Big cats are some of the best guides into beautiful landscapes, adventurous journeys and spectacular stories. So many of our guests ask us where else in the world they can encounter big cats. During the month of May, we invite you to join us on a collaborative online adventure to explore the big cats of three Relais & Chateaux families, as well as dear friends: SUJÁN of India, Great Plains Conservation of Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe and Londolozi of South Africa.
Meet The Big Cat Properties
It is no secret that since 1979 Londolozi has had a love affair with leopards. One of the first viewable leopards in Africa was first seen at Londolozi and over the course of 12 years this leopard allowed guides, trackers and naturalists to develop a relationship with her.
It was a relationship with this wild leopard that began a dynasty of Londolozi leopards and as such has come to define game viewing at Londolozi. In doing so it has also offered a showcase of what is possible when man partners with nature.
Under the careful stewardship of the Varty Family, safe havens for leopards has led to a conservation development model that became a blueprint for the industry.
In 1974 The Singh Family fell in love with a land where the tiger roamed; Ranthambhore. That deep love and commitment has endured, grown and blossomed and three generations thereafter have continued to love, respect and give their everything to protect this extraordinary force of nature at her best.
Having spent his childhood in the jungle, it was only natural that Jaisal commit his life to wildlife and conservation. Building on his family legacy, he founded SUJÁN in 2000 with a commitment to offering the very best of Indian hospitality whilst making a positive impact on the wildernesses he treasured. Together with his wife Anjali, they have grown the SUJÁN group to be one of India’s leading conservation tourism models.
Along with their passionate team, Jaisal and his wife Anjali have continued their family’s legacy of conservation by sharing exceptional wilderness experiences in unique areas of pristine wilderness they call home, which benefit local communities as well as preserve protect and restore the Rajasthan wilderness, as well as India’s diverse cultural heritage for future generations.
“The Londolozi family has had the rare privilege of visiting the Sujan Group of India, seeing their magnificent properties and have been inspired by the Tigers of Ranthambore and the phenomenal restoration and rewilding work at Jawai. If you are looking for a unique big cat adventure in India, this would be our top recommendation” ~ Shan Varty
Co-founded by National Geographic filmmaker and photographer husband and wife team of Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Great Plains Conservation’s remit is to conserve and expand natural habitat for wildlife. In excess of 1.5 million acres in Africa have been secured in just 15 years through their stewardship in Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe, of which lions are prime indicator species throughout.
Alarmed by a rapid decline in big cat numbers worldwide the Jouberts’ set up the National Geographic Big Cat Initiative to arrest their decline. Lion numbers worldwide have declined from 450,000 in 1940, accelerating to around 20,000 today (of which just 3500 are male).
The Great Plains’ reserves and conservancies are the locations for the bulk of the Jouberts’ Emmy Award winning films. Among their 40 plus films, their films on lions, in particular, have been shot at Duba Plains (stars of The Last Lions, Silver Eye, Ma Di Tau and her pride pictured) and Selinda Reserve in Botswana; the Mara Conservancies and Chyulu Hills in Kenya.
“For over 40 years, Londolozi and the Varty Family have watched with awe as the Jouberts of The Great Plains Conservancy have tirelessly committed their time to the lens – allowing for all of us to have a deeper love and understanding of the natural world. With each movie, their conservation mission deepens” ~ Bronwyn Varty-Laburn
How Does a Big Cat Safari Immerse You in Nature?
Nowhere is the profusion of India’s natural and cultural heritage more spectacular than in Ranthambhore National Park, where you can safari with SUJÁN in the most famous place in the world to observe tigers in the wild.
“Little can compare to this, one of the greatest wildlife experience on our planet today. Picture yourself not 5 meters from a wild tiger in India’s premier national park. It’s incredible. It changes your life. Magnificent experience never to be forgotten!” ~ Marlon du Toit, Safari Travel Specialist
SUJÁN’s highly-experience field team and guides are an integral part of the big cat experience. Their knowledge of the wilderness, combined with their expert tracking skills and passionate enthusiasm allow guests to truly connect with nature. The SUJÁN experience shares the living expression of the wilderness, its history, environment and culture.
Beverly Joubert’s photography is published by National Geographic, of which she and Dereck are National Geographic Explorers-at-Large, bringing worldwide awareness of the plight of big cats. Beverly’s fine art hangs throughout Great Plains’ camps and lodges.
The Maasai Mara Conservancies have the highest big cat concentration in Africa with lion prides 20+ strong. Mara Plains Camp and Mara Nyika Camp afford the utmost in exclusivity, style and space in this vast ecosystem to see these and other animals.
None of the Great Plains camps are fenced, as we’re in the animal’s environment and not them in the human’s environment. Hippos at Duba Plains Camp can be blamed by partners snoring loudly and often munch their way around camp at night.
“Sitting with a mother leopard and cub has been one of the most life changing experiences of my life” – Londolozi Guest
Both male and female leopards are territorial meaning they will hold territories for their lifetimes, making tracking and finding them possible all year round. At Londolozi, it is an honour to host so many world-renowned wildlife photographers who are coming to track, find and get that ultimate shot.
Time and time again, we have seen how big cats inspire people to make change in the way that they look after ecosystems and ultimately our one planet that we call home.
A Big Cat Safari Is Sustainable
Big cats are some of the best guides into beautiful landscapes, adventurous journeys and spectacular stories. But they do so much more than that. They have become umbrella species that allow for a ripple effect to take place around where they are being protected.
Hunting is unsustainable and abhorrent, which is why, at every Great Plains Relais & Châteaux member property, professional cameras and binoculars are included in each suite to shoot lions and other wildlife without harm, leaving wildlife to flourish for future generations.
“It is my firm belief that what we have learnt since Darwin and Wallace is that islands and the wildlife on them are vulnerable. The smaller the island the more likely an extinction in the future. If any effort at all is to be put into conservation it has to go towards linking these islands again, joining them up and recreating home ranges and natural migration routes” ~ Dereck Joubert
For every guest that stays with Great Plains we plant an indigenous tree. Here at Mara Nyika Camp we have planted over 2000 trees in the valley since opening in 2018, offsetting carbon and providing habitat for insects and birds and shade for mammals, as well as planting trees in community areas nearby. This is one of many Great Plains Foundation initiatives.
A safari at Londolozi has become much more than luxury in the wilderness or viewing animals in their natural habitat.When you visit Londolozi, beyond the immersive and thrilling wildlife experience, you support socio-economic well-being of a whole human ecosystem. Community upliftment, rural education, healthcare and the creation of safe havens for leopards, rhinos and other iconic species to roam freely, are just a few of the ways in which your safari is having a positive impact on the reserve and its surrounding areas.
At Londolozi we are immensely proud of our 10-year association with the Rupert Foundation and Tracker Academy and recognise that our visiting guests from all over the world play a role too. The Tracker Academy equips young men and women with high level skills that lead to jobs in the conservation, animal protection and hospitality industries – all the while preserving the ancient art of tracking. This incredible brainchild of Gainor Rupert sets the tone for pioneering the ability to preserve an ancient artform in a living human being.
Your safari means the power to improve the lives of both people and wildlife. Your safari means the power to make change.
SUJÁN has shown India what hospitality with conservation at its core can look like. Four core tenets- to protect and preserve biodiversity, responsible and sustainable operations, holistic community development and preservation of culture and heritage are at the core of each SUJÁN property.
A conservation contribution is added to each stay, per person, per night, as a direct donation to SUJÁN’s philanthropic wing, The SNS Foundation. Whether its the 13 schools SUJÁN has managed to adopt, the free primary health care service they run or the anti poaching volunteers they support, with multiple projects running across several districts of Rajasthan, by staying at SUJÁN, you make a direct contribution, committing profits to securing conservation integrity for future generations.
Ensuring that our local communities understand and benefit from the existence of each SUJÁN is a crucial element of our responsible tourism model. Our long-term community development goal is designed to improve the quality of living, health & sanitation, education & future for our communities.
We hope you enjoy this month’s big cat feature. Wherever you go in the world, seek out the big cats. They will take you into wilderness and wonderment. It’s time to begin dreaming of the ultimate Big Cat safari. Three destinations, three iconic families, three big cats, three Relais & Chateaux families: SUJÁN, Londolozi and Great Plains Conservation families . One conservation mission.