My four days at Londolozi with my family back in April may have been very similar to those of many of you. We all have this in common that our days at Londolozi are made of the same raw material: the amazing unspoilt landscapes, the encounters with what seems like an infinite list of wild species, the real life scenes that unroll before our eyes and bring us back to our childhood dreams, the fantastic time with our rangers and trackers (thanks Callum and Freddy) and the magnificent food and wines (remember I am French, I don’t take those matters lightly).
I should actually have spoken of our minutes at Londolozi, not our days, as time in the African wilderness has this unique feature of being about 1000 times richer than anywhere else. Days are long but never exhausting, emotions are so rich and so many that one feels that one has been there for weeks even at the end of a short stay.
As a family, we came to Londolozi to see these sorts of scenes:
And if we had seen only those amazing sightings we would have fulfilled our highest expectations and would have returned home with a bank of amazing memories and been ever so grateful to Londolozi. But actually, in between those highlights, so many small things happened too. At the start they seemed secondary to our experience but in the end they actually turned out to be as important as the big moments. When I will have forgotten everything about my stay here, there will still be this moment when Callum took my son Antoine to climb the very tree where a pride of lionesses had rested a few days before. To witness the intensity of my son’s interactions with Callum – even in his limited English – will never go away.
Or, when looking for a leopard that we eventually couldn’t find (very unlike Freddy…) we discovered a plethora of birds and testing my amateurish photographic skills on them actually became the primary purpose, not a secondary one anymore. I am not a bird fanatic and will always be more attracted to big cats but I must confess that when I see these pictures again I am reminded of just how beautiful it was to see these birds in real life.
Other special moments include when we paused in the bush for coffee and spotted tiny forms of life. I realised how truly fascinating they can be too.
And this is when I realised that although our four days were in many ways similar to those of other guests, they were unique to us and will remain ours forever. No one else will have had the same trip, nobody but me will think back of the promise I made myself 20 years ago when I was living in South Africa to come to Londolozi one day and actually see those leopards that I had dreamt so much about. My tears when watching the Piva male walk alongside the Land Rover belong only to me, the intensity of every minute spent at Londolozi is different for each of us and that is what makes the experience unique.
The best illustration of this is a photograph I captured of my son’s eyes, which sparkled with happiness during our game drives. This is the best summary of my stay at Londolozi and the main reason why I know that one day… I’ll be back.
Written and photographed by Sylvain Villeroy De Galhau