Erin Bezuidenhout is the Camp Manager and hostess of Londolozi’s Relais & Châteaux Pioneer Camp. Under the leadership of Erin and her team, over the past 18 months, Pioneer has gained notoriety as an African safari experience that is not only one of the most luxurious, but one of the most intimate too. That intimacy has been achieved by the camp’s layout and design (a culmination of four decades of lodge design experience) but also by Erin’s natural ability to guide an experience that allows guests to make rich connections not only with the exceptional wildlife, but also with themselves and their family and friends.
What makes Pioneer Camp unique?
Erin: For me, it’s probably one of the most versatile camps in Africa. There are three secluded luxury suites, each with a plunge pool and a view of the Sand River. So Pioneer is ideal for couples, but it’s also designed to appeal to families or friends who would like to use the camp as a private bush home. If a family is staying, we can accommodate up to 12 guests. The entertainment area is intimate – there is a swimming pool, an interactive kitchen and a fire-pit that we all love gathering around in the evenings.
I have to add that our guests often comment on the camp’s decor. Inspired by Londolozi’s early pioneering stories, throughout the camp there is restored memorabilia: not only photographs, but gramophones and old crystal glasses too.
What is your best sighting from Pioneer’s deck?
Erin: From the deck we have a 180-degree view of the Sand River. I love watching the large breeding herds of elephants pass by in the late afternoon and early evening – this happens almost every week. On a daily basis we see nyala, monkeys, baboon and beautiful bird species, including the resident fish eagle. We see leopard often, and – without a doubt – my best sighting has been of a male leopard that lay out on a granite rock in front of the deck for an entire afternoon. Not everyone is interested in flora, but I would like to mention that the camp is laid out in-between 500-year-old ebony trees, and we must have one of the most exquisite collections of aloes in southern Africa.
Do you have a favourite culinary experience at Pioneer?
Erin: That’s a hard question. We are held to Relais & Châteaux luxury standards and our Executive Chef, Anna Ridgewell, has created a simply sophisticated menu that is light, inspired by local ingredients, and beautifully presented. So guests should expect a world-class culinary experience. Anna recently curated a safari-inspired boma evening for our guests, preparing a variety of South African game meats using different cooking styles and local rubs and marinades. Let’s just say I am glad I had the pleasure of hosting the evening. We are including more of our food photography on Instagram (@londolozi) – I know Anna would love readers to follow our culinary journey.
What do you enjoy most about life at Londolozi?
Erin: I have a deep connection to wildlife and Londolozi gives me the opportunity to live in a serene and beautiful natural environment. Londolozi is also a wonderfully social environment – you feel like you are part of a family and that is important in an industry where we live so far away from our own families.
More than that, the culture of Londolozi allows me the freedom to learn about myself and to grow and develop in my career. As an example, we have a level three certified sommelier at Londolozi – Kim Drake – and through her interactive food and wine evenings I have developed a fair knowledge of South African wines, which many of our guests are interested in learning more about. Just as an aside, as the weather is warming up, I am enjoying the Steenberg 1682 Chardonnay MCC, and so are our guests.
You’ve been a Camp Manager at Londolozi for over two years. In your opinion, why are Londolozi guests going to get a special experience that they will remember forever?
Erin: In a sentence, our people are passionate about people. Londolozi has pulled together a team who genuinely love meeting new people and sharing what we know and enjoy about safari with them. That’s the key – our team loves African wildlife and the extended experience of a natural immersion and wants to share that love and experience with our guests.
Written by Ryan James, Londolozi Blog Contributor