I finally relate to guests who can’t be at Londolozi all the time. This is an open letter to all of you. Past guest and future. I understand your pain and how you miss Londolozi.
This evening I watched a great wildlife documentary on TV. It reminded me of when I was younger and used to watch these amazing documentaries and long to be wherever they were filmed. After watching this, I then did my usual nightly lockdown routine of switching to Instagram and watching the incredible job that the Londolozi team are doing of keeping us connected to the wilderness. I never thought I would go on a virtual safari! It ended up leaving me with a similar feeling and the same longing that I had as a child watching those documentaries. That feeling of desperately wanting to go to the places that I saw on the TV but now, I long to return to Londolozi!
The current crisis that the world is facing, which has and continues to devastate many people’s lives leaves many looking for some sort of hope, distraction or happiness. For me, that escape is the bush yet it is one thing I currently can’t have.
Just some insight; we as rangers work six weeks on and two weeks off. Usually a two week break comes as a good time to unwind to see family and to rest. Then you find yourself at the end of two weeks, ready to go back to Londolozi. It has only been a total of four weeks to date that I have been away and I am left with one question, how do you do it?
I ask this knowing that usually, everyone spends far longer away from the beloved Londolozi. Weeks, months even years before they return. Longing for that return from the day they leave. I respect you and for once can relate to you.
I miss the screeches of the crested francolins as the morning light appears while we dunk a rusk in our coffee, just before we head out on the morning drive. The sight of every tracker’s large grin as they hop on to the tracking seat, excited to get out into the bush. I miss the grunts of hippos as I drive past the Sand River. The beauty of that exact river and the abundance of life along its banks, queleas swarming among the reeds as dawn sun starts to warm us up on the vehicle. Seeing those first tracks of a leopard, and then switching off the engine to assess if they are fresh. And then suddenly, hearing one of the Birmingham males claim dominance with that riveting territorial roar. I miss seeing a journey of giraffe drink at a distant waterhole as we stop for a morning bush tea. I miss simply watching a herd of impala run across the airstrip as we approach camp for breakfast.
I miss the enthusiasm at afternoon meeting with my team – wow I miss that team – before we head down to deck to meet guests, and you amplify that enthusiasm as we all get ready to kick off where we left in morning… to finally find that leopard.
Everyone is well rested as I smell the distinguishable oils from your afternoon at the healing house. We set off, shortly bumping into a breeding herd of elephants. Sitting there, observing, appreciating, almost forgetting about the tracks we are still following. It was probably due to that tiny calf that kept trumpeting.
Then suddenly, there it is, after a long day of searching; the dream, a leopard lying up in the tree, not moving yet. We stare for what seems like hours. It is just like that documentary that brought me there, you there, us together. I miss it so much!
I miss laughing over a sundowner, watching the unbeatable orange and red lights sink slowly into the horizon. I miss the first sound of a fiery-necked nightjar on our way home. The unbelievable spot of the tracker with a spotlight of a chameleon in the tree just before the lurking hyena passes by our game vehicle. I miss walking into the lantern-lit boma at night, greeted by not only the most delicious smells but the happy faces of the chefs, butlers and camp managers. I miss sitting around the fire with you all, appreciating everything that the wildlife had to offer us for the day.
I miss going to bed hearing the noises of the African bush, knowing I’m going to wake up to that same screeching francolin the next morning. I cannot wait to wake up there again.
I miss Londolozi.