Kay and her good friend Susan come year after year to Londolozi and sometimes more than once a year. They usually go out with the formidable team of Andrea Sithole and Sersant. I have been fortunate enough to spend some time with Kay in the Photographic Studio and we got chatting which led me to this blog. I thought the best way to share her experiences would be through a little Q and A. Below I have shared some of the amazing images an “amateur” photographer managed to capture with some of the rented equipment here at Londolozi. Kay shares some amazing moments and completely hits the nail on the head for what we hope, as a family at Londolozi, every guest gets to experience.
1. Kay, why do you choose to return to Londoz year after year, haven’t you had urge to go to other lodges?
It was always my dream to visit Africa and I had the opportunity to attend a retreat at Londolozi. My visit exceeded my dreams in so many ways. The land and animals have a special magic to them, and this grows the more time you spend at Londolozi. With what has to be, the best rangers and trackers in Africa; you feel a peace come over you on every game drive. You start to track a rhythm within yourself that matches the energy of the land.
From my first trip to my recent 10th trip, that magic just seems to grow and deepen. I’ve experienced true life changes as a result of my time spent here. It honestly feels like coming home to a part of myself I didn’t really have access to before my visits.
To me, Londolozi offers everything you could ever wish for – beautiful, serene accommodation, first-class food and personal service, and the best people in the world. Add to that the amazing animal sightings from multiple leopards, lions, and elephants, and I truly can’t imagine a more beautiful place in the world.
2. You have visited us twice during the pandemic, what’s your take on traveling to South Africa for one and secondly to Londolozi?
I had just returned from a trip to Londolozi when Covid hit big in the United States. With the lockdowns, I had missed two scheduled trips to great disappointment. When South Africa opened for visitors in December 2020, I jumped at the chance to visit. Observing all the recommended safety protocols and negative Covid test in hand, it was easy to observe social distancing and air travel felt extremely safe with plenty of space.
Londolozi makes it so easy to continue to observe safety protocols and I’ve never had a moment’s concern. They also make it very easy to obtain the Covid tests required by airlines for return travel. I actually felt safer flying than going to the grocery store back home.
3. Your resent trips to us have both been long stays. How many days exactly were each of the last two trips and what for you is the advantage of having longer stays?
In December I stayed 15 glorious days. To be able to spend more time gives you the opportunity to relax and enjoy the drives and animal sightings without a sense of urgency to try and do it all. Plus, Londolozi offers amazing treatments at the Healing House, fabulous food, yoga, a gym, and the chance to try your hand at photography. I’ve fallen in love with photography and getting the chance to really capture the beauty of the animals and keep those memories forever.
In April I spent 12 days and I could have stayed longer. Every game drive is different and a great surprise as to what you’ll see and experience in the bush. In April we had the amazing privilege to spend time with 3 different leopards and their cubs. It really feels like an honor to spend time with all the wild animals and enjoy their “company” without disturbing them. It is like a real peek into their natural lives without creating any fear in them.
4. You rent a camera and lens each visit. Did you have any background with a camera and taking photographs before coming here? How has your photographic journey progressed?
I didn’t have any background or real experience in photography when I first rented camera equipment. Having visited a few times, I really wanted to be able to try and capture the animals to share with people back home and to hopefully enjoy some of the photographs in my own home.
For me, when I first started taking pictures, I felt more rushed to take the picture and wasn’t as relaxed with the camera and how to frame or take the best shots. I was also very aware that you can, in a way, miss spending the quiet time with the animals when you are looking through a lens as opposed to just experiencing the sighting. But I had some great experiences with rangers who helped me and offer advice on how to improve my abilities.
Now, photographing the wilderness and wild animals has become a real love of mine. I’ve been able to slow down and enjoy the sighting and take more time in capturing images that are intentional and, hopefully, more artistic. Having spent as much time as I have in the bush, I feel a sense of the different animal energy and behavior and have an idea of what I’m looking for in an image. I don’t feel I have to take multiple pictures of the same type of thing, so I can both enjoy the experience of sitting with the animals and also taking some shots.
5. From meeting you I can see how important it is for you to connect to nature, as it is for so many at the moment. How does your trip help you with this?
I’ve always been a huge animal lover and have felt very fortunate to be able to spend so much time with wild animals in Africa. Being fully immersed in the nature of the bushveld and watching elephants drinking, swimming, and playing in the mud has been such a healing experience. I think the ability to spend a large amount of time in nature at Londolozi has deepened my ability to really ground myself and focus on the more meaningful things in life. You’re experiencing life in its fullest and purest form while in nature and I believe it brings you to true connection. I think everyone is looking for that, especially in these difficult past few months.
6. There is no doubt that you love leopards. What are some of your more memorable moments from your last stay?
I do love leopards, they are so beautiful and magical beings to me. My first time sitting with elephants, watching the young ones playing and all the herd watching over them, filled me with such deep gratitude that I had never felt before. I realized I was looking at what true connection looked and felt like. When you are lucky enough to sit with a herd of elephants, you can almost feel your blood pressure lowering and your energy syncing up with theirs.
Also, the time spent with the Ntsevu pride and their small cubs gives you a similar feeling and definitely the sense of love and connection between these wild cats. The first time you sit with a male lion and he roars is one of life’s biggest thrills.
At Londolozi, I’ve been so fortunate to spend real time with so many species, from rhino, hippo, giraffe, wildebeest, all sorts of antelope, to big cats and elephants. The differences and beauty of all these animals are so fascinating to me. The rangers and trackers off their incredible knowledge of animal behavior and are able to help you interpret what you see out in the bush. It just never gets old for me – I’m excited at the start of every drive.
After an amazing previous stay we can be pretty sure that it wont be long before Kay and Susan are back in camp for their next visit.