My journey with Londolozi starts at the age of 5 years old. I remember driving a Landrover into a rather large Guarrie tree, and in the evenings I remember toasting marshmallows around the fire. These early memories and time in the bushveld fundamentally shaped who I am today and it’s these memories that called me back at the age of 21 to help my long-standing family friends, Bronwyn and Boyd Varty, to redefine the essence of what safari meant.
It has been ten years now, and it feels like the journey just keeps getting better and better… Just a few months ago, I took a photograph that I have been in search of since the first time I picked up a camera:
It was this image that triggered a reflection (actually, a series of reflections) that I wanted to share with you in the form of a few things that you may not have known, through the memories of my time at working in each of the Londolozi camps. Every camp tells a part of the story of Londolozi. Each one acknowledges beautiful moments in the history of this special place. Today, I start with Tree Camp because it’s this stunning six-suited gem that honours my favourite big cat, and a place that reminds me of the childhood wonder I felt when I first started this journey.
Tree Camp is synonymous with leopards
The first leopard to be viewed consistently on Londolozi was simply known as “the Mother Leopard”. Whilst other skittish individuals had been glimpsed occasionally as they made furtive dashes for cover to avoid human eyes or the pesky Land Rovers that had begun traversing the property, she was the first of her kind to be relaxed enough that rangers, trackers and their guests could actually enjoy a sighting of her.
This mother leopard was an ambassador, and really opened up the secretive world of leopards to all of us. Tree Camp, as the name would suggest, is cantilevered high up on the banks of the Sand River, set in a remarkable canopy of ebony trees. Breakfast feels like you’re eating at the very top of a tree house (which might take you straight back to your own childhood memories of enchantment and adventure).
Tree Camp embodies meditative luxury…
Tree Camp really was a camp that pioneered meditative luxury. And I often get asked what this means. The best way to describe it is
… a feeling of complete indulgence whilst surrounded by deep simplicity.
Every sense is taken care of. What you touch, what you taste, what you see, what you feel and what you hear are all woven together in a layered harmony of just the right amount of each. From honeymooners to baby-boomers to wanderlusters – Tree Camp is the perfect place for privacy. But at the same time it is the perfect camp if you’re looking for connections with others as – as one of our recent guests said to me – “There’s something about the Tree Camp experience that brings people together and makes you want to hear and tell stories and spend time with complete strangers.”
Tree Camp was the first Relais & Chateaux property in Africa
Tree Camp is probably the best-known camp at Londolozi, because it was the first safari camp in the world to receive the prestigious Relais & Chateaux fleur de lis of excellence. So, I always tell nervous safari travellers that it is a camp that truly is the safest bet. I also know that being part of the Relais & Chateaux family brings with it a wonderful sense of occasion, excellence, landscape, local taste and authenticity that can only really be found in a stand-alone, family-run property (On a side note, if you are travelling in South Africa, be sure to pepper your itinerary with other members of the Relais & Chateaux family).
Tree Camp reminds us that restoration and kinship are possible
I digressed slightly as I got lost in the beautiful suites and decor that is Tree Camp. But, in closing, I say to you that Tree Camp stands as a reminder to all of us in the Londolozi Family that restoration and kinship are possible… In 1926 the early ancestors of the Varty and Taylor families came to Londolozi to hunt lions and leopards. And now, in just 10 short decades, rifles have been replaced with cameras and lenses, and the legends of the leopards of Londolozi are five generations deep. And here, on this beautifully restored piece of Africa, one can see wild leopards up close and personal. It’s a remarkable reminder that when you partner with nature, she partners with you.
Looking back, if I was to sit on the branch of a tree next to my 5-year-old self all those years ago, when my love for this magical place began, I would never have believed that a world of childhood wonder – no matter how old I would get – was about to be opened, right in front of me. And each time I step onto the Tree Camp deck, or sit quietly (on what is arguably the most comfortable day bed in Africa) looking out at the canopy of trees and the river bed below, with a wash of hope that I might spot a leopard silently making its way through the bushes, Tree Camp reminds me of this.
I hope this gives you a little window into the world of Tree Camp.
When you visit, be sure to have a glass of champagne under the waterfall in the main pool… tell them Jacqui sent you!