Busman’s Holiday: a holiday or form of recreation that involves doing the same thing that one does at work.
The surest proof that we love what we do here at Londolozi is the fact that we all try as hard as we can to do the same thing when on leave, with one or two variations.
Working in the bush, one operates on a very different schedule to most of the rest of the world. Our daily routine varies, but most of the time we work on a 6 week/2 week cycle. Six weeks of work based at the lodge and then two weeks of leave.
Over the course of a year we probably miss out on a day or two off by not having weekends or public holidays, but the huge advantage of the two week break is that we get the opportunity to travel. And for many of the Londolozi frontline staff, that means staying in the wild!
Southern Africa is an incredibly diverse subcontinent. From the rolling dune-fields of the Namib Desert to the sub-tropical beaches of Mozambique, the sheer multitude of experiences on offer is astounding.
Kate Collins, Londolozi’s blog editor, has been running a series on how awesome South Africa is, yet in truth the awesomeness extends way beyond our borders.
You might think that we get tired of spending time watching lions or elephants after six weeks straight, but each day in the bush is different. Visiting different areas of wilderness only helps stimulate our desire to learn more, and an overall understanding of the various biomes and wilderness regions of Southern Africa aids us immeasurably in appreciating the intricacies of wild ecosystems, and the fragile links that holds everything together, which in turn furthers our understandings of Nature’s workings at Londolozi.
We are fortunate here in that the Kruger National Park is right on our doorstep, and our rangers and staff regularly spend time there. Four of us were lucky enough to do a guided trail up in the northern regions of the park at the end of last year, and the experiences we had there reinforced my belief that being on foot is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the bush. On your next visit to Londolozi, be sure to go on a bush walk with your ranger. It will open your eyes to the myriad of smaller denizens that inhabit this environment.
Further afield one has the Okavango Delta in Botswana, a jewel in the middle of the vast dry lands that stretch from the eastern fringe of the Kalahari Desert to the western seaboard of Namibia. The drier regions themselves can offer incredible experiences, and by spending time in arid parts you fully appreciate the value of water, and especially how lucky we are to have the Sand River flowing right past the Londolozi camps.
Working in a game reserve helps one get the most out of a wilderness experience elsewhere. Learning the habits of various animals helps predict their movement. Driving a Land Rover on a daily basis has never come in handy more than when navigating the treachorous Van Zyl’s Pass in north-west Namibia.
It is an amazing thing to be able to spend time in some of the places mentioned here, many of which are hard to get to. A recent trip to northern Zimbabwe had us driving 21 hours on our first day and about 14 on our second just to get to the Park we were visiting. Needless to say that hadn’t been the plan and all sorts of things had gone wrong on the way, but all that trouble made reaching the destination that much more rewarding.
A 19-hour drive from Pemba Town in the back of an open pick-up was what we had to do in April in order to reach the Niassa National Park in North Mozambique, one of Africa’s – if not the world’s – last true wilderness areas. We had a sandwich each for the whole day and arrived dehydrated, starving and with our teeth nearly rattled out of our heads from the corrugations, but we had made it. There are lions and leopards there who have never seen a human, and one can fly for an hour across the park without glimpsing signs of human habitation! To fall asleep at night in that kind of isolation is truly special.
Fully appreciating the diversity of the subcontinent we inhabit means getting out and experiencing it. Staying at Londolozi and simply going back to the city every six weeks would be the equivalent of living in a house and claiming to know it despite never leaving the bedroom.
We try as hard as we can to carry over the adventure that we are living at Londolozi into our lives outside of this amazing place. We camp, explore, learn. Most of the time we’re roughing it, but this simply adds to the adventure. I recall three nights in a row in the Kalahari (probably the coldest of my life) in which the condensation from our breaths was freezing the inside of our tent. Ice crystals would literally fall on our faces if we so much as bumped the canvas sides. The useless $30 tent we had purchased at the last minute probably wasn’t helping, but the fact that black-maned kalahari lions were roaring close by ensured that we had smiles on our faces. Frozen, teeth-chattering smiles, but smiles nonetheless.
We count ourselves very fortunate to be able to have experiences like this.
So when out on drive at Londolozi, ask your ranger to tell you about some adventures he or she has been on in the last year. I’m pretty sure they’ll have some stories to tell…
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell