It was in 1974 that we made our first visit. Randolph Nourse had planned to spend his 50th birthday on the 15th June 1974 at Londolozi. He knew the Varty family, and he knew that the whole camp consisted of 4 rondawels to accommodate eight guests – bring your own sleeping bag, food, drinks – the lot, at a tariff of R6 per night. ! We set off in two cars, entered the Sabi Sand game reserve through the Newington gate, and after bumping along some pretty rough roads arrived at the farm Sparta – the name Londolozi was at that time only just being created.
Conditions were pretty primitive – the toilet was a “long-drop” surrounded by a series of palm fronds planted vertically in the ground, and set in the form of a spiral in plan The “toilet engaged” signal comprised a stick placed horizontally across two forked sticks set vertically – one on each side of the path. The morning wash was derived from an enamel basin set on a tripod of sticks just outside the rondawel door, and filled with hot water as a Shangaan thumped on the door to awaken us. The girls had to get in first before the men used the water to shave. Water supply was from a header tank filled by a windmill pumping from the river, and a black polythene pipe lying on the ground lead to two shower roses suspended from trees just below the camp. Showering meant standing on a flat stone underneath the tree, and reaching up to open the valve at the shower rose. As a result, showering was usually done by midday by which time the sun had warmed up the pipe full of water. Some tried showering early in the morning and we knew this, as the air was punctuated by screams and yells as the ice-cold water cascaded down.
The “staff” slept in a prefab but with a brick wall, which had been built next to the asbestos cement panel to provide better insulation during the bitterly cold winter nights. Apparently a black mamba had taken up residence in the gap between the brickwork and the asbestos sheeting, but they all seemed to live together in harmony. The “lounge” was still in the planning stage so we had our meals outside on an area that had been leveled and had a trestle table at one end. But most of the time we held our plates on our laps on the leveled area, which, for want of a better name, we called “the lounge” A year later a thatched covered area was built and this became the proper lounge.
Renée had much earlier suggested that if bedding was provided and some decent curtains were put into the rondawels, the tariff could be further increased. When this was done, the tariff went up from R15 to R25 per person per night. Again it was Renée who suggested that if food could be provided, instead of guests having to bring their own food, it would enable the tariff to be increased even further.
She said that she was sure guests would be perfectly happy to have an evening meal of game as the meat course, with vegetables, which could be acquired nearby, and a dessert, which could be a very simple one. With game being the meat course, which could be got off the land, costs would not be excessive to feed the guests. These changes enabled the tariff to go up to R50 per person per night and the operations started becoming viable.
By about 1979 to 1980, Londolozi was becoming recognised as a very good place to visit for wildlife and the tariff had gone up to a couple of hundred Rands per person per night. The whole scheme was economically viable.