As a Camp Manager at Londolozi I am lucky enough to spend time wandering through our camps and spend majority of my day on the camp decks. To call the Londolozi’s Pioneer Deck my ‘office’ is something unfathomable! In between guests arriving for meals and going out on game drives, I get the time to marvel at the wide open spaces, natural habitat and to observe my vistas.
Whilst sitting on Pioneer Deck and admiring my ‘office’ view, I couldn’t help but gaze over the Sand River and notice the Marula trees standing out on the wide open crest. This familiar tree can be seen all over Londolozi, and those who have been here might have spotted a leopard up one or have stopped for a coffee beneath its shade. I decided to do some research on the Marula trees as I examined them from the deck. Upon doing some reading, I found that certain characteristics of this tree can be compared to those of Londolozi. A Marula tree – a perfect and nostalgic metaphor for the Londolozi organisation.
1. Their Deep Tap Roots
First off, a key characteristic of Marula trees that helps them survive on sandy crests are their deep tap roots that support them and help access the necessary water supply. Without these roots the tree could easily fall over and wouldn’t be able to thrive in these permeable soils. Londolozi’s roots go back almost 100 years to where two explorers decided to take a wild gamble on a derelict piece of land. Since then, the families have deepened these roots and have invested in the land, animals, the people and so much more to get to where we are today.
2. Marula Trees Are Deciduous
This means that Marula trees shed their leaves annually. This isn’t unique to these trees but it helps them conserve water and energy, increases pollination production levels in the spring and assists in survival in harsher weather conditions of the winter months. Londolozi too goes through its own seasons of change, shedding and growth. Each year, the Londolozi Family comes together to review the previous years strategy: what went wrong and what worked well? This prevents Londolozi from remaining stagnant and in doing so prepares us for the challenges and tribulations in the season to come by quite literally ‘turning over a new leaf’.
3. Marulas Have Broad Leaves
Another way in which the Marula tree thrives on sandy crests is its broad leaves. The broad leaves allow for a higher rate of transpiration (the process of water uptake through the root system, the transportation of that water through plant tissues and the release of water vapour through leaves into the atmosphere). The benefit of a high rate of transpiration is that along with the water entering the tree, comes a large amount of nutrients and minerals from the soil. So yes, on one hand the Marula tree requires a lot from the soil, but on the other it gives back the same amount, if not more. The tree has a water and nutrient-filled cambium layer underneath the bark that animals, especially elephants, love. It also hosts delicious Marula fruits that are extremely high in vitamin C and are used by the Londolozi Kitchen to make jam, not to mention these fruits are the flavour of our guests much-loved Amarula cream.
Londolozi too requires inputs such as a large staff base who maintain the lodge and reserve and foreign and domestic guests who travel from far and wide. Yet the beauty of Londolozi is that, just like the Marula tree, it gives back in so many different ways. To name a few: being the founding partner and key contributor to The Good Work Foundation (GWF), guardians of our already threatened rhino population and protectors of the land and environment and using sustainable practices such as lessening our carbon footprint and aiming to reach a zero-plastic Londolozi. The list goes on, but for me, the marvel that is the Londolozi model is that everything happens in a balance. Whilst receiving inputs from various sources, the organisation aims to give back and create a sustainable way of life for future generations to enjoy.
“A Tree has roots in the soil yet it reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded and that no matter how high we go, it is from our roots that we draw sustenance” – Wangari Moothai
The magic that trees embody lies in the fact that they have been around for hundreds, or even thousands of years, just as Londolozi is coming up on its hundredth year mark. Just like an ancient tree, Londolozi has many stories to tell. Not only do we revere them as keepers of the past, but also sentinels of the future. Going into the companies second century of existence, the Londolozi Family aim to continue being the protector of all living things.