The story of my connection to Londolozi began seven years ago while sitting at our family table on Christmas day. I opened my neatly wrapped Christmas present from my sister and there in front of me, and for the first time, I read the word ‘Londolozi’ in the title of Dave Varty’s book The Full Circle. I had every intention of reading the book during the remainder of my holiday but for some reason the book was put away in a pile of ‘must reads’ and only picked up a few years later.
It was at dinner with a friend, after many years had passed, that the word was once again mentioned. I listened as she regaled me with stories of her recent travels to Londolozi Game Reserve. “Londolozi?” I said. I remembered the name immediately. As soon as I got home I made my way to my bookshelf and picked up the dusty book. I was intrigued by our earlier conversation and wanted to find out more.
That night I began reading The Full Circle.
Two years after this, I packed my bags and said goodbye to Cape Town to begin working and living in the bush. A chance opportunity had come my way to join the Londolozi Creative Team.
Today as my chapter at Londolozi comes to a close, I think back on how it all began and share some of the important life lessons that I have learnt along the way…
I arrived with the floods in March, a day before the skies cracked open and unleashed their fury on the lands. Soon after my arrival, people that needed to access the reserve by vehicle had to be redirected due to the poor conditions of the roads. The rains were relentless. With the impact of the floods, there had been some minor damage to camps, walkways and roads. Mostly though, the rain had come as a welcome relief from what had been a very hot and dry summer. This was my first introduction to Londolozi.
Today as I write this, the summer rains are back. Last night I watched the night sky in a dazzling display of flashing lights. A thunderstorm at Londolozi is always a thrilling experience.
But as most people who visit Londolozi will know, it is far more than a beautiful place with incredible wildlife, there’s something far deeper – a sort of ‘spell’ that you fall under once you visit. It is a combination of every person, animal, road, sunset, sunrise and encounter that you have.
Having lived in the bush for almost two years, I have had many incredible experiences, both in camp and and on drives. The bush has also been an excellent teacher. Because of this, I would like to share 10 of the valuable life lessons that Londolozi has taught me.
There is Endless Joy in the Little Things in Life
I have found that it’s sometimes the smaller things in life that can bring you joy. Every day I walk past nyala, bush buck and vervet monkeys on my way to our office. I love watching the animals feed and seeing the young buck as they trot and take heed from their elders. I make a point of taking a few minutes each day to observe these animals. There’s not a day that that I haven’t stopped along the path to watch the monkeys and their young, their behaviour and likeness to people is always amusing.
Find Your Inner Calmness
The bush has a way of making you realise what is most important in your life. The tasks that you may think are pressing become insignificant in the expanse of an untouched wilderness. Without the rush of traffic and city noise, the bush immediately calms you and encourages you to slow down. The feeling is overwhelming. On a drive in the bush you become present, we look, listen, appreciate and learn. While we may still experience similar stresses to what we would in a city, we also start to reflect the calmness of the environment in which we live.
Work as a Team
We’ve written about how wild dogs have shown us how team work pays off, and at Londolozi this has proved to be true within the work culture that we adopt. We are not defined by a single role or title and while we have different strengths and manage different portfolios, we all pull together to help one another. In October last year, seven months after the rains I mentioned earlier, our camp was hit by an unexpected ‘microburst.’ A heavy rainstorm had erupted and large golf-ball sized hailstones pelted down from the sky with strong winds that forced trees to uproot. Within 20 minutes the reserve had transformed into a mass of fallen trees, leaves and debris that resulted from the powerful impact. It was incredible to watch managers, cleaners, chefs, butlers and rangers come together to help clean up. Teams got to work sweeping and assisting guests in camps and everyone had their own task. Thanks to this team work the reserve camps were cleaned in less than hour and if you had just arrived, you would have had little idea of just how powerful the storm had been. It seems that natural disasters have a way of bringing teams together. In September of 2014, a wildfire spread through the Sabi Sands very close to our property and camps. The sky glowed a burnt orange from the dust particles that lingered in the air. Rangers and fire fighting teams spent the afternoon and evening fighting the raging fire. In the early hours of the morning after a long night of fire fighting, the fire had been contained. The valiant effort of the teams had prevented a potential catastrophe.
Take Time to Listen to Other People’s Stories
Every person has a fascinating life story but we only find out, when we take time to listen to what someone has to say. We can make friendships and find something in common with someone from a background that is totally different to our own. This is the power of listening. It makes you richer through shared knowledge. I have met many wonderful people from Londolozi and guests from around the world and I have heard many wonderful stories. Each time I am left in awe.
There is Beauty to be Found Everywhere
I have noticed that even when I leave the bush on my two week breaks, I still find myself appreciating my surroundings. I try identify birds in the city and I go for walks to see what I can find. While there is an abundance of flora and fauna to be found in the wild, there are also attractions to be found wherever you are. Living in the bush increases your awareness of your surroundings and when you enter a new place after having been in the bush, you start to become more aware of everything around you.
You Can Never Put Nature in a Box
A wise man once told me that ‘nature cannot be put in a box’. This is true of all things in the wild. It is unpredictable and guaranteed to surprise when you least expect it. It’s the unexpectedness of not knowing what you will find and knowing that by simply being in the wilderness without seeing the obvious attractions, is enough. I remember going for a run one afternoon and stopping dead in my tracks to find a long train of hairy caterpillars that took up the length of the road. I stood for 10 minutes observing the movement and the way that each one appeared glued to the other. It was this unexpected situation that amazed me. I had been rewarded with this sighting by simply venturing outdoors.
If you want to see something in the wild, you have to have the patience to wait and see what might happen next… You may be disappointment but then again you may be amazed. During my two years at Londolozi I had secretly been hoping to see wild dogs. I knew that my chances of seeing them were low as they have large territories and are continually moving across the Sabi Sands and greater Kruger region. We are also only able to go on staff drives when it is possible for us to do so. If dogs are sighted, only three vehicles are allowed at a sighting so as not to crowd or disturb the animals in anyway. The chances of our staff vehicle seeing these elusive animals is always very low. So with only a week left at Londolozi, I had come to the conclusion that while I have had many incredible sightings, I would have to be content with not seeing the wild dogs I had always hoped I would see! But patience is key and the long wait resulted with the reward of finally seeing them. On Sunday we found ourselves in same vicinity as a pack of 20 wild dogs. The dogs had taken down an impala ram and with all the other vehicles having moved away from them, I had my first-ever sighting!
Nature is the Best Designer
I remember helping with a quilting project in the village and coming up with some ideas for the quilts. We didn’t have to think for long as the colours and patterns were all around us, in the grass, skies, in the shapes of flowers and in the clouds. Whether we find inspiration for the design of a swimsuit or for the colours to use in our home, we don’t need too look far to find inspiration.
The Change Starts with You
“Be the change that you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
Working at Londolozi has made it clearer than ever that if you want to make a difference to someone or help improve the world, the change has to start with you. Our Sunday 2020 Service walks provided the satisfaction of knowing that I was helping to make a difference however small it seemed. I also knew that together we were making an impact and that every one of our contributions to cleaning, planting and caring for our environment was meaningful. Wherever I go I am always aware of my surroundings, I know that I can complain about people littering but that won’t get me far. I can make the change and pick up the litter I find. I can start recycling and become more water and electricity wise. Imagine if all of us became more conscious of our footprint? I am sure if we did, the effect could be monumental.
A smile is Contagious
Walking around and saying hello to someone with a smile will immediately brighten their day and make you feel happier. When someone smiles at you, you cannot help but want to smile back. You can change a gloomy mood to a happy one and you can make yourself happy just by smiling. Everyday at Londolozi, I walk past people who smile and greet, they do so, not because they have to but because they want to. It really is contagious!
Today I say goodbye to Londolozi and the extraordinary team of writers and photographers who I have worked with, the incredible staff who feel like family and to wonderful friends I have made.
Thank you to each and every person I have met and worked with and to the fantastic guests whose photographs I have helped edit in the Creative Hub.
A special thank you to the Varty family for opening your home to us and for always making each person who works at Londolozi feel so special. And a final mention of thanks to Dave Varty for bringing us the Full Circle…
Written by Kate Collins, Londolozi Blog Editor