind eyes. She had two children with her at the time, her niece and nephew. As I greeted her they smiled shyly at me and moved a few centimeters closer towards her.

Deborah and Bella, Londolozi

Deborah Marimane with Bella Van Den Heever. Deborah is a kind and loving woman who’s mother, Connie, also works here in the kitchen.

Not thinking much of this I continued on my way. With a cold bottle of water in hand I then walked to the Pioneer Camp deck. It had been a busy day in camp and the deck seemed a peaceful place to sit quietly to recharge. As I let out a deep sigh of relief I began to notice the beauties of the bush around me such as a pair of francolins scuttling beneath the deck and a fish eagle flying overhead.

pioneer camp

A view of the Sand River from one of the Pioneer Camp private decks. Being Londolozi’s furtherest western camp, Pioneer is one of the most quiet and peaceful.

A sudden crack of a branch caught my attention. I was no longer alone. A herd of elephants were enjoying an evening snack on the lush plant growth along the river. A large female elephant made her way to a leafy branch of a tall Bushwillow tree. When she moved, there was a mirrored movement to her left. It was however, much smaller. Upon looking closely, I noticed a young elephant calf. When the older teenage elephants loped past, she would move a little closer to her mother. It made me think of how similar the calf’s movement was to the children walking with Deborah.

A herd of elephants feed below one of the camp decks. The lush riverine bush around the camps provides the ideal habitat for elephants.

As the herd continued to feed, the little elephant became more relaxed and wandered out from the protection of her mother’s shadow. She sidled over to her cousins and joined in a game of wrestling. Suddenly the pair of francolins that were rustling beneath the deck erupted from a bush next to her. She turned and fled back to her mother in fright; her tail held straight out behind her and her ears flapping wildly, all indicative signs of an elephant in distress. Her mother did not look up from a delicious mouthful of leaves but let her trunk rest momentarily on the back of her shaken up daughter. This small gesture immediately relaxed the calf and she made her way back to her cousins to continue the game of wrestling.

elephants, founders

Notice how the young calves in a herd of elephants tend to stay close to their mothers. The presence of the large females help to make the youngsters feel safe.

The sun was on the horizon, ready to bid the day farewell. A golden glow radiated off the surrounding bush. Leaving the peaceful herd, I made my way home back through the Londolozi village. Walking down Freedom’s Way (where Nelson Mandela walked during his stay at Londolozi) I bumped into Petunia Mahuale. Petuni is a chef here at Londolozi and could not have a more fitting name. She is both gentle and beautiful, just like the flower. She was dressed in her spotless white chefs apron and had her chef knives in her hand, wrapped in a shwe shwe cloth. Her youngest daughter was walking slightly ahead of her.”Hello,” I greeted Petunia cheerily. Upon hearing a strange voice her daughter stopped and slipped her hand into her mother’s and moved a little closer. Without thinking, Petunia took her daughter’s hand and squeezed it gently, causing the young girl to relax and greet me with a broad smile.

freedom's way

A view of Freedom’s Way. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “During my long walk to freedom, I had the rare privilege to visit Londolozi. There I saw people of all races living in harmony amidst the beauty that mother nature offers”. It is in this light that the Freedom’s Way art installation was completed to draw attention to the values which Nelson Mandela put forward to our nation and to compliment the Londolozi village walk which all guests are encouraged to experience.


Petunia Mahuale, one of the Londolozi chef team. One of the things that I love about Londolozi is its emphasis on family, which was again shown to me in my interaction with Petunia and her little girl. 


Once again I was struck by the similarity between elephants and humans and how they relate to their young. The most prominent similarity to me was how both species’ young needed the love, presence and reassurance from their mothers in order to feel safe and confident in a changing surrounding. This enabled them to have the confidence to explore.

Today is Universal Children’s Day and given my role in the Londolozi Cub’s Den, these moments reminded me of how it is that we need to guide our future generation if we want them to grow up feeling loved and cared for. Both species that afternoon showed that one does not need to speak the same language in order to understand that a simple act of reassurance allows a child to grow. Quite simply it showed that actions, yet again, speak louder than words.

To all the children around the world, have an amazing Children’s Day!

Filed under Cubs Den Wildlife

About the Author

Josephine Benecke


Josephine grew up on a farm just south of Johannesburg, which exposed her to open spaces and encouraged her to develop a love for nature at a very young age. Later she attended the Diocesan College for Girls in the Eastern Cape where ...

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on When Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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Marinda Drake

Lovely blog Josephine. It is amazimg how similar elephants and us humans are.

Jenifer Collins

So beautiful….

Mary Beth Wheeler

Thought-provoking and inspirational, Jo!

Denise Vouri

Lovely words Josephine to describe the similar bonds of caring for children and young animals by their mothers. Motherly instincts are universal no matter the species, and it’s so true the touch of a hand, trunk, paw or mouth on a youngster feeling fear, is immediately soothing. Seems you’ve found your comforting niche with the Londolozi family.

Lucie Easley

That all children, regardless of species, need to feel safe, secure, and loved is so beautifully illustrated in your blog, Josephine. And the pictures of the adults who offer this at Londolozi are beautiful.

Michael & Terri Klauber

Josephine, what a beautiful and thoughtful story. It’s the little things that connect us with wildlife that make our times at Londolozi so special. The similarities are so apparent – you are right!

Wendy Hawkins

Beautiful Josephine, thank you for sharing this blog with us 🙂

D. Phillips

What a beautiful article. Thank you so much for painting such an awesome picture. My spirit connects with the Ellies and this is just another reason why. Thank you.

Joanne Wadsworth

What well written and thought provoking story. Truly we all are interconnected, whether human or wildlife, to protect, assure and quietly love our young ones.

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