“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Seuss
How a decade can go past, and the memories and feelings stay the same.
I was fortunate enough to visit Londolozi at such a young age. I first ventured here with my parents in 2006 as a guest at the age of 6. We visited for four consecutive years as we fell in love with Varty camp and the dynamics of the reserve itself. My last visit as a guest was at the age of 10 and within those 4 years I felt like I grew such a close relationship with the staff and also with the nature surrounding us. I thought that my experience of Londolozi had come to an end and it would be a memory for the rest of my lifetime. However, I would have never dreamed of what was in store for the future at that young age.
10 years on from the last visit I had now finished secondary school and at the age of 18 I now had a gap year which I could fill with opportunities. I knew that within the year out I would want to fill it with my passions that lie closest to my heart. The one that stood out the most and I am sure many people can relate too was the ‘Africa bug.’ For me this bug was fuelled by my experiences at Londolozi in the past and I wanted to relive that experience and renew my memories. I managed to reach out to the Vartys and they offered me a two-week internship. I grabbed the opportunity and got here as fast as I could.
I arrived with the idea that over the decade I would have forgotten the majority of memories and there would have been many changes. However, as soon the ‘plane wheels landed on the airstrip memories came flooding back. When I arrived, I immediately saw Duncan and Jessica MacLarty .I didn’t think we were going to recognise each other but as soon as I saw Jess I remembered all the memories from the Cubs’ Den when Jess looked after me as a kid. Duncan was Varty camp manager then but now on my return he had become the General Manager. I could remember all the evenings in the Tree House having sundowners with Duncan and many of his stories.
Walking around Varty camp for the first time since the last visit was surreal. Something as simple as seeing the swimming pool again put a massive smile on my face. The shop had moved and had been replaced by the fantastic Healing House. It was as if I was 8 years old again and visiting for the first time.
The amount of excitement had not got any less and the anticipation was just as great. Going back to the Boma to help behind the bar was amazing. It was a completely different perspective to the last time in that Boma. Last time I was drawing animal tracks in the sand with our ranger Lucien for hours on end, and this time, I was making Gin and Tonics for all the guests. Nonetheless the memories were still the same and the sense of deja vu was almost overwhelming.
Finally, meeting my Tracker again called Lucky was special. He didn’t recognise me, but I could recite to him all the different sightings we had over the four years to the first time ever landing on the airstrip when we fortunate enough to see a leopard kill a warthog driving to the lodge. I have been privileged enough to go on a couple of game drives during my latest time here and the emotions were immense. I saw my first Londolozi leopard in over a decade and it was the same feeling as seeing the first one as we drove from the airstrip.
The last week of my stay now highlighted what so many of us are fortunate enough to experience and that is that indescribable feeling that you get being at Londolozi. This feeling is powered by the experiences you gain and over time you build these fantastic memories; and as I just found out they are memories that truly do last a lifetime.
Whether it is one year or a decade later, the memories will always stay close to your heart.