Welcome Paul. Thanks for the ride from Skukuza!
Since I arrived at Londolozi Game Reserve I have begun to grasp the threads of how, when and why the Londolozi tapestry has such a colourful reputation on the global Safari stage. It has only been two weeks since my arrival but already as a new Londolozi staff member and ranger-in-training my introduction has been way more than I expected.
In anticipation of the softs refurbishment of Varty and Granite Camps, I was thrown into the deep end with just about the entire staff body as we banded together in an incredible effort to wrap up countless items and move the contents. Everybody except the resident chacma baboons and vervet monkeys – who sat back idly watching from the shade – contributed willingly to the overall objective.
Next, through a seven day induction program, I slowly began to understand how each department from housekeeping to maintenance functions on a daily basis and met a host of new and friendly people who are responsible for ensuring that daily operations are as fluid and flexible as possible. Learning how each department communicates with each other, facilitating the consistent and professional delivery of the perfect safari experience from five independent camps was, something of an eyeopener.
Another thrill for me was participating in the annual staff Christmas Party. Earlier on in the afternoon the tempo was set when a disciplined Londolozi Leopards team defeated the Hyenas during an eventful soccer match.
That evening I witnessed my new boss and conservation icon, Dave Varty, give away prizes and express his gratitude to the Londolozi team for a job well done in 2017. A charismatic Duncan Maclarty, Londolozi’s General Manager, was in control of the mic and introduced further proceedings including a ‘best dressed’ contest where spectators shouted their approval at different contestants. The spirit, theatre and energy of the jungle-themed occasion was almost tangible. My personal highlight was watching as over two hundred people roared with laughter when a few brave souls battled it out in a dance competition for a different prize only to have it swept from under their feet by a one-and-a-half year old!
Throughout the two weeks I have also had my fair share of ranger-ing. I assisted Kim Drake, Londolozi’s procurement and control manager, with the removal of a monitor lizard from her dry stores, aided fellow rangers in the capture and translocation of two snakes of the spitting variety on separate occasions and participated in the most competitive and frantic birding game drive I’ve ever been a part of. Eight rangers in the same vehicle split into two teams and were awarded points for the successful identification of a bird species and were deducted points for a misidentification of a species. Once a call was made the opposing team could challenge that call and on it went until dusk concluded the game and the final tally was announced.
Early one morning I also had the dubious pleasure of helping Head Ranger Talley Smith drag a half-eaten impala carcass from behind the Founders camp main area out into the Sand River. One of the night patrolmen unravelled the mystery and regaled the events of the previous night when he described how the leopard caught and killed the impala close to the camp. Once its dinner was secured the leopard then had an argument with an opportunistic spotted hyena that was intent on robbing him of the kill. A fight ensued which ended in neither side claiming the carcass as it became wedged behind a wall where it was found by a camp manager on her way to the morning yoga class.
From the service ethic, energy, warmth and authenticity of the staff to the wild and varied landscape and its inhabitants, it is easy to relate to Amy Attenborough’s final blog tribute when she described eleven of the most profound aspects of her Londolozi tenure. Having now seen the Londolozi Leadwood forests for myself I long to stroll along a game trail that winds through these ancient trees and of course, to qualify and be a part of this amazing Londolozi tribe.
You are very welcome Al! See you around camp.