A few weeks ago I watched a female leopard resting high up in a dead Brown Ivory tree. In the tree was nestled a leopard orchid and in that sat the Ndzanzeni female leopard, the last female in the lineage of the original Mother Leopard. The moment struck me as momentous. Imagine all the myriad elements that had to come together for that moment to exist. The ancient termite mound that would have first populated that piece of land, then from it a tree that could be a few hundred years old. In that very specific tree sat the last relative of a female leopard that ultimately forged the relationship between humans and animals here at Londolozi. She is a leopard who has shown incredible resilience and survived despite her recent grievous injury. Quite fortuitously, the leopard orchid she sat in was flowering, which in itself is symbolic because Londolozi’s logo is designed to represent a leopard orchid flower, the face of a leopard and a butterfly, a symbol of renewal.

Today is Reconciliation Day in South Africa and this moment mentioned above is a prime example of the levels of reconciliation that have occurred here at Londolozi throughout her history. A reconciliation of land, people and the animals.

A leopard orchid nestled into the fork of a knobthorn tree. These trees are epiphytes and do not tap their root system into the tree to sap it of nutrients. Instead they have aerial roots, which catch the decaying leaves and detritus upon which the plant feeds. These plants can get huge, with some weighing up to a tonne.

A close up of the leopard orchid flower. It is a combination of this flower, a leopard’s face and a butterfly taking off that make up the Londolozi logo.

This female is a success story all in herself, being born as a single cub to the Dudley Riverbank female in early 2012.

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Ndzanzeni 4:3 Female

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In the South African context, today is a day that is hugely important considering our divisive past. The power of reconciliation though extends far beyond the South African, African or even human context for that matter. It is about the restoration of friendly relations for all.

A group of Londolozi women gathers in the village. It is here that women from all walks of life form a chosen sisterhood.

The holiday came into effect in South Africa in 1994 after the end of apartheid, with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity for the country. The date was chosen because it was significant to both Afrikaner and African cultures. Nelson Mandela and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission hoped that by choosing this day, the various ethnic groups would be inspired to work on healing the damage done by apartheid.

The origins of the celebration for the Afrikaners goes back to the Day of the Vow. The Day of the Vow was a religious holiday commemorating the Voortrekker victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River. At this particular battle in 1838, a small contingent of Voortrekkers was attacked by an army of Zulus numbering in the tens of thousands. The Zulus were however defeated and the event became a rallying point for the development of Afrikaner nationalism, culture and identity.

For African people, the date has been significant as one that was used for multiple peaceful protests against racial injustice throughout apartheid. It is also the anniversary date of the establishment of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). This was a more militant arm of the African National Congress (ANC), introduced when the peaceful efforts of passive protest and resistance against apartheid proved unsuccessful.

Gogo Mo Groch and Nora Ubisi share stories in the Londolozi village. These two women are elders here, passing on their knowledge and wisdom to the youths that look to them for guidance.

At Londolozi, we see the definition of reconciliation as a bridging of gaps between the land, humans, and animals too. At the moment, the world needs this focus on reconciliation more than ever before.

For us, Reconciliation Day is ultimately about a coming together. People will always come from a variety of different belief systems, backgrounds, preferences, religions and ways of being in the world but ultimately we hope that we can look beyond these to find our commonality. What matters is that we are all creatures of this planet. Ultimately we all belong to the same mother, Mother Earth.

A group of Londolozi guests view a rhino with their ranger, James Tyrrell. It is here at Londolozi that we see multiple examples of reconciliation between land, animals and people.

This is something we see at Londolozi in our village where people from diverse backgrounds live, work and play together as one unit, one family. And we see it too with our guests who come from all over the world to experience the melting pot that is Londolozi. The common thread that draws us all together is our desire be close to mother nature; to be with the land and the animals in peace and presence. It is this incredibly special place that helps us to gain perspective and shows us ways that we can make our views and beliefs compatible with those around us when we realise that we’re all fundamentally creatures live in communion with our planet.

A group of guests watches in wonder at an elephant feeding in the Manyaleti riverbed with their ranger, Amy Attenborough. The process of creating access for elephants between Londolozi and the Kruger National Park was achieved in 199 and now a thriving, healthy elephant population spans across the Greater Kruger National Park. Hopefully, in the future we will see the establishment of a wildlife corridor that links them with the Drakensberg Mountains to our west once again.

In that moment, where a group of humans fortuitously witnessed a very symbolic leopard sitting in a very symbolic place on this land, I was reminded what incredible peace and prosperity for all can be achieved when we seek reconciliation.

So today I invite you to ask the question; how can we all reconcile ourselves back to our truest relationship with what truly matters.

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Ndzanzeni 4:3 Female

Ndzanzeni 4:3 Female

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About the Author

Amy Attenborough

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Amy has a rich field-guiding history, having spent time at both Phinda and Ngala Game Reserves. This diversity of past guiding locations brought her an intimate understanding of different biomes across South Africa, and she immediately began making a name for herself as ...

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on Reconciliation Day: How To Restore Harmony For All

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Marinda Drake

Amy it is such a beautiful blog. It is so true that we all belong together on this one and only earth we have. We’ve got to look more to nature to see the important things that matter most.

Amy Attenborough

Thank you, Marinda. Sending lots of love to you and Des over the festive season!

Marinda Drake

Thank you Amy. A lovely festive season to you and the Londolozi family.

Jeff Rodgers

When I see you in a few months, I may call you Ms. Ethereal. This post is beautiful, and in the United States very timely. Hope you don’t mind that I took some of your words along with a quote from Nelson Mandela and posted it on my Facebook page.

Amy Attenborough

Haha thank you, Jeff. I like that! And yes, so glad you used some of these words. You’re welcome to re-post anytime! Best wishes for the holiday season!

Jennifer Ridgewell

Another beautiful thought-provoking blog to remind us of what matters most. Thank you Amy.

Amy Attenborough

Thank you, Jennifer!

Joanne Wadsworth

Reconciliation Day should be celebrated world wide as a reminder of a truth: we are all one. Lovely blog Amy. Additionally I enjoyed learning about the leopard orchid flower, it’s deeper meaning and why it is symbolic to Londolozi.

Amy Attenborough

Beautiful Joanne! Thank you for this. Which of the three symbols leaps out at you when you look at the Londolozi logo?

Denise Vouri

Fantastic essay Amy and so informative for those of that need a reminder of South African history. I’ve always loved seeing the leopard orchids while on safari and that you’ve seen one with the famous leopard female nestled beside it is awesome.
As far as reconciliation back to what truly matters, that is the BIG question for today. From my perspective, as long as we don’t lose sight of the wonders of our world and take the necessary and responsible steps to protect their future, then we have contributed to the reconciliation between man and nature. Now saying that, there is still the issue of man vs man and that is the ever present problem throughout the world. The answer you’d think would be simple- kindness, understanding, forgiveness, love, acceptance…… yet politics, anger, religious beliefs, prejudices, and misplaced pride block the road to harmony. So in the spirit of the holidays I continue to hope for reconciliation between the humans of our world and together bring a newfound peace. Cheers!!

Amy Attenborough

Loved this Denise! All so true. When I become overwhelmed by the global situation I try to remember that the change starts from within and from our closest relationships. From there we can only hope that it fractals outwards. Wishing you all the best over this festive season 🙂

Callum Evans

Beautifully written article! I’ve seen leopard orchids before, three on the iMfolozi Wilderness Trail.

Amy Attenborough

They’re beautiful aren’t they Callum?! What trees were they growing in there and how big were the ones that you saw?

Callum Evans

They really are! Funnily enough that was the same day we also saw a leopard strolling down the Black iMfolozi about 700 metres from us. I can’t remember what tree they were in but they were pretty big specimens. Can send you a photo via instagram if you like (you might also work out the tree species that way)

Amy Attenborough

Send one to content@londolozi.co.za Callum and we’ll take a look..

Carolyn Whitaker

Amazing and informative post, Amy. I hope you write a book some day, with your gift with words. Thank you for sharing this.

Amy Attenborough

Ah thank you, Carolyn! I hope so too 🙂 How did you celebrate Reconciliation Day??

Carolyn Whitaker

Thank you for your kind response, Amy. There were many ways I celebrated on many different levels that day.
During the busiest time of the year for us, it seems my husband and I are often two ships passing in the night. We took a couple hours that evening to catch up with each other while relaxing quietly and petting our dog in front of a warm fire. This time to reconnect with my little family was invaluable.
Earlier that day, I emailed a donation to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation in memory of a friend’s pet who had passed away a few months ago. My hope is that the AHVM can make strides in prevention of and cures for diseases using holistic measures. I suppose that was a round-about way of reconciling with animals and nature in a positive manner.
I received a text of thanks from that friend a few hours later with a photo of a dog she had just adopted and was in the process of rehabilitating.
We will be getting together after the holidays so I can meet her new family member. It felt great to reconnect with her.
I felt a spiritual reunion while stringing lights on our Christmas tree that evening. Each light reminded me of love brought into our world.
How did you end up celebrating this special day? I envision you spending time in a favorite tree, sharing the joy and wonder of nature with others and feeling peace and connection with all under a blanket of shimmering stars.
We are sending our love to you and all the Londolozi family this holiday season.

Eve Eaton

What a special moment. So happy to have shared it with you and the rest of the Damn Thirsty tribe!

Amy Attenborough

Couldn’t have been a better team to have shared that incredible moment with Eve! Miss you all! Sending lots of love and hope you having a gorgeous holiday season 🙂

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