As it was for the rest of the world, last year was a bit disrupted. During our training in 2020 we missed out on quite a few special activities during the global lockdown, but the one that we were most distraught about missing was the week spent with Ian Thomas.
Ian has long been part of the Londolozi family – not only because he is a cousin to Dave and John Varty but also because of his long service as a guide at Londolozi in the 80s and 90s. Ian is now famous for his master storytelling abilities and has stories that have you rolling on the floor laughing and entertained for hours – all gleaned over the many years he has been involved with Londolozi. Thankfully the Londolozi Head Ranger, James Souchon managed to coax Ian back to spend some good quality time with us.
When asking around the camp about what to expect while with Ian Thomas I kept getting the same answer, “Just enjoy the time with him, he is a fascinating and a lovely man “.
Ian knows Londolozi better than most. Being cousins with the Vartys he has had the privilege of coming to this special place since he was a young boy and eventually worked here as a guide. Ian still has a continuous impact on Londolozi to this day each time he visits.
Our time with Ian started with an afternoon game drive into the northern parts of the reserve. Memories of our time as trainees came flooding back as we were now back in the hot seat, with the feeling that our every movement and every word was being scrutinized. This was, luckily, not the case at all as we arrived at the Manyeleti River for our first afternoon…all the nerves went straight out the window as Ian cracked the first of many jokes and set us all at ease.
We got out of the vehicle and walked down into the river sand. Taking a seat in the shade of a Jackalberry, Ian asked us all to explain why we were at Londolozi and our journey getting here. He took a genuine interest in every story, seriously invested in each one – a theme that lasted the entire week. With the sun setting behind the steep banks of the river we found a suitable spot to light a fire. Regaling stories of the past around the fire that night it was evident- Ian really was exactly what everyone had made him out to be. I couldn’t help but get excited for the next day, knowing that we would get more time with him.
There were many things that we did over the next couple of days, including eating Jaffles in the sand river, sharing artwork and poems with each other, and just having some good old genuine conversations in a place we have all grown to be strongly bonded to. The time that stood out for me most was sitting around a campfire in the Maxabene River singing. Anyone who knows me is well aware I’m not shy of singing a song or two or thirteen. The singing definitely made me smile from ear to ear but it was something more. It was the first time all of us trainees were together around a fire in the bush again, except for Kyle who was on leave. Laughing, joking, singing, and just being together again out there…It was truly a nostalgic moment and something I’ll hold close to me for a long time.
The time spent with Ian was simple and allowed for us to be ourselves at our most raw. It allowed us to come together again and laugh like we used to while training. I can’t thank Ian and James enough for making this happen.
What I can tell you after this time with such a legendary storyteller is this… if given the opportunity to spend some quality time with Ian Thomas take it with arms wide open. It will definitely make an impact on your life.