We are, as Rangers and Trackers, in a very rare position, whereby we have the ability to explore. To search, to walk, to drive, to look and to see. To see places and parts of this magical place that not everyone will see. To witness events, moments, changes and places that most can only imagine in another world. We speak in great detail of our rare findings, a moment that was witnessed, a mother’s affection toward her young cub, the independence of a young animal, a colossal fight between rival prides or a magical photographic scene. But how often do we look around us, stop, and not just look, but see? See the beauty that is Londolozi. How often do we look out to the horizon and ponder on what lies beyond, or look to the skies and try to make sense of our existence? How often do we just drive? Minds set on the next best thing, the leopard lurking around the corner or the elephant herd bathing in the river?
I often find myself in deep thought, trying to explain our actions and greed. With all of this beauty that engulfs us each day, the finesse of nature and its intricacies, how do we overlook these beauties and look toward one goal? Nature is not purely about a sighting of the Big Five or a kill, it is not the perfect leopard image or a cheetah in full stride. These are certainly what we are here for, I won’t take that away or mislead anyone into thinking I am not here for those reasons, however, the point being made is that, in order to get there, to experience those things, in order to appreciate those moments to their full potential, we must certainly look around, stop and understand why and how each element plays a vital role.
My favourite place at Londolozi is difficult to choose. It is not just one place. It cannot be. There are many places that inspire and fulfil me and there are moments and times that heighten those moments. For that reason, I have chosen a few of my favourite places and the time of day that I most enjoy being in these special places.
My Favourite Place to Watch the Sun Rise:
There are a few places that will immediately come to mind when I think of a rising sun. The first place I want to be, as the warmth of the sun touches our cold cheeks and brings life to the day, is the northern end of the airstrip. With an amazing view of the east and the northern section of our reserve, large outcrops and a full view of the horizon, not to mention that it is often a sunrise shared with a mammal of sorts, it is certainly a favourite of mine.
Another favourite of mine is Ximpalapala Koppie. Risk the early morning cold with hot coffee in a flask and a warm blanket to sit under. Climb to the top of the koppie and watch the sun peek through the clouds.
My Favourite place to Watch the Sun Set:
This is again one of the harder choices I would have to make and each person will have their choice. Some would say, the view overlooking the Drakensberg mountains, from Circuit North, the eeriness of Mondzo Sheet erosion or the simplicity of Gert’s pan. For me, one of my favourite places to watch the sunset would be in the open areas, where flat open grass lands are brought to life with large dead trees, scattered along the horizon and the sun setting in the distance behind the mountain range.
Another favourite of mine is certainly the most spectacular place on the reserve, the crest of Ximpalapala. It overlooks the western regions of the property and with much elevation it is a great place to stop to enjoy a Gin and Tonic, watch the sunset and listen to the noises that surround you.
My favourite place to spend an afternoon drive:
This answer would almost solely depend on animals and where they are situated on a particular day. It will also depend on your plan and your guests. However, eliminate the animal pressure, take away the dire need to see animals and to enjoy the scenery, the birds, the smells and the sounds. Where would you go? I think for me, the best place to go to enjoy this serenity has to be the northern part of Londolozi. Marthly is a place with a very limited road network, minimal vehicle pressure, vast expanses, amazing scenery, the Manyelethi riverbed and wildlife abundance that can’t compare.
My Best Place to Share a Meal:
This is an easy answer, for me it can not be beaten. Yes there is the romance of a dinner in the bush or a bush breakfast after a long morning on the road. There could be a picnic on the river or a light snack with an afternoon drink. But, for me, the most special place to enjoy a meal together, with friends, guests, colleagues and family, is in the boma. The warmth, the security and the vibrance of these evenings is unmatched. The food is fantastic, the energy is high, the fires are burning and the drums beat a rhythm that ignites your soul.
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland