It seems only right that the place that broke the mould of what a safari should be is also breaking the mould of what constitutes “family”.
Londolozi’s definition of family: It means a group of people from all over the world, with multiple languages, cultures, religions, backgrounds, genders and interests, united by love for each other, wildlife and the planet we call home.
As always, it has been a core belief that it is family that lies at the centre of Londolozi’s values. This could not be more apparent as I start my day flanked by two of my grandchildren feeding the “kip kips” (otherwise known as francolins) on the front porch at our house at Londolozi – the true meaning of the collective of family through generations. Our small family unit is privileged to be part of the greater Londolozi family as we enjoy daily village life together in the surrounds of a vast wilderness where friendships are nurtured and lifelong bonds created across all genders and cultures.
Very closely allied to our village family of Londolozi is, of course, the ever-growing Good Work Foundation (GWF) family which resides in the areas west of Londolozi. As the founding patron to the GWF, we feel immensely proud to say that on any given week in excess of 9000 learners attend digital learning classes at five different learning centres in the neighbouring villages adjacent to Londolozi. As a result of access to quality learning these vibrant young learners (graduates) now enjoy the opportunity to establish meaningful careers thereby enabling them to contribute in a meaningful way to society. I often pause for a moment to consider the implications to thousands of rural families when the young men and women from those families return home informed and educated, able to empower themselves and their families towards a sustainable and abundant future.
Rippling out every day from our village is the ever-growing Londolozi global family who return year upon year to renew their ties and catch-up on the latest happenings. Returning to Londolozi is also the chance to reconnect with our great big animal family of kinship spirits with whom we share our space – the famous of all being the leopard families. Over the years they have enthralled our guests, causing them to return multiple times to witness the life, death and birth cycles of these beautiful spotted cats. Indeed over the past four decades, we have been privileged to bear witness to countless animals which have come and gone during the course of Londolozi’s existence. Their spirits continue to ripple around the world, creating yet another family of those who considers themselves kin to these leopards both emotionally and spiritually. This year we have been privileged to follow no fewer than 30 individual leopards as they go about their daily lives. It was thrilling to learn from the Panthera Organisation that the Londolozi traversing area is now being recognised to be within the highest leopard concentration yet recorded on the African continent.
Then, of course, there is the family of the 57 million South Africans – winners of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, an occasion which demonstrated to the world the power of unity and what can be achieved when people from a diversity of backgrounds and different mother tongues work together towards a common cause. The South African rugby team is an inspiration for our country, demonstrating the very essence of ubuntu and the power of diversity. Not for the first time in our young democracy have we witnessed a window into what South Africa can be if we as a nation worked together as one. Certainly at 12:54 on 2 November 2019, South Africa as one nation roared in celebration of our victory. In his thank you speech, team captain Siya Kolisi reached out across our land with these words “To all of you; those in the taverns, shebeens and fan parks across the country, to the unemployed and the homeless and to those who live in the rural areas of our country, thank you for your incredible support”. It is this unity that we all seek as our young democracy South Africa finds its way.
Family takes on many guises and our membership of the Relais and Chateaux global family consisting of 580 establishments throughout the world, is one which Londolozi greatly treasures. This relationship has been nurtured and built – in no small way by Shan Varty who has for the past five years been as the moving spirit in the Relais Africa chapter.
And finally, the reality which we should all never forget, that we are members of a single universal family with a shared humanity founded on a deep desire to belong and connect. It is in this area that Londolozi intends to make a small contribution by creating a place where people from all over the world choose to “return home”; where they feel a sense of belonging and reconnection to themselves, to family, to each other and to nature. This has been particularly evident with the increased demand for Retreats in nature, several of which took place this year at Londolozi. Those who participated in these deeply introspective nature-based engagements were overwhelmed by what they had personally experienced and felt. Certainly, this is becoming a growing new frontier for examining self in the safety and nurturing arms of nature.
As the festive season draws near, it is always good to reflect on the highlights of the year that has been. I think particularly of the giant steps forward made in developing the “flywheels of sustainability” within Londolozi’s best operating practice endeavours. This year saw the installation of a world-class solar farm, resulting in a 38% reduction in our power usage and a clear intention to be 100% off the grid by 2026. In ensuring that our camps remain fresh and in step with our guest’s expectations, we completed a refurbishment of Pioneer Camp at the start of the year. Other sustainability best-practice initiatives which we celebrated during 2019 include: over half a tonne of greens supplied by members of our village into the hospitality operations from the village gardens; closed-circuit water and waste management designs which will be fully operational by the middle of 2020 as our journey towards zero emissions continues; the commissioning of the fourth prototype battery Land Rover for field testing with the stated objective of being fully battery powered by 2026.
Our village celebrated the addition of “The Wallow” as a place where the staff can gather in joyous harmony after a day well-lived. And finally, on the 30th of October 2019 Boyd Varty’s new book called “Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life” was launched in New York and across the world. This beautiful tracking metaphor for life told by Boyd carries a message relevant to us all as we search for our own meaning. It is extremely thought-provoking – certainly a worthwhile read and definitely a Christmas stocking gift.
The festive season is always a time for reflection and for me this year the satisfying feeling of being part of a universal family seemed more pronounced. Indeed, nothing gives more pleasure to me than sitting on the front steps of my house with my grandchildren at my side as we participate in the joy of a kinship with a covey of francolins who visit us for their daily bread. Listening to the dawn chorus, surrounded by the harmony of nature in the warmth of a nurturing family, gives one a feeling of peace and tranquility. Indeed, when thinking of all that goes on in our modern world and reflecting on the miles I have travelled and the people I have met, coming home to sit on the front steps of the house keeps it all in perspective. And so it seems appropriate that our theme of the 2019 seasons greetings is “Celebration of Family” and all that it brings and means to each and every one of us. May you all have an extraordinary and joyous festive season and may we have the opportunity to welcome you “home” again in 2020 to reconnect with your African family and spotted kinship friends.