The moment my legs begin to move; my thoughts begin to flow – Henry David Thoreau
As a ranger I am privileged to spend most of my time out in the wild spaces of Londolozi, taking people out to explore new areas and see animals do incredible things. But there are many people at Londolozi who spend most of their time behind the scenes in offices, ensuring the Wi-Fi is up and running, bookkeeping or in the kitchen, preparing decadent meals for all of our guests. These dedicated members of the Londolozi family seldom get a chance to venture out of camp and to thank them for their hard work, we decided to take them for a walk on the wild side.
We left camp after lunch and walked past the waterhole outside of Varty Camp, where African jacanas scurried across the lily pads and a hippo snorted in the distance. We meandered our way through bushwillow and tamboti forests where nyala alarm called at what we could only assume was a male leopard, based on fresh tracks we had seen. We reached a safe spot to cross the Sand River into the northern parts of Londolozi, where impala watched us cautiously as we navigated our way toward the Manyelethi River. It was here that we climbed up a series of granite hills and admired a large leaved rock fig, the roots of which have the potential to split rock. Whilst admiring the view from the top of the hill we spotted two buffalo bulls resting in a mud wallow below. The incredible thing about walking in the bush is that if you play your cards right, animals don’t detect your presence and will carry on as though you are not even there. After leaving the hills and navigating our way around the buffalo we followed the Manyelethi River upstream and over a crest toward Ximpalapala Koppie, where we were to camp for the evening.
After preparing our camp site we climbed up the very top of the rocky outcrop and watched the sun set over the Drakensberg escarpment to the west. With the light beginning to fade and the descent looking a little more treacherous, we scrambled back down to our camp site, where we lit a fire to keep us warm and to boil a kettle for a much needed cup of coffee. Each member of the group was given the task of keeping watch for a two hour shift to ensure no animals came to investigate us or if they did to alert the rest of the group so we could make a hasty retreat. On one occasion, a clan of three hyenas gawked curiously at us from a distance. However, as soon as they noticed the human silhouettes in the camp fire they moved off and carried on with their evening’s activities.
Being head of IT at Londolozi, Cath De Beer spends a good deal of time behind a computer. For her, sleeping under the stars and watching the full moon rise were the highlights of the experience. For Sarah Calasse, a chef at Granite Camp, it was the tranquility of the bush, which accentuated the sounds of wild animals that was most memorable for her. For me, it was about the simplicity of life out here. Although for many it may not be the case, there are few things that are more relaxing than spending an evening under the stars in the wilds of Africa, listening to lions roar on the distant horizon. As I kept watch that night, I listened to African scops owls call and baboons alarm bark in the moonlight somewhere in the Manyelethi River. I imagined the leopard that they must have seen stalking in the reeds and started to form a complete picture of what goes on out here when I am usually sound asleep back at camp.
The next morning we lay in our sleeping bags and watched the sun rise over to the east. After a cup of coffee, we put out the fire and packed up the rest of camp before setting off on another walk back to camp. We arrived home feeling as though we had been gone for days, with a deeper appreciation of these wild places, and a hankering for a good hot shower.