I am Londolozi!
Not in the arrogant sense but because I am who I am because of Londolozi.
I arrived at Londolozi on the 1st of October 2010. At 20 years of age I was green to the world but eager to make my mark. To guide in South Africa you have to be 21 years old, and being just short of that there was not a huge amount that I had to offer the lodge at the time. Thankfully due to my determined work ethic and vast enthusiasm they kept me on, albeit keeping me busy with some rather ‘interesting’ tasks until I was old enough to become a guide.
At the time I thought Londolozi was going to just provide me with an opportunity to become a ranger at one of the most prestigious lodges in Africa and that would be it. I was very wrong.
Londolozi became my family. From the first welcoming smile to the last goodbye tear, the people of Londolozi (staff, guests, and legacy of those from the past) continued to provide me with laughs, tears, support, and most importantly, memories. They became my family in a way that I never knew possible.
I discovered my priorities. I had very little knowledge of who I was and who I wanted to be when I started at Londolozi. The place has such a strong culture however, that as a young man I was exposed to a deeper understanding of how the world should be, living in a community with different cultures and religions, business aspects, and family. It tested my resilience and resolve at times but in doing so gave me opportunities to learn and grow.
I made friendships with people from different demographics, cultures, religions, and ages, all of whom had a different perspective on every aspect of life. This not only challenges the way one thinks but offers alternative opinions. This can be difficult at times because you have to sort through all of that and form a code of ethics and values from all that you have been exposed to. What a privilege it was to learn from a man who had been working as a tracker for almost double the length of my life. These are the relationships that I will cherish and that have helped guide me in my early adult life.
Being a guide is something that I would recommend to any young person looking to experience life. I was exposed to the natural world in a way that left me vulnerable. It was during these times that I learnt to pay attention to the detail as well as the big picture. During training, a Londolozi guide has to walk the roads of the reserve alone. You start at 6 am and end at 6pm after walking a prescribed route which by the end of the week may be in excess of 40km a day. The purpose of this is not only to learn the extensive road network but also to test your knowledge and understanding of the environment around you, and to give you a better feel for your place in the scheme of things in the bush. Whilst this was one of the more memorable milestones of mine it was also extremely stressful. This was the first time that I had been in the bush alone and all the decisions rested on my shoulders. I choose to tell you this as I feel it epitomizes what Londolozi does for its people. It pushes you to learn and understand what you are capable of and helps you to become a stronger person.
Along with all of these strengths, Londolozi taught me the subtle arts of life. How to interpret the wilderness to guests, how to create excitement yet remain calm, and most importantly how to love. Londolozi allowed me to meet my fiancé, Candice. This place nourished our love and created a space that allowed us to truly understand each other. As such we formed a lifelong bond and we are engaged to be married at the beginning of next month.
In parting I would like to say thank you to all the people that made this part of my life possible. My family at home in Johannesburg who gave me the support and love I needed to go after my dreams. I might mention that in visiting Londolozi many times they became as much apart of the extended Londolozi family as I did.
To Chris Kane-Berman for allowing me the opportunity to start at Londolozi and then encouraging me to grow along the way; a true role model. To Chris Goodman for being the most incredible mentor. Those countless discussions and moments of advice mean more to me than you know, I would not have made it without you. To Tom and Kate Imrie who are out in the world with their kids on an adventure; thank you for the friendship. The two of you are an inspiration to both Cands and I. To the rest of the Londolozi family, you are the most incredible people in the world and we are privileged to have been able to be a part of that.
Lastly to the Varty family; what you have created here extends so much further than I am sure you originally dreamed. Londolozi has touched the souls of countless people around the world in a life-changing manner, so thank you for that.
I encourage all those who have the opportunity to experience this magical place, both guests and staff alike, to embrace all that it has to offer. You will leave with such happiness and gratitude that you had the opportunity to visit.