Very early on in my Londolozi lifespan I learned a lesson that has never left me. It was about how to be of service. But, not in the traditional way that you might think. I remember being guided around the five individual and unique camps for the first time and being told that each one has been specifically designed to represent a part of the history of Londolozi. And, as another layer, each one has been crafted to feel like an extension of Dave and Shan Varty’s own home. It quickly became clear to me that this was an important thing to remember. As Maya Angelou says, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. While the soft furnishings and the layout of each camp are impeccable, it was the comfort and ease with which I witnessed our guests enjoy them that really struck me. Someone said to me in those early days that if Dave Varty were to walk onto one of the five main areas, or decks as we call them, and was to see a guest who didn’t feel so at home that they felt comfortable enough to take their shoes off and fall asleep reading a book after a few gin and tonics at lunch, then we have failed at being of service. I have never forgotten this sentiment. And it has guided me through my own particular flavour of ‘being of service’ almost a decade later. It’s incredibly important to me that each person who comes to visit us at Londolozi feels relaxed and at home. And this is the way I feel about the newly refurbished Founders Camp – one of our Londolozi signature camps with a fresh look but a completely familiar feel.
Shan Varty and I have spoken at length about this particular refurbishment – a project that has been very close to her heart as it honours the very early beginnings, the ‘Wild Days’ as she calls them, and the founding principles of our hospitality model all these years later.
From the age of 16 years old, I have walked the paths of Londolozi and lovingly refurbished the camps many, many times. This last refurbishment of Founders Camp has been an absolute joy for me – a reminder of every alumni era, every guide, every chef, every rock and every tree that this camp stands in honour of. I was here when a safari cost no more than R3 (15 cents) a day and every guest had to bring a musical instrument and a Land Rover if they had one. I have had the rare privilege of loving each Londolozi Camp into being. When CC Africa (now &Beyond) was born, I decorated lodges and camps throughout the African continent. I remember gum poles stuck in Tanzania and I remember Masi Warriors hand-making mud chandeliers for Ngorongoro Crater.
I have met a kaleidoscope of talented designers, architects and artisans in my decor and design journey through the birth of an industry. But nothing compares to returning home and creating small, African homes for our guests in the bush. And at the heart of it all has always been my intention to make each camp feel like an extension of my own home. While the aesthetic is always important, for me it’s the feeling that a space creates, filled with memories, authenticity, and re-purposed pieces of decor that tell a story about how they got there. I would be here all day if I had to name each person and thank them for their mastery as we have completed the latest refurbishment of one of the signature camps at Londolozi – Founders Camp. I will find you all on the pathways and do this in person. But for now, having watched Londolozi – from 16 to 66 – I begin to understand, and see, each of your legacies left in the continuous evolution of what a stand-alone, family business like Londolozi truly is.
Londolozi is a place where, like binary rings of a tree the founders – and each person thereafter – have served and left their mark. Over the years the ripple effect created by Londolozi’s alumni has spread our ethos far and wide across the African continent, and beyond. Founders Camp honours these wild, early beginnings – past guests and staff who have contributed to building Londolozi. It is their efforts that have distilled the legacy of the past 50 years into the creation of the essence of safari spirit.
At Founders Camp, classic meets modern. This Londolozi signature camp is clean and uncomplicated and really comfortable, leaving nothing forgotten. You will get the feeling of all the comforts of a stylish African home that is ideally situated to provide an insider’s view of the secrets of river life. Classy, grounded and timeless – Londolozi’s Founders Camp represents a safari style that is inviting and restful.
Ten bespoke and varied superior chalets repose in the shade of ancient Ebony and Matumi trees along the banks of the Sand River. Founders Camp is about simple sophistication with clean lines. The simplicity of layered textures creates depth and a sensory experience wherever you go. This fusion of elemental design is completely soothing to the nervous system, allowing for deep rest and relaxation. Muted and calming within yet vibrant and alive, with connection to the wilderness, without.
Founders Camp comprises six Superior Chalets, three Superior Family Chalets and one Family Suite – giving this camp a modern and vibrant energy that appeals to discerning individuals and modern-day families. Four of these superior chalets have been specially designed to accommodate families on safari with a convertible children’s room.
Behind the Design
Yvonne O’Brien, a long-standing friend and interior designer of Londolozi, had this to say about her inspiration for the refreshed Founders Camp:
The new build architecturally blends into its surroundings by the use of light and airy spaces with cladded natural stone walls, plastered walls, thatch ceilings and over sized, panoramic windows opening up to the river.
The bedroom’s colour palette of khaki green, natural clay and sandy linen colours depict the colours of the camp’s natural surroundings. Elements of bespoke and locally-made accessories are combined to create an understated, classic-contemporary feel, all while keeping with the common thread of the rest of the camps.
The main area’s palette of terracotta and neutral tones of Kuba African fabrics are complemented by old wood, river palms, wicker and worn leather. A combination of built-in seating and contemporary comfortable furniture, hand crafted from a natural blend of timbers, provide an atmosphere of tranquillity and comfort. These features are complemented by black and white photographs which showcase the founding members of Londolozi and the pioneering story behind the beginnings of this original safari camp – Londolozi Game Reserve.
Over the last few weeks of Founders Camp being officially open to guests again, I have spent a lot of time there. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until just the other day, but spending time on the deck, overlooking the beautiful small bodies of water that form the Sand River below change colour at sunrise, watching elephants walk gently across the granite boulders in front of the camp or taking time to slow down in one of the new suites was incredibly calming to my nervous system. And this feels like something important for travellers these days… we don’t find a lot of places where we can be in nature, have it on our doorstep and settle into a place that allows for our bodies, minds and souls to rest deeply. So, if you have been waiting for a sign to book your next safari, let this be it. I hope that you make your way to this signature camp and feel so blissfully at home that you have to be woken up from a nap on the couch, just in time to wander up the steps and climb onto a Land Rover for your afternoon safari.