Having been on my two week leave when South Africa’s Lockdown was initiated, means that I have now been away from Londolozi for over a month. Sure, it doesn’t sound like much in the greater scheme of things but it is nonetheless by far the longest time I have spent away from the place that I have invariably called home since I moved there two years ago. Again, two years might not seem like much but for those of you that have had the privilege of visiting Londolozi, you’ll know that the place can steal your heart in a matter of moments.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I miss it there.
This lockdown period has brought about a couple of amazing opportunities. While the assigned 21 days spent hunkering down in our dwellings seemed rather daunting at first, I have come realise what can be achieved during this time. Of course, there is the satisfaction of being part of a collective global effort to curb a threat that looms over our existence – something that we should take a lot of pride and accountability in being part of.
We are also forced to reflect on some aspects of our own lives. Among several other things I noticed that these 21 days will be comfortably be the longest time that my family has spend together in more than eight years. That’s special, and I don’t know when that will happen again. I’d like to think that I am making the most of these moments spent with them; sharing new music and birding with my mum, solving the world’s problems over a whisky with my dad and catching up on the new trends while doing a very improvised home workout with my younger brother. It has above all reminded me to not take things for granted, which we so easily can do.
This brings me back to Londolozi. As I mentioned earlier, the place can sweep you off your feet quicker than most but sometimes, as is the case with many things, you can forget to appreciate what is actually in front of you. Here, the cliché proverb ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ comes to mind as I have once again been reminded how much this magical place means to me while being separated from it and the wonders that come with it. I’ll touch on few things below which are small aspects of my everyday life at Londolozi that I find myself pondering on during this time away…
Starting the day right
Quietly strolling down to camp and settling into a warm cup of coffee with a few fellow rangers while listening to what the bush might have to offer for the morning. A few whooping hyenas are heard across the river, followed by a distant roar of a lion. We place our friendly bets on where he might be found and set off into the rising sun with excitement brewing.
Not far out from camp, tracker Euce raises his hand, signalling me to stop. I hop off my seat as he informs me that there are fresh tracks of a male leopard layed out on the track in front of us. Whispers of winter are in the air and the morning is still. The low sunlight catches the tracks beautifully in the sandy road and we stroll off in pursuit, absorbing the dawn chorus of the Lowveld.
Sharing a passion
Euce and I return to the vehicle with good news of the leopard being found up ahead. I share this with the guests and their faces light up with excitement – their first leopard! There’s something undeniably satisfying about sharing your passion and environment with people who take an invested care and interest in it. We slowly drive up to the male leopard while a few gasps of amazement can be heard from the back seats.
We return back to camp as the day begins to warm up. My first stop is our Rangers Room where we return our rifles and bump into a few friendly faces at the admin offices nearby. Things are in full swing around camp and most people are already busy with their respective tasks of the day but one thing is clear; everyone’s happy.
Need I say more?
The day is capped off with dinner under the stars. A roaring fire is the centrepiece to a brilliantly decorated boma where a drink and a meal are enjoyed while swapping stories with interesting people from all over the world. Having had our fill we retreat back to our rooms. A few of us rangers settle outside on our ‘stoep’ (verandah) and enjoy a beer together, again listening and taking in the sounds and smells of the bush before retiring to our beds and closing the chapter on another day at Londolozi.
As I write this from the comfort of my home with the company of my family, I am again reminded of a few things. How fortunate I am to be able to have two places in the world that I can call home and secondly, that these special times spent at both places cannot go by without an immense feeling of gratitude. We have to remember to live in the moment, be present and be thankful for what we have.
I cannot wait to return to Londolozi, whenever that will be, but for now I am grateful for the opportunity and time spent where I am, playing my small part of this experience – our nation’s effort, to fight this global threat. Let’s embrace it.