I’ve written a lot of stories during my time here but I’ve never been more stumped with what to say than with this one. How do you write a final story to a place that has meant so much to you, to a place that has changed your life?
So instead, with a full heart, here is a tribute to all the things Londolozi has given me.
- An extended family – A Tribe:
I think many of us carry an ancient longing for a simpler life. For a time when we lived in small villages and community members really knew about and cared for each other.
Londolozi is a place that answers this aching feeling for so many. And it isn’t reserved for the staff of Londolozi alone. Making our 90th birthday videos was one of the most eye-opening experiences for me because I began to see how guests and staff were saying the same things.
This is a place where the lines between friends and family become blurred.
Luckily it is also a place where people send roots deep into the ground and connect with one another and when they disperse all over the world, that sense of tribe and community remains anchored here. Thank you to each and every one of you around the world, some that I have met in person and others online, who add to this family in your own special way.
2. Fun, fun and then some more fun:
Whether it was coming around the corner to find Will Ford dressed in a lion onesie and awkwardly clinging to the arm of a tree for guests who were desperate to see tree-climbing lions, or watching Duncan MacLarty inch a chocolate biscuit down his forehead during a round of Londolozi’s version of Minute to Win it on the Granite Camp deck, tracking a leopard with Elmon Mhlongo, or laughing hilariously from our very stuck position in the Sand River with James Tyrrell, my days were filled with joy.
Londolozi is a place that realises we are the best versions of ourselves when we are at play and it celebrates the creation of fun at every level. Basically knowing how to have fun is a job requirement here and so many of our guests keep coming back for this exact reason. You can’t help but love it.
3. An understanding of the healing power of nature:
I worked at other safari lodges for five years prior to Londolozi but there is something truly special that sets this place apart. I think one of those reasons is Londolozi’s intention to be a space for the healing of the natural world as well as the human spirit. Below is a poem by Wendell Berry called the Peace of Wild Things. For me, it sums up what so many people come to Londolozi for and describes the relief I experienced whilst being cradled in nature’s arms here.
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
4. Extraordinary wildlife encounters:
A few weeks ago I was out in the bush on my own photographing a Mopane Pomegranate tree for a blog. I was away from the vehicle and crouched low, burying myself in the gorgeous yellow flowers with my macro lens. Something flickered in my awareness and I got the distinct feeling I was being watched. I lifted my head and lowered my camera and looked up to see the Nkoveni female leopard standing barely 10 metres away watching me. Because I was low to the ground and distracted, she must have felt unthreatened by me and so I remained in my crouched position and waited to see what she would do. She simply lowered her head and continued along her desired path, passing right by me as I sat completely awed.
A gorgeous female who is found to the east of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
There is something quite extraordinary that happens here between man and animal. It’s the sort of behaviour that rests on a foundation of deep trust that has taken years to build. I have been astounded daily by the moments these animals gift us with and will miss the lessons they have taught me through their pure presence. From the marauding hyenas who steal forgotten shoes from outside my room, to the elephants who always watered me with relaxation and the lions who kept us guessing with their ever-changing dynamics, I am immensely grateful to have been welcomed into the lives of these wild creatures.
5. An obsession for trees:
OK, that’s not one hundred percent correct, I’ve always had a love for trees but it is one of the things that sold me on Londolozi. On my very first afternoon here, ranger Greg Pingo drove us to the beautiful Leadwood forest in the north of Londolozi and I knew that I would stay. If you have an appreciation for these beautiful space holders then it will add a whole new dimension to your safari. I have been profoundly nourished by the inherent wisdom held in these often under-appreciated beings.
6. A love for yoga:
I think Londolozi is a space where you begin to move from a place of serenity, something I’ve found so true of yoga too. I’m not sure how any yoga class will ever match up to practicing on this deck surrounded by warm afternoon sun, Jackalberry trees, elephants, the monkeys that mimic us, nyala and close friends.
7. A remembering of our belonging to land:
In our highly-globalised and rapidly shifting world many of us have forgotten the importance of place. Londolozi reminded me of this and called me to start listening not only to the animals and trees but to the land herself. It is a remembering I will carry with me forever. As Sharon Blackie says in, If Women Rose Rooted:
“In these times it’s not enough to awaken ourselves, to find our community: the world is in need of restoration, and each one of us is challenged to do the work of collective change… The journey we need now is a journey of collective re-enchantment – a re-animation of the Earth. It’s time to become native to our places again. It’s time for women to shrug off the yoke of the patriarchy and reclaim our native power. The power that is the Earth itself speaking… Listen now to the land’s long dreaming. Do you see what it’s dreaming? It’s dreaming you.”
8. Friends for life:
There really isn’t much more to say here. It’s an amazing privilege to live with your friends. I’ll miss these times with every single one of you. Thank you for broadening who I am.
9. Being part of the Creative Hub team:
Working with this incredibly creative team and being one of the links between Londolozi’s remarkable story tellers and our ever-growing online community was such a privilege. I learnt so much and am very grateful that I now too will be able to get my daily dose of the wilderness through this beautiful, innovative and authentic platform.
Below are the results of two of my favourite projects. James Tyrrell, you’ve set the benchmark when it comes to legendary colleagues!
10. A wild life:
But can’t you hear the Wild? — it’s calling you.
Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There’s a whisper on the night-wind,
there’s a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling… let us go. – Robert Service, Call of the Wild.
I have always sought out wild places and Londolozi is one of those. Not only in the sense that you can have encounters with lions and leopards but that it reminds you of and encourages you to connect to your wildest, most authentic self. This is a place that dares you to ask and seek out what that means for you.
11. A desire to circle back:
Londolozi has to be one of the hardest places to leave and that seems to hold true for guests who visit for four days and rangers who stay for ten years. It is a place that becomes a part of you and you it. What I leave with though is a deep sense of gratitude for the miraculous way that life leads us, for the people and hearts it brings us to, for its magical lessons and for its wildness.
Thank you Londolozi for giving me the opportunity to grow bigger in the bigness of the whole.