Working in camp at Londolozi, it’s hard to resist the urge to be out in the bush. Sure, we have our fair share of wildlife encounters inside the lodge fence – a curious hyena snooping around, our resident nyalas trimming the hedges, vervet monkeys stopping by for afternoon tea – and after all, we’re in their home.
Spend enough time on the main deck of Varty Camp, though, and you forget that you’re in camp at all: the panoramic view draws you in, the granite slabs in the riverbed reflecting the sunlight as the grasses sway in the breeze. It’s my favourite view at Londolozi. Here’s why.
In the dry weeks before the Sand River flowed into Londolozi, a familiar scene would play out almost every afternoon. Around five o’clock, on the cusp of the golden hour, Varty Deck would receive its daily visitors: a small herd of elephants, stopping by for an early dinner.
Each time these four elephants lumbered into view, I’d look up from whatever I was writing, put down the pen, and just watch them be.
When I first came to Londolozi, it was the leopards that took my breath away. They still do. But the more time I spent in and around the bush, the deeper a connection I feel with elephants, and the more they draw me in.
On a recent drive out into the reserve, I was sitting in the front seat of the Land Rover when a towering bull stepped into the road, stopping us in our tracks. We sat in amazed, gleeful silence as this gentle, giant animal checked us out with his gigantic trunk. I could feel my smile turning to laughter: this was what Boyd Varty describes as the feeling of full-body elation, of total fullness, that floods your system during a close-up encounter with an elephant and lingers long afterward. It’s about as magical and mystical as the bush can get.
It’s late afternoon now on Varty Deck, and the sun is bathing the granite riverbed in gold. I hear a low rumble reverberate through the bush and stop writing my blog post (this blog post) as the four elephants slowly approach the deck. One of them pierces the quiet with a staccato trumpet, startled by the warthogs running nearby.
As they munch their way toward me, I feel an ancient happiness well up inside me, especially when the inquisitive little one comes close; I have to suppress an intense yearning to hop down to ground level and reach out to rest my hand on its trunk. And as they walk on, heading east and out of sight, I’m left with a feeling of absolute peace.
We travel to see ourselves reflected through the prism of another culture. We go on safari to see ourselves reflected through the prism of another species.
It’s a beautiful, enlightening, spiritual experience.
And you don’t even have to leave the deck.