Following wild animals can often take you far off the beaten track. In fact, the majority of the magnificent wildlife photographs that feature on our posts are made possible by the vehicles we drive.
Although certainly one of the most debated points in the industry, when it comes to the off-road capabilities, there are few vehicles better than the Land Rover Defender. We use these vehicles at Londolozi, which provide us with a safe platform from which to view wild animals. Many rangers, as well as guests who have visited our reserve, will have experienced the feeling of getting stuck – you sit watching a pride of lions wading through the water into perfect light, while you remain bogged down behind them, your wheels spinning in the soft sand.
It obviously couldn’t have been an error on the ranger’s part, but nonetheless, you are going nowhere.
To ensure that this happens less in the future (and to try prolong Kevin Power’s current tenure as the Pink Pouch holder), two instructors from Land Rover Experience came out to Londolozi recently to teach us all a thing or two.
The course was incredible, and was comprised of a bit of theory and a lot of practical. On the first day we covered the fundamentals behind safely navigating steep slopes. On the second day, the aim was to get a vehicle stuck and have everyone take turns trying to get it out.
At Londolozi, the tradition remains that if a ranger gets their vehicle stuck and they can’t get it out by themselves, they are awarded the Pink Pouch (a pink rounds holder which the designated ranger wears on his or her belt) until the next person becomes stuck. Many egos have been severely dented by the acceptance of the Pink Pouch and rangers all jumped at the opportunity to get a vehicle stuck without having to receive it.
Nick Kleer was elected as the driver and he did a great job of getting the Land Rover firmly bogged down in the Sand River – properly! Let’s just say experience counts in any situation, and this wasn’t his first time! Under instruction, it was now up to the rest of us to extract the vehicle. We set up bridals and tow ropes, connected these onto a second vehicle and prepared to tow the car out of the river.
All was going well until Rob Jeffrey ended up getting the recovery vehicle stuck in the river as well (once again, it must have been the vehicle’s fault). We now had two vehicles bogged down in the sand, one remaining recovery vehicle, and only one last chance. Using the third recovery vehicle, we managed to pull the middle car out, and after getting stuck another three times, we eventually managed to get all of the vehicles out of the river.
There is always huge ironic applause and a humourous sense of achievement after something like this and although it’s not always ideal to be stuck, sometimes the sheer fun of getting oneself out again can make the whole experience worthwhile!
In Londolozi’s early days, owner and founder Dave Varty was taking guests on a game drive, but his plans of tracking lions were thwarted when he managed to get the vehicle firmly bogged down. After getting everyone to help, then a couple of hours of frantic digging, pushing and pulling, with cut hands, blisters, sore backs and sweat-drenched brows, Dave was convinced he’d have a whole lot of guests asking for their money back.
Instead, round the fire that evening there was only laughter as everyone recounted the incident as the most fun they’d ever had in the bush. It truly is about more than just what you see out here, but the experience as a whole that counts!